Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Second hedge fund targets Forest City, blames "tangled web of nepotism and self-dealing" (and Bruce Ratner) for underperformance, losses

In the second harsh critique by activist hedge fund investors in months, Forest City Realty Trust yesterday was portrayed not only as underperforming relative to real estate peers, but self-victimized by "a tangled web of nepotism and self-dealing," and with the Bruce Ratner-led New York subsidiary, Forest City Ratner, as contributing by far the worst performance.

The Stamford-based hedge fund, Land and Buildings Investment Management, revealed that it had unsuccessfully pushed for Forest City to open up its board and otherwise take measures to boost the stock price. It said that last month's decisions to remove control by the extended Ratner family, thus collapsing the two-class stock structure and recasting the board to formally end family control, were insufficient.

Land and Buildings publicly released its statement as a letter (also at bottom) to shareholders. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Forest City did not comment as of yesterday afternoon.  The Plain Dealer suggested that Land and Buildings owned about 1% of the company's stock.

Note that the hedge fund with a reported 7.4% stake, Scopia Capital Management, is apparently content with the measures already taken after it pushed for the end of family control.

Changes insufficient

"For the first time in my 25 years of following Forest City Realty Trust, I believe that the Company is now investable," wrote the Land and Buildings' founder, Jonathan Litt. But "[s]hareholders should not be fooled into thinking the reclassification into a single class of stock will by itself fix Forest City’s problems going forward."

He argued that, despite Forest City’s "enviable" real estate, the firm is "substantially undervalued," with "at least 40% upside to a net asset value of $30-plus."

Forest City's net operating income margins are well below that of peers. "G&A [general and administrative] expenses are bloated, in our view, because Forest City is poorly run, inefficiently structured and a dubious source of income for countless Ratners and other insiders," Litt wrote.

$2.3B of impairments

Perhaps the harshest passage is this:
"Forest City shareholders have endured $2.3 billion of impairments over the past decade (Figure 2), which is equal to nearly 40% of the Company’s current equity market capitalization, as management, led by numerous Ratner family members, has repeatedly destroyed value through development. No one has been held accountable for the losses and the Company maintains over $800 million of construction in progress despite the abysmal track record.
The "vast majority" of some $1.8 million in accounting losses--an impairment is "the difference between the property’s fair value and its carrying value"--over the past four years have come out of Forest City Ratner, in New York, Litt wrote. He cited $743 million in failed investments regarding Pacific Park Brooklyn and B2 (aka 461 Dean), as well as $399 million related to the Ridge Hill mall in Yonkers.
Let me see if I can do the math: the B2 impairment was $146 million, while Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park impairments were $299.3 million and $242.4 million, all before taxes (which lowered the hit). That adds up to $687.7 million, not $743 million, which means either I'm missing something or the the hedge fund is overinclusive.

(This raises a question. Ridge Hill is an even more blatant example of the Culture of Cheating than Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. Wasn't the point of cheating to make money?)

"The investment in the Brooklyn Nets and the construction of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was another billion-dollar distraction that did not benefit Class A holders of Forest City, in our view," Litt wrote. He didn't call it a loss. Obviously, Forest City believes (or believed) that the arena and team were needed to leverage what former Chairman Chuck Ratner called "a great piece of real estate."

Little suggested that Forest City "should continue to lower leverage and scale back its external growth ambitions." Indeed, that's likely why Greenland Forest City Partners has sought new investors for three building sites in Pacific Park.

Poor shareholder return

"FCE/A’s total shareholder return has consistently underperformed peers by a significant margin over short, medium, and long-term time horizons as the Company suffered and continues to suffer from numerous operational, capital allocation and, in particular, corporate governance deficiencies," wrote Litt, calling recent "half-measures to modernize and improve... deeply insufficient."

He said that it was "outrageous" for the Ratner family to get $120 million to give up their controlling shares. "To add insult to injury, in 2015, millions were paid to the ten members of the Ratner family that will likely remain on the payroll despite the family’s only ~12% ownership of the Company’s Class A shares (following the Class B share buyout)," he wrote.

He blamed the board for permitting pervasive nepotism, with Bruce Ratner as perhaps the biggest beneficiary of "feed[ing] at the FCE/A shareholder trough":
i. In 2016, while Bruce Ratner was a director and employee of the Company, he and/or his private entities earned an $11 million development fee from the Company on Westchester’s Ridge Hill (a regional mall property which suffered $399 million of impairments), more than $6 million for tax indemnification on the Fulton property sale and $450,000 in annual salary.
ii. Over the last ten years he or entities he controls have received from the Company 3.9 million units, or ~$80 million, in relation to 30 properties sold to the Company, $121 million for interests in the New York Times Building and Metro Tech office buildings, and tax indemnification payments by the Company.
iii. Bruce continues to have economic interests in property which the Company must fund on his behalf.
iv. Despite the glaring conflicts of interest and outrageous payments, Bruce will continue to be an employee of the firm, earning a salary, being eligible for discretionary bonuses and we fear being incentivized to build potentially non-economic Company developments for his personal entities’ gain.
v. Bruce leases luxury apartments at the Company’s fashionable 8 Spruce Street apartment development.
(Emphasis added)

Note that I'm not sure what they mean by Ratner's "private entities"--surely not Forest City Ratner, but a personal holding company?

Note that it's unclear, for example, whether Ratner is leasing luxury apartments at a significant discount.

The letter also cited nepotism "beyond the Ratner Clan," with the brother of CEO David LaRue holding an executive position and the sister of CFO Bob O'Brien doing contract work for the company.

Getting the pushback

"Shortly after Forest City announced the elimination of the Ratners’ golden shares, we established a significant position in FCE/A, as it appeared investible for the first time in over 25 years," Litt wrote, saying Forest City rejected its bid to to propose the two new directors. (With 1% of shares, why would they hold sway.)

Forest City also refused to add "up to an additional three new directors to the Board at the next annual meeting, as the two new directors will be outgunned by the eleven continuing Ratners/legacy Board members."

Land and Building also accused Forest City of refusing "to permanently opt out of the Maryland Unsolicited Takeover Act (MUTA), so the Board cannot unilaterally decide to stagger the Board." As the Plain Dealer noted, that helps defend against hostile takeovers.

So some of this is a very aggressive hedge fund that wants to leverage some profits. But some of the harsh charges may stick--in other words, why have there seemingly been no consequences for Forest City's underperformance? Does family ownership and control militate against that?

