Skip to main content

At mayoral forum for Democrats, Liu blasts Atlantic Yards; no candidates understand Community Benefits Agreement

The Democratic mayoral candidates met last night in Brooklyn Heights, in a debate sponsored by the Brooklyn Reform Coalition, and the news concerned term limits and member items, according to the Daily News, Post, NBC, and Patch. (The St. Francis College auditorium was crowded.)

They also were asked about Atlantic Yards, and though neither the question nor most of the answers were particularly on-point (or even coherent), the exchange did establish Comptroller John Liu as the candidate most critical of the project, suggesting it was not worth the subsidies granted--though he did call the Barclays Center a "beautiful stadium."


Still, the overall discourse--in which no one seems to fully understand the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) nor the city's (non)role in it--has to favor the status quo.

The question, and the context

The question was read by Ede Fox, president of Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform: "Forest City Ratner signed a Community Benefits Agreement promising jobs and housing at the Atlantic Yards site. Now that the organizations that signed the CBA no longer exists, the community has no representatives at the table. What are you going to do as mayor to make sure that these promises are kept?"

The question generated claps, but it was both misguided, and loaded. The issue is less that the organizations no longer exist--ACORN has been succeeded in the CBA by a related organization, though Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) has folded--but that they were never accountable to the "community."

I doubt that members of the sponsoring groups ever thought those groups were representative of the community, since at least five of the eight never existed before Atlantic Yards was announced. Moreover, the city was never an official signatory, unlike in some West Coast CBAs, though Mayor Mike Bloomberg signed the CBA as a witness (and later slammed the notion of CBAs).

So the best a mayor could do would be to call attention not only to the lack of progress, but also the fact that a basic commitment--a long-promised Independent Compliance Monitor--has not been met. And the candidates could have done so already--and they haven't.


Video by Jonathan Barkey, via Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube channel

Albanese changes the subject

Former Council Member Sal Albanese, the longshot candidate, took the opportunity to remind people he's pledged not to accept contributions from developers, and that Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, both have done so.

Quinn, sounding a bit stressed, first said, "I'm incredibly proud of the public finance system we have... a system that the state is trying to put in place right now."

Quinn misses the point

She then said that there "have been CBAs all across the city, although many have not had the unique problem Forest City Ratner had, where the groups don't exist any more." Um, that's not a problem Forest City had, it's an opportunity for even less scrutiny, and Forest City's decision not to re-up funding for BUILD furthered its dissolution.

Quinn said elected officials must continue "to focus on what was committed to, being in the room... to get reports on where things are happen, and to be very clear and transparent on where things are at... hands-on follow up." However, neither she nor anyone else at the table has said a word about the failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor.

Criticism from Liu

Liu galvanized the crowd, stating, "Come January 2014, I'm gonna turn the heat up. I'm really going to turn the heat up... Bruce [Ratner] and his team have been to my office. They've tried to explain what's so great for Brooklyn... The questions are simple. It's been a decade. People have been kicked out of their homes. Promises of jobs and affordable housing... we don't see any housing. We see some popcorn vendors."

While Forest City likely would say that the economy and lawsuits have delayed things, and one tower is in fact under way, Liu tried to set the framework: "After hundreds of millions in city, state, and MTA subsidies... all we have is a stadium. it's a beautiful stadium, don't get me wrong, but was it worth all that public subsidy that was surrendered. The answer, so far, is absolutely not."

Thompson changes the subject

Former Comptroller Bill Thompson shifted to talk about the importance of using multiple developers, as in Battery Park City, but didn't take the opportunity to recommend that--as some have said--for the second phase of Atlantic Yards.

Rhetoric from de Blasio

de Blasio stated, "Let's be real about the fact that the mayor has immense power to create discipline when it comes to the development community. If developers don't keep their promises to the city, I do not think the legal limitations stand in their way... If they don't keep their end of the bargain, the answer from City Hall has to be no."

That's crowd-pleasing rhetoric, but de Blasio has failed to use his bully pulpit to say anything about the Independent Compliance Monitor. He continued: "I think it s our obligation to make sure Forest City Ratner fulfills all elements of the original agreement."

And he closed by pointing out that affordable housing is needed in a gentrifying neighborhood. Indeed, but he hasn't taken the opportunity to point out that, in the first building under way, Forest City Ratner is departing from the "original agreement" to build family-sized units.

Comments

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.


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…

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 …