Skip to main content

Forest City's Gilmartin: “It may surprise some given my developer DNA, that I identify more with Jane Jacobs than Robert Moses.”

In MaryAnne Gilmartin Boasts About Building Affordable Housing, Moving to Brooklyn, the New York Observer reports:
Apparently, though, newly appointed president and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin is now thrilled about housing. As she told a crowd of urban planning gurus, developers and real estate powerbrokers at a CURE. (Center for Urban Real Estate) dinner at Columbia University Wednesday night, while all of the positive feedback on the arena had been nice, “it is the housing component that will truly revolutionize the project.”
Ms. Gilmartin raved about the Forest City Ratner’s decision to go with modular, conflating the cost-saving measure with much higher-minded ideals than cheapness. It was about innovation, Ms. Gilmartin said, and the developer’s commitment to affordable housing—the much-delayed component that helped Forest City sell the controversial project to political leaders and community groups. (While the first tower, at 32 stories, will be the world’s tallest pre-fab building, there was likely more afoot than trailblazing in the developer’s decision to go with modular, which promises cost savings and speed for a project that has been plagued by delays and financial woes.)
After speaking about the undeniable influence of Robert Moses, Ms. Gilmartin also expressed her admiration for Jane Jacobs, praising her focus on mixed-use development and declaring that: “It may surprise some given my developer DNA, that I identify more with Jane Jacobs than Robert Moses.”
My comments:
It may surprise some, indeed. As Paul Goldberger has suggested, "So if there is any way to follow Jane Jacobs, it is to think of her as showing us not a physical model for city form but rather a perceptual model for skepticism."
There's ample reason to be skeptical of Gilmartin and Forest City, not least the developer's longstanding claim that the project would be completed in a decade, a claim abandoned for a contract allowing 25 years.
Bruce Ratner in September 2010 famously tried to revise the story: “It was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.”
Would Jane Jacobs or Robert Moses produce those slick brochures that Forest City spent so much $ on? Pay the lobbyists and p.r. people?
Forest City's hard-nosed negotiation style--trying to get some of the larger subsidized units assigned to the highest-income brackets--shows that their first commitment, of course, is to the bottom line.
An academic and a businessperson

The Observer reports:
But then, Ms. Gilmartin was not the only one to extoll the altruism and selflessness of real estate developers. CURE. director and SHoP partner Vishaan Chakrabarti opened the evening with rather lavish praise for those in attendance, proclaiming: “heroes, heroes, you are heroes.”
Heroes who give donations to his program and hire his graduates? My comment:
Mr. Chakrabarti uneasily wears the dual hats of businessperson and academic. For example, at a hearing last month regarding Madison Square Garden, he praised the Barclays Center--designed by SHoP, where he's now a partner, as operating "seamlessly" because of proper loading dock operations.
It doesn't operate seamlessly, and that detracts from Chakrabarti's credibility as an architect. 
Another comment

Comments

  1. A few words on the heroes, and Moses versus Jacobs.

    I voted for the Mayor and his administration three times. He has been the best city manager we've seen in a long time, and most likely one of the best in the history of the city. He is sincere in his beliefs about what is best for the city, and he certainly works very hard to improve New York. He is also the richest citizen of the city, and I don't believe he and his Planning Commissioner are part of a culture of cheating.

    At the same time, I think the development model his administration aggressively promotes, which makes an alliance of Big Government, Big Finance, Big Developers and Big Architecture, is bad for the city. If Jane Jacobs lived in Park Slope, she would have been on of the people in the demonstrations against Atlantic Yards.

    Jacobs believed in the system that developed Park Slope: the city platted the streets, and then landowners sold lots to the small developers and builders who built most of the rowhouses. There was no zoning, there was very little planning, and there weren't even many architects involved. There were certainly no public subsidies to mega-developers.

    At Atlantic Yards, the city could have raised bonds to build the deck over the rail yards, and then sold pieces to individual developers. That was how Battery Park City was built (which was Commissioner Burden's first planing job, by the way.) The result would have been a substantial profit for the city, with an opportunity for public involvement in the planning process. Jacobs never argued for a big development like Atlantic Yards, but she was all for public process and the engagement of many small developers.

    Instead, the city arranged $300 million to $2 billion dollars in public subsidies to a Big Developer with a personal net worth of $400 million, despite the fact that at least one other developer was willing to pay more and take less. The Big Developer hired the ultimate Big Architect (Frank Gehry, who is perhaps Commissioner Burden's favorite architect) to design what urban designers call Big Architecture. Instead of beginning with the design of the streets and public realm, it begins with the design of the iconic buildings like Miss Brooklyn. In this case, the Big Architect was used to get greater density for the site, but having succeeded, Mr. Gehry is no longer involved.

    Big Finance likes this, because they like big projects with big increments of financing they can invest in. The development process used in the typical South Brooklyn block, where 15 or 20 small entrepreneurs might build the many rowhouses and commercial buildings individually, is small and complicated potatoes in the eyes of Big Finance. But Jacobs would tell us it is the way 99.9% of the best parts of the city have been built.

    New York is a corrupt state, and there has been a culture of cheating at Atlantic Yards, but as I said, I don't think it flows from the Mayor and his Planning Commissioner. This is their vision of how New York should be built. It is much closer to Moses than Jacobs, but it owes even more to Global Capitaiism and Big Money. Twelve years of it have contributed to the extremely unbalanced city New York has become.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments.

      I don't think the mayor and Amanda Burden *think* they are a cheating, not in the classic sense, but consider: they have gone along with Ratner's plan, including the stretching of deadlines, and the (apparent) decision to give away city property without payment.
      http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2013/02/uncounted-savings-on-barclays-center.html

      Bloomberg endorsed the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, telling people, "You have Bruce Ratner’s word, and that should be enough." Four years later, Bloomberg changed his tune: “I’m violently opposed to Community Benefits Agreements."

      At what point does enabling developers become cheating? I think he's way over the line.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
  2. John, I think your description of the Mayor's attitude is very good, but I'm confused by your insistence on the "virtue" of this administration.

    I guess my question is: So what? Wayne LaPierre is sincere, too, but that doesn't make his positions less deadly for the rest of us.

    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…

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…

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…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

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 …

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …