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Showing posts from October, 2010

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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)

Some revisionist history on the Nets' effort to land LeBron James; they were out of the running even though they said the opposite

With the benefit of some hindsight, let's reconstruct the New Jersey Nets' ill-fated pursuit of superstar free agent LeBron James. We've long known that, on 7/1/10, Nets' brass and owner Mikhail Prokhorov flew to Cleveland to meet with James. Now we know, according to the New York Post's Fred Kerber, in an article headlined How Nets went LeBust come ‘Decision’ time , they didn't get very far: “We never got any correspondence from LeBron’s camp after the first meeting,” [Nets official Bobby] Marks said. “When it was a three-, four-day stretch that we didn’t hear, we knew we were out.” By the morning of July 6, the Nets heard the bad news through backchannels. One hour before James’ July 8 “The Decision” show, [agent Leon] Rose called [Nets GM Rod] Thorn and said the Nets were eliminated. Looking back But what were Kerber and others in the press reporting at the time? Kerber reported July 7, in an article headlined Nets in LeBron holding pattern : The Nets fe

In promotional "Brooklyn Tomorrow," architect Pasquarelli hailed as Barclays Center savior; he says arena's in a "residential neighborhood"

After taking an Atlantic Yards hiatus in 2009, the infamous Brooklyn Tomorrow advertorial promotional magazine published by the Community Newspaper Group, publisher of the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, again puts Atlantic Yards on the cover, as it had in the 2007 and 2008 issues . Brooklyn Tomorrow appears as an insert in both weeklies, promoted on the cover, but is not yet online. The headline promises "Barclays Bounce: How the arena got back in the game." Intriguing. [Update: Editor Gersh Kuntzman protests that it's not an advertorial . Given that previous editions featured content clearly tied to advertising, such as from Forest City Ratner, I'd call them advertorials. This issue does not, but the upbeat tone of the articles seems geared to a "positive" promotional publication.] The savior of Barclays? The Table of Contents pulls no promotional punches regarding p. 14: " Barclays Center : Architect Gregg Pasquarelli will be remembered

Phoenix Suns owner Sarver on how arenas get built: "They get built through politics and political connections"

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver gets praise in The Atlantic's Brave Thinkers feature for agreeing to have the team wear "Los Suns" jerseys as a rebuke to newly-passed legislation, aimed at illegal immigrants but feared as fostering racial profiling. Part of his explanation: A lot of people looked at the decision as an inappropriate mixture of sports and politics. But I think it’s naive to say that sports and politics don’t mix. I mean, how do stadiums and arenas get built? They get built through politics and political connections. Almost all professional sports owners are active in politics to support candidates and causes, but it’s usually based on a financial agenda. To me, this law was more of a human-rights issue—and just an issue of fairness—than it was political.

A salute to (lost) Pacific Street, from the L Magazine

From the L Magazine's The 50 Best Blocks in Brooklyn : 40. Best Block Currently Closed for Atlantic Yards Construction Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Aves, Prospect Heights It's been somewhat sparse for years, but the buildings dotting this AY-adjacent block are/were of an unusually high architectural pedigree, from the elegant brick Spalding Building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and the historical firehouse next door, to the ornate Atlantic Arts Building nearer to Fifth Avenue, all of which are coming down behind closed gates. Um, emphasis on were . And it's not just currently closed, it's permanently closed.

State Comptroller criticizes ESDC for lack of transparency, no-bid contracts

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who not coincidentally is running for election next Tuesday (for the post to which he was appointed in 2007), on October 27 issued a brief report criticizing the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). The press release was headlined DiNapoli Public Authority Spotlight: Urban Development Corp.: Hundreds of Millions Spent on No-Bid Contracts and High Salaries . News of the high salaries--more than a quarter of staffers earning six figures--actually surfaced in June, in a report from the Authorities Budget Office, and it's hardly surprising that the ESDC (the name under which the agency mainly does business) has awarded no-bid contracts. After all, ubiquitous consultant AKRF has often been chosen, via no-bid contracts, to conduct environmental reviews, such as for Atlantic Yards and the Columbia University expansion. "We also are able to hire people on the basis of a sole source if we can articulate a rationale for why it would be cost

Money cleanses: what's missing from the Times's Prokhorov article (hint: whatever the Nets do, Prokhorov's already won)

