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Showing posts from September, 2009

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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/what's coming/what's missing, who's responsible, + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

On Brian Lehrer, Mayor (in clip) disses IBO; Schuerman explains why it’s tough for Thompson; Council candidate Griffith gets a say

The Atlantic Yards segment on today’s Brian Lehrer show concentrated mainly on the minor differences between full-throated project support Mayor Mike Bloomberg and supporter-with-concerns Comptroller Bill Thompson, the Democratic candidate. The most valuable moment in the segment came at about 13:45, when Lehrer brought up the fact that New York City Independent Budget Office Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in full voice, disses the cost-benefit analysis of the Atlantic Yards arena: “I don’t know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park or Prospect Park or anything else. These are the kinds of projects you have to do because without that we don’t have a future, and we’re going to get this one done.” As Schuerman pointed out, “The funny thing is, he applauded the IBO study when it came out four years ago, showing it was a slight positive net gain for the city.” Schuerman noted that the effort to analyze costs and benefits is “murky,” g

At Saturday's Dreamland Pavilion conference, "Atlantic Yards: The Politics of P.R. "

Some people have asked me about attending the Atlantic Yards panel at the Dreamland Pavilion conference, held at 1:30 pm Saturday at Kingsborough Community College. While admission to the day-long conference is $25 (plus $5 for on-site registrants), including lunch, I'm told that people who wish to attend a single panel will not be charged. The Atlantic Yards session will be held in M-146/47, in the MAC Building. Directions here . Campus map here . The program Here's the official program listing: “Who’s Planning Brooklyn? An Alternate Point of View” Eve Baron, The Municipal Art Society of New York “The Yards Development Workshop Unity Plan” Marshall Brown, Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture “Atlantic Yards: Brooklyn’s Most Controversial Development through the Lens of Public Relations and News Coverage” Norman Oder, Independent Journalist “Atlantic Yards and the Cultural Logic of Monopoly Rent” Stuart Schrader, CUNY Graduate Center Moderator: Ted Hamm, B

The Times corrects DePlasco's railyard misinformation

Six days after allowing Forest City Ratner flack Joe DePlasco to say, "“Most of Atlantic Yards is being built over the Long Island Rail Road," the New York Times finally publishes a correction : about 40 percent of the project — not “most” of it — is being built over a railyard. Actually, it's not being built yet either. For what it's worth, I filed a request for a correction last Wednesday night, shortly after the article appeared online--it was published Thursday--and again yesterday.

CNG editorial claims Bloomberg's "not a politician" and has "done a much better job" on Atlantic Yards

From the Community Newspaper Group editorial endorsing Mayor Mike Bloomberg: Concerning the sprawling Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the mayor’s team admitted long ago that it didn’t handle the development properly and has since done a much better job. That improvement deserves praise. A much better job ? Do they mean the accelerated transfer of subsidies or the dissing of the Independent Budget Office ? Term limits Remember, the Community Newspaper Group is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who agreed to have his New York Post support Bloomberg's effort to overturn and extend term limits. And consider that the victories yesterday by Bill de Blasio in the race for Public Advocate and John Liu in the race for Comptroller relied not only on the Working Families Party's endorsement and ground troops but the candidates' vocal opposition to term limits. Progress, not politics? The endorsement claims: And best of all, he’s not a politician. Indeed, critics complain that the mayor’s

Department of City Planning official said design changes to AY were "obviously quite significant," but ESDC told the public "no"

Despite official word from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that there's been little change to the Atlantic Yards plan, a representative of one important government agency disagreed, in a message that implicitly supports the call by project critics and opponents for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). On June 2, some three weeks before the ESDC issued a 2009 Modified General Project Plan without new details of the project and official renderings, a Department of City Planning (DCP) official expressed concern about proposed changes, calling design changes "obviously quite significant." DCP official's take "Thank you for briefing us on the proposed changes to the Atlantic Yards project," wrote Winston Von Engel, Deputy Director of the Brooklyn Office of the DCP, to Forest City Ratner Senior VP Jane Marshall. (I obtained the email via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request.) "The design changes to the project are obvi

On Brian Lehrer, Goldstein says ESDC offer for condo is less than what he paid in 2003; today's segment is Atlantic Yards

