Skip to main content

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 he called "the most important statement" was one from de Blasio ally Council Member Letitia James, who's set to be the next Public Advocate, as criticizing de Blasio and others as getting duped. (Of course James surely wasn't saying that in support of Lhota.)



Threading the needle

But Lhota was also forced to thread the needle. Before the press conference, the de Blasio campaign pointed to an interview (with photo) Lhota gave the New York Daily News last year, before the arena opened, when he declared, "How long are people going to criticize this project before they realize this is good for New York City?”

Confronted with that, Lhota said, "If this project as envisioned went forward, it's a great project." (That of course endorses the project at the scale approved, which is very questionable.)

Though Lhota said he supported "clawbacks," or penalties if promises are not fulfilled, he was, understandably, fuzzy about what actually could be done at this point. The main deal, the Development Agreement, is with the Empire State Development Corporation, a state agency, and no public agency was party to the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, a private contract that only the parties can resolve. So the only oversight over the latter is rhetorical.

But his remarks, at least, suggested a different rhetorical posture: a willingness to be more adversarial and more critical than de Blasio.

"He's been silent because he's been bought," Lhota said of de Blasio, though arguably de Blasio's dependence on ex-ACORN head Bertha Lewis--who signed the Atlantic Yards housing deal--and her allies in the Working Families Party is as important if not more so.

An Atlantic Yards revelation (of sorts)

"It's no surprise the de Blasio campaign's pointing out you praised this project," one reporter noted.

"When I was at the MTA, I held Forest City Ratner's feet to the fire to fllow through on agreements that were made with the MTA," Lhota responded. "We were within hours of a default, where he was not following through on building the railyard that he promised to build."

"I love the fact that we have in my neighborhood this facility," said Lhota, who lives in not-so-close Brooklyn Heights, but said "I deplore the fact that the developer did not follow through on what he said. Anybody who tells you I've applauded this project is sadly mistaken"--seemingly contradicted by that quote to the Daily News--"because I'm on the record as holding his feet to the fire, something Bill de Blasio wouldn't understand."

I asked him to follow up. Lhota said Forest City hadn't started the railyard "at the time they were supposed to start" and he got additional guarantees from them.

I'm not quite sure that shows the MTA as cracking down on Forest City, but Lhota was also answering to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who's essentially a project supporter. Forest City got the official start date for the railyard put off 18 months, with the deal announced before the official start date.

In exchange, Forest City put down a $10 million completion guarantee for that interim work. The MTA portrayed that as essentially leaving them in as good a place.

I spoke to Lhota briefly after the press conference and mentioned that Forest City had recently again renegotiated, getting the MTA to push back the official start date for six months, to June 2014. He said he didn't know about it. Maybe that's because no news outlets followed up.



The press release 

This had paragraph breaks when presented to the press, but not on the website:
Lhota: de Blasio all talk, no action on affordable housingDespite Pledging to Ensure Affordable Housing, de Blasio Remained Silent While Taking Thousands in Campaign Contributions From DeveloperBrooklyn, NY–October 28th…Bill de Blasio is all talk and no action when it comes to the creation of affordable housing, Mr. Lhota today charged. Standing at the intersection between Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, the proposed site of Atlantic Yards housing development project, Mr. Lhota condemned his opponent’s failure to follow through on his commitment to ensure affordable housing, while accepting thousands in campaign contributions from the project’s developer.
As City Councilman, Mr. de Blasio was a key ally in the Atlantic Yards deal, amid much local opposition, praising an agreement the developer signed with community groups promising the creation of affordable housing. At the time of the agreement, Mr. de Blasio tasked himself with the job of policing the developer to follow through with his commitment. He stated, “It’s the responsibility of all of us, and especially of we elected officials, to ensure that it is scrupulously adhered to.”
Despite promising he would make sure the community benefits agreement was fulfilled, Mr. de Blasio has been silent while seven years have passed and the affordable housing has yet to come to fruition. During this same time period, he has taken thousands in campaign contributions from the project’s developer, Forest City Ratner, and his associates. In 2011, Bruce Ratner co-chaired a 50th birthday fundraiser for Mr. de Blasio.
“Like everything else in his campaign platform, Mr. de Blasio makes promises that he can’t or won’t fulfill,” said Mr. Lhota. “He talks a good game about the need for affordable housing and rails against private developers, but his actions have proved the exact opposite. He broke his promise to the taxpayers, capitulated to the developer and zipped his lips while taking thousands in campaign contributions. Is he going to be that easy to roll over as mayor?”
Even Mr. de Blasio’s political ally and presumptive successor in the public advocate’s office has been frustrated with his failure to deliver, stating “So many elected officials gave to that project and were instrumental in getting it financed,” said Letitia James. “Not one has made any comment with regard to the fact that New Yorkers and taxpayers were basically duped. And that includes the current public advocate, Bill de Blasio, and others.”

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…

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 …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…