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A look back at Atlantic Yards in 2009: tumultuous change, success for arena backers, and lingering questions of accountability

A year ago, in a look ahead to AY in 2009, I wrote that the fate of the arena, at least, should be more clear.

Now the master closing has been completed, a close-to-final victory for Forest City Ratner and its government partners. But the arena's not a lock, given lingering and potential challenges (more on that tomorrow) led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and the timetable and contour of the rest if the project remain uncertain.

Still, what was stalled in 2008 saw major progress in 2009, thanks to governmental concessions. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) revised the Vanderbilt Yard deal. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) revised the Modified General Project Plan. The ESDC won the eminent domain case and others, and the arena bonds were issued and sold.

The replacement railyard got smaller. So did the revised arena, with a new architect, and then a new pair of architects.

Forest City Enterprises stock leaped from its low. And Bruce Ratner found Russia's richest man to take the Nets off his hands. The team--depleted by trades and injuries--lurched its way toward record losses, a high draft choice, much cap space (plus a deep-pocketed prospective owner), and, perhaps, a much brighter future.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson continued their (active, tacit) support for the project. The only active supporters were a few pols from (Bruce Bender-connected) southern Brooklyn and Borough President Marty Markowitz, while elected officials closer to the footprint expressed opposition or concern.

Lingering questions of accountability

But questions of accountability lingered, questions that, at the least, will constitute part of the AY legacy. Despite a judge's unwillingness to intervene, did the MTA act in the public interest by revising the railyard deal?

Did Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who spent his way to reelection by touting his business acumen, really refute the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) report that found the arena would be a loss for the city? Did the ESDC?

Why didn't Bloomberg's NYC Economic Development Corporation release its promised cost-benefit analysis? Why didn't his Department of Finance answer questions about the arena block assessments?

Did the ESDC let a volunteer manage the Atlantic Yards project? Did it set up the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation via the Job Development Authority to evade oversight? Did it really say that the master closing documents would be available only at least a week after the master closing?

Did Forest City Ratner, which relies on proxies, p.r., and lobbying--plus a few well-managed interviews--offer transparency commensurate with the public support it receives?

Can the state continue its questionable pursuit of blight, as seen in both the AY and Columbia University cases? Why did Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who achieved significant success in a law reforming public authorities, sat out the AY debate, leaving his Senate colleague, Bill Perkins, to be the standard-bearer?

The formality of process

While Atlantic Yards has always been a project in which official process has been mostly a formality, that concept was pushed to a new level in 2009.

The second community information session promised by the ESDC turned out to be a continuing education session organized by the American Institute of Architects. AY supporters, chummy with FCR, regularly heckled at a state Senate oversight hearing. And the first community information session--a telling event in which FCR and ESDC officials were, for the first and only time, mildly put on the spot--was marred by similar interruptions.

And frustration with the failure of the developer and state to response, the "mend-it-don't-end-it" coalition BrooklynSpeaks finally went to court.

If you didn't read about all this in the daily newspapers, well, there was reportage, photos, and video (new this year) on this blog and other non-mainstream outlets.


Borough President Marty Markowitz tells the Brooklyn Paper, in response to concerns about developer Forest City Ratner's contributions to his charity: My position on Forest City has been from the get-go, I love it. I support it... So I don’t see the slightest conflict.

AYR produces a remix of Nets CEO Brett Yormark's shifting predictions on the arena opening date.

The latest report from Forest City Ratner's foundation shows gifts to Borough President Marty Markowitz's concert series, organizations like the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg's World Trade Center memorial.

Multiple press outlets report that Forest City Ratner is trying to cut costs on the AY arena, with the role of starchitect Frank Gehry receding. Gehry, curiously enough, is the cost-conscious hero in an analysis of megaproject cost overruns.

Julian Garcia, the Nets beat writer for the Daily News, writes a scathing piece about the team's ownership, scoffing at team spokespeople's claims that the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn by the end of 2011.

The Star-Ledger reports that the Nets will play three of four pre-season games at the Prudential Center in Newark.

In a CityRoom blog post about Borough President Marty Markowitz's call for a less expensive arena, the New York Times slips in some news near the end: The developer has also talked about building a less expensive railyard as a replacement, according to a state official who is involved with the project.

BrooklynSpeaks, in a letter sent December 31, asks Gov. David Paterson to ensure that the city, state, and developer Forest City Ratner halt further street closures, halt demolition of viable vacant buildings and repurpose them, return the Carlton Avenue Bridge to service, and create interim public open space as play areas or community gardens.