Let's hope today's Brian Lehrer Show segment on Atlantic Yards is a little more enlightening than the 45-minute segment on eminent domain, which skated lightly over the basics but didn't generate much heat. (The only announced guest today is WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman.) In fact, the most enlightening moment of the segment came when Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, called up and revealed that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) actually offered him less money than he paid for is condo in 2003. The segment began with some basics on eminent domain from Brooklyn Law School's Christopher Serkin. At about 13:30, he was asked by guest host Amy Eddings whether the state Court of Appeals, slated to hear the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case on October 14, might rule in favor of the plaintiff-appellants, who had lost in both federal court and one rounds in state court. Not based on the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo v.

ESDC names media executive Peter Davidson as Executive Director

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has recently been rather thin on top, with the departure this summer of CEO Marisa Lago, a yet-unconfirmed Chairman, Dennis Mullen of Rochester, and the long goodbye from Avi Schick. Now media executive Peter Davidson has been named Executive Director, and will oversee Atlantic Yards, among many other projects. (By the way, Susan Rahm, the mysterious volunteer who apparently played a key role on the ESDC's Atlantic Yards, was notably absent at the September 17 board meeting when Atlantic Yards was approved. Update : I didn't see her, but another person there said she was in the building. She certainly wasn't at the table.) The press release From a press release from the ESDC: PETER DAVIDSON APPOINTED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF EMPIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT Empire State Development (ESD) today announced the appointment of Peter W. Davidson as the agency’s new Executive Director. Mr. Davidson, an experienced dealmaker and executive i

An architect-centered take on the curious September 14 "community information session"

So e-Oculus, the publication of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), offers a (predictably) architect-centered take on the curious September 14 event that was both an AIA continuing education event and a "community information session"--or maybe a "public informational session." The article, headlined New Barclays Center Design Eyes Atlantic Yards , does not look askance at the moderator's distracting musings: “Where do the things in dreams go? Do they pass to the dreams of others?” asked Rick Bell, FAIA, quoting from Pablo Neruda during a recent talk on the new design of Barclays Center. A bit like dreams, memories of the sports-and-entertainment arena’s previous, rejected designs hovered over the proceedings: Gehry Partners’ glassy, circular design, which got scrapped for a more economical (and bland) version by Ellerbe Becket. SHoP recently joined up with Ellerbe Becket to create a sexier new design, the subject of the evening’

The ESDC's non-responsive Response to Comment document: looking at evasions about benefits, renderings, timetables, signage, blight, etc.

I've already written about major changes agreed to by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) at the September 17 approval of the Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), including: a speed-up of government funds a pass-through of city payments a hedging defense of the announced ten-year timetable the dubious "economic benefit analysis" a cut in size of the project by one-third an acknowledgment that affordable housing depends on subsidies. The Response to Comments document distributed by the ESDC at the September 17 board meeting is notable for non-responsive or evasive responses, including, as I've previously explained: the claim that an "economic benefit analysis" equals a cost-benefit analysis the claim that a construction schedule represents a "useful timetable" the evasion of the question of whether affordable housing financing would be available the claim that a ten-year timetable is reasonable the questionable critique of

Finally, Marty Markowitz embraces the Prokhorov purchase of the Nets and the arena

It took a little while--and an anonymously sourced New York Post story saying he was steamed and embarrassed--but Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz now says he's happy Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov is buying 80% of the Nets and 45% of the Barclays Center. The Post reports : "Brooklyn is the Russian capital of America, so Mr. Prokhorov will feel right at home here, and I have been assured he will put the interests of Brooklyn first when it comes to making [the planned] Barclays Center and its benefits to Brooklyn a reality," Markowitz told the Post. Note that Markowitz is not talking about the project 's benefits to Brooklyn, because the timetable is very murky. As for benefits to Brooklyn , no one's quite toted them up. We know that the New York City Independent Budget Office says the arena would be a net loss for the city . Would the increase in local retail spending and opportunity to use the arena for, say, Hasidic weddings , make up for the ongoing

Opportunity for Thompson? Looking at Bloomberg's support for the West Side Stadium, reflexive backing for AY, and how AY was reframed in polls

