Skip to main content

From $6 million to $120+ million: Newswalk and the evidence against stagnation

How much has Brooklyn changed? On January 4, I pointed out a dramatic shift since the production of the documentary A Walk Around Brooklyn in 2000. The Empire State Development Corporation seems to think that the zone bordering the Metropolitan Transportation's Vanderbilt Yard would be stagnant absent the Atlantic Yards project, and state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden didn't disagree.

The story of the luxury Newswalk building in Prospect Heights offers some useful context; in an interview taped 03/28/06 for Michael Stoler's CUNY-TV show BuildingNY, Shaya Boymelgreen, then partner in Leviev Boymelgreen, discussed how he paid $6 million for the former Daily News printing plant less than a decade earlier.

The dialogue begins at approximately 17:13.

Getting a deal

MS: And now, 1997, the market is changing, the world is changing, and Shaya Boymelgreen leaves the Avenue B and the Williamsburg, and decides to buy the Daily News building on Pacific Street in Brooklyn. How did you decide to buy a 500,000 square foot building and convert it to residential condominiums?

SB: I think, at that time, we have a niche to buy not in the center of the city, not in the center of the prime places, because [of] lack of money, and I saw an opportunity in this building--this building went for six million dollars, half a million square foot, for six million dollars.

MS: It went for basically eleven dollars a foot.

SB: Something like that. And I said, there's no way, we can make, from this piece of glass, we can make a gem, we can make a diamond out of it.

The location

MS: You were right near Flatbush Avenue, you were right in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn, in an area that today is Atlantic Yards, that Bruce Ratner is planning to build this stadium and everything else. And you--it took chutzpah and a combination of confidence--

The area is neither Downtown Brooklyn nor Atlantic Yards, but the footprint is carved around the Newswalk building, which occupies a good chunk of the block between Pacific and Dean streets and Sixth and Carlton avenues.The foresight of a deal

SB: Y'know, the people that bought from the Daily News bought it for three million dollars. When I met them, they didn't know if to sell it or not to sell it. And I saw what I can do from this building. It was just a fortune, no windows, just one big manufacturing building, with all this big machinery... And I came to them and I said... they said that they're not sure if they want to sell it or not... I said, y'know what, I'll give you six million dollars.

MS: So they paid three million?

SB: They paid three. I knew they have somebody talking to them about five million dollars. And if I'll offer five and half, they'll go to six... it's going to go into an auction... I say, I'll give you six million dollars and I'll buy the property. I saw the face--very surprised. They said they need a minute with themself. They walked out, they came back, they said: are you ready to give us half a million dollars tomorrow morning? I said yes. In the morning I was there with half a million dollars, and we wrote a contract.

Long process

MS: How long did it take you to redevelop the News building?

SB: A year and a half just to demo and to take out all the printing machines. It was huge, huge, thirty machines--each machine was a building by itself... At the same time I was changing the zoning. The zoning change took two and a half years...

Note that the ESDC had said that, "While the City, if it desired, could rezone the project site, it has not."

MS: So when did the first tenant move in?

SB: I believe in 1999 a tenant was moving in.

Some history

I wrote in March 2006 about the history of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA). The Daily News built a printing plant on Dean Street in 1927. In 1983, as the Times reported in an 11/27/83 article headlined “The Intricacies of Initiating Development Projects,” city officials helped the newspaper add parking space and a new 15,000-square-foot warehouse, despite complaints from neighbors.

The plant closed, however, at the end of 1996, as the newspaper moved its printing operations to a more modern facility in New Jersey. The building was a haven for squatters for several years. Boymelgreen bought the building and converted it into the luxury Newswalk condominium complex, which opened in 2002 (as opposed to 1999, according to clips I saw).

And why wasn't it included in the Atlantic Yards site plan? As the Village Voice noted in a 4/5/04 article, “But if Ratner could design around Newswalk, he could have spared other properties as well.” (The building has about 170 units, according to the Voice article.)

Likely the cost of buying out all the owners was deemed too high, and the rest of the block had more structures in good condition than the rest of the footprint, so it would be hard to argue blight. Then again, the new construction on the same block also challenges the notion that Atlantic Yards is needed to arrest neighborhood decline.

The cost today

Here's a Newswalk unit that was on sale for $635,000 in September.

Some units, I'm sure, are much more expensive, but, to be conservative, let's estimate $700,000 as the average value of the 170 units. That adds up to a valuation of...nearly $120 million. Nice work, given that, as Judge Madden ruled that "blight conditions documented in the Blight Study... provided a rational basis for the ESDC's conclusion that continued new development on the project site was unlikely."


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 …

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

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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 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…