After New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark states that the team was not considering playing preseason games at the Prudential Center in Newark, the Star-Ledger reports that New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek plans to make a proposal for such games.

At an Assembly hearing on financing for Yankee Stadium, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky jousts with New York City Industrial Development Agency Chairman Seth Pinsky and New York Yankees President Randy Levine, both present only via subpoena, about whether PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), represent a subsidy.

At a hearing of the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) on additional tax-exempt bonds for the New York Yankees and New York Mets, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky testifies, according to Neil deMause in the Village Voice blog, "This event and this vote and this hurried process is only greater evidence of the complete breakdown of the issuance of public debt in New York State."

City Hall News offers an in-depth portrait of the moody, defensive Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Crain's New York Business reports: Company executives told local elected officials last month that its bank, Goldman Sachs, suggested it cut the cost of the arena to ease the path to financing. Its current $950 million price tag is nearly double the cost of other arenas built in the United States, according to Sports Business Journal.

MTA Executive Director Elliot (Lee) Sander, asked if the MTA would accept a replacement Vanderbilt Yard with less value, says he won't negotiate publicly, but "The MTA has a good track record of being thoughtful and prudent."

The Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) emerges, and its scope contemplates financing for infrastructure improvements beyond the arena

The Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed on 1/23/08 and currently half-demolished, was supposed to to be closed two years for reconstruction. But the contract gives developer Forest City Ratner three years before penalties kick in, and even longer in case of unavoidable delays. (Photo by Jonathan Barkey)

Marty Markowitz, in a letter to FCR, says that BrooklynSpeaks speaks for so many who reside in the immediate area of Atlantic Yards


The reversal of the Atlantic Yards inevitability meme has now been joined by the AY downsizing meme--and both are far less certain than asserted. DDDB agrees that Reports of Atlantic Yards' Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.

The Daily News, in a scoop, quotes an informed but anonymous source who blames the leap in projected arena costs on expensive high-security glass.

In a shocker, Brooklyn Paper publisher Ed Weintrob editorializes for a federal bailout of the arena. Noticing New York's Michael D.D. White dissects the editorial, with a graphic comment.

The Center for an Urban Future, in a report titled Reviving the City of Aspiration, says "city leaders expended a large chunk of New York’s economic development and planning resources on costly sports stadiums and glitzy developments like Atlantic Yards..."

A review of Little Pink House, the story behind the Kelo v. New London eminent domain case.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker says that the city's effort to lure the New Jersey Nets to Newark is "fixed in my mind."

Frank Gehry tells the New York Times how his software keeps buildings like the Beekman Tower on budget. There's no mention of how he's kept AY on or off track.

The Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards Ombudsman, Forrest Taylor, faces a prickly audience frustrated with his inability to say whether the ESDC backed an FCR effort to get stimulus funds and his suggestion that the city Department of Transportation bears all responsibility for a contract allowing delays on the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

The Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office may just be a "capacity."

Forest City Ratner gets its land loan extended by Gramercy Capital Corporation.

Can Forest City Ratner really cut the price tag of the arena in half?

A flashback to an 11/4/05 Assembly public hearing on eminent domain, where a law professor says it's easy to differentiate between eminent domain for Times Square and eminent domain for AY.

AY opponents, other civic groups oppose stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards. In the Courier-Life, ACORN protests the protest.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's campaign web site omits AY.

The first oral argument in the Atlantic Yards state eminent domain case takes all of 30 minutes before a four-judge panel of the Appellate Division, where eminent domain cases are heard.

Former Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) president Avi Schick suggests guidelines for public investment in commercial real estate that seem a severe contrast with the way his former agency has shepherded the Atlantic Yards project.

Appellate court dismisses appeal of a Supreme Court judge's decision rejecting a challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental review; Judge James Catterson, later to write the court opinion in the case blocking eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion, files a concurrence that has a tone of a dissent.

Frank Gehry tells the Los Angeles Times that Atlantic Yards, like his Grand Avenue project in L.A., is "stopped."


Delia Hunley-Adossa, a Forest City Ratner beneficiary as head of the questionable Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (and chair of the CBA Coalition), challenges incumbent Council Member Letitia James. Hunley-Adossa denies the race is about AY. Her treasurer, Charlene Nimmons, also heads another dubious CBA signatory.

