Skip to main content

Qualms about AY from IBO and FCE’s new warnings of potential setbacks cited in appeal of case that called for new hearing

A lawsuit filed against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) by residents in two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint may gain new life, should a state court consider an Independent Budget Office representative’s statement questioning the benefits from the current version of the project, as well as a financial document filed by Forest City Enterprises admitting new potential setbacks.

George Locker, who represents residents of two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, today will file a motion to enlarge the record for his planned appeal of a case, dismissed last September, which argued that the ESDC was violating a provision of state law that requires disposition of properties within a decade and should hold another hearing because the project has changed considerably.

Justice Jane Solomon, despite expressing surprise in a court hearing last June, that eminent domain had not commenced despite “all of this publicity” about the project, quickly dispatched the petitioners’ argument, concluding that “there is no evidence that the challenged agreement is not consistent with the contemplated project and existing general project plan so as to bring into play the need for a public hearing.”

In her ruling last September, Solomon did not address the prediction in court by ESDC co-counsel Charles Webb that condemnations would begin “in October or November of ’08,” a date that seemed unrealistic and proved to be so.

Fewer plaintiffs

The appellants are eight rent-stabilized tenants living at 624 Pacific Street and 473 Dean Street. Originally, there were 13 plaintiffs, but five have settled with the developer and moved away--a sign, as with the purchase of a building on Dean Street, that not everyone’s willing to wait out an uncertain situation. 

(The tenants, living in a building owned by the developer, faced a more immediate threat to their future; the building on Dean Street was owned by a union, and was ultimately threatened by eminent domain.)

A shifting project

The motion points out that the Atlantic Yards project that was analyzed for its public purpose and environmental impact, and approved by the ESDC in December 2006, was to take ten years.

However, according to the State Funding Agreement, signed in September 2007, the developer has six years to build the arena after the delivery of property by eminent domain, 12 years to build four towers in Phase 1, and no timetable for Phase 2.

“The amendments represent an enormous loss of the Project’s stated public benefits - most of the housing, open-space, and construction job/years - and portend decades of developer blight, vacant lots, and ever-mounting public costs,” the motion states.

New doubts from IBO

The motion points to a 1/29/09 statement by George Sweeting, deputy director of the IBO, as reported in the Brooklyn Paper, “If amenities are scaled back and the overall scale of the project is reduced, it’s reasonable to stop and look at whether the city’s contributions and the MTA land deal still show a positive in the calculation. Some of the benefits may be less than originally assumed. A lot has changed since 2005, when we found that the arena was basically a break-even proposition.”

Locker, who notes that Sweeting has personally confirmed the accuracy of the quote, argues that the suggestion that AY be reexamined is consistent with a previous court decision regarding reconsideration of projects.

New warnings from FCE

The motion notes that the Forest City Enterprises  Form 10-K offers new warnings about “deteriorating market conditions” and a “challenging” economic climate, which were not present in similar documents issued in past years.

Also, the motion states that “the billion-dollar sports arena is no longer described as having 850,000 square feet, or any other size.” (He doesn’t point out that the developer has been trying to cut costs, which means the arena likely would bear a considerably lower price tag.)

The Form 10-K acknowledges that the developer may be unable “to retain the current land acquisition financing,” may not “meet required equity contributions” and may lose “arena sponsorships and related revenues,” as noted in the motion.

New hearing

“No one knows what Atlantic Yards-2009 has become,” the motion states. “Consequently, no one knows the public benefit of the project, and no one, particularly ESDC, knows or can know whether proceeding with the exercise of eminent domain is lawful and appropriate, given the drastically reduced, or non-existent, benefit to the public and the high risk of non-completion and default.”

Thus, Locker writes, the record should be enlarged so the contents of the 10-K and Sweeting’s statement can be considered in an appeal.

Logistical issues

Locker told me that the motion will be granted or denied before the appeal is briefed or argued. That means the Appellate Division can order a new hearing without addressing whether his clients have standing--Judge Solomon said no--or whether the project has to be completed in ten years.

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…

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).

As…

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…