Land and Buildings Press Release 1-30-17 on Forest City Realty Trust by Norman Oder on Scribd

Monday, January 30, 2017

Is Barclays dumping the Islanders? Despite Bloomberg report, questions remain

Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick yesterday published Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders, with a conclusory headline hinted at--but not backed up by the text:
After two years and countless complaints [AYR: most notably, I'd say, regarding the off-center seating, bad sightlines, and arena ice], Brooklyn’s Barclays Center has concluded it’s no longer worth it to host the New York Islanders.
The arena, which is already home to the NBA’s Nets and one of the world’s top-grossing concert venues, would make more money without the National Hockey League team, according to people familiar with the facility’s financials.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who owns the building and the Nets, has since November been seeking an investor to take a stake in both. As of earlier this month, a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season -- a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said.
But no one would confirm that, and the news left questions as to where the Islanders would play. (If the arena cancels the deal, the Islanders would leave after the 2018-19 season, which means they'd need a new home by the fall of 2019. If the Islanders cancel, they'd leave in 2018.)

Even if they'd like to build an arena at Belmont Racetrack or near CitiField, I highly doubt that a new arena would be financially viable, both in terms of construction costs and operational revenues.

A return to the revamped Nassau Coliseum? That would maintain the local TV contract, but there's not much of a suite market. IslesBlog suggested that the team owners might buy the Coliseum from new majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov add seats to the newly downsized 13,000-seat capacity.

Or they could move to finished, existing arenas in, say, Quebec City or Kansas City.

But until we learn more, I'm treating this is another salvo in an attempt to renegotiate the terms of the Islanders-Barclays deal.

Update: a return to Nassau?

Newsday reported:
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said he has met with New York Islanders owner Jonathan Ledecky to discuss the team’s possible return to its former home at Nassau Coliseum.
Mangano said he requested the Nov. 17 meeting with Ledecky, who co-owns the team with Scott Malkin, to discuss a path for the team to return to Nassau. Mangano said he also holds regular meetings with Barclays management.
In a statement, Mangano said “there is a path for the Islanders to return to the new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the best sight lines in NHL remain, improved attractive facilities for fans and athletes and room to add seats to accommodate the Islanders. While the decision remains with the Islanders we believe Long Island fans will make the Islanders successful in the new Coliseum.”
But New York Post columnist Larry Brooks wrote, Islanders fans deserve better than this musical chairs from hell, pooh-poohing the idea:
There has been no cry for ransom by this ownership group that has made it clear from the beginning a return to a remodeled (and subpar by NHL standards as applies to capacity and number of suites) Coliseum is not part of the plan.
He doesn't think a new era is viable, and called Barclays "full of promise" but "nothing more than a temporary shantytown for squatters, featuring substandard ice conditions that makes the building unsuitable for permanent hockey occupancy."

Barclays Center rep says Community Events program launched, but no details offered (+web site deletion)

This is the fourth of five articles based on the 1/24/17 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park meeting. I previously wrote about the unclear timing of the project buildout, the role of Greenland, and the impact of exterior events.

At the meeting, I said that some two years ago community groups were selected for the ten low-cost community events at the Barclays Center promised in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), but it didn't seem to have launched.

From DBNA web site 5/2/15: Arena Related
Programs" include "Community Events Program"
"It definitely launched," said Roland Guevara, Barclays Center VP for Community Relations, adding that it's been somewhat slow because it's tough to find space in a busy schedule.

How many such events, I asked, have been held?

"I don’t have the number offhand, but I’ll get the number," he responded. That didn't happen. I spoke to Guevara afterward and said I'd email him the next morning, which I did. I haven't heard back.

(The CBA says, on p. 31, "The Arena will be available to Community groups for at least ten (10) events per year, at a reasonable rate, with net proceeds from such events to be used to support non-profit community organizations." And the new owners of the arena operating company pledged in December 2015 to "continue to implement the portions of the Community Benefits Agreement and other community programs applicable to Barclays Center.")

The DBNA role

The reason for my curiosity and skepticism was that the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), the CBA signatory with responsibility for overseeing the Community Events program, once listed the program on its web site (see above left) but no longer does (see below right).

From DBNA web site 1/26/17: no mention under "Arena
Related Programs" of "Community Events Program"
By May 2015, the DBNA said the 2014-15 application process had closed. (See screenshot below left.) That same message appeared in the February 2016 iteration of their web site.

Now it's gone, which suggests the program has stalled or halted.

Slow launch

Though the arena opened in September 2012, and the DBNA's distribution of free tickets to community groups began that year, the Community Events program took much longer to launch.

I wrote in March 2014 that the program was slated to launch, and later that year, community groups were chosen.

Organizations were invited to visit the arena to tour potential spaces, some larger and smaller. The DBNA was supposed to discuss with them the feasibility of and best location for events.

In a 1/28/16 article (no longer on the web) headlined "Rev. Herbert Daughtry: DBNA Component of Atlantic Yards’ CBA ‘Remains Intact,'" Our Time Press's Mary Alice Miller noted that the Community Events program seemed unclear:
Vira Jones, founder of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Museum of African Art, said her organization was selected via lottery to hold an event at Barclays Arena. “Then we were told to apply for a $5,000 grant,” said Jones. “I was turned down for the $5,000 grant.” Jones said she knows of one organization that got the $5,000 grant which would be used to pay for security during their Barclays event. “But, almost a year later, no one from Barclays has contacted the nonprofit about its event,” said Jones.
Indeed, the cost of required security and the use of the arena's designated caterer would add costs beyond a below-market rent.

Miller was unable to get a response from DBNA Executive Director Sharon Daughtry, a daughter of Rev. Daughtry. (Nor could I.)

A 2016 exchange, and a lingering question

Last year, following up on that Our Time Press report, I asked about the status of the Community Events program at an Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting 2/24/16.

"Ten groups were selected, unfortunately not a single one has had their events yet," responded Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton, who also was speaking on behalf of the arena. She blamed "scheduling difficulties, a few mismatches in terms of understanding what was actually possible in the building."

She said arena officials had met with the Daughtrys and would meet again "to try to nail those down, and I hope to have success shortly." 

Since then, there's been no official announcement, and the information that has surfaced seems contradictory: the mention on the DBNA web site is gone, but Guevara said--without the update he promised--that the program has launched. If I learn more, I'll post an update.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

NHL Commissioner: Islanders are looking at options (but...)

From the New York Post, quoting NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:
“The owners are committed to the franchise, they’re committed to New York and the great fan base that has followed the Islanders,” Bettman said. “There are some issues about playing at Barclays, it may be fundamental to the ice system. That’s not something that can be fixed in the short term.
“I think, as is prudent, Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are reviewing the situation and looking very seriously at what their options are.”
The problem is that building a new arena is prohibitively expensive, so this is more likely a public joust to either get the building renovated or at least realign the deal with the Barclays Center. As Dan Saraceni of Lighthouse Hockey put it, it's "more of the same."

Gilmartin says return of 421-a "will allow Pacific Park Brooklyn to continue" (really?)

OK, a red-carpet interview before an awards banquet is not exactly the same as a deposition under oath. But I do think Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin, who recently received a lifetime achievement award at the Real Estate Board of New York’s annual gala, wasn't fully candid about the return of the 421-a tax subsidy, now dubbed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo "Affordable New York."

"Well, instantly it's going to allow Pacific Park Brooklyn to continue and for us to build it as quickly as possible," she said in an interview (below) with the Real Deal's Hiten Samtani. "Because without it, it would not be possible to meet the timeline, so that's critical."

Maybe. But the Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) joint venture already has 421-a benefits locked in for two sites, B12 (615 Dean) and B15 (664 Pacific). While the latter has been stalled by a legal case regarding access to a neighboring property, B12 could have started already. And it hasn't.

That's likely because of two additional factors cited by Forest City Ratner's parent Forest City Realty Trust (FCRT): rising construction costs and a glut of luxury units in and around Downtown Brooklyn.

That said, the return of 421-a (and, perhaps, some other public help) may help GFCP meet the 2025 deadline for the remaining affordable housing. (Nearly 800 of the promised 2,250 below-market units will be finished soon. Note that it seems that a specific provision extending the tax-break to buildings without affordable housing will have to be renewed.)

But parent FCRT in November announced a financial model for the project stretching to 2035, which suggests construction could stretch well past 2025. (There are 6,430 total apartments projected, as well as office and retail space.)

On the award

“This award--I’m a proxy. I"m a proxy for an industry that has finally gotten their head around the fact that women have been overlooked and underrepresented,” Gilmartin said in the interview. “And for that, this award is really for all of those women. And for a borough, for all of the boroughs outside of Manhattan, that have been overlooked and under-served by the REBNY community."

As the Real Deal reported, in her speech, she said, to loud cheers, “I dedicate this award to all the women whose talents and ambitions were overlooked and underrated by our industry."

The 421-a deal

The bill would extend the tax break from 25 years to 35 years, with affordable housing guaranteed 40 years (with Atlantic Yards it's 30-35 years), and require wage minimums on large projects in more coveted areas.

As the New York Times reported, in De Blasio and Cuomo Spar Over Cost of Affordable Housing Plan, Cuomo had rejected a de Blasio proposal because it didn't mandate wages for construction workers. An effort to get the Real Estate Board of New York and a consortium of unions to agree led to a stalemate--and now a one year suspension of the tax break.

The Times reported:
According to Vicki Been, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the subsidy for every unit of affordable housing will swell to an estimated $544,329 per unit in forgiven taxes under the governor’s plan. Under the city’s proposal, the cost per unit was $421,693.
Under pre-2015 421-a (which included condos), according to HPD, the cost was $614,029 per unit.

The Times quoted Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, who called it a policy choice: “The governor’s proposal raises the city’s cost in foregone property tax revenue in order to subsidize construction workers’ wages, without increasing the expected number of affordable housing units."

Wouldn't it be worth seeing alternative proposals to deliver such housing?

According to Politico, summarized in the Real Deal, the proposed changes "would cost the city about $82 million a year more than legislation supported by the de Blasio administration in 2015." A Cuomo spokeswoman called the cost "minimal."

Also, ProPublica reported that Cuomo's "proposal would also let developers collect the tax savings without limiting rent increases on most of the market-rate apartments they build, as required under past iterations of the program."

That means that instead of 35 years of relative stability, the rent increases would begin after the first tenant moves out, as long as the rent is more than $2,700 per month, the current floor for luxury deregulation. (ProPublica has reported that the current regulation often isn't met.)

Update: the IBO on 421-a

A report from the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) asked, "An Efficient Use of Public Dollars?: A Closer Look at the Market Effects of the 421-a Tax Break for Condos":
Despite the substantial cost of 421-a in foregone tax dollars, there has been little research examining its effects on housing prices and whether the tax benefit efficiently fosters housing development—the primary goal of the 421-a program.
IBO has explored these questions in regard to condo units receiving 421-a benefits. To do this, we compared more than 17,000 repeat condo sales from 2005 through 2015. Among the key findings based on this analysis:
  • Condo buyers in Manhattan pay on average $35,500 more for an apartment with a 421-a benefit than buyers of similar units without the tax break. Condo buyers in the other boroughs pay on average $31,200 more for units with the 421-a benefit.
  • Because of the higher purchase prices for condos receiving 421-a benefits, owners in Manhattan spend on average 53 cents to 61 cents for each $1 of tax savings. Condo owners in the rest of the city spend on average 42 cents to 50 cents for each $1 of tax savings.
  • Owners of condos receiving 421-a benefits get more in tax savings than they are spending in higher purchase prices. As a result, the city “wasted” a total of roughly $2.5 billion to $2.8 billion in tax expenditures in 2005 through 2015 by providing tax relief to owners as opposed to encouraging additional housing development—the program’s intended purpose.
As policymakers again consider renewal of 421-a, a reduced and better-targeted set of benefits could, at least in theory, lessen the program’s inefficiency while still providing some incentive for condo development. A program that does not oversupply tax subsidies would help make better use of scarce public resources.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

As Barclays Center faces "winter of discontent"--Nets seem to draw 12,319, Isles 10,976--CEO claims arena remains "destination"

Newsday sports columnist Neil Best 1/26/17 wrote With Nets and Islanders struggling, Barclays Center is having a winter of discontent, observing a "mostly young, mostly fashionable, ethnically and racially diverse" crowd on Pride Night--but not watching the Brooklyn Nets play the Miami Heat.

Both the Nets and the New York Islanders are doing so badly it's likely the arena--for the first season--won't host any playoff games.

The ever-spinning Brett Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, says the gate count--though he wouldn't share numbers to Best--is up 6 percent compared to last year for the Nets and down 2 percent for the Islanders.

That's interesting. The announced attendance, meaning tickets distributed, is 15,442 for the Nets and 12,858 for the Islanders. Last season, it was 15,125 for the Nets and 13,626 for the Islanders.

But actual gate count last season, as disclosed in a report to potential bond buyers, was 11,622 for the Nets and 11,200 for the Islanders.

So let me try to do that math. If gate count is up 6 percent, then the Nets are drawing 12,319 attendees. If gate count is down 2 percent, then the Islanders are drawing 10,976,

More spin

“The building isn’t based on wins and losses,”  Yormark claimed. “What we’re selling every day is the experience of Barclays Center. That experience hasn’t changed.” Of course, if they really wanted to sell that experience, maybe they'd sell tickets to the Long Island Nets D-League games.