So, what's missing from The Playboy and His Power Games , the New York Times Magazine cover story (to be published this Sunday, October 31) on new Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov? (Updated October 30: The print cover states "An oligarch of our own." Nyet . The cover line: "The lowly New Jersey Nets score the next best thing to LeBron--Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire who is not shy about anything." The author really didn't read the clip file .) In increasing importance... 1) Any irony regarding this picture (by David Goldman/AP) of Prokhorov, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Nets minority owner (and convenient prop) Jay-Z. 2) An embarrassing photo of writer Chip Brown with Prokhorov at a nightclub, as with eager 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft last March . Still, Brown's big "gets" include a visit to Prokhorov's house, watching the mogul work out, a nightclub tag-along, and a jet-ski session. 3) Any mention of Atla

As Times Magazine buffs Prokhorov, Nets tickets in Newark go for pennies

I'll have more in a bit on the more-hagiographic-than-not New York Times Magazine cover story on Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, but consider that even the oligarch's presence in Newark last night (where the Nets won their opener) didn't drive attendance. From John Brennan in The Record's Meadowlands Matters blog, a piece headlined Tickets for sporting events at rock-bottom prices : But for tonight's Nets-Detroit Pistons NBA regular-season opener — the first for the Nets in their temporary Prudential Center home in Newark — fans who know where to look online can find a $200 list-price ticket for $50, a $40 ticket for $10, or a $20 ticket for an amazing 47 cents. In a follow-up, Brennan pointed out that Newark Mayor Cory Booker has tried to liken his city to Oklahoma City, which snagged a permanent team after hosting the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina. But the turnout, even with cheap tickets, was low: The crowd was listed at 15,178, but at t

MAS Summit: the dominance of NYC EDC in planning, the value of green space, and the importance of sharing the bounty across the boroughs

While the livability survey revealed at the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22 suggested that most New Yorkers were satisfied, there were significant pockets of discontent, notably (and unsurprisingly) among poorer residents in the outer boroughs. So there was a good deal of discussion about how to improve things. After all, suggested Robert McNulty , founder and president of Partners for Livable Communities , "livability should be defined by the least advantaged member of your community." (I don't think that that Rawlsian perspective is necessarily shared by most running the city, so that comment must be seen as somewhat pollyannish.) Blame NYC EDC Paul Steely White , executive director of Transportation Alternatives , blamed the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) for thinking that parking garages and big development like the East Side Gateway Mall or Yankee Stadium were the key to development. "I t

Does Ratner have “possession of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards property”? No, but the request for a Times correction is a month old

This isn't big news, but it's an example of how errors in the "Paper of Record," however basic, need correction, given that they could mislead readers and researchers, as with the yet-uncorrected claim that the arena would be built "on the railyards." A 9/28/10 New York Times City Room post, headlined Latest Design Is Unveiled for Atlantic Yards Plaza , claimed that the entire 22-acre site was controlled by the developer: Seeking a correction I posted a comment that day saying it wasn't true, given that several properties (e.g., houses on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, the P.C. Richard building on Site 5) are controlled neither by the state nor the developer, and that eminent domain is supposed to proceed in at least one more phase: I filed an official request for a correction through the proper channels and wrote to reporter Charles Bagli directly. He acknowledged the error but, for whatever reason, he and his editors have been unable or unwilling

Cuomo has apparently put on back burner investigations of Willets Point, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership lobbying

There's a very intriguing passage within a New York Times article today about Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, likely to win election as Governor next Tuesday, headlined Mixed Views on Cuomo as Attorney General : But the praise is neither universal nor complete, and there are many who assert that Mr. Cuomo has, not unlike his predecessor, been more interested in headlines than in undertaking the tedious chores needed to bring lasting reform, and that he has mishandled, sidestepped or prolonged some public integrity cases. For example, an investigation into whether the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and some public officials violated lobbying laws in their redevelopment efforts is still unresolved after two years. (Mr. Bloomberg last month endorsed Mr. Cuomo’s campaign for governor.) What might that refer to? It's time to repeat my post from 12/12/09, adding that I never got a response to my queries from Cuomo's office: Learning from Willets Point

The view from Dean Street: early-morning construction; the demolition of 636 Pacific Street

City zoning prohibits sports facilities from being built within 200 feet of residences, but that zoning was overridden by the Empire State Development Corporation in the case of Atlantic Yards. So those on the south side of Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues have some bird's-eye views of the site. First, a video shot at about 7:15 am today by a neighborhood resident. Below, a photo of 636 Pacific Street , the last building in the footprint, shot yesterday by Battle of Brooklyn documentary filmmaker Mike Galinsky.

