Skip to main content

In friendly "Inside City Hall" interview with Errol Louis, Ratner predicts two years for construction of first tower, claims "we've already bought all the land"

The headline in NY1's Inside City Hall segment last night was Barclays Center Developer Discusses Affordable Housing, but it was really "Bruce Ratner Takes Another Victory Lap," interviewed by host Errol Louis, who couldn't stop beaming.

"Thank you for joining us, and congratulations," Louis led off. While Louis did not aggressively cheerlead Atlantic Yards as when he was a columnist at the New York Daily News and Our Time Press, he offered not scrutiny but cocktail-party chatter, albeit chatter uninformed by even the New York Times's belatedly semi-tough profile of Ratner.

The one piece of news--maybe--regarded Ratner's casual mention that the first subsidized tower would take two years to build. Maybe he was aiming for misdirection, maybe not, but if his firm builds the first tower with modular technology, they'd aim to cut that time in half.

So they're either not building modular or not expecting the first building to move quickly--or, perhaps, Ratner was just speaking casually.

Ratner, never the most reliable narrator, also claimed "we've already bought all the land" for the housing, which, as I explain below, just isn't so.

And the main piece of insight at the end, when both Louis and Ratner gloated over the New York Times's treatment of Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein.

Leading off

"I don't want to dwell too much on the past, but: you had an idea about what this going to look like, and physically, it's quite different," Louis suggested. "But is the underlying idea what you had in mind?"

"Very, very much so," responded Ratner. "It's an arena. It was going to be a beautiful, beautiful arena, and a great addition to Brooklyn, whether it was the old design or this design, it is that."

Hold on. The arena was supposed to be nestled in four towers. Now the renderings show three, which don't exit yet. The office tower is forgotten.

Ratner then said it was going to draw from the whole borough, employ local people, and entertain people. OK. Movie theater don't get tax breaks and eminent domain for that.

Arena as venue

"I'm not nearly as much of a sports fan as I am a music fan," Louis said, observing that "This may come to be seen more as a music venue... I'm really struck by how many very high-level acts there are booked."

"I actually realized that some time ago," responded Ratner, "that the area would be as big as the basketball.. It turns out that we got very fortunate: one, the acoustics turned out to be excellent." (Neighbors even feel the bass!)

 "It turned out that Brooklyn is looked at as a separate venue from Madison Square Garden," he said.

Ratner went on to say he'd "dreamed" about the arena serving people.

Louis asked about the booking. Ratner cited three bookers.

Eminent domain

"I don't want to dwell too much on the past," Louis repeated. "You went through dozens of lawsuits." (No, not dozens. Less than a dozen.) "Is it your understanding that the law... has changed, or were you always in the right legally?"

"Eminent domain in this stated had never been seriously questioned on a constitutional level," responded Ratner. "Along came a U.S. case [Kelo v. New London] ... while we were in the middle of our approvals... 5-4.. the fact that it was a close case made every state look at eminent domain.... We kinda got caught in a situation where people began to look at eminent domain in a different way. What happened was, because the law was on our side... it wound up getting upheld... but what did happen the rules kinda, they didn't change, but they almost changed."

Actually, law professors across the ideological spectrum have slammed the Atlantic Yards eminent domain ruling.

Silver lining in timing

Louis asked if Ratner would have been exposed had the project moved faster.

"There's a silver lining to the delay," Ratner acknowledged. "Had we not gotten delayed, we would've opened up a giant arena in the middle of a recession... So what happened was... lawsuits cost a lot of money, but in terms of the market it probably helped."

Affordable housing

Louis referenced "a promise for lots and lots of units of housing."

"We have a groundbreaking on December 18," Ratner responded. "That first building will be 50% low income and middle income."

On the Dean Street side, asked Louis. Ratner said yes.

Over what period of time?

"That'll take about two years to build, and then we'll start building our second building and our third building," responded Ratner. He didn't mention modular.

"People said we wouldn't build the arena," Ratner continued at about 6:30 in. That's one of his new mantras. (They were always going to build the arena. They needed a new home and identity for the money-losing Nets.)

"They're wrong about that. Now they're saying, we're not going to build the housing. Of course, we're going to build the housing, that's my business."'