"For now, well, at least the food is interesting," Best concluded his column. As one commenter riposted, "I go to an arena to watch a game. Not the experience of over priced food."

A few fan comments

On NetsDaily, a fan called Jerseyjon wrote:
If there's 12 k people a game attending at Barclays center,
I will say at least half are for the visitors.
It's so hard
Constantly being surrounded by opposing fans, many of which are very very obnoxious.
 A columnist weighs in

Though he wasn't writing about attendance, but rather the Nets-Knicks rivalry, New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro had some harsh, sobering words about a ærivalry that went from boom to bust." The first Nets' season, he recalls, was fun, but Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov overpromised and under-delivered.

He writes about both teams:
Well, they’ve been epic in their awfulness.
And that’s a shame, because this really should be the one intramural rivalry in New York City that truly matters, that truly feels like it ought to be bigger than any rivalry we have with other cities and other teams.
...No, the Knicks and the Nets play in the same division, play each other four times a year, and play a sport vitally ingrained in the city’s fabric. That first year was a tease, a taunt, a brief preview of what could be. The past four have mostly been a reminder that you should be careful what you ask for, because you might get it.

The phantom Long Island Nets have played in a mostly empty Barclays Center

Via NetsDaily
If you check out the Twitter feed of the Long Island Nets, the home game photos look eerie: the stands in the Barclays Center--their home for one year, before they move to the revamped Nassau Coliseum--are empty.

"Very strange watching @LongIslandNets play in empty Barclays," tweeted NetsDaily (aka "Net Income," or Bob Windrem) on 1/25/17, with the photo at right.

That's not how it was supposed to be. On 11/20/16, NetsDaily reported that there would be 22 afternoon games (of 24 home games) before Brooklyn Nets games, albeit with separate ticketing.

Hopes dashed quickly

With general admission seats at $15--that was the price for much-ballyhooed Brooklyn Nets discounts the first year!--team officials were hopeful. “There’s an opportunity for schools, there’s an opportunity for colleges, there’s an opportunity for folks who may do shift work to come to a game at 1:30 or noon or 2 o’clock,” team VP Alton Byrd told Newsday.

That didn't work. As NetsDaily responded to my query, "We reported it's a money issue. First few games were poorly attended-- less than 1300-- so they decided to only open it for select games." Arena capacity for basketball is 17,732. So much for arena CEO Brett Yormark's gush about people coming for the "experience" of Barclays.

Indeed, the Long Island Nets, with tickets ($15 general admission, $50 courtside) for sale Monday against Greensboro--a rare evening game--will have sold tickets to only four home games, including the first two, and one against the regional rival Westchester Knicks. (So, do those count as arena events?)

There was a benefit to the Nets organization--players in the D-League could be observed by the Brooklyn Nets coaching staff, and then be called up to the major league without traveling--but not for fans.

If the arena priced tickets to stimulate demand--say, $5 each--it likely wouldn't be worth it to fully staff the arena. (People paying $5 may not want to pay big money for food and drink.)

Let's face it. Not many people want to pay $15 to see the Long Island Nets--even if they could likely move to best available seating--when tickets for the Brooklyn Nets on StubHub can be gotten for $11 or $13.

The attendance

In this list of Long Island Nets' home schedule attendance, the three previous events for which tickets were sold exceeded 1,100 attendees. The negligible gate count for the rest surely reflects team staff and friends/affiliates:

There are three more home games in February, and four in March.

Tickets for next year

But the Long Island Nets are moving ahead.

As Nets Daily reported 1/27/17, season tickets for the Coliseum stint go on sale Monday, with lower-level season tickets starting at $14, and upper level ones at $10. (Presumably, single-game tickets will cost more.) Most games will be at night, which is when families can attend.

“While we are moving to Long Island, we are delighted to have developed our fan base in Brooklyn and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to play at Barclays Center,” said Byrd, according to Nets Daily.

Oh, "delighted to have developed our fan base in Brooklyn"? Yeah, sure.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Barclays Center rep commits to "sharing updates," but not reducing noisy events on arena plaza

This is the third of a few articles based on the 1/24/17 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park meeting. I previously wrote about the unclear timing of the project buildout and the role of Greenland.

When the Barclays Center's new VP for Community Relations spoke, there was an echo of the 11/1/16 meeting in which neighbors complained about a noisy television shoot for which preparations began at 6 am on the arena plaza and Roland Guevara basically responded that it often "comes directed from the news channels themselves" and that he remembered feeling happy as a kid, "or even as an adult," seeing "something positive about going on" regarding his neighborhood.

Of course, the arena's interests are not necessarily the neighborhood's interests, especially those who live there (as opposed to those who run restaurants and bars).

"Some of the events hosted on the plaza are very disruptive to the community," commented Michelle, a regular at the Brooklyn Bear's Garden, which is catercorner to the arena and adjacent to Site 5. "I'm all for having events for kids, but why have it outside?"

Guevara said it was a combination of reasons, but said he could commit to sharing updates. "If you're talking about certain noise levels, we can definitely address that." (They hadn't.)

A wrestling event, Michelle said, was "very out of control," and she saw only two police officers.

"Typically they have a large presence," Guevara said. No representative of the 78th Precinct was there to comment.

Rep commits to... more programs

Michelle mentioned a basketball tournament last August with loud amplified music, and asked if they could go inside.

"It's my goal to definitely share updates on what's going on with the arena," Guevara said. "From the community perspectives, I would like to provide way more programs... at our arena, whether inside or outside, I think our kids need it."

That suggests a view of the larger community as trumping the experience of the nearest residents--but that's also why city zoning (overridden in this case) requires a 200-foot cordon between sports facilities and residential areas.

Steve Ettlinger, who identified himself as among those who formed the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance (BCIZA), said, "We urge you to keep it inside. Loud amplified music is worse than the crowds.... Once or twice it was way way way too loud to be considered a local impact... you could hear it blocks away."

He urged them to reduce exterior crowds and loud music "to an absolute minimum."

"I get it," Guevara said.

"No, you don't," responded Michelle. "When I tell you [the wrestling event] was scary, it was scary. It was out of control. You have so much space inside the arena; have them all inside." 

Of course it costs more money to operate an event inside, and they'd have to distribute tickets.

Note the "expected exterior impacts" next month regarding several circus performances and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) mixed martial arts (MMA) event on 2/11/17.

The arena in the community

Ettlinger asked Guevara to describe Barclays Cares, the entity that sent the community notice.

