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Showing posts from April, 2013

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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)

In Observer's latest Power 100 list, Ratner (+Gilmartin) drop (?!) to 80; SHoP surfaces at 89

Last May I wrote that the New York Observer wasn't completely fair in downgrading Bruce Ratner in the latest iteration of its  Real Estate Power 100 , from 2011's #48 to 2012's #72 . The designation contained some remarkably tough language: He completed one of the most beautiful buildings [8 Spruce Street] on the skyline by the world's most famous architect, with sky-high rents to boot, but the brand, not to mention the family name, has been so blackened in Brooklyn, it will be a wonder if he ever builds there again. I agreed the brand has been blackened, including by the loss  in court on the environmental review case and the  lawsuit filed against Forest City Ratner and its Community Benefits Agreement partner BUILD, plus the  machinations in Yonkers . But I didn't think that most elected officials and reporters/editorialists either agree or would say so publicly, and they haven't. And, in the past year, Ratner opened the Barclays Center, to much accla

20-foot-high sculpture (meeting point?) coming to Barclays Center oculus; savvy investment for arena promoters, as costs get ignored

In  Humanity' in Arena's New Sculpture , the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on Bushwick-based sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard's planned a 20-foot-high work coming in September near the Barclays Center's entrance. We don't quite know what'll look like: The sculpture, named "Ona," was constructed first in cedar and now is being cast in bronze at a foundry in upstate New York. The name means "she" or "her" in Polish, the artist's first language. "There's going to be, I hope, a kind of humanity in it," Ms. von Rydingsvard, 70 years old, said. The sculptor eschews sketches and renderings, so what the final product will look like remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of her works have roughly textured, puzzle-like surfaces. This sculpture, the artist said, will have a surface that undulates like waves chasing each other in the sea. A new meeting point? The Journal reported: David Berliner, COO of B

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: adjustments may be made as pile drilling proceeds; new construction fence for B2

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, issued (and dated) yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner, there may be adjustments coming on pile drilling at the Vanderbilt Yard: Actual pile drilling along and outside the south wall to the yard started on April 22nd and will continue for the next several months. All mitigation devices are in place and are being monitored hourly and daily with respect to noise and dust. As the process progresses and we gain experience with this new drilling equipment, we will actively seek to tweak and try to improve on mitigation. Regarding the modular residential tour known as B2: Site excavation is expected to be completed within this reporting period. Work will result in the use of 5-10 dump trucks (varies per day, 3 round trips each) and up to 15-30 loads of material to be transported off site per day. A new fence is going up: During the week of April 29th a construction

Fro-yo outlet from NJ coming to long-empty Flatbush Avenue Barclays retail space

I had a brief yesterday in New York magazine's Grub Street blog,  New Jersey Chain Let’s YO! Opening at Barclays Center! , explaining how Let's Yo! is beginning a long-promised NYC invasion with a Barclays Center exterior space. The space, on Flatbush Avenue just east of Fifth Avenue next to Rocawear, should benefit from arena crowds. Inside, concessions offer Brooklyn's Blue Marble ice cream, not yogurt. One commenter questioned the arena's commitment to Brooklyn vendors. Well, the vendors are inside, part of an outlet run by Levy Restaurants, not paying big bucks for an exterior retail space. And the arena can't afford to be choosy: the retail slot has been empty (except for a brief pop-up Nike shop ) since the arena opened last September. It's not like there's an aversion to national chains. The fro-yo fever There's no shortage of nearby fro-yo competition. Less than four blocks down Fifth Avenue, embedded in residential Park Slope, Yogur

As EB-5 controversy surfaces in Virginia political battle, a new focus not just on fraud but on corporate welfare

