Skip to main content

AY opponents and proponents go "off message," confessing doubt, admitting delays

In the past couple of weeks, both Atlantic Yards opponents and proponents have gone "off message," making public statements that alarmed some allies and, in the case of the proponents, required public contradiction.

The episodes aren't exactly equivalent. After all, the opponents who went off-message were mostly expressing personal opinions, while the proponents who went off message have access to more information than has been made public as of yet.

Opponents admit inevitability


Two Thursday ago, an Atlantic Yards question came up at the forum, "Where Goes the Neighborhood: The Past, Present, and Future of Park Slope," sponsored by the Park Slope Civic Council, which drew about 100 people to the Old First Reformed Church.

"Is there really any possibility of preventing Atlantic Yards from being approved?" moderator Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, read an audience member's question. Hammerman pointed out that the project has in fact been approved by the state, so the question is whether it could be stopped.

Architectural historian Francis Morrone, a member of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) advisory board, declared that it could be. Many in the crowd clapped heartily. He described how, on behalf of DDDB, he'd talked at various gathering about appropriate development but acknowledged that he wasn't up on the eminent domain lawsuit organized by DDDB. (Indeed, he was at the forum to talk about the history of Park Slope, not the legal case.)

"It is not too late," added Stuart Pertz, an architect and former City Planning Commissioner. "It is never too late if you can get the public to respond." Then again, he pointed out that a representative of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had said the office received more than 20,000 letters protesting the West Side Stadium. (That's perhaps five times the number gathered last year by DDDB, albeit in a short stretch, regarding Atlantic Yards, and ten times the number gathered by the BrooklynSpeaks campaign.)

"I feel strongly that the courts are not a place to do planning," said Pertz, noting that, if a lawsuit fails, there's no backup. He's an advisor to the Municipal Art Society and the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which has stayed out of the court battle.

"We're hoping to make some changes to the first phase," Pertz said, acknowledging that would be difficult, "but there is a second phase that could go on for 20 years, and we just have to not roll over."

Morrone picked that up: "Will we stop Atlantic Yards? The question is no. Will we modify Atlantic Yards? The question is yes."

Morrone's statement wasn't included in coverage from the Brooklyn Downtown Star or the Brooklyn Paper. The Courier-Life report got it right, but missed the alarm it caused some in the audience who know that DDDB isn't giving any ground--at least, not publicly--but, rather, aims to raise funds for its current and future court cases.

After all, while DDDB is at some disadvantage in the pending eminent domain case, given a magistrate's recommendation that it be heard in plaintiff-unfriendly state court, that magistrate also acknowledged that the case raised "serious and difficult questions regarding the exercise of eminent domain under emerging Supreme Court jurisprudence."

A few weeks earlier, another DDDB advisory board member, comedian Michael Showalter, in an interview with the New York Observer's blog The Real Estate, declared, "Clearly, we're in a losing battle." (He also was criticized for complaining about traffic congestion when he himself drives; that criticism could be applied to others on both sides of the debate.)

Also last month, novelist and journalist Jennifer Egan, another advisory board member, penned a Times Atlantic Yards op-ed that described resignation among the public and reflected some resignation of her own, using the phrase "should Mr. Ratner yet fail” rather than pointing out that Ratner might be faced with organized opposition. (Then again, who knows what her article looked like before the Times's editing.)

These cases show the potential pitfalls of organizing an advisory board with certain expertise or celebrity but whose members may not be up to speed--or on message--when they speak in public. (They are allowed their own opinions, of course.)

Proponents admit delay

Still, the advisory board members are not central players in the Atlantic Yards narrative. By contrast, project landscape architect Laurie Olin went way off message, in a New York Observer interview last month, declaring that the project would last 20 years, not ten as announced, and that architect Frank Gehry wouldn't design all the buildings.

Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey had to publicly contradict him.

No wonder the developer hasn't let Olin, nor project architect Frank Gehry, talk to community groups. Artists can be candid.

And so can Clevelanders. Just last week, Chuck Ratner, CEO of the parent Forest City Enterprises, acknowledged to investment analysts that the project would last 15 years and the arena would open in 2010, both contradicting the official prognosis. DDDB seized on it; Forest City then issued an unconvincing clarification of the timetable--after all, Ratner admitted that the company was "terrible" at predicting when projects go from idea to reality--and DDDB piled on.

Staying on message

I suspect that, upon learning of the off-message statements, the consternation within Forest City Enterprises was greater than that within DDDB. After all, Chuck Ratner cannot be said to be underinformed.

Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner has been much better at staying on message. Consider his unwillingness to talk about the Barclays Center naming deal but willingness to tell sports writers about his appreciation for just-off-the-trading-block players Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.

And then there's Ratner's conversation with the clueless Post columnist Andrea Peyser, whose “It’s about freakin time” column last week was instantly repackaged as an Atlantic Yards e-newsletter. (Peyser conveniently forgot her previous column touting the promise of 10,000 office jobs, more than 85 percent of which have evaporated.)

Then again, it's easier to stay on message when the press is so tractable.

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…

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…

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 …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…