Guevara said it was the successor to the previous foundation, tied to Brooklyn events center, to pursue education, athletics, community development, and sustainability. That includes partnering with existing organizations and have initiatives.

Every Monday, he said, Barclays Center Cares supports free skating and hockey at Lakeside in Prospect Park, he said. (It's called New York Islanders Sticks & Skates, "presented by the Hospital for Special Surgery.")

He said they have a boxing initiative, with Gleason's Gym, and "other partnerships you'll be hearing about," including one in which "young kids have more access to Brooklyn Public Library." (The library is free, so this must be a special program.)

In response to a question, Guevara said they would make sure that all the nearby Community Boards are notified. "Our outlook is always positive," he said.

The Barclays Center sends notice regarding February events. No crowd estimates, but "exterior impacts" for circus, MMA

The Barclays Center hasn't circulated customized event calendars--with extra information for neighbors--since May 2016, as shown at the bottom. Part of that, perhaps, was attributable to a chance in personnel.

On Tuesday, 1/24/17, however, the arena's new VP for Community Relations, Roland Guevara, circulated the February Community Notice pictured below.

Note the "expected exterior impacts" regarding several circus performances and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) mixed martial arts (MMA) event on 2/11/17.

While the message says "Please standby for more details," it's a good bet that such impacts include crowds gathering on the arena plaza, with merchandise sales and--at least for the UFC--perhaps some chanting or otherwise aggressive behavior.

In contrast with previous event calendars circulated, it does not list non-ticketed events, though such listings do help with neighbors' planning about potential impacts.

On Wednesday morning, I asked Guevara by email if that was a policy change, or if it was because there are no non-ticketed events scheduled. (The document does say it lists "all February events.") I haven't heard back.

Also, in contrast with those previous event calendars, it does not list expected attendance, which provides guidance. I asked if they planned to list expected attendance or otherwise provide guidance about potential crowd size. If I learn more, I'll post an update.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Real Deal: Forest City will sell NYC retail portfolio to Madison, which bought 49% in 2011

The Real Deal this morning published Madison International in talks to buy Forest City’s stake in NYC retail portfolio, based on an unnamed source. That means the fund manager, which in 2011 bought a 49% stake in the malls--like Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal--would own the entire portfolio outright.

Last August, Forest City indicated it could put such retail buildings on sale.

According to a 2011 New York Times interview with Madison International's Ronald Dickerman, "They came to us, I think, in September 2010 to fund their go-forward investments. You may know that the Atlantic Yards development is something like $4 billion."

The malls were fully occupied and leased, he said. "We invest in core Class A assets where the building itself is relatively stable and the deal is not distressed. What’s distressed about the transaction is the fatigue of the underlying investor."

So Forest City may be even more fatigued by now--as well as focusing its attention on mixed-use projects.

One lingering question: are they still planning--or retaining the rights to--an overbuild over Atlantic Center?

So, is Greenland a government-owned entity? And what about those Chinese condo investors?

This is the second of a few articles based on the 1/24/17 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park meeting. Yesterday I wrote about the unclear timing of the project buildout.

A bit of tension emerged at the meeting over the role of Chinese investors and also the Shanghai-based Greenland Group, whose Greenland USA subsidiary owns 70% of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project going forward (with the exception of the B2 tower, aka 461 Dean, and the Barclays Center operating company). In the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners, Forest City Ratner has 30%.

After Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton described Greenland as "a committed partner, they have financial wherewithal," Jimmy Greenfield, a Dean Street property owner, responded, "Greenland is a Chinese government-run corporation, so you don't meet the same--."

"We're publicly traded company," countered Scott Solish, Greenland USA's Project Manager, adding that they were excited about opening the new buildings.

That said, as I wrote, Greenland’s commitment may have diminished somewhat, since it and Forest City are marketing stakes in three towers (B12, B13, B4).

A government-owned entity? Yes. Even if not formally controlled by Shanghai.

Moody's Credit Opinion from 11/29/16
calls Greenland "a local state-owned enterprise"
Later in the meeting, resident Steve Ettlinger told Solish he was curious about the proper description of Greenland. "Everybody... identifies Greenland as a Chinese government-, Shanghai government-owned entity, and you said it's publicly traded company. Can you inform us a little bit about the ownership?"

"Me personally, I can’t," Solish responded.

"You work for them, you must know something," Ettlinger responded. "You said it was publicly traded."

"I don’t have the exact information," Solish said. "I have enough to do in my day-to-day job." Ettlinger asked to follow up by email.

It's fair to call it a publicly-traded, state-owned (or government-owned) enterprise, even if that state ownership is no longer a majority. However, even if Greenland may no longer be fully state-controlled, the current ownership structure seems to favor state control.

As I wrote last February, it's a bit murky: Greenland was long called a "state-controlled enterprise group," as noted by this 12/9/15 note from ratings agency Moody's, with the Shanghai State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) "effectively the largest shareholder." In November 2016, as shown in the screenshot above, Moody's called it a "local state-owned enterprise."

But state ownership is not incompatible with being publicly traded, and if the state ownership is now below 50%, that does not necessarily remove state control. After all, Wikipedia describes (without a footnote) the SASAC share as today over 46%, with nearly 29% more owned by managers and employees of Greenland Holdings. That seems to favor control, even if it doesn't assure it.

In 2015, Greenland was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. As the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported 4/24/15, that was achieved via an asset swap with another company, Jinfeng, in a move the newspaper (and a Greenland press release) described as a "back-door listing."

"The asset swap deal is part of Shanghai’s increasing efforts to make its state-owned enterprises more profitable, efficient and market-based, in keeping with China’s reform agenda," Greenland Australia said in a press release. In other words, Greenland was not about to be a non-state-owned enterprise.

According to Greenland's Semi-Annual Report for the period ended 6/30/15, filed with the China Securities Regulatory Commission on 8/25/15, state entities held 44.72% of the shares, a Greenland spokeswoman told me last year. 

No English-language version of that report existed, I was told, but the 55%/45% split was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 7/21/15 after Greenland was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. (Going by the Wikipedia numbers, the SASAC figure, as noted above, is more than 46%.)

At the very least, the company remains significantly state-owned. Greenland's own LinkedIn page (above) may not have been recently updated (or copy-edited), but it states that it "has become one of the biggest state-owned enterprise in Shanghai."


