Skip to main content

A look at the Brooklyn Paper's Atlantic Yards round-up

Last week, I criticized the Brooklyn Paper for ignoring the breaking news that Forest City Ratner had halted work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, so I should acknowledge that this week the newspaper has a lead story headlined, at least online, Atlantic Yards at 5: What went wrong?.

The piece captures the big picture, with a decent survey of high points in the Atlantic Yards drama, including the recent news that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's charities have received big bucks from developer Forest City Ratner and that corporate parent Forest City Enterprises acknowledged this week that the market would determine the pace of the project.

With a magnifying glass

But there are many small errors, and since NLG already challenged me to cite them, that's what I'll do below. (It's tough to blame a reporter who's been with the newspaper since May.)

What is going on at Atlantic Yards?

Actually, Atlantic Yards is a project, not a place. Better to have said, with Atlantic Yards.

a $4.2-billion, publicly subsidized project including 16 skyscrapers, a 19,000-seat sports arena, 6,800 apartments, and top-grade office space

Any cost number attached to Atlantic Yards right now is chimerical. While the projected cost once ballooned to $4.2 billion, it was approved in December 2006 at $4 billion. The New York Daily News keeps using the $4.2 billion figure, too.

While the project was once projected to include 6800 apartments, as approved, it would include 6430 apartments.

The project’s centerpiece — the iconic “Miss Brooklyn” tower at the gateway to Atlantic Yards, the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues — isn’t part of the complex anymore, a victim of Ratner’s inability to land an anchor tenant for its commercial or office space.

Well, it's no more not part of the complex as any of the other yet-unfunded buildings. It remains part of the project renderings.

The site of an arena for the Ratner-owned New Jersey Nets, the most highly touted and arguably popular element of the project remains an empty pit...

Not at all. Approximately half of the arena site remains a functioning below-grade railyard. The rest includes city streets, existing buildings, both empty and with residents (and one business), and empty lots created by demolition.

At the time, Ratner said that the arena — then priced at $396-million — would be built with private money.

I hadn't seen the $396 million figure, but I did recently see a $400 million figure, though it was announced at $435 million. The original claim was "primarily privately funded," which offered the developer a lot of flexibility.

But the arena’s cost has ballooned to close to $1 billion — all of it fronted by the public.

Well, it depends on whether the payments-in-lieu-of taxes, or PILOTs, represent represent taxes that would ever have been paid. In the analogous case of Yankee Stadium, at a Congressional hearing October 24, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said, "Congressman, the private payments are the taxes they owe. It’s as though you built an extension on the house and you said to the taxing authority: send my payments to the bank to pay off the mortgage. The notion that this is being paid for by the Yankees is delusional.”

The Yankees' Randy Levine responded, “Mr. Brodsky, he really knows better. We don’t pay taxes now. We’re a tenant. We don’t pay taxes at the old Yankee Stadium. As I said before, there would not have been a new stadium, unless this mechanism was put into place.”

See the New York Post article based on calculations by Michael White of Noticing New York.

the promised seven acres of publicly accessible open space

Actually, it's up to eight acres.

What went wrong

No public review
Project opponents charge that the Original Sin of Atlantic Yards was a decision by the Empire State Development Corporation — a state agency that had the Bloomberg Administration’s blessing — to allow Ratner to proceed without the rigorous public review required of other developers who seek even the smallest land-use change from the city.

Yes, but it's worth remembering that even the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) wouldn't work that well for projects as large as AY, according to a top city housing official.

the huge influx of housing would have created the densest census tract in the country

Well, it wouldn’t be its own census tract, but the New York Observer gave the numbers.

Ratner did sign a “Community Benefits Agreement” with six community groups in 2004,

There are eight signatories.

Towers of lies

After years of pie-in-the-sky projections, state officials admitted in December, 2006, that the project would only create $15.7 million in tax revenues every year for the city and state — nearly $5 billion less over 30 years than project boosters initially promised.

Not at all. Forest City Ratner at one point announced the project would bring $$6 billion in aggregate revenue over 30 years, or $2.1 billion in present value, which is the standard way to present such figures.

The Empire State Development Corporation cut its estimate of present value revenue from $1.4 billion to $944 million. So, worst case, revenues were cut by more than $1 billion--from FCR's most optimistic number to the ESDC's number--not $5 billion.

That 10-year construction timeline? In March 2007, Ratner revealed that the full project would not be done until at least 2022, despite officials once saying it could be done by 2012.

Well, that was Chuck Ratner, not Bruce Ratner.

A year later, in March 2008, Ratner finally admitted that his megaproject was doomed. At that time, he unveiled an altered version that consisted of little more than the arena and two scaled-back residential buildings.

In March, Bruce Ratner admitted it was stalled, not doomed. The new designs were unveiled in May.

Absent that review, a group called Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn emerged as the principal opposition group. The group has filed four main lawsuits against the state and developer since the project started.

DDDB organized and funded the eminent domain case, but is not a plaintiff.


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 January 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 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.

As …

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…