There's been a shift in the public discussion of the EB-5 immigrant investor program, used in Atlantic Yards and many other projects, in which immigrants investing $500,000 in a purportedly job-creating project can get green cards for themselves and their families. Often it's been described as a win-win-win for all--the immigrants, the investors, and the public--though with subordinate mention of potential fraud or corruption. See, for example, the 3/21/13 Washington Post article headlined  Foreign citizens making big investments in U.S. in exchange for green cards . Of late, however, that potential fraud has been highlighted, and at least one influential commentator, a Washington Post editorial writer, has looked beyond the issue of transactional integrity to declare the program itself a "dubious policy" of "corporate welfare." That squares with my analysis of the Atlantic Yards EB-5 deal; after all, the ten jobs per investor need only to be projected

Free Atlantic Yards tour Sunday, May 5, part of Jane's Walks weekend

From the Municipal Art Society : On Saturday, May 4  and Sunday, May 5 , thousands of New Yorkers will come together for Jane’s Walk NYC – a weekend series of  100+ FREE guided walks (and bike rides!) throughout New York’s five boroughs. Registration is NOT required . Whether you choose to stroll through neighborhoods you love or discover new neigborhoods you’ve never visited, you’ll enjoy this international program created to commemorate the life and legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs . My tour: Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center, In Context    Time: Sunday, May 5, 3:00 PM – 5:15 pm     Walk Host: Norman Oder    Accessibility: Partially Accessible - curbs, uneven terrain, busy sidewalks Description: Join Atlantic Yards Report watchdog journalist and New York Like A Native guide Norman Oder on a walk around and beyond the controversial Atlantic Yards site, home to the new Barclays Center arena, and 16 planned towers, one under construction. While visiting Fort

Times: ESDC hiring significantly based on ties to Cuomo (what else is new)

The Empire State Development Corporation is the purportedly independent agency--or, to be technical, authority or entity--overseeing Atlantic Yards. It's well-known that the ESDC is under the control of the governor, which is why opponents and critics of Atlantic Yards have called for a less dependent entity--along the lines of the Battery Park City Authority--to oversee Atlantic Yards and allow for public input. A front-page New York Times article, headlined Many Openings at State Agency Go to Those With Ties to Cuomo , raises further qualms about the independence and quality of the agency. Note that agency hiring based on political ties is hardly novel; notably, the official overseeing Atlantic Yards, Arana Hankin, was appointed by previous Gov. David Paterson in 2010 to a new, unadvertised position . Or, if we go back a few governors, let's remember that a 2007 consultant's study called for reform of ESDC's parent organization, blaming agency failures on &q

Should the Barclays-area BID really be called Atlantic Terminal?

So, meeting announcements being circulated suggest that the working title for the  planned Barclays Center-area business improvement district (BID) is the Atlantic Terminal BID. Huh? What about Atlantic-Flatbush? Or Barclays-BAM? Few call the area Atlantic Terminal or use that term for the transit hub. Many even truncate the name of the Atlantic Terminal mall, over the LIRR tracks and some subway tracks, to the "Atlantic mall." I doubt most of those taking advantage of the BID's services would declare they're going to "Atlantic Terminal." Heck, those involved in Atlantic Yards were enlightened that the project was on part of a long-established but little discussed Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, or ATURA . If Atlantic Terminal is the name, it would be blandly distracting. The nexus of the BID is at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, home to the Barclays Center, developed and controlled by the biggest BID contributor, Forest City. Shouldn't

Proposed Barclays-area BID boundaries shrink, eliminate Atlantic Yards site east of Sixth Avenue, 470 Vanderbilt

Guess what? After criticism that a planned  new Business Improvement District  (BID) to serve the area around the Barclays Center, nearby malls, and the cultural district anchored by Brooklyn Academy of Music should not include undeveloped property in the Atlantic Yards Phase 2 site, the boundaries of the proposed BID have been shrunk. The revised map at right (click to enlarge) now excludes the Atlantic Yards site east of Sixth Avenue beyond the arena block and the adjacent block west of Flatbush Avenue. (That block includes Site 5, home to Modell's and P.C. Richard, ultimately to be replaced by a 25-story tower that's part of Atlantic Yards. It also includes the Brooklyn Bear's Community Garden, not part of AY.) The map now excludes 470 Vanderbilt, a large office building north of Atlantic Avenue that will have ground-floor retail and, ultimately, housing in an adjacent lot (perhaps with retail at its base). See below left for the earlier proposed boundaries, whi

