Skip to main content

ESDC claims AY will take just ten years (though Phase 2 and new railyard fuzzy); Brennan, Montgomery express dismay

Despite Empire State Development Corporation CEO Marisa Lago’s candid acknowledgment in April that Atlantic Yards would take “decades,” the revised Modified General Project Plan (GPP) to be released by the ESDC Tuesday will assert that the project would take just ten years, the timetable in previous construction documents, even though there’s no contractual requirement to meet the timetable.

Lago, who has resigned but hasn’t yet left her post, vigorously defended the plan at a briefing for local elected officials, held Friday at ESDC offices in Manhattan. ESDC officials asserted that project was essentially the same--thus not triggering a new environmental impact statement (EIS) or vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB).

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn has said it would sue regarding these issues.

Assemblyman Jim Brennan and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, in interviews yesterday, both expressed dismay about the ESDC’s plans. Brennan said he didn’t find the timetable credible--”I think the project will limp along piecemeal”--and noted that some three-quarters of the project is “still subject to market conditions and further financing requirements.”

Brennan asserted that, given the Independent Budget Office’s estimate that the arena would be a money-loser for the city, the arena shouldn’t be built. (The arena’s Forest City Ratner’s priority, however, given losses in New Jersey and the potential for new revenues.)

Montgomery said she felt “very frustrated that the ESDC does not consider itself representing the people of this city and state” but rather serves as “an arm of the developer.”

Plan highlights

Among the highlights, eminent domain will proceed in two rather than one phases. At first it would be limited to the arena block and Block 1129, bounded by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean and Pacific Streets, needed for construction staging, worker parking, and, ultimately, interim surface parking. (Site 5 and buildings on Atlantic Avenue in the middle block of the railyard, for example, would be spared initially.)

ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston told the New York Post that the staging of eminent domain will allow Ratner to "defer acquisitions costs"--in essence, paying for only the part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard needed for the arena bock, then paying later for the rest. (Exactly when is unclear, though we should learn at today's MTA Finance Committee meeting.)

While there was discussion about whether ESDC would produce a new cost-benefit analysis--which, actually, was never a full cost-benefit analysis--it’s unclear how and when it will be made public.

The ESDC will hold two community meetings along with a public hearing, likely in July or August. The ESDC board, which on Tuesday is expected to “adopt” (the first stage in approval) the revised Modified GPP, is expected to vote in September on final approval.

(Still, the appeal in the eminent domain case may be pending.)

Tensions as meeting

In separate interviews, both Brennan and Montgomery were measured in their tone, though other sources told me that the meeting was somewhat heated, with two unnamed sources in the New York Post yesterday calling the project a "bait and switch" and saying there should be an investigation into whether the project would be rubber-stamped.

The Post article, which appeared mid-afternoon on the newspaper’s web site, did not, however, appear in print, a sign perhaps of an unwillingness to be seen as challenging the project. (Two weeks ago, however, a Post columnist got some ink to lament the loss of Frank Gehry.)

Besides ESDC staff, the other attendees were Assemblywoman Joan Millman and state Senator Bill Perkins (whose committee oversees corporations and authorities) and staffers for Montgomery, state Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky.

Why the arena?

Brennan described the meeting as a “courtesy briefing,” without an opportunity or intention to grill the ESDC on details of the plans.

He said he suggested that, given that foregone property taxes for the arena would be used to pay off construction, “they should either drop the arena and just pursue a residential development or compel Ratner to pay property taxes.”

“There was not an immediate embrace of my proposal,” he said drily.

Inflated assessments?

The IBO reported concerns that the tax assessments on the arena block had risen rapidly, in what may be an attempt to ensure that the foregone revenues are high enough to deliver PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) sufficient to pay off the arena, and I followed up with some numbers.

Brennan, who heads the Assembly Committee on Cities, has joined Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who chairs the Assembly Committee Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions, in looking into the curious jump in assessments on Yankee Stadium.

He called the issue in Brooklyn “an extremely serious concern” and said "I will be doing my utmost to get an accurate assessment” of the issue.

Brennan said his staff would research the issue.

Will there be an Assembly hearing?

Undetermined, Brennan said.

PACB role

Montgomery said that, while the changed deal with the MTA, seems like “a major change in the financing,” she’s troubled that the PACB need not weigh in.

She noted that the issues fall under the purview of Perkins’s committee--should the Democrats retain power in the deadlocked Senate--and “he wants to pursue this.”

Role of the public

Montgomery noted that, while the public hearing and public comment process ostensibly serve to gain public input, “I am not convinced that they will actually make changes.”

She contrasted Atlantic Yards to ESDC-overseen development in another part of her district, Hoyt and Schermerhorn streets.

In 1974, ESDC acquired three parcels of vacant land from the City of New York, but the plan was stalled, and, beginning in 1977, the agency leased the sites for short-term surface parking. In 1998, the Brooklyn Borough President's office organized a task force to study and recommend a plan, which has finally come to fruition.

In that case, Montgomery said, ESDC was partnering with the community in establishing the standards, then issuing an RFP to attract developers.

In this case, she noted the ESDC is partnering with the developer, which leads the project.

(There was never an ESDC RFP for the project site as a whole, though there was a belated RFP--18 months after AY project announcement--for the Vanderbilt Yard.)

“This is a huge development project, and the impact goes out a century,” she said, “ and there is absolutely no commitment to the community. I think it is an unacceptable position. Hopefully, that’s one of the things we can factor into reform of the ways authorities work.”


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…