Skip to main content

At CB 6 presentation, Forest City Ratner exec says they will push for street closings even if title is not transferred January 29

A Forest City Ratner executive, plus a transportation consultant, last night discussed planned street closings for Atlantic Yards during a lightly-attended meeting of the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee. (I learned of the meeting only yesterday.)

While the plan had been previously announced and a slide show disseminated, nevertheless some news emerged.

Notably, FCR Senior VP Jane Marshall said that the developer would ask the city Department of Transportation (DOT) to close the streets on or about February 1, as planned, even if the state court hearing on eminent domain scheduled for January 29 does not result in the transfer of title to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

(Representatives of some property owners have said they'll challenge the condemnation; though the latitude for resistance is typically limited, nothing in the Atlantic Yards saga has been simple.)

Marshall said she expected DOT to at least agree to the closing of Fifth Avenue, because FCR needs the street closed to install new utility infrastructure.

(Photos and set by Tracy Collins. Videography by Jonathan Barkey; source of screenshot bottom right.)

FCR = government?

The developer's close relationship with city government was on display as Marshall somewhat playfully did double duty, also taking on the role of DOT official Chris Hrones, who usually opens such presentations and introduces her.

Given that the state has won the eminent domain case and the master closing has been completed, Marshall seemed in a far more lighthearted and confident mood than she displayed in an email to a city official in April, describing herself as "a freaked out developer with an arena that must start this year."

Three other Forest City Ratner staffers, including VP Scott Cantone, were in the audience at the meeting, held at Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill. Also present was the ESDC's AY Ombudsman, Forrest Taylor.

Additional presentation January 26

Marshall said that similar presentations had not been scheduled by the other two affected Community Boards, 2 & 8.

However, there will be a presentation on the street closings Tuesday, January 26, before the 78th Precinct Community Council, which meets at 7:30 p.m. at the 78th Precinct station house, at 6th Avenue and Bergen Streets.

The opening

The first video features only Marshall.

"Chris Hrones could not be here, but I'm going to play Chris Hrones," she said, referring to the DOT's Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Coordinator. His intro described the event as a follow-up to a DOT briefing of three community boards and city agencies held January 7.

Marshall then described the master closing on December 23, which was followed by the ESDC's filing of the condemnation petition.

"That would mean that on or about February 1 would be the earliest that ESDC would get title," she said.

The traffic plan

"With that, we go to Sam Schwartz," Marshall said, referring not to the actual consultant but a transportation planner, Daniel Schack, with Forest City Ratner's traffic consultant, Sam Schwartz Engineering.

Using slides that have already been distributed, Schack described the planned changes.

When it came time for questions, committee member and former CB 6 Chairman Jerry Armer, Jerry Armer asked about the impact of eliminating the left turn from Flatbush on Bergen Street. He asked about the traffic volume and where it would go.

"Right now, which means 2006," said Schack, consulting information in the Final Environmental Impact Statment (FEIS), "there were 44 vehicles in the a.m. peak hour."

As he strained a bit to figure out where the traffic would be distributed, he noted that his firm did not do the analysis in the FEIS.

Marshall papered things over. "We have some of the numbers, but the analysis was done by [consultants] AKRF and Phil Habib," she said, noting that the traffic volume was reassigned to other intersections.

"In order to really know what intersections they assigned it to, you have to go to the FEIS," she said. "I don't know if it's fair for Sam Schwartz to have to answer that question."

"If they can't, that's fine," Armer responded mildly. "I just wanted to know, and if they can answer I'll look in that little document," he added, indicating the FEIS.

"That little, 5000-page document," riposted Marshall.

Armer has hardly been an AY activist, but under his leadership CB 6 expressed opposition to the project and, in a move generally seen as revenge for that stance, Borough President Marty Markowitz chose not to reappoint him.

Complications possible

From the audience, I asked whether streets closed if there were delays in the transfer of title.

"We have discussed with DOT the ability to ask for them to be closed in any case, but they'd have to grant that," Marshall said. "We're hoping that they will get closed, and we're planning for them. That's what our schedule is based on. So we would seek to close them as soon as we could. But we want the title to pass. That would be the best possible case for everybody, for it to happen simultaneously. So that's why we did this notice, based on the date the judge scheduled the condemnation."

Well, "for everybody" might be a question for debate.

If title doesn't pass, how would it work with DOT, do they get a letter.

"I don't know," Marshall responded a little whimsically. "I ask, they say yes, I don't know."

Next to her, Schack smiled in amusement.

Driven by the arena schedule

A bit later, photographer Tracy Collins, who lives very close to the AY footprint, asked why they need to close the streets if they don't get title.

"Because we are assuming we will get title, and we need to begin construction of the arena," Marshall responded.

"But if you don't have title, how can you begin construction?" Collins asked.

"The truth of the matter is, the bed of Fifth Avenue, there's a massive amount of utility work that has to be done for us to start the arena, and we're doing some of it now," Marshall said. "But we have to close Fifth Avenue to do that utility work."

At minimum, she said, they'd ask for Fifth Avenue to be closed. And if for some reason the title doesn't pass, she added, a clause in the contract would say that "we would have to completely restore Fifth Avenue, after we've installed this sewer that we now can't use... but again that's not what we think is going to happen."

Would they still close Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, Collins asked.

"I don't know," Marshall responded.

No need to worry

A police officer in the audience noted that the venting from the north side of the Flatbush Avenue sidewalk north of Dean Street seems to be shifting.

"We have to replace all those vents," Marshall said, adding, in a placating manner, "We have a team of experts that is devoted to the TA vents and their structural soundness. So you don't need to worry."

About those murals

Collins asked where police parking would be located near the corner of Carlton and Dean, suggesting that the lot was owned by Henry Weinstein.

"No, that is owned by us," Marshall responded, noting that Weinstein's property is to the north.

Collins noted that "there is a wall along Carlton [Avenue] that supposedly Henry Weinstein gave permission to a couple of residents to paint [anti-AY] murals on"--

"He gave permission to paint murals on our wall too," Marshall said. "We just never have removed the murals. Or have we?"

"They have been removed," Collins said.

"They have been? So maybe we have," Marshall said, apparently unaware that FCR has eschewed credit for the removal.

The location (updated)

According to Weinstein, the murals were located in part on his property and in part on Forest City Ratner's property. The metal gate and area to the north (left) is his property.

The wall to the right, starting where it says "Gehry thy name is eminent domain," is Forest City Ratner's property.

(Photo by Tracy Collins)


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…

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…

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…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

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 …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…