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Looking at Forest City's state lobbying: Atlantic Yards governance, ticket regulations, eminent domain

According to the latest state lobbying report, Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Company spent $490,000 on city and state lobbying in 2013, with the state totaling $203,000, the city $287,000. (I reported on the city total in March.) The list:
LoCicero & Tan $48,000 ($16,000 state, $32,000 in city)
Geto & DeMilly, $46,000 (all in city)
Kasirer Consulting, $240,000 ($80,000 state, $160,000 in city)
Park Strategies, $60,000 ($20,000 state, $40,000 in city)
State & Broadway, $60,000 (all state)
Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker $36,000 ($27,000 state, $9,000 in city)
In 2012, Forest City spent $448,000 on city lobbying, plus another $104,000 on state lobbying (the latter number may be fuzzy, since state figures are a little tough to read), for a total of at least $552,000.

 In 2011, the AYDC spent $503,000 in total, while Forest City itself spent $15,000 on an outside lobbyist. In 2010, Forest City spent about $345,000 on lobbying, down from the the 2009 total of $1,127,598 in city and state lobbying, perhaps the largest sum for any real estate developer. Well, 2009 was a very big year.

Note that the totals do not include federal lobbying.

The issues lobbied, and the connections at the top

Some state issues lobbied were quite general, including budget, and aid to localities. Others quite specifically would impact the operation of the Barclays Center and other Forest City/Atlantic Yards operations. Several addressed ticketing or construction issues.

To a great extent, Forest City's key lobbying starts and ends with one man, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls all legislation and remains a key ally. So some bills might make some noise, but they're not serious threats until Silver gives his blessing.

And if for some reason a bill passed the legislature, another ally, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, remains a potential roadblock.

Atlantic Yards topics

Assembly Bill A5334, sponsored by Assemblyman Walter Mosley (who inherited it from his predecessor, Hakeem Jeffries), would authorize the Urban Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development, to create a "subsidiary corporation for the purpose of the further planning, design, and oversight of the Atlantic Yards land use improvement and civic project."

It has five co-sponsors and remains stalled in committee, likely due to Silver.

The bill, the concept of which Mosley endorsed at the recent hearing on the Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement, aims "to supervise the Atlantic Yards Project in order to create increased accountability and oversight in the project's governance." The statement:
...unique among the large state projects in New York City, there is no project subsidiary for Atlantic Yards. The result is that the project is governed in a less transparent, less accountable manner than comparable projects, and without any vehicle for coordinating the city and state agencies involved in the proposed development, or involving local elected officials and the relevant community boards. Further, changes in administration in State government, as well as-changes in the ESDC's internal organization, pose risks to the continuity of project oversight which may threaten the realization of Atlantic Yards' stated goals.
To address this, the proposed legislation would establish a subsidiary corporation for the oversight of the Atlantic Yards project. The entity would be created to undertake four primary responsibilities.
First, oversee the implementation of the design guidelines for the architecture of the project. Second, coordinate the involvement of state and city agencies responsible for the environmental impact mitigations. Third, coordinate the development of policy surrounding the project, including transportation concerns. Lastly, approve changes to the general project plan.
The rather stale Assembly Bill A5379, sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Brennan and with Assemblymember Joan Millman as the only cosponsor, would set Atlantic Yards as no greater than 5.6 million square feet, a more than one-third reduction in size, while providing between $12.6 million and $15.4 million per year for 30 years for 2200 units of affordable housing and giving the developer the railyard for free (thus saving another $80 million, plus interest).

Also stale is Assembly Bill A5189 which has six sponsors, would require that Atlantic Yards be subject to ULURP, but hasn't gotten anywhere.

Other bills: tickets

Assembly Bill A797, which hasn't gotten out of committee, would prohibit the operator of any place of entertainment (that is not municipally owned) which has a seating capacity of over 3,500 from accepting a rebate on tickets sold. According to the bill, ticket agents often charge consumers a service charge on top of a ticket's face value, then kick back a portion of that charge the the venue.

Assembly Bill A5810 would clarify the term "obstructed view" in ticket sales and would require the consumer protection division of the department of state to report on effectiveness of the regulation of such sales. It's still in committee.

Assembly Bill A7209, which has 15 sponsors but is still in committee, would require the number of tickets at each price tier to be disclosed by primary market operators, given that "Far too often tickets to New Yorkers' favorite concerts, sports games, and other entertainment events have 'sold out' within seconds of the time they are put up for public sale."

Assembly Bill A6415, which passed last year extends some ticket laws through this past May 14, allowing legislators more time to study the issue.

Other bills: construction/financing

Assembly Bill A1688, still in committee, would require contractors in cities having a population of one million or more to recycle 50% of the waste generated on construction and demolition sites.

Assembly Bill A5159 would enact the New York City Department of Buildings Community Accountability Act, citing the need for greater enforcement and auditing. Sponsored by Brennan, it has 17 co-sponsors, but remains in committee.

Assembly Bill A5250 would require NYC to establish a "contractors license board." It's still in committee.

Senate Bill S2102, which has 13 sponsors, would ensure that new construction would have to be completed in three years to get a 421-a tax break.

Assembly Bill A5402 would require approval of the governing body of a city prior to the approval of payments in lieu of taxes for the repayment of debt, thus taking it out of a mayor's hands. It's sponsored by Brennan but hasn't gotten anywhere.

Other bills: eminent domain

Assembly Bill A3973, still in committee, would reform eminent domain by requiring municipal approval of the exercise of eminent domain and the preparation of a comprehensive economic development plan when the primary purpose is economic development and certain residential premises are to be acquired.

(This bill, which has no cosponsors, would respond to the Supreme Court's Kelo decision. Note that for Atlantic Yards, the justification for eminent domain was blight removal.)

Senate Bill S3517, which has three sponsors, would create a temporary commission on eminent domain. It's still in committee.


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