Interestingly enough, parent Forest City Enterprises, in its first press release mentioning Greenland, on 10/11/13, did not even use the term state-owned:
Established in 1992, the Shanghai-based Greenland Group has formed a diversified industrial structure with a focus on energy, finance, and real estate. Greenland Group is involved in construction projects in more than 70 cities and provinces in China as well as in Korea, Australia and the United States, among others.
Such language form Forest City has continued. Similarly, Greenland USA's web site obscures the issue:
Greenland USA was established in 2013 as a subsidiary of Greenland Holding Group, which is publicly traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) and ranked 311th on the Fortune Global 500. Greenland Group has developed properties in 26 provinces in China as well as in nine countries on four continents, including the US, Australia, Canada, the UK, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. We couple our international expertise in large-scale, mixed-use properties, our commitment to design innovation, quality and efficiency, and local market insight, to bring our vision to life. To date, we have invested more than $8B in projects on the east and west coast and we continually assess new opportunities.
Chinese condo owners?

At the meeting Tuesday, Greenfield, after getting a noncommittal answer regarding how many units at 550 Vanderbilt had been sold, asked what percentage of the condo buyers at the 278-unit tower were Chinese.

"We have buyers from all over the world," responded Solish. (Last year, a press report indicated that some 30% of condo buyers in Greenland's Los Angeles project, Metropolis, were from China.)

Greenfield asked if there was a way to find out how many buyers are going to live there--which implied that absentee owners must sublet, or do shorter-term rentals--and how many were American citizens before they bought the units.

"It begins to make me uncomfortable," responded Cotton, referring to the second part of the question and ignoring the first. "I'm not sure why it matters."

"It made us all uncomfortable for a very long time," Greenfield countered, referring to the project as a whole. The question of absentee ownership in a condo building lingers.

EB-5 role?

Both Greenfield and another audience member connected the potential condo purchase by Chinese nationals with the well-known efforts by the project developers to raise money via the EB-5 program, in which immigrant investors--most of them Chinese--gain green cards by making a purportedly job-creating investment.

Cotton said "EB-5 financing has nothing to do with this condo building," but rather was money for infrastructure. (Interestingly, they've previously pitched it as investing in an arena or towers.)

"What does it [EB-5] have to do with buying a condo?" Cotton asked. "Will Chinese people buy apartments? Absolutely. I'm sure they will, and I'm sure they have."

Indeed, most EB-5 investors from China want to live in California. While it's certainly possible that some Atlantic Yards EB-5 investors might also invest in condos that are part of the project, there's a much vaster universe of potential condo buyers from China.

Early wave of investors?

Greenfield reported spotting 25 Chinese people, none speaking English, apparently on a marketing tour of 550 Vanderbilt.

"What’s the problem with that?" Cotton asked.

"I have no problem with that," Greenfield said. "All I'm doing is suggesting there may have been a bump in your sales initially, because it was marketed to Chinese people in China, and and then it begins to go flat. I'm across the street, I get a little agitated, because it seems like nothing is on schedule, and it seems like you're doing a bait-and-switch at each juncture."

"Schedules are frustrating beyond belief to all of us," Cotton responded. "A bait-and-switch I dispute highly.... Anyone is allowed to buy a condo."

"As it should be," Greenfield said.

I wouldn't call the condo sales a bait-and-switch, but I would say they're not exactly completely candid. (How are those 8 acres of park space going?)

Indeed, the condo was marketed in China. And that potential pool of buyers was one reason Greenland got involved in Pacific Park, as it claimed it had "an enormous customer base."

Also, since many Chinese buyers are cash buyers, they supply a good foundation for a condo building sell-through; once a certain number of units are sold, banks can consider writing mortgages.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Timing the buildout: (not-so-specific) progress in near term, murky in longer term

This is the first of a few articles based on the 1/24/17 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park meeting.

Three towers in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project are either open or about to open. “We're in serious finishing-up-buildings mode,” said Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton last night at the bi-monthly Quality of Life (formerly Community Update) meeting, held at 55 Hanson Place.

But some details around them remain fuzzy, as do projections regarding the rest of the buildout.

I asked if 2025--a date set in 2014 a deadline for the 2250 units of affordable housing, among 6,430 total apartments--remained a realistic date to complete the full project.

Yes, replied Cotton.

Despite what Forest City Realty Trust executives said in November—after disclosing unspecified delays—about the financial horizon for the project lasting to 2035?

Yes, she said.

That’s just not credible.

My October 2016 annotation of an August 2014 tentative schedule
461 Dean (B2)

Move-ins have begun at the 461 Dean modular tower, with leases signed for both the affordable and market-rate units, Cotton said.. Forest City—which developed this building separately from the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture—has a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) through the 20th floor, of 32.

However, Cotton wouldn’t estimate how many of the 363 units have tenants, nor offer an estimate—though I pointed out hearsay ranging from four to eight months—of how long it would take to allot the 181 affordable units.

“Every single applicant has to be approved by the government,” she said, “and then it turns into a lease, and a move-in… We are working as fast as possible.”

Facade work on the building’s exterior might be finished by February, which would allow the developer to move back fencing that encroaches on the sidewalk and Dean Street. (Note that the whole idea of modular construction was to deliver modules with facades in place, but that didn't work well enough.)

535 Carlton (B14)

Regarding the “100% affordable” 535 Carlton tower, the joint venture has a TCO (as I also reported) regarding floors 1 through 6. “We are currently showing people apartments, and signing leases,” Cotton said. “People are going to start moving in really soon.”

The big fence around the building on Carlton Avenue should come down in February, though a portion of the fence on Dean Street will remain, to protect the public from construction of the related open space.

550 Vanderbilt (B11)

Regarding the 550 Vanderbilt condo tower, they have a TCO (as I also reported) for floors 1 through 6. “We're working on scheduling closings,” Cotton said, suggesting that would happen within weeks. “It’s a rolling process.” Then move-ins must be scheduled.

The sidewalk bridge on Vanderbilt Avenue could start coming down today (Wednesday), she said, but they don’t have the exact timing for the Dean Street side of the fence.

38 Sixth (B3)

The 38 Sixth Avenue tower (B3) under construction just launched the lottery for some 300 below-market units, Cotton noted.

For potential applicants, there will be public information sessions on Jan. 31 at 6:30 pm at PS 9, 80 Underhill Avenue, and on Feb. 16 at 6:30 pm at Pfizer Auditorium, NYU Tandon School of Engineering, 5 Metrotech Center. RSVPs are requested.

No progress on 664 Pacific (B15) and the school

Cotton offered little clarity on the rest of the project. Regarding 664 Pacific, aka B15, the market-rate rental tower, with a public school at its base, remains in limbo. “We’re re still patiently waiting on the completion of our litigation issues with our neighbor,” Cotton said.