Environmental review process slammed at MAS Summit, but solutions remain elusive

Is the environmental review process broken? At the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22, two speakers suggested it was, but they didn't make what I believe is a key distinction: between truly public projects and public-private (or private-public ) projects. Opening up the first session of the two-day event, Philip K. Howard , lawyer, author ( The Death of Common Sense ), and founder of the national coalition Common Good , warned of "a growing bureaucracy that shackles government, stifles innovation, makes it impossible to adapt to current challenges." And while his critique encompasses the budget and the schools, he directed his most pointed comments to the struggle to build new infrastructure. "No pebble left unturned" Environmental impact statements (EIS) "have evolved into a process of no pebble left unturned," he warned. "If it takes a decade or longer to get approvals, it will be 2025 or 2030 to start

Why would EB-5 investors in Atlantic Yards earn no interest? Because it's such "a safe, secure position"

From The National ( published in the United Arab Emirates), an article headlined Green Card scheme a slam dunk in China covers one of the investment seminars put on by the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) for its Atlantic Yards EB-5 investment project: So keen are some Chinese to gain entry to America that they value the assurance of a Green Card over any financial return. Most EB-5 schemes pay interest of between 2.5 and 2.75 per cent. But not this one, according to Gregg Hayden, the general manager of NYRC. "The investor on this particular project, to simplify the process, is not getting paid any interest," says Mr Hayden. "We have put them in such a safe, secure position that they're not earning any interest. If you look at the spectrum of EB-5 projects, interest rates are paid according to risk." To simplify the process ? How about to maximize return to the New York City Regional Center and Forest City Ratner? As for the security of the the positi

Times takes optimistic look at Prokhorov as face of Nets, suggests trip to China was to recruit companies as sponsors (but what about EB-5 investors?)

In Nets’ Top Attraction May Be Prokhorov , an article in tomorrow's Sports section, the New York Times offers an optimistic take on the Nets' struggles: majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov "may end up being the face of the organization." (I pointed out October 24 that the ESPN The Magazine portrayed Prokhorov as the face of the Nets, one of only four teams where players weren't front and center.) The article states: He has also moved fast to rebuild the team and has not shied away from the limelight. Since he took over in May, he has hired Avery Johnson as coach, Billy King as general manager and taken the Nets to Russia and China to help convince foreign companies to spend their money on the team. Ah, but was the trip to China mainly to sign up sponsors, or was it to convince immigrant investors to get their green cards via the EB-5 program by buying into the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project"? And why was Prokhorov so oddly avoided by those pu

Cataloging non-blight on Vanderbilt Avenue

Despite the presence of the eastern end of a "blighted" Atlantic Yards project site, "Almost every corner along the stretch of Vanderbilt Avenue that runs through Prospect Heights is home to an eatery or drinkery of note," according to Brooklyn Based . Of particular note are Woodwork, on Vanderbilt between Pacific and Dean streets, and Weather Up, at Dean Street, both immediately across the street from the staging/construction zone slated to be a massive surface parking lot. (Woodwork got notice in Time Out New York this past February.) Of course, the Branded Saloon, which gets a plug as "the kind of place where Wyatt Earp would feel right at home," was the scene of an early morning stabbing on September 30.

Moody's lifts rating on Forest City Enterprises from "negative" to "stable"

According to an AP article yesterday headlined Moody's revises Forest City outlook to 'stable' , the ratings firm has lifted Forest City Enterprises from "negative" to "stable," citing improved results and stable liquidity. The AP reported: Last month, Cleveland-based Forest City reported a second-quarter profit of $122.8 million. The results bested the company's prior-year quarter performance - a loss of $1.8 million. Moody's noted Forest City has been addressing its mortgage debt maturities, refinanced its credit facility and significantly reduced its development exposure. Wonder if Moody's factored in an expected $249 million in immigrant investor funding , at low or no interest? Morningstar, by the way, is a bit more cautious : While we like Forest City's use of nonrecourse property debt and its geographically diverse footprint, we believe its extensive exposure to the volatile retail industry as well as its high degree of financial l

Citizenship for sale? Yahoo says yes, and endorses it (without looking closely at the Atlantic Yards deal)