The Nets will play two preseason games in Newark. It's all negotiable.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky continues to scrutinize the Yankee Stadium deal.

The independent Brooklyn Paper is sold to Rupert Murdoch's Community News Group and becomes a sibling of the Courier-Life chain. FCR buys a welcome ad. Editor Gersh Kuntzman answers questions.

FCR spent $928.652 in 2008 on city and state lobbying. That ranks it third among developers in city lobbying and just outside the top ten in the state.

A federal bailout of A.I.G. benefited Barclays Capital to the tune of $8.5 billion; DDDB connects the dots to the Barclays Center naming rights deal.

Forest City Enterprises gets a $20 million loan to counter Nets' losses, thanks to the NBA.

In contrast with the AY Blight Study, a police official says Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls are prime crime locations in the precinct. (ESDC graphic adapted by Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab.)

A new book on the Dodgers, Forever Blue, points out that Brooklyn had rebounded by the 1960s.

Frank Gehry tells The Architect's Newspaper that "I don't think [AY is] going to happen."

A UK newspaper, the Independent, suggests that the Barclays Capital arena naming rights deal has been renegotiated down.

Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, says one lesson from AY "is that it’s not over ‘til it’s over." Delays mean "Forest City has missed the market."

An expert on Community Benefits Agreements says the AY CBA wouldn't be enforceable if Forest City Ratner sells the project.

Forest City Enterprises declares that it will continue to significantly slow development, and begin only two new projects, "the arena at our Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and a fee-based development project in Las Vegas."


Forest City Enterprises' Form 10-K to the SEC signals a smaller arena.

The most recent report to the IRS from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn shows the organization spent nearly $118,000 more than it took in, leaving net assets of $20,757. DDDB reps say they're confident about current fundraising.

Lessons on activism for the preservation movement, and how the AY example does and doesn't fit.

ESDC CEO Marisa Lago acknowledges the obvious: Atlantic Yards could take decades. She also suggests that Atlantic Yards construction will begin in 2010.

I ask New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt why the newspaper has ignored Forest City Ratner's "incredible" bailout of ACORN.

Even more of the subsidized "affordable housing" would seem to track the market, as Noticing New York's Michael White points out.

Former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff reflects on PlaNYC; many of the principles behind the former--an emphasis on consultation and achievable goals, realistically presented--seem counter to the city's embrace of Atlantic Yards.

A new book on Frank Gehry reports a quote the architect gave nearly four years earlier about his client, Bruce Ratner: “His parent company’s DNA is a little dicey.”

Facing a money crunch, the Nets lay off about ten front-office staffers.

Anthony Shorris, director of the NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy, and former executive director of the Port Authority of NY/NJ, warns that "we've deferred much of the [infrastructure] decisionmaking to the private sector."

Less than six weeks after Morningstar analysts declared the stock of Forest City Enterprises essentially worthless (though other analysts disagreed), they now report an increased fair value estimate, to $4 per share. The stock actually has doubled past that.

The man in charge of the state agency in charge of Times Square renewal says government should have eschewed eminent domain and gotten out of the way.

AY and AYR are part of a case study about the future of news. I believe that the volunteer media response to Atlantic Yards is an unusual phenomenon, not easily duplicable.


If climate change had been part of the EIS, that might have prompted more scrutiny of AY parking plans.

The New York Times City section ends; even less local coverage on Sundays ensues.

The ESDC won't answer questions about utility work on Pacific Street.

Appeals court upholds decision that that Henry Weinstein’s tenant, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, improperly assigned leases to a Pacific Street building and adjacent parking lot to an affiliate of Forest City Ratner. (Photo taken before Ward Bakery, in background, was demolished.)

Frank Gehry backs off his AY pessimism, says he's a glass-half-full type.

Forest City Enterprises sells 45.5 million new shares at $6.60 each, in an effort to pay off debt. It proves to be a very wise investment, at least by the end of the year, when the stock closes at $11.78.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, in a piece of lousy timing, suggests the Brooklyn deal will die.

Appellate Division unanimously dismisses AY eminent domain case. Bruce Ratner promises a groundbreaking--depending on what you read--in the summer, or simply "this year."

The ESDC's Construction Updates really come from Forest City Ratner.

At oral argument in the case challenging the ESDC's pursuit of eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion, some judges seem sympathetic to the plaintiffs.

What exactly does volunteer lawyer Susan Rahm (left) do for the ESDC on the Atlantic Yards project?

