Skip to main content

Polytechnic alumni file suit to rescind NYU consolidation deal

Some two months after the State Board of Regents in late June approved New York University's no-money-down absorption of Brooklyn's Polytechnic University, a group of seven dissident alumni have filed suit (PDF) in Albany to rescind the decision, arguing the Regents allowed the affiliation in violation of a 2005 Polytechnic board decision to remain independent.

NYU’s consolidation effort--the school is now known as Polytechnic Institute of NYU--not only adds engineering to the university’s portfolio but provides a beachhead in Brooklyn, providing perhaps one-quarter of the real estate NYU needs to expand. The lawsuit, filed against both the Poly board and the Board of Regents, charges that the university's board failed to obtain an appraisal to establish the value of its real estate, air rights and other assets, a breach of its fiduciary duty.

State report lingers

Indeed, a report issued May 20 by State Sen. Kenneth LaValle, the chairman of the State Senate Committee on Higher Education, raised some serious questions about the deal, stating that in three instances the board did not act with the duty of care and/or loyalty required by a fiduciary, notably negotiations conducted in secret, the exclusion of dissident board members from working committees, and the failure to update a three-year-old appraisal of the university's valuable property in Downtown Brooklyn's MetroTech Center. (LaValle, oddly enough, released the report without an accompanying press release or comment.)

On June 8, Polytechnic posted a two-page commentary in response to those three conclusions, noting that it was "not a detailed rebuttal of the Senator’s Report." For example, the response noted that Poly would remain the owner of its real estate after the "Affiliation," that the board "had access to detailed, expert analysis of the substantial cost of renovation of Polytechnic’s buildings and was aware that the Brooklyn real estate market was softening," and the board "was fully aware that Polytechnic’s short-term and long-term financial distress went much deeper than the value of its real estate."

No mention of LaValle's report, or the response, appeared in the summary material posted on the Board of Regents web site.

Plaintiffs' argument

The plaintiffs, including officers of the Alumni Association, are part of the Committee to Save Polytechnic University. They argue that they have been aggrieved individually because they can’t participate in Poly decisionmaking, as well as aggrieved collectively because their alma mater no longer exists as an autonomous institution.

Plaintiff Thomas Mauro, a Washington lawyer who is the immediate past president of the Polytechnic Alumni Association, said in an affidavit that, at a 2005 meeting of the university board, the trustees by a 3-1 margin passed a resolution rejecting NYU’s takeover offer and instructing Polytechnic’s administration to end any merger discussions with NYU.

However, Mauro charged, in August 2007, the presidents of Polytechnic and NYU “jointly announced their secretly negotiated agreement,” which would give “NYU de facto ownership of Polytechnic’s valuable real estate and other assets,” including an endowment over more than $125 million.

Real estate value

The agreement adopted by the Polytechnic board gives NYU “irreversible equitable ownership of Polytechnic’s valuable real property assets," Mauro stated.

How much is that worth? "We have done appraisals of our real estate and understand that the remaining value is minimal after considering all outstanding debt and the cost to lease or build new space if the property were sold,” Polytechnic officials said in an August 2007 letter to alumni—though LaValle’s report indicated that there were no current appraisals.

A January 2005 appraisal valued Poly property at $213 million, according to the senator's report. Poly has signed a letter of intent regarding its air rights with developer Forest City Ratner, its MetroTech neighbor, but has not begun new buildings.

Mauro added in a footnote that “NYU privately informed the federal government” that the real estate it would gain is worth more than $300 million. No source for that claim is provided; Mauro told me by e-mail that "the back-up for this statement will emerge at a later date."

Charges of secrecy

In the affidavit, Mauro stated that he can provide the court with a copy of post-affiliation bylaws only in draft form because the final version has not been made public, even though the administration had not restricted public disclosure of the previous bylaws.

Mauro added in response to my question, "It is not accurate to speak of the alumni as 'split' over this issue since only two alumni, myself and [Alumni Association President] George Likourezos, know the terms of the transaction. One of the purposes of the lawsuit is to bring the transaction out into the open. Only then can the alumni make any kind of informed decision. It is not possible to know what kind of transaction this is from the administration and Board's releases because the Poly administration and Board leadership vary its message to fit the audience and the purpose of the release."

Contested election

Still, the dissident alumni seem to be in the minority. The official Polytechnic alumni web site notes that the alumni association will issue no response to LaValle’s report and will take no further action to oppose the affiliation “except to request that the Definitive Agreement be made available to the Association.”

The alumni association is having its first contested election, with pro-affiliation candidates opposing the nominees of the Nominations Committee.

Changes emerge

Besides a changed name and visual identity, NYU-Poly seems to be drawing on the resources of the larger university. A press release this week announced that Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “the hottest thinker in the world,” according to the London Times, is the Polytechnic Institute of NYU’s new distinguished professor of risk engineering.


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 (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, 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 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't be so cheap.


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…

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…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2017: no new towers, unfilled affordable units, Islanders prepare to leave, project timetable fuzzy

My 2018 preview.

It was another wait-and-see year for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, with one big twist--the beginning of a slow goodbye for the New York Islanders--but continued delays for towers, a lost (mostly) 421-a subsidy for condos, and new skepticism about unfilled not-so-affordable housing units.

So ongoing questions linger regarding the project's pace, affordability, and even future ownership.

In my 2017 preview, I predicted--not exactly going out on a limb--that two and likely three more towers would open, though it would be unclear how fast they'd lease up and sell.

Indeed, we've learned that the middle-income below-market units at 461 Dean (which opened in 2016) and 535 Carlton have leased very slowly, while it's too soon to assess progress for commensurate units at 38 Sixth. (At 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth, middle-income units make up half the "100% affordable" buildings.) Meanwhile, many apartments are up for rent at the 550 Vanderbilt condo buildin…