Would you believe that the brief mention in a Wall Street Journal article about Forest City Ratner's plan to raise $249 million via immigrant investors inspired an Oct. 25 analysis ( Citizenship For Sale? ) by Daniel Gross, economics editor and columnist at Yahoo! Finance, that concluded that not only is the EB-5 program a good idea, but it should be vastly expanded. In other words, superficial journalism by the Wall Street Journal is compounded by superficial journalism by Yahoo! Job creation? The program seems appealing on its face, so Gross can make a plausible case for it: If it were fully utilized, the EB5 program would bring at least $7 billion annually and create or preserve 100,000 jobs per year. It's not much in the grand scheme of things -- there are currently about 130 million Americans with payroll jobs. But given the trauma inflicted upon American workers in the past three years, every little bit helps. And this is something the U.S. should be doing more of

"Everything we work on is on the web;" is that Atlantic Yards? No, it's Governors Island

Is Atlantic Yards a public-private partnership? Or, as I've contended ( with Amy Lavine ), more of a private-public partnership? Well, the contrast between public and private projects became more clear during a presentation on Governors Island at the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22. "Everything we work on is on the web," declared Leslie Koch, president of the city-controlled Trust for Governors Island . Her remarks accompanied the presentation below (also on the web ). And a look at the Trust's web site leads us to the master plan for park and public space, the results of a design competition. What about AY? By contrast, the Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards web pages just offer links (and are stale ). Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards web site has been down since June 2009, resolving instead to the Barclays Center web site , which is mainly about marketing. A press release on the Barclays C

News from the Construction Alert: 636 Pacific on the way down (remembered by Brownstoner), Urban Canvas program will beautify construction fence

The Empire State Development Corporation hasn't posted a Construction Update , but according to the latest Update, aka Construction Alert (below), all but one of the buildings on the arena block have been demolished, with that last building--and three smaller ones on the southeast block, Block 1129--under demolition. That last building, of course, is 636 Pacific Street, the rehabbed warehouse dubbed the Atlantic Arts building and known as the home of Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, until he agreed to a settlement in April . Demolition is expected to be completed next month. ( Photo and set by Tracy Collins) In a coincidence that could only be described as brutally weird , today Brownstoner featured 636 Pacific as the Building of the Day . The pseudonymous Montrose Morris wrote: Had this building been anywhere else, it would easily have been eligible for landmarking, as it is a rare example of [Chep] Kingsley's work in NY, as well as for it

MAS Summit: Bloomberg administration's Jacobsian efforts are highlighted, but embrace of "cataclysmic projects" shouldn't be ignored

While the big news at the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22 concerned the livability survey commissioned by the MAS, there was much more worthy of discussion, and I'll address some of those issues this week. Notably, one moment crystallized the ongoing tensions--as provoked earlier in the week by the Jane Jacobs Medals celebration--between the Bloomberg administration's worthy, Jacobsian efforts, and its less defensible affection for megaprojects. Author and Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz spoke on a panel titled Vibrant Neighborhoods . "I think it's wonderful that members of the Bloomberg administration thought this summit important enough to appear here to catalog the wonderful things agencies are doing to make the city more livable," she said, a reference to Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin, Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who spoke at the event, along

To ESPN, the biggest thing about the (non-turnaround) Nets is still their owner, likened to the omnipotent Galactus

In ESPN The Magazine 's preview issue on the National Basketball Association season, each team is represented by a comic book cover rendering. It's notable that, among the 30 teams, only four don't feature players dominating the image: the New Jersey Nets, with Mikhail Prokhorov ( right ); the Charlotte Bobcats, with player-turned-owner Michael Jordan; the Indiana Pacers, with player-turned-president Larry Bird; and the Dallas Mavericks, with flamboyant owner Mark Cuban. The text FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE Mikhail Prokhorov is many things to many people: billionaire entrepreneur, playboy, and new owner of the Nets. But to Marvel, he's Galactus , an omnipotent figure with infinite resources and a voracious appetite for devouring worlds. Prokhorov took over the Nets in May, and the team already has a new GM (Billy King), coach (Avery Johnson) and arena (Newark's Prudential Center). But Silver Surfer Devin Harris remains. Can Prokhorov's team turn around last season