On the eve of a state Senate hearing, Daily News columnist Errol Louis reveals that Forest City Ratner wants to pay the MTA only $20 million for a part of the Vanderbilt Yard.

A state Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards is marred by raucous project supporters; legislators don't press the ESDC (virtually none of the questions I posed were raised), but the MTA head hints at the contours of a new deal, and the IBO calls the arena a loss. Forest City doesn't show. Here's video. (Photo by Adrian Kinloch)

Construction resumes at Forest City Ratner's Beekman Tower after construction unions compromise on costs.


Recapping the state Senate oversight hearing. Video from the hearing. What if Goldstein had testified first? Daily News blog looks at bullying. Daily News follows up on IBO.

Breaking down the NYC EDC's bogus fiscal analysis.

More on Susan Rahm; it sounds like she's in charge at the ESDC.

DOT says Ratner may be stretching Carlton Avenue Bridge timetable.

Forbes estimates arena's chances at 50%.

Frank Gehry's arena design has been replaced by one by Ellerbe Becket. The arena would be too small for pro hockey. Gehry's referred to in the past tense. The Urban Room's missing. Bloomberg praises the new design. No hint of Phase 2 or Site 5 in new arena designs.

Daniel Goldstein goes to Forest City Enterprises' annual meeting, gets shrugged off.

Marisa Lago resigns from ESDC after little more than nine months.

Shouldn't Gehry's design have become cheaper, thanks to lower construction costs? Maybe Gehry's design was impossible.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky tells an Albany Law School audience that acceptance of less money for the Vanderbilt Yard would violate the MTA's fiduciary duty; he remains quiet, however, later in the month.

Dramatic reassessments of land in the AY arena footprint.

New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff calls the new arena design a "stunning bait-and-switch"

DDDB says AY is neither a Done Deal nor a Dead Deal.

Nets CEO Brett Yormark calls public hearings "a formality."

Say bye to; it resolves to

The Brooklyn Paper endorses the Gehry-less arena.

The Courier-Life's Stephen Witt lets the Rev. Herbert Daughtry soliloquize.

Construction trailers on Sixth Avenue site are a prelude. (Photo by Tracy Collins)

Meet the ESDC board; none are from Brooklyn.

State Senator Bill Perkins asks the MTA questions about the Vanderbilt Yard contract. They don't get answered.

Local elected officials ask the MTA to delay its June 24 vote, saying a hasty decision could hurt the transit system.

New York Magazine's Chris Smith reports that Forest City Ratner is close to "railroading" the MTA with a lower cash payment and a cheaper replacement railyard. A source says,“The thing to watch is whether the MTA gets screwed on the rail yards.”

Crain's reports AY won't be derailed: “Too much has happened on this project,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association [RPA]. “The horse is out of the barn on this one.”

DDDB on Ratner's bait and switch.

How FCR failed to acknowledge the need for affordable housing bonds.

Revised MTA deal for Vanderbilt Yard revealed, $20 million down, 22 years to pay the rest; two-day deliberation period driven by developer's needs. Coverage roundup; the Times is contemptible. The Times, in a 1994 editorial on a similar issue, said it was "wiser to walk away than stumble into a giveaway." The Times misses the details. The MTA, 10-2, approves the deal despite warnings; DDDB offer disdained. Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger calls the project a "public good." Gary Dellaverson video here. A contrast between the ESDC project goals and the MTA project goals. The temporary yard was supposed to last 32 months. It could last 80 months.

The ESDC releases the 2009 Modified General Project Plan; the project cost is now $4.9 billion. While a ten-year timetable is projected, the ESDC allows for a delayed buildout. Legislators skeptical of timetable.

The Nets trade Vince Carter in a salary dump.

The Prospect Heights Historic District passes; Tracy Collins shows how it would wrap around a block designated for Atlantic Yards parking.

Crain's blames City Planning Commission Chairman Amanda Burden for the leaked arena renderings.

Sports Illustrated suggests one potential Nets buyer is Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov.

Daily News endorses MTA compromise. The Times remains MIA.

Times article suggests arena glut in area, but Barclays Center is on its way.

A look at the Partnership for New York City's evolving support for Atlantic Yards.

Court of Appeals, in a surprise move, accepts appeal of AY eminent domain case.


Bruce Ratner is the second-worst owner in pro sports, according to ESPN The Magazine.

