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Showing posts from October, 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)

The triumph of Bill de Blasio is nearly complete: NY Times lets him blather on Atlantic Yards without applying skepticism

A team of New York Times reporters, including one who notably got Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota to defend the indefensible (the Madison Square Garden tax break ), today produce a profile of Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio that offers some passages of tough scrutiny but ends--and whiffs--on Atlantic Yards. It's a disturbing abdication of journalistic skepticism and a sign of how he-said, she-said journalism disserves readers, with de Blasio getting the undeserved last word despite a record of slipperiness and absence on Atlantic Yards. The article, On Council, de Blasio Blended Idealism With Push for Power , ends with these paragraphs: But it was the Atlantic Yards project, a gigantic housing and arena development at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, that cemented the image of Mr. de Blasio in some critics’ minds as a too-willing partner for developers. Eric McClure, a founder of the civic group Park Slope Neighbors, met with Mr. de Blasio, h

NYPD traffic division (finally) pledges to push on illegal parking around Barclays Center; ESD "pleased" with overall project

It's been a persistent issue since the Barclays Center opened: illegal parking and idling in the blocks around the arena. But cops focused on controlling crime have not made traffic enforcement a priority, as some neighbors have regularly pointed out. Indeed, the work can be best done by the New York Police Department's (NYPD) civilian wing and, finally, the reinforcements are coming. "First, we weren't aware that there was an issue with parking illegally around the perimeter of the Barclays Center," NYPD Traffic Enforcement District  Manager Donald Powe told last night's 78th Precinct Community Council meeting. That comment prompted some raised eyebrows regarding the belated awareness and the communication within the overall department, since Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, commanding officer of the 78th Precinct, has been very much alerted to the issue. "Now that we are aware of it, we will devote a few patrol cars" to the streets where pro

BerlinRosen founders say "mission-driven company" turns away clients who don't share ideals (so, what about Ratner?)

Bloomberg News two days ago published a profile of BerlinRosen, headlined  NYC Firm Helps De Blasio Go From Obscurity to Frontrunner : BerlinRosen Public Affairs, the eight-year-old firm founded by Valerie Berlin and Jonathan Rosen, has built a reputation working behind the scenes for Democratic candidates and causes such as paid sick leave, limiting police stop-and-frisk tactics and universal preschool -- issues that dominated [Democratic nominee Bill] de Blasio’s message and helped take the 52-year-old from underdog to frontrunner. With polls showing de Blasio 40 percentage points ahead of Joseph Lhota a week before the election, and with Lhota’s fellow Republicans outnumbered 6-to-1 in the most populous U.S. city, de Blasio is likely to be the first Democrat to run New York since 1993. That leaves BerlinRosen poised to extend its influence and access to power. The company sounds idealistic The article states: They call it a mission-driven company and said they turn away pote

Former Forest City Ratner lobbyist Melvin Lowe, Sampson crony, charged with corruption; charges do not involve developer

From the New York Times, New York Political Consultant Charged in Corruption Case : An influential political consultant whose clients include the New York Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and leading real estate developers, including Forest City Ratner, was arrested on federal corruption charges on Tuesday morning. ...The charges include wire fraud, bank fraud and criminal tax violations. The complaint says, among other things, that Mr. Lowe had failed to report more than $2 million in consulting income and used a false-invoice scheme to defraud the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), as well as those who contributed to it, of $100,000. As it happens, none of the charges involve Forest City or any other developer. But it continues a remarkable string of corruption charges regarding people with ties to Forest City. Crain's reports : The complaint refers to an unnamed political consultant "Vendor #1" that appears to be Cornerstone Management Partn

Lhota's charges against de Blasio on Atlantic Yards generate (vague) pledge from Democrat; Republican has own accountability issue regarding MSG

So, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota garnered some headlines for his attack yesterday on Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio's stance on Atlantic Yards, and though his charges were not all on point, he did drive home the fact that de Blasio has been quiet about developer Forest City Ratner. Most of the subsequent articles turned into a he-said, he-said account, with de Blasio pointing to Lhota's apparent hypocrisy--the former MTA head did praise Atlantic Yards effusively last year--without adding that Lhota is trying to thread the needle and point to lapses since then. Then again, Lhota last year could have pointed to delays in affordable housing as well as de Blasio's failure to criticize Forest City Ratner for failing to hire a compliance monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement. The fact is, the delays do not violate state contracts, but de Blasio is vulnerable to not criticizing the failure of Forest City to meet the CBA's promises regarding affo

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: new crane means one-day closing of Dean Street next to site; loading dock access via Sixth Avenue

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated October 28 and distributed yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner, Dean Street--apparently between Flatbush and Sixth avenues, but not specified--will be closed from 9 am to 9 pm on one day during this period to allow the erection of the tower crane and removal of the crawler crane. According to Wikipedia, a crawler is crane mounted on an undercarriage with a set of tracks (also called crawlers), while a tower crane is fixed to the ground on a concrete slab. Note that the previous Construction Alert described the upcoming installation of the tower crane but not the removal of the crawler crane. Also, there will be some railyard activity after a hiatus, involving SOE (support of excavation) work. From the document B-2 Tower, Modular Residential • Installation of temporary power and lights will be maintained throughout the project. • Backfilling will comm

