Skip to main content

Atlantic Yards in 2014: first tower to open, SEIS coming, affordable housing pressure, cozy relationship with mayor; what's next surprise? (Islanders move?)

So, what's next for Atlantic Yards in 2014?

Even as press and public scrutiny recedes, Atlantic Yards always involves some surprises--in 2013 the biggest was the advent of a new investor, the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group. That deal still needs an expected OK from a federal oversight board.

That deal--and what it says about Forest City Enterprises' financial condition and plans--deserves far more press scrutiny, including from the New York Times, which has been oddly quiet about Atlantic Yards for months, not only regarding the Greenland deal but also the decision on attorneys' fees for groups challenging the state's 2009 re-approval of the project,.

The Greenland deal also gives an opening for local elected officials and BrooklynSpeaks to argue that the deal should be conditioned on completing the affordable housing in the once-promised decade and that an oversight body be set up.

It's an uphill battle, given the project's momentum. A good cross section of electeds got involved, but one key figure, Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't sign on; he often takes his cue from campaign supporter Bertha Lewis, Forest City Ratner's housing partner. Another key figure, new Borough President Eric Adams, didn't sign on either.

And though Lewis presumably would want the housing to be delivered faster, she also is FCR's partner, not adversary.

There's a continuing argument for oversight, since the arena operator still leaks bass into the community from some concerts, and Forest City changed the delivery schedule for the modular units without study or notice. Illegal parking and idling in the blocks around the Barclays Center, persist, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch. Forest City still hasn't hired the Independent Compliance Monitor promised in the Community Benefits Agreement. (Remember, Culture of Cheating.)

The oversight is unlikely from the Mayor's office or Empire State Development, the stage agency overseeing and promoting the project. It's possible that new Public Advocate Letitia James, the former 35th District Council Member, will pay some attention to Atlantic Yards, but she has a lot on her plate. New Council Member Laurie Cumbo, whose comments during the campaign were both critical of Atlantic Yards and cordial to developers, is something of a question mark.

The first tower is supposed to be finished by December 2014; we'll see if that timetable--which has been pushed back a couple of times--is met. But expect the housing lottery, and the opening of the building, to be coupled with significant hoopla--and, perhaps, some grousing about whether these subsidized units are all that affordable.

Meanwhile, Forest City and SHoP have been working on designs for two other towers on the arena block. One other tower may start in 2014 or, more likely, the designs will become more public.

Given de Blasio's commitment to getting Atlantic Yards done and his relationship with not only Lewis but FCR--after all, CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin was on his transition team--I wouldn't be surprised if some government help--subsidies, an innovation grant, or something else--emerges.

Keep in mind that Forest City's goal is to turn the modular factory at the Navy Yard into an ongoing business that serves other developers.

For more than a year, state officials have been working on a court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to evaluate the community impacts of a potential 25-year buildout. That SEIS is due in the first half of the year.

It's a good bet that the SEIS will not recommend that, as project critics and opponents advocated, parcels be severed and opened up to other developers. And it's a good bet that the SEIS will contend that Forest City's modular plan, as well as the new investment, has the potential to get the project built faster.

Forest City Ratner, which successfully got the official start date of the permanent Vanderbilt Yard pushed back for the second time, is supposed to start by June; that's a key date to watch.

Both Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which has been quiet, and the somewhat more active BrooklynSpeaks won attorneys' fees in the SEIS litigation, and the fees were enough to not only compensate the attorneys involved but potentially support future litigation.

At the arena, the biggest news last year was the MTV Video Music Awards. This year, the Rock Hall of Fame will have an induction ceremony, but there may be another awards show.

The New York Islanders are supposed to move in 2015, the end of their lease at the Nassau Coliseum. I said last year I wouldn't be shocked if they paid to get out of their lease and established themselves in 2013 in Brooklyn. That was inaccurate, but they still could arrive this fall.

The Brooklyn Nets, after retooling for a short-term shot at a championship, have been on a rollercoaster with new coach Jason Kidd, down and then up. They should make the playoffs, given the weakness in the Eastern Conference. By then, will they have cohered enough to give top teams a run for their money? Or will the veterans have run out of gas?

Changes should continue, steadily if somewhat slowly, on blocks around the arena. A new Shake Shack will emerge on Flatbush Avenue and a new tattoo parlor is already there, though there are no plans yet for retail in the coveted Triangle building at Fifth and Flatbush. Landlords nearby likely will continue to raise commercial rents.

We'll see if the Sugar Factory at the Sixth Avenue end of the arena finally opens, but it's a good bet that the operators of the Nets and the Barclays Center, skilled at flacking things like the new GQ barbershop, will have something else to promote instead.

There likely will be another round of recruitment for part-time jobs at the arena, given the steady turnover. And there will be a few full-time workers in each residential building. But without the planned office tower--once aimed to occupy the plaza that so many see as vital to the arena's identity--there will be far fewer jobs than promised. No wonder Forest City hasn't hired that Independent Compliance Monitor.

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…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

"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 …