Lawyer says ESDC's effort to relocate tenants is premature.

An unskeptical interview of ACORN's Bertha Lewis, in Regional Labor Review.

NYPD's new warnings about high-risk buildings bolster concerns about AY security.

Why Public Advocate candidate Bill de Blasio quieted down on AY.

Assemblyman Brodsky again questions MTA deal on Atlantic Yards, but says he won't follow up.

Studios in new market-rate Downtown Brooklyn rental tower similar in cost to AY affordable housing.

The Post/Courier-Life/Brooklyn Paper supplement Brooklyn Tomorrow omits AY.

Were station naming rights undersold? The MTA clams up. Michael D.D. White of Noticing New York makes the case they went cheap.

"Leaked" rendering appears in ESDC documents.

Gehry at Aspen: he prides himself on meeting budgets, disses Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces.

ESDC says FCR will answer written questions at informational meeting. ESDC, FCR face, evade questions, including subsidies, naming rights, designs. More on the orchestrated disruption. The media miss the news. Economic impact statement doesn't exist yet. Gilmartin doesn't seem to know building heights. Gilmartin says security issues will be brought to the New York Police Department after the design is complete, in the fall. Gilmartin's imaginary apology.

MAS produces new renderings, with open space where towers were once planned.

BrooklynSpeaks, elected officials call for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

First day of ESDC's public hearing, sometime raucous. DDDB's Daniel Goldstein calls it “a sham process for a sham project." What FCR calls a press conference, Bertha Lewis and Marty Golden find common cause. (Photo by Tracy Collins)

The DOT improves safety at the cars-on-the-sidewalk detour.

Sparse turnout on second day of Atlantic Yards public hearing.


ACORN's disconnect on affordable housing.

Eminent domain appeal brief filed.

ESDC resists request for AY cost-benefit analysis.

An expert quoted by the Real Deal suggests that Ratner got a good deal on the Vanderbilt Yard because of the 6.5% financing, not the new price.

How CBA-like trade-offs may have sacrificed the Coney Island amusement area.

A CBN meeting on comments to be submitted to the ESDC.

The Daily News denounces the AY eminent domain appeal even before the state files a legal response.

Is it DDDB or Forest City Ratner that has sought protection from the community? More tales from the notorious Stephen Witt.

The Times reports that Bruce Ratner has sought additional housing subsidies from city officials.

No answer from the Department of Finance regarding the curious assessments in the AY arena block.

The Nets offer reversible jerseys with opposing teams' stars.

Debating 33rd District Council candidate Jo Anne Simon's role opposing AY.

Curious growth of soft costs--more than fourfold--in the AY funding uses.

DDDB's Daniel Goldstein calls AY the paradigmatic Bloomberg failure.

How the MTA blew off Senator Perkins.

MTA says there's no written legal advice--beyond the check-off on a staff summary--on Vanderbilt Yard deal.

Gov. David Paterson stalls public authorities reform. Jousting over the public authorities reform bill. AY is cited as a reason for the bill. For those defending changes in bill, AY is the great unmentionable.

The Times reports how the city formed a local development corporation in Queens to lobby itself, apparently in violation of state law. Doesn't the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership do the same thing?

Mayor Mike Bloomberg runs against the MTA (above), even though he wants board members to not have to follow their fiduciary duty.

Confidential report (below) commissioned by Forest City Ratner says MTA tunnels bordering AY site are in "critical condition;" the MTA is closemouthed about its response.

The Carlton Avenue Bridge will remain closed until at least January 2011, probably longer.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who served as a much-publicized "witness" to the signing of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), in a CNG interview blasts CBAs as extortion.

Documents show that the ESDC considered affordable housing guarantees but didn't require them, nor was there an effort to ascertain if there's be enough housing bonds; the Daily News follows up, with some weak quotes from the parties.

FCR cleans up some Pacific Street blight. It's not so hard.

Delia Hunley-Adossa, challenger to 35th District Council incumbent Letitia James, surfaces in a debate, relying on platitudes.

Barclays head reaffirms commitment to AY, but isn't asked whether naming rights deal was renegotiated.


Tracing the deceptive property ownership map back to FCR.

How ESDC CEO Marisa Lago promised two community meetings.

Half the money to Delia Hunley-Adossa's Brooklyn Endeavor Experience went to her building.

NetsDaily points to efforts to sell the team.

Democratic mayoral candidates Bill Thompson vs. Tony Avella on AY.