Across from arena, Lhota slams de Blasio (again) on Atlantic Yards, claims Ratner close to default on MTA railyard last year (video)

Seeking to shore up a campaign deeply behind in the polls , Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota came to the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street this afternoon, with the arena and the site for the first housing tower in the background, and again slammed rival Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, regarding his failure to criticize Atlantic Yards while taking contributions from the developer. "Bill de Blasio has been all talk and no action when it comes to affordable housing," said the former MTA head, pointing to a quote from the then-Council Member regarding the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement: “It’s the responsibility of all of us, and especially of we elected officials, to ensure that it is scrupulously adhered to.” Lhota got some traction--he was his most pointed yet in targeting de Blasio's failure to follow through on the CBA, including developer Forest City Ratner's failure to hire a promised Independent Compliance Monitor. And

Payback or just the best deal? de Blasio rents campaign HQ in Brooklyn from campaign supporter Ratner

Maybe it was the best deal available, as I'm sure Bill de Blasio's campaign would say, or maybe it's payback of sorts, as I suspect critics might say. Democratic mayoral nominee de Blasio is paying developer Forest City Ratner--whose executives have raised campaign funds for him  and co-hosted a fundraiser --$5,000 to rent his campaign headquarters in Brooklyn. The location is 345 Jay Street in MetroTech, a space occupied by Sid's Hardware until early 2010. (Since then, the raw space hasn't had a long-term tenant, which means it has not been easy to lease--a Sid's store manager said in 2010 that "the rents are too high, there’s no parking, and this dead scene isn’t a place to run a business." It has been used--in two if not all three cases donated--for a bone marrow drive in May 2013 , the Brooklyn Folk Festival in May 2012  and  a Guggenheim pop-up gallery in May 2011.) Campaign headquarters While the official home of New Yorkers for

"Heard it from my living room": Sensation again booms bass into residences near Barclays Center (but will there be a fine?)

The Sensation crowd gathers It happened a year ago, and it happened again this past Saturday: bass noise from the Sensation dance party penetrated residences several blocks away, after midnight, when people should be sleeping. As with the 2012 show, it's likely the Barclays Center will escape without a fine. Last year, the levels measured seemed twice as loud as permitted , but the proposed violation was dismissed for technical reasons. (Later, the arena paid a $3200 fine for another dance show, featuring Swedish House Mafia.) Similarly, this past Saturday, the city Department of Environmental Protection measured noise levels, I'm told, near the beginning of the show, but didn't stick around to measure as the pounding bass grew louder. Though I can't be sure, that suggests they missed the bigger problem, and won't issue a fine. The reports Security check outside Consider this report from Atlantic Yards Watch,  Bass sound leakage from Sensation conc

Lhota to attack de Blasio over Atlantic Yards housing failures; new video of Forest City promise of Independent Compliance Monitor for CBA

From City and State's First Read newsletter: 12 p.m. – [Republican mayoral candidate Joe] Lhota calls for [Democratic mayoral candidate Bill] de Blasio to address failures in the creation of affordable housing in the Atlantic Yards project, Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, Brooklyn. This will be interesting. As I've written, there's little de Blasio can do to speed creation of the affordable housing, given that state contracts give developer Forest City Ratner a long leash. But he has been mushy-mouthed or silent on key issues. That said, de Blasio can be challenged on: his failure, as Public Advocate, to issue any comment on Forest City's failure to meet its promised goal of 50% (in floor area) family-sized units in the first tower, which is under construction how exactly de Blasio has, as he has claimed "pressured" Forest City on the housing? (he's said nothing publicly) the Public Advocate's failure to say anything about Forest City'

As second season in Brooklyn begins, Nets seem to have the edge over Knicks; more BK food at arena

Thanks to a remarkable transformation of the roster over the summer, the Brooklyn Nets, in their second year, are widely seen to have the edge, at least in expected wins, over the long-established New York Knicks--though, of course, any sports season can have its wild cards, especially related to injuries. The New York Times has a compilation, Pick a Side: Nets or Knicks? , with several contributors. Some excerpts below. There's even a video attached, titled "Nets' Turn to Be Talk of the Town." Kenny Smith, an analyst for TNT’s N.B.A. broadcasts, wrote "Nets Now Have ‘New York’ Feel": I think the conversation about pursuing excellence will be the same in both of these locker rooms. They both want to win. But from top to bottom, I’d have to say the Nets have the better roster. If the Nets don’t go to the N.B.A. finals, I think it will be a disappointment for them because they don’t have much of a window. It’s different for the Knicks . Carmelo A

The logical next step in EB-5: set up your own regional center, as in "Developers trade U.S. residency for China's cash"