(The developers need access to a neighboring site before they can dig, and the two parties have disputed the safety precautions. That seems to have delayed the school opening to at least 2021.)

From Site 5 presentation to Dept. of City Planning;
note that plaza isn't green, and bulk of two towers
would be three times that of Williamsburgh Bank
building (aka One Hanson) catercorner
No progress on Site 5

Nor did she have any update on Site 5, currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell’s, and bounded by Pacific Street and Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues.

Last year, Forest City indicated it aimed to move the bulk of the B1 tower approved on the arena block across Flatbush, thus replacing an already approved 250-foot, 440,000 square foot building with a behemoth potentially 1.5 million square feet in bulk.

Last night, Cotton again characterized the move as protecting the arena oculus and preserving the plaza as public space—not, of course, more self-interest reasons like the cost and disruption of B1 construction.

“We have not moved forward as fast as we thought we would,” she said, as the litigation with P.C. Richard, which has stalled eminent domain while arguing it was promised space in a replacement building, is ongoing.

It could take some 18 months to go through the public process, including public hearings and a vote by the unelected board of Empire State Development. (No City Council vote is required.) The environmental review would also include analysis of the developer’s plan to change the B4 site at the northeast corner of the arena block from a residential building to an office building.

Interestingly enough, though a spokesperson for the developer last year said, "We think the time is right for the borough to have an iconic office building for the new Brooklyn economy,” Cotton didn’t use that rhetoric. “We've made public our intent to try for a mixed use building, nothing has been determined. You could imagine residential, retail, office. All sorts of different uses.”

Indeed, Cotton’s boss MaryAnne Gilmartin has talked about the need for a mixed-use building for the numbers to work. And, as I wrote last year, plans shared with the Department of City Planning suggested a two-tower project with multiple configurations, but in three of four options with more residential space than office space.

(The Department of City Planning's role is only advisory. The presentation shared last year may or may not indicate evolving plans. The decision is up to the board of ESD, and the process, including public hearings, has not yet begun.)
Asked how tall the building would be, Cotton demurred, saying “you could design that building many different ways” and “I hate to create more anxiety, which I guess there already is… by guessing at something that isn't really a plan.” But the developer has already considered parameters, as I reported, with a two-tower project at 1.1 million square feet and up to 785 feet tall.

615 Dean (B12) and the 421-a question

Prospect Heights resident Gib Veconi asked about B12 (aka 615 Dean), the site next to 550 Vanderbilt, for which there’s a condo design but no activity.

It’s “still sort of low key, not very fast moving,” Cotton replied. “As we watch the markets... 421-a is up in the air… there’s a lot of economic factors.”

Veconi (like me) believed that the 421-a tax break, which offers significant discounts over at least 15 years, was not fully up in the air for Atlantic Yards. “You were grandfathered for 421-a even without affordable housing,” he said, “but you need it in effect at the time of construction start.”

He was referring to the notorious 2007 state legislative “Atlantic Yards carve-out." While the legislature required all buildings to include at least 20% lower-income affordable housing if they appeared within a "geographical exclusion area" (which included the Atlantic Yards site), Atlantic Yards got an exemption. See "UDC Large Scale project" in this link. (Here's the Real Property Tax Law: go to Article 4, Title 2.)

Any building in the project--such as the condo building 550 Vanderbilt--could get the 421-a tax benefit as long as the overall project contained at least 20% of units that rented for less than 90% of Area Median Income, or AMI. (That’s by no means all the below-market units, but includes the low-income and some moderate-income ones.)

“The site-wide exemption for 421-a that enabled you to build an all market-rate building with 421-a on the theory that there would be more affordable housing on other parts of the project—that went away for you?” Veconi asked.

“Sure,” Cotton responded. “There is no 421-a law today at all... If you haven’t started a building, you don’t know what 421-a law you’re under.” The four buildings either finished or nearly finished qualify, while 664 Pacific and 615 Dean also qualify, since they purportedly have footings.

Assuming Cotton’s correct--and this may be a moving target--that raises a pretty significant question. There could be at least three, maybe more, market-rate buildings for which the developer surely wants the tax break. Some version of the carve-out would have to be restored to make that work. That means lobbying.

Contingency plans if project stalls?

Dean Street property owner Jimmy Greenfield asked about the contingency if the project were delayed, or if the developers had to pay the $2,000 per month fine per unit of affordable housing delayed after 2025.

“So 2025 is still nine years away,” Cotton said. “421-a is certainly critical... but building this platform [over the railyard] has to come first [before building six towers over the railyard], and that's still proceeding... there's no reason to have an emergency backup plan... so we're not in emergency planning at all... We're absolutely aware of and focused on project requirements.”

Greenfield pointed out that the B12 and the neighboring B13 site on the southeast block of the project site were supposed to have gotten started a while ago.

Cotton said the tentative schedule (top) was not meant to be firm. “That plan isn't necessary to hit our commitments.” she said.

“But what happens if this, the whole project does not work out?”

“I have no reason to think it’s going to go bust,” Cotton said, “but what you should know is default by the state, they default us.” In other words, the state could take back the land.

“I don't know why you're focused on the doom and gloom,” she said, citing the nearly 800 units of affordable housing and the condo building about to open. “There's a pep in our step. I get that it’s not fun to live across the street. Greenland's a committed partner, they have financial wherewithal. our company has taken many financial hits, that are very, very public, and still stayed in it.”

Well, Greenland’s commitment may have diminished somewhat, since it and Forest City are marketing stakes in three towers (B12, B13, B4).

550 Vanderbilt sales

“What percentage of the units at 550 Vanderbilt have been sold?” Greenfield asked.

“We're really pleased with the sales,” responded Greenland USA executive Scott Solish. In July, the developer reported the building was 50% sold, but nine months earlier, it was said to be more than 30% sold.

That leaves a lot of wiggle room.

Update: indeed, in November, Forest City Realty Trust, parent of Forest City Ratner, acknowledged in an SEC filing, "Over the last quarter, the condominium market in New York has also softened, causing the projected sale schedule for 550 Vanderbilt to be adjusted accordingly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Two lies in one sentence on 38 Sixth web site: "situated.... in a flourishing park setting"

OK, let's take a look at the top of the web site (screenshot below) for 38 Sixth Avenue, aka B3, at the southeast corner of the Barclays Center, with the entrance on Sixth Avenue just north of Dean Street:
Conveniently situated amidst Brooklyn’s vibrant restaurants, shopping, and transportation in a flourishing park setting, 38 Sixth sets a new standard. The thoughtfully designed floor plans range from studio apartments to spacious three-bedroom homes, rising 23 stories above the Arena. Each layout is spacious and flowing, affording ample sunlight and city views.
(Emphasis added)

What "flourishing park setting"?