Public Advocate candidate Norman Siegel hammers the eminent domain issue, but gets ignored by the press.

New York City Independent Budget Office report says arena would be a loss to the city.

CBN-commissioned report, by real estate analyst, casts doubt on timetable, benefits.

New arena design, by SHoP. DDDB calls it "lipstick on a corrupt pig." An FAQ. New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff offers two cheers. New York Magazine's Justin Davidson is scathing. Architectural critics slam Markowitz for claiming arena "celebrates Brooklyn's industrial heritage." Adding traffic congestion to the arena rendering.

The second community information session piggybacks on an AIA continuing ed session featuring the arena facade architects SHoP. Videos from the session. Block association criticizes bait-and-switch, from "community sessions" to "public informational" sessions.

Stephen Levin (lukewarm on AY) and Brad Lander (belated opponent) win primaries in 33rd and 39th Council Districts, while AY opponents fall short. But AY opponent Letitia James crushes Delia Hunley-Adossa in one of the most lopsided Council races.

Request for Supplemental EIS.

At ESDC board meeting approving plan, new revelations of concessions to Ratner. Ten-year timetable "not unreasonable." Project could be one-third smaller. Lease can last 25 years. More cash flow to FCR thanks to accelerated city and state payments. Press non-coverage.

ACORN's boilerplate support of AY, at the ESDC meeting. The New York Post discovers Ratner's bailout of ACORN.

IBO responds to ESDC critique of fiscal analysis. The ESDC's funny numbers.

The Transit Riders Council is belatedly outraged at the MTA deal.

Bloomberg's pro-development fixation.

Daniel Goldstein meets Bertha Lewis in a Battle of Brooklyn clip.

Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov will buy a majority interest in the Nets. Would AY have gone ahead if Prokhorov had owned the Nets in 2003? Bruce Ratner babbles in defense of the deal. The Times analyzes the "good deal" Prokhorov's getting. The orchestrated timing of the deal. The Times's whimsical take. The deal began before March.

Mayoral challenger Bill Thompson's missed opportunity on Atlantic Yards.

Looking at the ESDC's Response to Comments document, which punts on whether project benefits would be binding, ignores a request for renderings of signage, and more. Is the construction schedule a "useful timetable"? A cost-benefit analysis becomes an "economic benefit analysis."

A Department of City Planning official, in an email acquired through a FOIL request, says design changes to the arena "are obviously quite significant."

Bloomberg disses the IBO's report on AY.


Community Newspaper Group endorses Bloomberg, claims he's done a much better job on AY. A year earlier, the Brooklyn Paper was tougher.

ACORN members are clueless about reality of AY affordable housing.

Did ESDC board members know they were approving a smaller arena?

FCR sits out the Atlantic Antic.

At the Dreamland Pavilion conference, Marty Markowitz and Kevin Powell talk past each other on development and AY.

Joyce Purnick's too-gentle biography of Bloomberg barely mentions the arena.

ESDC lawyer on the AY timeline. KPMG says FCR projects $1217/sf for condos in 2015. Unreliable stats in KPMG's market study for the ESDC. More gaps in the study.

Prokhorov says his investment is no money down.

Putting together the KPMG report, the marketing of 80 DeKalb, and FCR's deceptive promises about AY "housing for Brooklyn."

FOIL shows FCR executive describing herself as a "freaked-out developer with an arena that must start this year."

Lawsuit charges the MTA violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act.

A preview of the eminent domain case. At oral argument, skepticism toward both sides, but more time on process than sweetheart deal. The print Times ignores the hearing. Nicole Gelinas also links it back to Kelo. (Photo by Tracy Collins)

Wall Street Journal calls arena bond sale a toss-up.

Fifth DDDB walkathon, with some creative propaganda for Mayor Bloomberg.

New lawsuit targets ESDC over unrealistic timetable, failure to address new MTA deal.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries signs a letter suggesting a positive tone toward AY, then backs off.

Prokhorov spends $18,760 on lunch.

A visit to the first pre-season game in Newark. Thanks to padding the house, there's good attendance; Nets warm to the option of an interim home in Newark.

The Times mentions FCR's bailout of ACORN only parenthetically. Did the city "sign off" on an agreement to help finance AY affordable housing? A dispute with the Times.

A Times article on stalled development barely mentions AY.

The once-projected arena opening day.

The ESDC low-balls Daniel Goldstein on the value of his condo.