Housing has been Ratner's business only in the past few years. Otherwise it's been office and retail space.

"Two, we've already bought all the land," he continued.

Not true. Ratner's renegotiated 2009 deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority gave his firm 22 years to pay the equivalent of $80 million (at a gentle 6.5% interest rate) for remaining railyard development rights. And there are still several buildings not owned by either his company nor condemned by the Empire State Development Corporation.

"It is going to be as important as the arena," Ratner declared of the housing. "In terms of the architecture, in terms of our ability to create community: think of Stuyvesant Town brought to today's era, in terms of the middle-income and lower."

"It's going to be a very special community," Ratner declared. "Frank Gehry designed the undulating skyline, and different architects will go ahead and do the housing."

That's interesting. The skyline wasn't so much undulating as the buildings, and if they build modular, it will be hard to get them to undulate. SHoP, which did the arena redesign (on top of the Ellerbe Becket plan) is supposed to do the first three buildings around the arena.

"People of course have their doubts. But the housing's going to start. It's going to be architecturally beautiful," Ratner continued. "I've been doing this for 25 years.. .you learn after a while how to build things that are architecturally beautiful... how to do things that create community."

Louis asked if "all of the affordability provisions" are in place.

Ratner said yes, citing regular city subsidies and federal tax-exempt financing.

Louis didn't bother to ask about how the developer tried to muscle the city or about the actual configuration of the building, with only nine units for low-income families.

Jobs

Louis asked about jobs created.

"There are 1800 jobs at that arena, and they're union jobs, and they're great jobs," Ratner said, disregarding that he promised 2,000 jobs, 1,900 of them part time. But he stressed the 30,000 applications, with one-third of those hired from public housing.

"In terms of construction jobs, you hear the number, 10,000 jobs," Ratner continued.

(Actually, no. That was the permanent office jobs, which never came to fruition. Most would have been relocated rather than new, despite the promotional graphic at right.)

"Well, the 10,000 jobs was in the environmental impact statement," Ratner continued. "It includes people not only on the job... it includes all the offsite jobs related to construction... .. what they know, and they're not saying, it includes all the hundreds and hundreds of people that it took, to do everything to cut steel, to make steel. So, when calculating by the method in the Environmental Impact Statement, we've done I think a very very good job."

Actually, it's a little more complicated. The EIS did predict jobs regarding construction, but I've never heard people cite the predictions for just Phase 1. And the Socioeconomics chapter of the EIS (p. 4-89) does contain the chart below, which predicted 9,240 job-years from the arena and infrastructure.


But the arena was 25% larger, and it's highly doubtful those numbers were met. That would be a job for an independent authority, like the Independent Compliance Monitor Ratner was supposed to hire as a requirement of the Community Benefits Agreement.

The look of the building

Louis asked about the building's exterior: "Is that an illusion or is it rusted steel."

"I's called Cor-Ten steel," Ratner responded, using the brand name of a similar product. (This is a new process.) "That is... considered one of the most beautiful materials to work with... The reasons architects have not used it is because they have not been able to stop it from rusting... We came up with a methodology where we pre-rusted it for months at a time... Now that we were able to do that, I think you're going to see Cor-Ten steel used throughout the world... it has different colors, different textures... it has a lot of movement to it."

"I'll get used to it, I'm sure, at some point," Louis allowed.


A moment of gloat

"We're out of time," Louis said in closing, "but I've got to ask you real quickly: Your main legal antagonist in all of this, Daniel Goldstein.. took the $3 million you paid him to move away and build the arena... and recently been in the news for putting some extension on his house in Park Slope that caused two neighbors to move away... you have any advice for him for what happens when people start attacking your design plans?"

(Hold on: what about the nearly $280 million Ratner took from taxpayers, as well as the enormous amount of other government help? And the difference between as-of-right construction and state override of zoning?)

"I read the article," Ratner responded. "Look, he's persistent in what he did with us, and stuck with it. I don't have any comment, really. The article speaks for itself."

As does the photo the Times shot of Goldstein's extension.

Comments

  1. Anonymous10:52 AM

    Ratner "read" the article? Sounds more like he "wrote" the article. Errol Louis always loves to create a good false controversy.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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 …

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 Matzav.com 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…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.


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 …

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…