First, it's on the arena block. There isn't any "green space" programmed for that block park. See screenshot. So it can't be "situated" in anything remotely like a "flourishing park setting."

October 2016 annotated timetable. 38 Sixth (B3) is at bottom right corner of the arena block. B15 has no public open space.
Where is it, and when's it coming?

Second, the full 8 acres of "open space" is at least decade away, with the previously assumed 2025 deadline in doubt since the November 2016 announcement of unspecified project delays.

The closest open space, a rather tiny patch around the B5 building, is expected near the end of that decade (and maybe longer). (Despite the green around the B15 tower, aka 664 Pacific, as shown below, there's no public open space.)

The most useful open space, just east of Carlton Avenue, will surely be dominated by the hundreds of households already living nearby. And no, it's not a "public park" but rather publicly accessible, privately managed open space.
Open space design starts east of Sixth Avenue. Note that B15 has no open space design.

Monday, January 23, 2017

When will 550 Vanderbilt open? It has a TCO for six floors and nearly half the units

For a while, the 550 Vanderbilt web site has promised 2016 occupancy, as shown in the screenshot at right, but that didn't happen.

So when might be building open?

Last November, Forest City Realty Trust, parent of Forest City Ratner, which is the local component of the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners, estimated that the building would be opening between the first and third quarters of 2017. That means it could start as late as March 31 but potentially sooner.

According to the Department of Building's page, on 12/16/15 550 Vanderbilt got a 30-day Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) for four floors.

And on 1/4/17, it got a second 30-day TCO, indicating that the first six floors could be occupied. That's at least 131 apartments, nearly half of the 278-unit building.

So stay tuned. Perhaps we'll learn more at tomorrow's meeting.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Barclays Center event calendars from December 2016 through March 2017

In October 2016, after not seeing the monthly calendars from the Barclays Center that estimate the expected crowd for ticketed (and non-ticketed) events since May 2016, I posted screenshots of ticketed arena events June through November.

That omitted the non-ticketed events, which sometimes can be disruptive and surely should be announced publicly as well, with attendance estimates. We've been told such calendars will be issued, but until then here's a stopgap, with screenshots from the web site covering December through March of ticketed events. Non-ticketed events are absent, and more ticketed events should be added,

Note that the last two days of December were blank, not by design, but because Kanye West canceled. Note that the Brooklyn Food and Wine Festival scheduled for Feb. 17-18 was postponed until an unspecified later date. And note that the chunk of events in late February and early March for the Ringling Bros. Circus will have to be filled in future years by other family-friendly events, given the closing of the circus.

By my count, the event totals compared to the previous year, which was the first New York Islanders season, are:
December, 20 (previous year: 18)
January, 21 (previous year: 21)
February, 25 (previous year: 25 )
March, 26 (previous year: 33)
Note that the previous year totals include non-ticketed events, so the comparison is imprecise.

20 events in 19 days

21 events in 21 days

25 events in 19 days

26 events in 26 days

Saturday, January 21, 2017

At REBNY Banquet, an award for Forest City's Gilmartin, who stresses gender equity

REBNY in the Times
So the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) held its annual banquet the other night, bestowing awards, and the real estate press was there to preview and take in the bonhomie.

But perhaps the biggest sign of its clout was the budget to publish a 16-page special section in the New York Times on 1/19/17, complete with discreet praise for "Rebny's Tradition of Supporting Candidates" via "an independent expenditure committee," Jobs for New York, and advocacy to ensure that changes to the rules regarding EB-5 immigrant investor visas continue "to bring much-needed foreign investment to New York City projects and developments."

Gilmartin steps up

The  Commercial Observer quoted Chairman Rob Speyer about new members of the Executive Committee: “MaryAnne [Gilmartin], Jed [Walentas] and Marc [Holliday] will help REBNY fulfill its primary goal to fully engage and expand our membership. They are also involved in refining our policy agenda, including promoting incentives for the creation of housing at all income levels.”

Incentives, huh? That means tax breaks, which some might even call "free stuff."

Apparently Forest City Ratner, which Gilmartin heads, sees itself as an outlier, which, in part, it is:
“[Speyer] came to me and said, ‘We need you,’ ” [Gilmartin] recalled. “I talked about how I wasn’t so certain that it really was an organization that responded to the things I cared about and the things that were important to me and us as a company.”
Speyer told her that REBNY had to be an organization that did reflect the needs of her company, Gilmartin said. A whopping 60 percent of the company’s executives are female; the company’s vice president of leasing was born in Iran and raised in Canada. It had to be a group that represented the changes within the real estate industry, as well as one that was responsive to how the city was changing.
But not really speaking to Central Brooklyn there, are they?

In the video below, from Bisnow, Gilmartin at about 1:33 of the video does declare, "Brooklyn's in the house."

To REBNY, dominated by white guys, Gilmartin is an outlier. According to the Real Deal, Gilmartin dedicated her lifetime achievement award to "all the women whose talents and ambitions were overlooked and underrated by our industry." She even successfully prevailed on changing the dress code at the gala, so black tie wasn't required.

Below, at 2:19, she talks to the Real Deal about Forest City as a real estate investment trust, or REIT.

By the way, check out the enigmatic, not-quite-smiling photo of Gilmartin the Real Deal took.

The press release

From the 11/1/16 press release announcing the awards:
MaryAnne Gilmartin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Forest City Ratner Companies, the New York office of Forest City Realty Trust, Inc., will receive The Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate Award for her exceptional accomplishments in the profession, leadership, and service to the real estate industry over the course of her distinguished career.
MaryAnne Gilmartin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), a New York-based real estate development company, has been point person in the development of some of the most high profile real estate projects in New York City including the Barclays Center, The New York Times Building, and New York by Gehry, the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to these projects, Gilmartin has managed the commercial portfolio at MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn. Most recently, Gilmartin led the efforts to build out Pacific Park Brooklyn as well as the Bridge at Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island. Among her philanthropic contributions, Gilmartin served on the New York City Ballet Advisory Board and currently serves as a Board Trustee for the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM); a member of REBNY’s Executive Committee and Board of Governors; and as a member of the Industry Advisory Board of the MS Real Estate Development Program at Columbia University. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a member of the Board of Directors of global investment banking firm, the Jefferies Group LLC, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the New York Public Radio.
Also, Carl Weisbrod, the outgoing Chairman of the New York City Planning Commission and Director of the New York City Department of City Planning, received The John E. Zuccotti Public Service Award, which was presented for the first time at REBNY’s 121st Annual Banquet.