Skip to main content

ESDC, Ratner & job numbers: collaborative or not?

Exactly how collaborative are the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR)? A disputed claim about jobs at the Atlantic Yards project raises a lingering question about whether the state agency is more an advocate for the project or a steward of the public interest.

The legal battle in which opponents of FCR's Atlantic Yards plan and critics of the environmental review process have challenged the ESDC and the developer has raised some significant questions. Is it simply "collaborative" for the agency to use a lawyer who has just represented a developer on the same project, or does that not meet an "arm's length" standard? Justice Carol Edmead disqualified attorney David Paget, and an appeal of her decision will be heard 3/23/06.

Project sponsor, environmental steward

As the proposed amicus curiae brief filed 3/14/06 by the New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG) states:
There is an inherent tension between ESDC's statutory role under the UDCA [Urban Development Corporation Act], which one might reasonably argue is to use its authority as a governmental agency to shepherd a project initially recognized as having public merit past the "political and bureaucratic inertia" toward successful completion, and ESDC's role under SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act], which is to determine whether, for the sake of the "ecological systems, natural, human and community resources important to the people of the state," the same project should go forward at all.
...ESDC's role as an advocate of officially favored development must not be allowed to overwhelm and subsume its role as "steward" of the public's interest in preserving and enhancing the natural and community environments.


Space per job: do ESDC & FCR agree?

The tension between advocate and steward may arise in another small aspect of the controversy. I took another look at the 11/6/05 New York Times article about changes in the Atlantic Yards project, headlined Routine Changes, or 'Bait and Switch'?. The article mentioned how Forest City Ratner initially projected 10,000 jobs for about 2 million square feet of office space in the Atlantic Yards project, but now "nearly three-quarters of the office jobs originally projected are gone."

Besides a reduction in office space, another reason was this:
The earlier estimates were also based on a ratio of one job per 200 square feet of space, but the Empire State Development Corporation, which released the September planning documents, uses a less generous ratio of one job per 250 square feet of space, amplifying the reduction.

Howver, the ESDC's Draft Scope of Analysis for the project says nothing about such ratios. Rather, I pointed out, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and FCR consultant Andrew Zimbalist use the 250 square feet figure, which is not just a "less generous ratio," but also the industry standard.

Asking for clarification

More than a week ago, I asked the ESDC if the agency uses 250 square feet per office job, and whether it was in any document. I haven't received an answer. (If I do, I'll add it here.)

[7/21/06 update: the ESDC does use that ratio.)

There are two possibilities here:

1) The Times was mistaken and the ESDC, as the Draft Scope suggests, doesn't calculate a different figure regarding jobs. If so, then the Times portrayed the agency and the developer as more at odds than they actually are--and this small but not insignificant error should be corrected.

2) The Times was correct and the ESDC does in fact count 250 feet of space per office worker. If so, the agency has been inconsistent in its public posture. If the ESDC does use the standard industry ratio of 250 square feet per job, then it should've looked askance at FCR's initial promises (December 2003) that it would fill about 2 million square feet of office space with 10,000 jobs.

ESDC collaboration

However, the agency's pattern has been to support the developer's claims. On 3/4/05, in a press release headlined "Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg Announce Memorandum of Understanding for Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn," the ESDC stated, "The project is expected to create 15,000 construction jobs and over 10,000 permanent jobs."

Had the ESDC used the industry standard rather than accepted the jobs figures used by the governor's and mayor's offices in their press releases, it would've calculated 8000 jobs for the same amount of space, assuming all the offices were full. If, like the NYCEDC, the state agency had calculated a 7% vacancy rate, it would have projected an even smaller number of jobs. And the discussion about the number of jobs promised at this project would've started a lot earlier.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …