Skip to main content

On the mayoral race and Atlantic Yards: would anyone pursue accountability?

Some people have asked me about the mayoral candidates' postures on Atlantic Yards, and though I recognize that are many reasons for choosing a candidate (see NYT issues page and Nicole Gelinas's analysis), it's worth reviewing how bad the three leading--at least according to the (flawed) polls--candidates have been on Atlantic Yards.

Everyone recognizes things didn't go as promised, and they've even been reminded, such as at a January mayoral forum in East New York, that mention of Atlantic Yards to the hoi polloi can generate scorn.

But none of the mayoral candidates have tried to pursue accountability, as I've written, with Public Advocate Bill de Blasio notably failing to even comment that the Community Benefits Agreement he champions has the promised Independent Compliance Monitor.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn failed to approve any Council oversight hearing on the project, though Council Members Letitia James and Brad Lander wanted one.

And former Comptroller Bill Thompson, in his 2009 campaign and since then, has been a cipher.

At a forum in Park Slope in May, as I wrote, Comptroller John Liu did pointedly state the benefits were not worth the costs, though he hasn't done anything to audit the project. Former Council Member Sal Albanese said there should be penalties/clawbacks, but hasn't otherwise entered the AY fray.

Albanese has no chance to make a runoff. According to the polls, Liu doesn't have a chance, either, but, as Errol Louis recently wrote, both Liu and Thompson complain that their support is underestimated. (Liu has strength in the black community--he was endorsed in Central Brooklyn by Our Time Press, which presumably would back Thompson.)

As I've written, Thompson, de Blasio, and Quinn have received campaign contributions from people connected to Forest City Ratner.

de Blasio's AY stance to outside eyes

On 9/7/13, Slate's Matthew Yglesias, taking off on a Wall Street Journal article, wrote, Bill de Blasio Supports Real Estate Development—As He Should, asserting, "What I can say for sure is that there's no tension between a pro-development stance and his campaign's focus on inequality," citing, among other things, his support for Atlantic Yards.

However, simply increasing supply by signing off on Atlantic Yards abdicates responsibility.

One commenter noted:
All that said, the problem we've been having in this discussion is how to get more affordable housing while keeping the city vibrant. Conservatives and libertarians don't regard this as a valid government interest. Neoliberal Democrats tend to hedge, take real estate/developer campaign money, and then talk a good talk on forcing developers to build more affordable housing. In the case of Atlantic Yards, which motivated this piece on de Blasio, the affordable housing still isn't built, although the basketball arena has been open for a year. We'll see how little the developers can get away with on this score, since the main financial draw for them is already complete.
I don't think that the arena is necessarily the main financial draw, but the arena was needed to staunch the enormous, steady losses by the Nets. The housing could be put off.

Another commenter drilled down:
Oh please. How simple can you be? Opposition to Atlantic Yards has never been about "anti-development." To the contrary, the community was aching for development. The issue was about public subsidies to a connected developer with a terrible track record avoiding any kind of meaningful public review and oversight; using public domain to move renters and small businesses for an arena that could have easily been built elsewhere; no plans for public services to support the proposed mini-city that was to be dropped between two mid-rise neighborhoods that could have benefited from a thoughtful project aimed at bridging and uniting the area. Public subsidies for this boondoggle have resulted in unfulfilled promises to build affordable housing and provide jobs and has resulted in developers blight of empty unusable space. Where was the public advocate on this mess?


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 …

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

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

The previous graphic, from August 2017 (without the ghost B1)

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 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…

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 …