From the Village Voice's Best of New York: Prokhorov, Stoudemire, and Markowitz

Once upon a time, the Village Voice could be counted on for cutting-edge reporting on local controversies and, while the newspaper still does some good work, the rate has diminished. Which leads us to this week's Best of New York issue, and a few relevant entries. Prokhorov: winning trumps all In the category of Best Oligarch - 2010 , we get (of course) Mikhail Prokhorov: We're sorry that recent Russian émigré Mikhail Prokhorov couldn't sign LeBron James, even though he was rich enough ($13.4 billion) and tall enough (six-foot-eight) to look the hoops star in the eye. But give the guy a break: The owner of the New Jersey Nets (soon to be the Brooklyn Whatevers) is still the world's second richest Russian, the tallest of the world's richest, and one of the youngest of the top 100 (he's only 45). Talk about a guy who fits in well with our homebred corporate piranha: Prokhorov made his billions by feasting off Russia's helter-skelter, mostly illegal, and highly

The song cycle "Brooklyn Omnibus," by the new Brooklynites who created "Passing Strange," eventually takes us to the haunted arena

Last night I went to the BAM Harvey Theater to see the new song cycle, Brooklyn Omnibus , created by the musicians Stew and Heidi Rodewald, the collaborators on the terrific, quirky, Broadway musical play Passing Strange . (Photo, via Brooklyn Based , by Jeff Fasano) Stew, a black guy from L.A. who spent a lot of time in Germany, is an avant-garde rocker; Rodewald has punk rock roots. Both are newcomers, so they don't claim authority, but Rodewald says in this interview she's already nostalgic. So, with a ten-piece band, three backup singers, and--crucially--video projections, they create a collage that, while hardly comprehensive, prompted nods and laughter from the audience. And yes, at the end, Brooklyn's signal controversy and alleged new centerpiece, the Barclays Center arena, got a macabre mention. (Here's Louise Crawford's take on OTBKB .) The blurb Here's the official blurb: Stew, the Tony Award-winning creator and star of Broadway’s Passing Strange, jo

Freddy's signs lease at 5th Avenue and 17th Street, 1.6 miles from previous location; next step: official approvals

According to reports from Eater and OTBKB (which got the press release I didn't get yet), the operators of Freddy's Bar & Backroom , displaced after some 15 years from the northwest corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue due to eminent domain (which led to a settlement), aim to reopen 1.6 miles away. The location: the old Ellis space at 627 5th Avenue near 17th Street, just below the Prospect Expressway in an area some call the South South Slope and others call Greenwood Heights. According to the press release, Frank Yost, who held the Freddy's lease, is not part of the new bar, which will be run by former manager Donald O'Finn and former bartenders Matt Kuhn (the press release had "Khun," but I think that's a typo) and Matt Kimmett. What next? The bar still needs approval from the community board, State Liquor Authority, and the Department of Buildings. "We will still feature our popular videos, art exhibitions, live music and a few surpri

MAS Survey on Livability: people say they're satisfied, but dismay regarding (over)development seeps out

Though a Municipal Art Society (MAS) survey on livability released yesterday garnered headlines for its seemingly counter-intuitive conclusion that most New Yorkers are happy and find the city livable, it also contains signs of significant discontent regarding development. And that wariness--72 percent seemingly oppose new housing or housing beyond existing scale in their neighborhoods--suggests a tension between those who like neighborhood scale and the Bloomberg administration's expectation of another 1 million people here by 2030. Results of this initial poll were not particularly subtle--it would be important to understand attitudes toward development teased out by type of neighborhood, zoning, and transportation options, because the key question is fitting increased density to neighborhoods that can handle it. (That has not been done consistently, as NYU's Furman Center for Real Eastate & Urban Policy described in March.) News coverage The New York Times's CityR

State IG probes problematic Aqueduct racino bidding; no such investigation was made of Vanderbilt Yard process

A New York Times article today, headlined Report Says State Senators Manipulated Casino Bidding , cites the state Inspector General's report on the Aqueduct "racino": In a scathing 300-page report [ PDF ] on the competition to install video slot machines at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, the inspector general described a chaotic and ultimately doomed process that was without formal rules or objective criteria, and was awash in “unrestrained political considerations,” lobbyists and targeted campaign contributions. But when Forest City Ratner was anointed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard without any competiton--and when an RFP was issued 18 months later--there was no such inquiry. And, as I argued in March, the Vanderbilt Yard deal was worse. Campaign contributions The article states: The report says that the bidder, a consortium called the Aqueduct Entertainment Group, or Aqueduct Entertainment, marshaled funds at the behest of the state