Proposed fine against Barclays Center for noise violation (Sensation) dismissed on technicality; new fine proposed for bass coming from Swedish House Mafia show

Maybe the third time's the charm, since two previous efforts to impose noise violations against the Barclays Center were dismissed on technicalities. After seeing proposed fines for noise violations during the Sensation dance concerts last October dismissed on technicalities, the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has now proposed a $3200 fine against the Barclays Center operator (Brooklyn Events Center) for the 3/2/13 show of  Swedish House Mafia . As the notice at right indicates, inspectors found readings of 55 dB, which is several times above the baseline of 45 dB, with an ambient reading of 40dB. A hearing is scheduled for 1:00 pm Tuesday April 30, at the  Environmental Control Board (ECB), 66 John Street, 10th Floor,  in Lower Manhattan. As I  wrote at the time , another neighbor told me that the bass was even "louder than Sensation," the October dance show that was apparently  twice as loud as permitted . This was filed under a different se

IBO report: Hudson Yards projections were overoptimistic, leaving city on the hook

Rosy projections should be taken with a grain of salt regarding big development projects, right? From the Wall Street Journal, 4/23/13,  Hudson Yards Woes Leave City on Hook : When the city agreed to pick up the tab for the extension of the No. 7 subway line to ease the creation of a new office and residential district on the far West Side, it expected the project could begin paying for itself as early as 2008. Instead, a single 1.7 million square-foot office tower in the Hudson Yards area has broken ground, while the project envisions 25 million square feet of new office space. And the district generated 40% less revenue from taxes and other development fees than projected between 2006 and 2012, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the New York City Independent Budget Office. Hudson Yards was expected to produce $283 million in revenue through 2012, but it actually created $170 million, according to the report by IBO, an independent city agency that studies the local eco

NBA Draft to be held at the Barclays Center June 27

From's Meadowlands Matters , the news that the National Basketball Association Draft will be held in Brooklyn June 27 at 7 pm: "We are excited to be holding the NBA Draft in Brooklyn, a borough long associated with great basketball talent,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern in a press release. “In addition to being a state-of-the-art arena, Barclays Center has quickly become a go-to destination for world class events. We are confident Barclays Center is an ideal venue for introducing the next generation of NBA stars to a global audience.” “Brooklyn has become a major NBA market and basketball fans throughout the borough will be excited to welcome the next class of outstanding talent into the league,” Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark said. “Many of the borough’s greatest all-time players have been drafted into the NBA, making this night a perfect fit for Brooklyn. We are honored to host the 2013 NBA Draft as we continue to bring many of the

A drummer busking at the Barclays Center plaza? Never, except when it's "Hello Playoffs"

The Barclays Center plaza (sponsored by the Daily News) has not exactly been a nurturing ground for buskers. I haven't seen the official policy, but anyone who tries anything that might draw a crowd routinely gets shooed away. After all, it's not a public space. It's a privately-managed, publicly-accessible space. On Monday, April 22, Yesterday, however, as the photo and video show, there was indeed a drummer on the plaza. As the video suggests, he was even collecting money from enthusiastic onlookers. I know this may sound like a stretch, but is it remotely possible that the #HelloPlayoffs t-shirt and tub wrapper were sanctioned and supported by the Brooklyn Nets? Is Stephen Witt, street musician and author of a book rather favorable to the arena and its developer, up next?

