Skip to main content

ESDC: release of Atlantic Yards cost would be "damaging" to Forest City Ratner; DDDB asks comptrollers for disclosure

Three weeks ago, I described how the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) had declared that the current cost of the Atlantic Yards project is exempt from disclosure because it is either a trade secret or its disclosure "would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise."

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which was slower to respond to my Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, gave essentially the same response. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Yesterday, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) asked that "New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and New York City Comptroller William Thompson procure—and release to the public—the construction costs for developer Forest City Ratner’s proposed Barclays Center Arena and the entirety of the Atlantic Yards development plan," saying that "costs are not proprietary information—especially for a project subsidized by taxpayers."

(DDDB didn't know at the time that the ESDC had rejected my request, but suggested that truly proprietary information could be redacted.)

"Detrimental" to developer

The Financial Materials, ESDC said, quoting from a Forest City Ratner response, "contain proprietary assumptions, analyses and projections regarding the feasibility and performance of the Project and provide insight into FCRC's proprietary financial models and other business practices, which would be detrimental to FCRC's competitive position if disclosed."

ESDC's letter quotes Forest City's objection that disclosure "would indisputably frustrate this [negotiation]process by providing the public--and indeed many parties with whom FCRC is in ongoing negotiations--with confidential non-public information as to the material assumptions included in our internal financial feasibility analysis."

ESDC concludes, "FOIL clearly protects companies from the release of information that can be damaging to their businesses."

Impact of negotiations

So what does ESDC's stonewalling mean? I can't be sure, but as I wrote, a significantly less expensive arena--cut in half from $950 million?-- might confirm that Frank Gehry's design has been significantly altered. And that might cause consternation among the sponsors already signed up to plaster their names on a "landmark" arena.

Or, perhaps, a cost estimate limited to Phase 1 might confirm that Forest City Ratner is unlikely to fulfill CEO Bruce Ratner's May 2008 pledge, "We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018."

The public policy issue

It's understandable, as a general matter, why FOIL would aim to protect companies from the release of damaging information.

In this case, however, the cost of the project and the arena was a public matter when the ESDC approved Atlantic Yards in December 2006.

Now the ESDC is saying it's a private matter.

If the cost is now a secret, that suggests that developers and public agencies can announce one set of numbers to the public, then turn around and keep the actual numbers secret.

I have filed an appeal with the ESDC and, as with the appeal filed with EDC, I don't expect it to be granted.

Comments

  1. More New York State -- ESDC -- S.O.P. I mean we, the NYS Public, has just been 100% excluded from the MOST SECRETIVE NYS Budget (a Public Document, supposedly publicly arrived at, right?) wheelings & dealings in New York State history.
    Obviously, you, AYR, have uncovered the real Alice-in-Wonderland point of NY-Style "Public-Private Partnerships." For P-PPs located in New York State: Public information is Private when the ESDC says it's Private & Public when the ESDC says it's Public.
    Public-Private Partnerships are -- ipso facto -- extremely useful, all-purpose NYS government/ESDC foils. The Ratlantic Yards cost numbers you've FOILed for are whatever the ESDC says they are. Sometimes they're Public. Sometimes they're Private.
    N.B. Norman O.: Public-Private Partnerships are the ESDC's handiest Catch-22. The ESDC likes it like that.
    Patti Hagan

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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.

The previous graphic, from August 2017 (without the ghost B1)

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 …