Crain's reports  Developers trade U.S. residency for China's cash , with the sub-heading "Silverstein Properties, The Related Cos. and others are among those setting up so-called regional centers to spin the promise of American residency into cash. Numbers of such operations are expected to double to 24 in just the next six months." The headline itself is head-spinning, if you think about it. Why exactly should developers, or any other business, get cheap loans by offering green cards, which are public assets? Only because of a loosely-written federal law that grants immigrant investors green cards for themselves and their families if they park $500,000 in a low-interest investment that creates--thanks to an economist's report--ten jobs. However, if they're just substituting a low-interest loan for a typically higher-interest one, they're not creating jobs, they're creating more profits for the developer. Visas are public assets and, as I've

On Brian Lehrer: had "deeply flawed" Atlantic Yards procedure instead gone through ULURP, a greater discussion about directing subsidies (and maybe overall scope)

Yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show's election series "30 issues in 30 Days" addressed the question of to what extent should the city leverage private development to build affordable housing, parks, and open space: Vicki Been, director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at NYU, and Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, discuss to what extent the city government should rely on private money for public amenities like affordable housing, more parks, and open space. Lehrer started with Atlantic Yards, pointing out that Democratic mayoral nominee (and overwhelming favorite) Bill de Blasio supported the project because it promised good jobs and affordable housing. He asked de Blasio the day before if the failure to deliver housing by now meant that promise was meaningless. (I thought it was a weak question, and an obfuscatory answer.) A larger cautionary tale? "Do you agree it had the right goals or wrong implementation

Obama in Brooklyn: a Nets reference and an oculus welcome

North Flatbush BID / Instagram  via  @vinniesstyles The President was in Brooklyn yesterday, as TIME reported: It was President Barack Obama’s 33rd trip as president to New York City Friday, according to CBS Radio Correspondent Mark Knoller, but just his first to the hipster borough, his former home. For Obama it was a homecoming. ”I know Brooklyn in general is blowing up right now,” Obama said when he took the stage at a high school there, noting he used to live across the street from Prospect Park. Obama had arrived to visit the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Crown Heights, a school surrounded by bearded Hasidic Jews and equally bearded hipsters, which he praised during his State of the Union address for its six-year program which gives students high school and associates degrees. It’s a far cry from the usual crop of tony apartments and fancy restaurants the president has serially hit up for campaign cash. Photo: AYInfoNYC The Daily News reporte

On the radio, de Blasio repeats Ratner talking points on jobs, forgets promised compliance monitor (new video), promises push for affordable housing (subsidies?)

Appearing yesterday on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee and overwhelming favorite for mayor, displayed his true colors on Atlantic Yards: obfuscate, repeat Forest City Ratner talking points, and, more ominously, leave hints he'd up subsidies to get the project done. What's absent from de Blasio's public presentation is any distrust of the developer, despite ample reason for such distrust. For example, Forest City Ratner has long promised an Independent Compliance Monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) de Blasio has championed. No such monitor has been hired. de Blasio--who's supported by Forest City's housing partner and who's gotten campaign contributions thanks to Forest City--hasn't said a peep. Below I publish new video of Forest City's explicit promise. On the radio On Brian Lehrer, de Blasio was asked about about housing and transportation issues. His housing policies, de Blas

Bruce Ratner, "Real Estate Visionary" on Morning Joe: 15 years ago, he drew the fate of Flatbush on a napkin

Bruce Ratner's victory laps have continued, with an appearance yesterday on Morning Joe on NBC. It begins with clips of Ratner and his favorite front man at an empty press conference where Jay-Z announced the team would become, duh, the Brooklyn Nets. "It was seven and a half years ago, Jay-Z, not too far from here, when we met for the first time," Ratner states. "We shared our dreams together and we got along, and he put his hand out, and I put my hand out, and we shook hands, and the rest is really history. "I just appreciate all the support from Brooklyn, because without Brooklyn, I wouldn't be standing here right now," Jay-Z, in an apparent reference to the Westinghouse High School students behind him as props. "I'm humbled, I'm excited, so get ready for the Brooklyn Nets. Westinghouse, let's make some noise. Then co-host Mika Brzezinski cooed over the Brooklyn Nets hat and t-shirt she was given, and Ratner declared her &

Veconi on Forest City's planned deal with Greenland to sell 70% of Atlantic Yards: scrutiny and oversight needed

Prospect Heights resident and BrooklynSpeaks leader Gib Veconi weighs in on the recent news--broken by the Wall Street Journal and, bizarrely, not followed up by the other dailies--that a Chinese government-owned company, Greenland Group, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Forest City Ratner Companies to buy 70% of the remaining 15-tower plan. In  Atlantic Yards, Pacific Investors: Will the Greenland deal really speed construction? Governor Cuomo better get it in writing. , Veconi, writing in Prospect Heights Patch, questions some of the rhetoric: And Forest City's press release quoted Mayor Michael Bloomberg as saying, "This investment would allow us to move forward with one of the most ambitious affordable housing programs in our City's history," as if any housing at the Atlantic Yards site was dependent upon the closing of the proposed transaction, instead of being an obligation of a deal signed four years ago between Forest City and the State of N