In the new Albany Power 100 list, several with Atlantic Yards ties

Many of those listed in City & State's Albany Power 100 List are predictable: the Governor, and the leaders of the Assembly and Senate. Note, however, several with Atlantic Yards ties: 6. Secretary to the Governor Lawrence Schwartz (a sometime gatekeeper on Atlantic Yards issues) 17. Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City (a reliable AY backer ) 24. Judy Rapfogel, Chief of Staff to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (whose son works for Forest City Ratner and husband's charity benefited from a Barclays Center concert ) 33. Gary LaBarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (signed the agreement allowing for lower union wages at the modular factory) 51. Suri Kasirer, President, Kasirer Consulting ("Perhaps the most successful lobbyist in New York City and one of the most successful in Albany," her firm  works for Forest City Ratner )

Only a segment of bars/restaurants near arena seem to benefit from Nets fans

From Prospect Heights Patch,  Few Barclays-Area Eateries See Bump from Nets Games: Restaurants with the right location and menu have benefitted greatly from the NBA team's move to Brooklyn. But most report no change. : Brooklyn Nets fans poured into Prospect Heights Monday night for the second game of the NBA playoffs, but most didn’t stop by area businesses on their way into the arena. The promise of an influx of hungry ticket holders was part of the argument arena proponents used to push for the Barclays Center. And before concerts the new customers have materialized with restaurants as far away as Clinton Hill and Carroll Gardens reporting a bump in diners. But the picture is different on Nets game nights when only a selection of large sports bars and a handful of casual restaurants near the arena say they’re seeing an influx of Nets fans. This is consistent with previous reports ; I'd note that a promised cross-marketing program doesn't seem fully launched, with in

The Happy Arena? Workers are friendly, but their compensation is limited and turnover is regular

In its ongoing look at the wonderfulness of the Barclays Center, regularly visiting Section 15, the New York Times Sports section on 4/22/13 offered  Section 15: The Happy Arena : "Wonder why everyone is so friendly at the Barclays Center? Ushers went through hospitality training from Disney professionals." It's true that the workers are friendly, if not always fully informed. They're also on a part-time schedule, with no benefits. No one whose main job is an usher can afford to live on their own, and some roommate situations would be tough. (If they live with parents, well, that could work.) So there's surely pain behind that friendliness. There's been lots of turnover.

Next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting: May 7

I can't say that the mention in this blog this morning started the process, but after asking publicly about the next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, I later got a group message from Derek Lynch of Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, announcing that the meeting would be May 7. That marks a three-month gap, rather than the previously committed bimonthly schedule. The message To members of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee, The next Quality of Life Committee meeting will be held on: Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 @ 6:30pm YWCA Community Room 30 3rd Avenue Brooklyn, NY, 11217  This meeting is a forum for representatives from the community and civic groups to engage Empire State Development, Forest City Ratner Companies and Barclays Center operators regarding issues affecting the quality of life for residents and businesses in close proximity to the arena. Please remember to designate only 1 representative from you

Two public meetings May 2 regarding proposed Barclays Center-area Business Improvement District

[ Update April 30 : These meetings have been postponed.] A message from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, via CB 6, announces two public meetings on May 2 regarding the formation of a new Business Improvement District to serve the area around the Barclays Center, nearby malls, and Brooklyn Academy of Music. We invite you to attend a meeting regarding the formation of a Business Improvement District. The meeting's purpose is to provide a basic introduction of BIDs and proposed services and boundaries. This meeting will be a key opportunity to receive valuable feedback from stakeholders. We invite you to attend one of two public meetings hosted by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership with the support of the Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, NYC Council 33rd District, NYC Council 35th District and the NYC Department of Small Business Services.  1st Public Meeting Date: Thursday, May 2 Time: 9 to 11am Location: Brooklyn Borough Hall

Outside the Barclays Center on the second night of playoffs: limos in "No Standing" zone, fans mostly subdued, parking and garbage problems

I stopped by the Barclays Center last night in the middle of the fourth quarter, during the second game of the Brooklyn Nets' first-ever playoff series, in which the team, after winning handily in the first game, lost  90-82 to the tough Chicago Bulls. Though the Nets had a chance to win--assuming some quick three-point shots--and came as close as four points with four minutes left, attendees were trickling out steadily from the middle of the quarter, some with kids on a school night, others wanting to get the jump on transportation. Two sections of the stairs to the transit hub were roped off, in an effort to slow the crowd from going downstairs. Drivers surely wanted to avoid traffic jams. Other fans streamed out with a minute or two to go, obviously (and accurately) not expecting a miracle. From the arena plaza, you can see part of the scoreboard, but you can't see the score unless you're standing right up against the doors. Outside the arena As  noted  on At

When's the next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting? As of yet, no answer.

The Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee, which allows neighborhood groups to bring concerns regarding project-related impacts, is supposed to be meet bi-monthly. The  last meeting  was on February 7. On April 15, I asked Derek Lynch of Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards and coordinating the meetings, when the next one was scheduled. No response so far.

During "Blackout in Brooklyn," the usual illegal parking and idling in the streets around Barclays Center; Pad packed with parking, idling

So, there was a frenzy inside the Barclays Center Saturday night for the first Brooklyn Nets playoff game. What about outside? As reported on Atlantic Yards Watch, there were numerous cars and limos parking or idling illegally, as well as dubious use of the "Pad" outside the loading dock on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues for idling and parking. The total: 64 potential violations, 10 for idling, and 45 for illegal parking. Atlantic Yards Watch's Peter Krashes summarized it as  Some changes in limo behavior emerge but illegal parking and idling violations continue  and provided the video below of a bus and limo idling in a bus stop on Atlantic Avenue. AYW's summary: Notably not a single black limo was parked in the official location designated by the Department of Transportation for TLC parking on the south side of Atlantic Avenue from 6th Avenue to Carlton Avenue. ... The changes to black limo behavior were largely on the north side of Barclay

Arena event calendar for May released; slim pickings unless playoffs continue

The Barclays Center has released the May 2013 event calendar, and it's notably slim pickings--at least unless the Nets advance in the playoffs. Note that the  arena event calendar  lists May 4 as a potential first-round Nets game earlier in the day, and also lists May 31 as a concert . If the Nets make it past the first round, of course, there would be a least two more home games--but maybe not more, since they'd be playing the defending champs Miami Heat. The April calendar, with an update Note that April 29 is also reserved for a home playoff game , if the first-round series with the Bulls goes past four games .  The previous version, without playoff games :

"Blackout in Brooklyn": new hoops headquarters established or "manufactured" frenzy

From what I can tell, most reporters who attended last night's "Blackout in Brooklyn" playoffs debut for the Brooklyn Nets were impressed. The Daily News, which has a wee bit of self-interest in sponsoring the Barclays Center plaza, enthused : New York City has a new hoops headquarters — and it’s in Brooklyn. Overjoyed Nets fans threatened to shake Brooklyn’s Barclays Center apart with their cheers Saturday as Brooklyn marked its first professional postseason game in more than five decades. Sporting black T-shirts and waving glow-in-the-dark wristbands that read “Blackout in Brooklyn,” a packed house screamed their lungs out as the borough’s newest sports franchise schooled the Chicago Bulls on Brooklyn hardwood etiquette with a 106-89 win. Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times wrote : The Nets transformed Barclays Center into a grand postseason stage, with dark T-shirts and luminous bracelets, banners and baked goods, fireworks and a drum line, one glorious self-t

A look at the Barclays Center's somewhat fraught boxing venture is presented as "Fans Hope Barclays Center Will Revive Brooklyn Boxing"

The big Barclays Center news today is the Brooklyn Nets' dominating playoff opener win against the Chicago Bulls, dubbed "Beatdown in Brooklyn" by the New York Post in reference to the "Blackout in Brooklyn" theme that pervaded the arena. But the longest single article appears on the front of the New York Times's Metropolitan section, a seemingly balanced but inherently skewed piece headlined Brooklyn Gets a Rematch : Fans Hope Barclays Center Will Revive Brooklyn Boxing. After all, the biggest hope belongs to arena CEO Brett Yormark, who promised monthly boxing matches beginning in October, then--after having to paper the house last October with 1000 free tickets --announced the next bout in February but actually didn't have a match until March. The gist: Until very recently, a scene like this one — a Brooklyn boxer training at a Brooklyn gym for a big-time bout in Brooklyn — would have been impossible, but now that the Barclays Center, on Fl