Skip to main content

Forest City Ratner defends the process, but that's government's job

We've heard it before, and we'll hear it again, but developer Forest City Ratner offers a standard explanation of its community outreach, most recently in a New York Law Journal article yesterday headlined Brooklyn Lawyers Dodge "Manhattanization".

But the explanation is irrelevant; the responsibility is that of government.

(The article concerns the highly unusual volunteer effort of lawyers who've formed the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal team, providing crucial backup to the attorneys who've been engaged.)

Lawyer vs. flack

The article states:
"The fact that we weren't involved in the discourse was insulting," said [volunteer attorney] Mr. [Troy] Selvaratnam. "If they'd just not been so insulting, our activism could have been assuaged."

But Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, said the developer held "hundreds of meetings" with the community.

"Not everyone is going to agree with us," he said. "But we've tried very, very hard to be as amenable and as open to the community as we possibly can."


Nearly all of the meetings have been with allies, not potential opponents, and the Community Benefits Agreement coalition has defined "community" by invitation. Also, of course, the developer has famously shielded architect Frank Gehry from meeting with the community.

By comparison

More importantly, the process behind Atlantic Yards differs significantly from that behind other major development projects. For the Willets Point plan, the city issued a request for proposals before anointing a favored developer.

And Mayor Mike Bloomberg's PlaNYC sustainability effort describes a much more consultative process for building over railyards and highway cuts:
Building communities requires a carefully tailored approach to local conditions and needs that can only be developed with local input. We will begin the process of working with communities, the agencies that operate these facilities, and other stakeholders to sort through these complicated issues.

Kelo comparison

And, more importantly, does the Atlantic Yards process sufficiently match the process in New London, CT that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the Kelo case, declared legitimate for the purposes of eminent domain? Among other things, Kennedy noted that the "Kelo taking 'occurred in the context of a comprehensive development plan meant to address a serious city-wide depression.'"

There has been a longstanding Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area that covers a majority of the Atlantic Yards site. On the other hand, as Winston Von Engel of the New York City Department of City Planning said in March, 2006: "We didn't decide to take a look at the yards. They belong to the Long Island Rail Road. They use them heavily. They're critical to their operations. You do things in a step-by-step process."

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, in his opinion Wednesday dismissing the case, erroneously called the yards "dormant" and neglected to assess the issue of a "comprehensive development plan."

And Andrew Alper, then president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, told City Council in May 2004, ""So, they came to us, we did not come to them. And it is not really up to us then to go out and find to try to a better deal."

That, according to one analyst, could run afoul of Kelo. But that will be an issue for the appellate court, and the defense will be offered by the Empire State Development Corporation more than by Forest City Ratner.

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…

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…