Forest City gets $55 million in federal tax credits, but not for AY.

The new Yankee Stadium sucks retail trade inside.


If money's fungible, taxpayers are helping bail out ACORN and helping fund the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

Marty Markowitz's campaign mailer ignores AY; he denies AY would be his legacy.

From the Battle of Brooklyn film, video of the ESDC's December 2006 approval of AY.

In Crain's profile of "Tenacious B," Bruce Ratner says AY isn't a public project, but FCR's in the driver's seat. Delay in office tower undermines ESDC's "economic benefit analysis." (Photo by Buck Ennis)

Forest City Ratner's hand in comments to the ESDC.

Post-Kelo, Pfizer leaves New London; in the Times, commentators offer much skepticism about eminent domain; even an eminent domain defender says local citizens should have a say.

Nicole Gelinas connects the dots between blight and economic development.

Nets offer all lower-level seats for $10.

Why didn't FCR's orchestration of MTA letters make the news, given new flap on ghostwritten letters on health care?

Book on mega-projects offers reasons for skepticism of AY.

Daily News reports that other AY footprint landowners have been low-balled.

BrooklynSpeaks, pushed into firm opposition, launches lawsuit challenging AY approval.

An AY gap in the collection of the writings of former Times architectural critic Herbert Muschamp.

Bloomberg News architectural critic says result "still smacks of hack expediency."

Court of Appeals, 6-1, upholds eminent domain for AY. An FAQ. Ilya Somin says Court of Appeals has punted. Times coverage. DDDB press conference. Rounding up the editorials on the eminent domain case.

Arena bonds authorized, underwriter Goldman, Sachs confident.

BALDC is prepared to authorize up to $400 million in tax-exempt bonds for infrastructure. The ESDC says the plan's been dropped.


Motion to appeal EIS case denied.

Paterson promises AY opponents an "objective and fair hearing."

Tax-exempt bonds rated (as were stadium bonds) just above junk. Moody's won't answer questions.

Prokhorov could become majority owner of the arena if taxable bonds fail.

Behind the arena project costs. Behind the "Urban Experience."

Ratner-commissioned market analysis says arena would have no trouble attracting events.

Appellate Division overturns ESDC's pursuit of eminent domain in Columbia case. Contrasts and commonalities with AY case. Lawyer "cautiously optimistic." ESDC will appeal. Law professor calls decisions a "messy situation."

Homeless shelter in AY footprint will close January 15.

Barclays naming rights deal may not be a record, after all.

AY plaintiffs ask Court of Appeals to reopen eminent domain case in light of Columbia ruling.

Minimum vs. maximum of ten community events at AY arena.

Taxable bonds rated junk.

A discussion of the Battle of Brooklyn film and the strange bedfollows fighting eminent domain.

Open market leads to big response for land in Willets Point and Coney Island.

Big doubts about major league hockey at Brooklyn arena.

Crain's, Times side with ESDC in Columbia case.

Municipal bond buyer says there's demand for arena bonds, but analysis required. "Junkyard bond" protest. Bond sale completed, in time for end-of-the-year IRS deadlines; role of BALDC mostly ignored. Traffic plan detour announced. (Photo by Tracy Collins)

Judge dismisses case challenging MTA's revision of Vanderbilt Yard deal. Didn't the MTA have FCR over a barrel, rather than the other way around?

NYC EDC says promised AY fiscal impact analysis is now a trade secret.

Down the rabbit hole with the BALDC. Perkins raises questions about BALDC, asks Paterson to put AY on hold. The UDC, not the JDA, is supposed to offer Sports Stadium Assistance. The JDA operates by different rules. Perkins asks Cuomo for an opinion.

Perkins vs. Paterson on eminent domain cases, reform.

Looking at the pending case challenging the ESDC approval; was the ESDC board informed of the changed financial terms?

Master closing completed, Ratner installs "branded signage." DDDB says it's not over. Deal documents not yet released. (Photo by Tracy Collins)

Did FCR engineer the effort to paint over anti-AY murals?

Freddy's install chains, executes eminent domain effigy.

A walk around the arena block, with video.

Times looks at MAS, gets the AY angle wrong.

Condemnation petition filed, will be challenged.

Temporary canopy over new subway entrance can last ten years.

Can $8.1 million in infrastructure contingency funds pay for repairs on damaged MTA tunnels?


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 February 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--but not yet approved--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…

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…