Skip to main content

In Courier-Life, ACORN vs. de Blasio and some media conspiracy theories

So what’s the news behind the odd article this week in the Courier-Life chain about housing advocacy group ACORN's confidence in Atlantic Yards? After all, we know--from a statement issued March 21 in the wake of the Atlantic Yards stall--that Forest City Ratner’s affordable housing partner ACORN had “every confidence” in the developer.

(Click on all images to enlarge.)

One piece of news involves NY ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis’s clash with Council Member Bill de Blasio, an ostensible ally who has emerged as a critic of the project. "I'm sure Mr. de Blasio is only reflecting the concerns from a very small portion of constituents,” Lewis told the newspaper, with great but unproven certainty. “However, he also has a constituency that is very supportive of Atlantic Yards."

The other involves the rather bizarre sequence posited by Courier-Life reporter, the notorious Stephen Witt, in which critical media coverage is blamed on “opponents,” rather than a recognition that maybe a lead story in the New York Times has some fallout.

The article fails to convey two important pieces of news. First, the developer has flexible time, according to the State Funding Agreement: 6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years to build Phase 1, and an unspecified time to build the rest of the public. Second, the president of parent Forest City Enterprises has publicly stated that “we still need more” subsidies. Beyond that, there’s a huge backlog of projects seeking housing bonds.

(Oddly enough, the article at issue appears in the Carroll Gardens-Cobble Hill edition of the weekly newspaper, above, but not in the Park Slope edition, below, which circulates in Prospect Heights, where the project would be located. The front-page stories in the latter issue regarded Public Place, in Gowanus, and the Kahlil Gibran School, in Fort Greene. Go figure.)

Subsidies coming?

The newspaper reports:
NY ACORN is currently working with FCRC and the city and state to iron out the affordable housing component of the project.
"My members and [sic] are confident this will get done," Lewis said.
"We have to deal with development and numbers changing ... We don't speculate about this. It is work that is actually going on and anybody who's ever done development would understand the process," she added.


Does this mean that Forest City Ratner will gain additional subsidies to build the project or get nudged toward the front of the line for housing bonds?

The p.r. campaign

By the article’s seventh paragraph, things get strange:
Lewis' comments came as opponents of the Atlantic Yards plan have continued a public relations campaign through both the print media and from brownstone bloggers.

What might we call columns in the Daily News by Atlantic Yards supporters Errol Louis and Michael Daly?

The quiet developer?

The article continues:
Meanwhile, FCRC has largely stayed out of the local community eye regarding the project since it underwent a lengthy public review process.
What FCRC has been doing is site preparation work including demolition of buildings the company has acquired and rail yard work, and letting out over $42 million worth of construction contracts with over 45 percent going to women and minority owned firms.


Um, the developer has also been doing things like giving $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account.

Just a "recent story"

The article continues:
However, in a recent story in the New York Times, FCRC Chair and CEO Bruce Ratner admitted that the downturn in the economy could force some delay in the timeline of the total project build out.


That was a lead story, and it stated that Ratner “suggested that construction could be put off for years.”

The article continues:
This admission added fuel to the opponents' fire, who succeeded in getting stories aired in other Manhattan-based newspapers concerning subsidy amounts and rumors that FCRC was abandoning the project and would leave in its place vacant lots.


Is it not legitimate to try to calculate, as the New York Post did imperfectly, the public subsidies and public cost? Isn’t it public money?

(Note that the Post and the Courier-Life are both owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and have both supported Atlantic Yards in editorials and distributed the egregious Brooklyn Tomorrow. The Courier-Life’s reporting has sometimes aired criticism of AY, but Witt's coverage could be broadly described as pro-project. The Post's reporting has been episodic and scoop-oriented, with with articles critical of the project, such as the one about subsidies, and essentially supportive of the project, such as the announcement of luxury suites for sale.)

And is it legitimate to suggest, as City Council Member Letitia James did in Metro,
that vacant lots might become parking lots? After all, interim surface parking is already part of the plan, as noted above, and, as I reported (thanks to a Freedom of Information Law request) documents submitted to the Department of City Planning show alternative plans (right) that would combine interim surface parking and temporary open space.

De Blasio goes oppo?

The article states:
Last week City Councilmember Bill de Blasio met with the opponent bloggers, where he told them he would call on Governor Paterson to call a moratorium on any more FCRC demolitions around the project and get an iron-clad agreement and timeline on the affordable housing.
De Blasio, a candidate for borough president, said he was a "conditional supporter" of the project until the Times story.


I think that Brownstoner and the Gowanus Lounge would hardly be considered “opponent bloggers.” They happened to show up at one of the periodic meetings de Blasio has held with local bloggers of all stripes.

Closing words from Forest City

The article closes with a quote from Bruce Bender, Executive VP of Forest City Ratner:
"As the Councilmember knows, all of Atlantic Yards, including all of the affordable housing, will be built and any delays in the construction phase will result in delays in delivering the thousands of units of affordable housing and thousands of jobs that Atlantic Yards will create.”


That clears everything up. At least there's an article (right) about how state law might be changed to allow Ultimate Fighting in the Barclays Center (and other venues). No doubt that's "recreational" under state law.

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 …