Underdog Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Thompson's an Atlantic Yards supporter. Indeed, he signed a boilerplate letter (left) in July 2005 to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in support of the project. Should Thompson somehow challenge Mayor Mike Bloomberg on his support for the project, the challenger might gain some headway--only if he looked back in history and framed the issue appropriately. (Right now the only AY critic in the race is Green Party candidate Rev. Billy Talen .) After all, there was originally widespread civic dismay at the plan, just as there was for the West Side Stadium, and the support Atlantic Yards has garnered depends in part on overoptimistic assumptions about its benefits. And Atlantic Yards is radioactive enough for Bloomberg to ignore it on his campaign web site . Nor, despite claims about the project's benefits, was AY mentioned in Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 sustainability plan , likely because the report lays out a plan to develop rail

The orchestrated timing of the Prokhorov deal: just after the main opportunity for public agencies to ask questions

The timing of the deal with Mikhail Prokhorov seems clearly orchestrated, in the works but not announced until after the Atlantic Yards plan received its second approval, on September 17, from the Empire State Development Corporation. In July DDDB reminds us that, as I wrote on July 24, Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin was asked about reports that principal owner Bruce Ratner was selling the Nets to minority owner (and Brooklynite) Vinny Viola. "That's not true," Gilmartin said. Maybe so, I wrote, but it was a narrow answer to a narrow question. Indeed, the team was on the block and Dave D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger was even mentioning the possibility of a billionaire industrialist from Russia. The AP this week reported that Bruce Ratner flew to Moscow in July to meet with Prokhorov. In September In an AP story published the day after the AY project was approved, Nets President Brett Yormark would not confirm that Prokhorov is a potential in

Would AY get Liberty Bonds? Crain's source asserts it's eligible

There's a curious passage in a Crain's New York Business article, headlined Atlantic Yards gets a lift : “The deal appears to make it more likely that Forest City can take advantage of the tax-free Liberty Bonds by year's end and attract other investors,” says Neysa Pranger, director of public affairs for Regional Plan Association. “But there's still a way to go.” Liberty Bonds, which were aimed at the revitalization of Lower Manhattan in the wake of 9/11, have never been mentioned as a source for Atlantic Yards arena financing. It would be controversial, to say the least, to see " federal assistance made available to New York to support the Lower Manhattan rebuilding effort" helping a Russian oligarch . Liberty Bonds are aimed at commercial property (i.e., offices): The financing may be for the acquisition, construction, reconstruction and/or renovation of non-residential real property within the New York Liberty Zone and, under limited circumstances, elsew

Where have you gone, Mr. Stuckey? To academe and the questionable promotion of AY as transit-oriented development

It's no surprise that Atlantic Yards is a topic of academic interest, but only those at New York University's Wagner School are getting a chance to learn about it from Jim Stuckey, the former point man on the project for Forest City Ratner. And, as I describe below, there's reason to believe that the students may not be getting the full debate. Stuckey appointment An effusive August press release from the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies informs us that James Stuckey - Developer and Former Economic Development Official - Is New Leader of NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate : The New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS) today announced the appointment of James P. Stuckey as divisional dean of the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate, the University’s home for graduate and continuing professional education and applied research in real estate, construction management, and related fields. Throughout his 30-plus-year career as

In whimsical, cliched essay, Times writer introduces Brooklyn to oligarch, misses opportunity to point out "Soviet-style bureaucracy" in charge of AY

Sunday's New York Times Week in Review section has a cutesy piece headlined Brooklyn, Meet Your Oligarch , by Moscow correspondent and former Brooklynite Clifford J. Levy, who really has done much better work . The irony is that, had Levy understood the Atlantic Yards project better, he would've mentioned a curious commonality Prokhorov's country and the Atlantic Yards project: AY has been shepherded and approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which has an unelected and hardly well-informed board. No local official has a vote. And the biggest critic of public authorities like the ESDC, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, calls them "Soviet-style bureaucracies." And I've suggested some of the ESDC's explanations represent "Soviet-style math." Prokhorov, meet Brooklyn Levy writes: MOSCOW — Let’s agree that Mikhail D. Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who is the latest savior for the Nets basketball team and its ballyhooed move to