Skip to main content

“Friendly condemnations” (but not for renters): ESDC plans eminent domain for most of AY

So now we know what Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano meant when he used the term “friendly condemnations” two months ago regarding the Atlantic Yards project.

As explained in a public hearing notice released yesterday, the ESDC will acquire nearly all the property in the Atlantic Yards site via eminent domain, including the 90 percent owned by Forest City Ratner. That includes city streets but not a few properties needed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen explained: "When a development site is assembled by eminent domain, it is typical for the condemning authority to run any properties already owned by the developer through a 'friendly' condemnation, so as to clear any title defects that may have accumulated over the years."

Getting rid of renters?

Copen's statement does reflect typical practice. However, George Locker, a lawyer who represents 15 of the remaining 55 tenants in the project footprint, contends there's another reason: to evict his clients, who live in FCR-owned buildings but are protected by rent-stabilized leases.

"This is about getting protected residential rental tenants out of buildings," he charged. "ESDC is condemning rent-stabilized leases, contrary to the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding], and in violation of the tenant's rights and benefits, and the landlord's obligations under rent-stabilization. All of this chicanery will be the subject of litigation."

Typically, a landlord who wants to demolish a building containing rent-stabilized tenants to build another building must apply to a state housing agency for a demolition permit and satisfy several requirements--a process that would take much longer than the projected timetable for approval of the Atlantic Yards project.

Property ownership

While Forest City Ratner says it owns or controls 90 percent of the project site, that percentage is a bit misleading; of ten buildings that still contain rental tenants, six are owned by the developer. Even though those six buildings are counted in the 90 percent, FCR has not yet gotten tenants in those buildings to move.

The General Project Plan says that the site includes 73 individual tax lots (not including 53 individual tax lots for condos). Some tax lots contain multiple buildings. (Click on the graphic to enlarge. Note that only the west sliver of Block 1128 is part of the proposed project.)

The project site initially included approximately 26 rental buildings, 66 commercial properties, two medium-sized residential buildings with owner-occupied units, and four other buildings with owner-occupied units. (One rental building had one owner-occupied unit, while another had 11.)

Of the commercial businesses, 13 have not signed relocation agreements with FCR, according to the ESDC. Five owner-occupied units remain; some of those owners have agreed to leave, while Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has publicly vowed to fight eviction.

Above is an ownership map adapted from the ESDC map, while the list of occupied residential buildings is on p. 9 of Chapter 4 of the DEIS.

Plans announced?

The ESDC's plans regarding eminent domain were announced but not fully confirmed on July 18, when the agency's board met and the General Project Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement were released. A memo to the board from Chairman Charles Gargano suggested two options:
With respect to Forest City controlled properties, it is expected that Forest City will either convey title to ESDC at no cost to the Corporation or that ESDC will, with the consent of Forest City, acquire title by condemnation, also at no cost to the Corporation.

The General Project Plan was more explicit, stating:
All of the properties within the Project Site would be acquired by ESDC... through uncontested condemnation in the case of properties owned by the City or FCRC, or through exercise of eminent domain in the case of properties and interests in properties that FCRC has been unable to acquire through negotiation.

Tax exemptions?

One source suggested that the use of eminent domain would secure additional tax exemptions. The ESDC's Copen said no, that the tax exemptions wouldn't derive from eminent domain.

"In most ESDC real estate projects, the land is owned by ESDC and leased to a developer. When land is owned by ESDC, that land is exempt from real property taxes," she said. "The exemption derives from ESDC ownership--it doesn't depend upon whether the land was acquired by eminent domain. If the land owned by FCRC simply was conveyed to ESDC (instead of condemned), that land similarly would become exempt from property taxes."

She continued, "Whether the developer pays mortgage recording taxes also has nothing to do with condemnation. With ESDC projects, such as Atlantic Yards, whether the developer benefits from a mortgage recording tax exemption is an issue negotiated by the developer with ESDC and NYC."

Previous promises

Locker called the move "a textbook explanation of the benefits of condemnation, not a response to clear public documents and public statements that say it will not be used on Forest City Ratner properties." He pointed to the 2/18/05 MOU signed by the city and state regarding the project, which stated that the ESDC would acquire "portions of the Private Properties... necessary to facilitate the Project."

Locker says that suggests the ESDC would condemn only properties not owned by the developer. Now, however, it seems that the ESDC has deemed nearly all the "Private Properties" necessary to the project. [Addendum 3 pm 7/26] However, as another clause (right) of the MOU states, the developer was to convey the properties, not have them condemned.

Locker also pointed to Forest City Ratner's PowerPoint presentation to the New York City Council on 5/26/05, which stated that the developer has "substantially reduced the need for condemnation."

In retrospect, the term "unfriendly condemnation" would have been more precise.

Comments

  1. FCRC is changing its tune: Eminent Domain not be use "as a last resort," but because it is convenient.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

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…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.


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 …

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…