Skip to main content

ESD CEO Adams: Draft SEIS testimony helpful; noncommittal about request for new timetable; no agency approval for Greenland deal?

This is grading on a curve, but given that past CEOs of Empire State Development never attended an Atlantic Yards public hearing--nor do board members, leaving staffers to take it in--give CEO Kenneth Adams credit showing up Wednesday, staying until the end, and enduring criticism about how he'd failed the community and how the state authority can never be an honest broker.

I caught up with Adams (at left in photo) at the end of the 4.5-hour hearing to ask a few questions.

Speaking personally, the always affable and diplomatic Adams said the testimony was "extremely helpful," noting that some concerns got a new level of emphasis.

(He didn't specify but perhaps he meant the testimony from neighbors closest to the project. If so, there may be slightly more emphasis on construction oversight.)

Of course, he noted much balance, with "lots of speakers in support" and "a fair amount of agreement around things like deliver the affordable housing as quickly as possible."

A new timetable?

So, I asked, if everyone agrees Atlantic Yards should be built faster, and economic conditions are more favorable, could contracts be changed to enforce a timetable different from the 25-year outside date for a project long billed as taking ten years?

Adams hedged, understandably. A new timetable was not proposed in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) nor proposed amendments--regarding a shift in bulk from Phase 1 to Phase 2 and a reduction in parking--to the Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) that the ESD's gubernatorial-controlled board must approve.

"We're going to look at all the comments," he said, both at the hearing and in writing, and those comments will be carefully answered.

Written comments on the Draft SEIS will be accepted through Monday, May 12, 2014, and written comments on the Proposed Amendment will be accepted through Friday, May 30, 2014.

Actually, since the 25-year outside date was in the Development Agreement signed separately in the MGPP, it could presumably by changed by a contract revision signed behind the scenes, not needing approval by the ESD's board at a public meeting. 

But developer Forest City Ratner and its backers want maximum flexibility, as the testimony revealed, so such a change is unlikely.

After all, ESD already rejected a request for more time to review the voluminous SEIS beyond the 45 days allotted, a shorter time period allotted than in other steps of the Atlantic Yards review. And the ESD board has unanimously approved everything regarding Atlantic Yards, with one asterisk in the last vote, as one member expressed reservations.

No approval of Greenland deal?

Does ESD have to approve Forest City's emerging joint venture with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, which has agreed to buy 70% of Atlantic Yards going forward, excluding the arena and the first tower? The answer, it turns out, is unclear.

(The U.S. government, which examines only national security interests, has already approved the deal, while approval is pending in China.)

"We have found no requirement for us to take any action in approval," Adams said. (ESD has been asked simply to issue a certificate indicating that contracts remain in effect.)

A 12/13/13 staff memo, on p. 4, indicated that ESD wasn't sure if approval was necessary, but Adams said that "according to our existing agreement... the structure of the investment by Greenland doesn't trigger a review by us."

The original Development Agreement, he said, contemplated a potential new investment. "An evaluation was made on the basis on the form of the investment, and Forest City maintaining control of the project, which they do, despite what some people alleged tonight," he said, "so it doesn't trigger a review by us."

(Update: This morning I got a more ambiguous statement from ESD: "We are reviewing the proposed transaction to determine whether or not, and under what circumstances, ESD approval would be required under existing project documents, including the MGPP and the Development Agreement.")

See excerpt above right from Development Agreement (click to enlarge). It states that no Transfer of Forest City's rights (via its affiliates/subsidiaries) in the agreement is permitted without prior written consent of ESDC (aka ESD), though nothing prohibits any "Equity Interest Disposition."

A Transfer, as indicated below, is an assignment of rights, while an Equity Interest Disposition allows a financial transaction.

Joint control: who steers?

Forest City's control is, at best, partial, given the need for mutual agreement, and Greenland, according to the Times, steered the decision to build the next three towers using conventional construction rather than the modular process developed by Forest City and its partner Skanska, co-investors in a factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

According to the 12/13/13 memo to the "Atlantic Yards file" by ESDC VP of Planning and Environmental Review Rachel Shatz, the Development Agreement signed in 2009 allows FCR to transfer its interest to another party. That sale would also transfer obligations in the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments.

A five-person board of directors for the joint venture would be established, with Greenland appointing the Chairman, CEO, and CFO, and Forest City Enterprises appointing Vice Chairman and President. Decisions of particular importance, including starting a new building, require a majority vote, including a vote from one appointee from both, which "in effect requires that both Greenland and FCRC agree to such decisions," according to Shatz.

Day to day operations would be the responsibility of a Management Team and a Development Team. The Management Team would consist of seven FCR executives, plus up to five additional people appointed by Greenland. The Development Team would consist of at least 14 current FCR executives, plus other members that may be appointed by Greenland. There may be overlap among the two teams.

The agreement does provide for a possible buy-out in the event of a deadlock among the members of the Board of Managers and it also provides for a dilution of a member's interest if it fails to meet certain obligations. "Accordingly, it cannot be assumed that the 30%-70% divisions of interests described above is a permanent arrangement," Shatz wrote.

If that happens, the question lingers, will ESD than have to give approval?


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 + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, 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--but not yet approved--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.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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…