Skip to main content

Eminent domain, round two: state and Forest City close-mouthed as condemnation process begins for properties near arena site

Three houses destined for condemnation; photo by AYR
The eminent domain hammer is on its way--again.

Still, Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, and developer Forest City Ratner are close-mouthed and not fully candid about the second--but not quite final--round of eminent domain.

The state recently has begun the condemnation process for three homes and three businesses across Sixth Avenue from the arena, between Dean Street in Atlantic Avenue.

Eminent domain has already been approved; the issue now is compensation and possession, so the first step is asking property owners to accept a visit by an appraiser, a prelude to an offer, which later can be litigated.
August 2004: Two buildings
on left have since been demolished

Why now?

The reason for condemnation, according to ESD, is to facilitate work at the railyard and also construction of the 272-foot B15 tower between Pacific and Dean streets east of Sixth Avenue.

But only the railyard work has a schedule.

 As for when the tower will be built--who knows? There are several already-cleared sites available for construction, on both the arena block and also the southeast block, now used for interim surface parking.

2006 plan
So I'd bet the properties are being taken because 1) Forest City Ratner's new joint venture partner, the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, finally has the cash to pay the owners and 2) a larger cleared site is needed for staging to assist construction across the street, on the arena block.

After all, that 100-foot-wide piece of land was initially supposed to be used for interim surface parking and staging while four towers were built simultaneously with the arena--a plan that was later abandoned.

In other words, this piece of land was not needed to somehow "cure" blight anomalously located at one rectangle. It was to have a crucial role in construction.

Dicey issue remains

The argument that eminent domain is needed to build housing apparently wouldn't pass muster with the de Blasio administration, which (according to Capital NY's Dana Rubinstein) has ruled out using that tool going forward in its housing plan.

But eminent domain is already approved in this case. Still, however much de Blasio approves of Atlantic Yards--because he values affordable housing above all--it will still be touchy.

Moving school from B5 to B15
I expect de Blasio and Forest City to not only talk up affordable housing at the B15 site, but also the opportunity to build a public school, now planned for the B15 site.

Then again, that school was long said to be in B5, just east of Sixth Avenue over the railyard. But construction there would require an expensive deck, and that's years away, so they're moving it to b15.

In a Times article last month about East New York, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said, "“We’re not talking 30- or 40-story buildings in the middle of a neighborhood where everything else is two or three stories."

Slated for taking: lots 4, 87, 86, 85.
Others already acquired by Forest
City. Lots in brown deemed blighted
Now there certainly are large buildings across Atlantic Avenue from the Atlantic Yards site. But a 27-story tower on Dean Street would, in fact, be next to and across from four-story buildings.

New construction work

There's a lot of work coming.  The joint venture plans to build the West Portal to the railyard and install a new green roof on the arena, both of which will require workers, trucks, and lane closures near the arena.

Meanwhile, B2, the tower at Dean and Flatbush avenues, remains under construction. And before it's finished in late 2015, the developers plan to start B3, located at the southeast corner of the arena block. That's a lot of trucks. 

And, remember, for now the plan to build using modular construction--repeatedly claimed to reduce truck traffic, waste, and noise--has been put aside.

Dark building is lot 4 on Pacific Street/Sixth Avenue,
Adjacent is new residential construction
So that likely means more space is needed for staging.

Besides the three homes on Dean Street, the properties include a wholesale fabric business on Pacific Street, and, on Atlantic Avenue, a former museum exhibitions factory (and then potential rave location), and a storage company.

The sequence

Yes, the state got permission in 2006 to condemn the entire site, including "friendly condemnations" of Forest City Ratner-owned buildings, which negated rent-stabilized leases. 

But property owners and renters challenged eminent domain, finally reaching the state Court of Appeals, which rejected the challenge in 2009.

By then, however, cash-strapped Forest City had gotten ESD to revise the eminent domain plan, no longer condemning the entire 22-acre site in one action, thus saving the developer condemnation payments for properties where it had no intention to build. 

(Similarly, Forest City got the MTA to allow payments for the Vanderbilt Yard to be spread over 21 years, thus delaying construction of towers over the railyard.)

That left property owners in limbo, unable to rent to long-term tenants nor to effectuate plans to build on this presumably more-valuable land. (On the Pacific Street site next to Lot 4, a new building is going up.)

Now, however, things are moving quickly, though the property owners are understandably quiet themselves. They have no recourse to stop the process, just to challenge what may or may not be a low-ball condemnation offer. (The recent pattern shows significant variation in judicial awards.)

Public discussion

2010 Daily News photo, Block 1120, Lot 19 at left
At the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting last week, Forest City Ratner External Affairs chief Ashley Cotton made reference to lots 19 and 28 on Block 1120, two buildings which bump back from Atlantic Avenue into a zone dominated by the Vanderbilt Yard. 

(Adjacent lot 35, an empty lot further to the east abutting Carlton Avenue, was already taken by the state for Forest City, though the condemnation judge agreed to a much higher valuation than the state offered.)

"The state has commenced condemnation on the bump properties," Cotton said at the meeting. "Certainly our objective is to take down the bump."

I followed up, asking if it was to facilitate construction of the permanent railyard.

The two properties yesterday
"Well, to facilitate construction on the railyard site," she responded, apparently referencing work on the West Portal.

I said I'd heard that the condemnation process had began for the properties on Pacific and Dean streets, on Block 1118. "What's the project rationale for that?"

"That's eventually the site of"--Cotton turned quizzical--"B13?"

"B15," I clarified, referencing the tower planned for that site. I asked if it was the next building: "Why now?"

"Um, why now?" Cotton responded, not as enthusiastic as when, say, talking up the green roof. "I can't answer that question... We're here to talk about MPT [maintenance and protection of traffic, to accommodate railyard and roof construction]."

Querying ESD

I followed up with written questions for ESD.

Asked why the condemnations were happening now, the response was, "They are taking place now to let the project move forward, both for the LIRR Yard construction and a future residential development on Block 1128."

That doesn't quite answer the question about the timing.

I pointed out that one block--home to Modell's and P.C. Richard, southwest of the arena, known as Site 5-- was also subject to eminent domain.

(It's planned as the site of a 250-foot building, reduced from the originally planned 400 feet. Forest City Ratner already controls the Modell's property, but not the P.C. Richard site.)

The response: "Site 5 is not part of the current process, but it is expected to be part of a future condemnation."

What's next?

There's no way to fight condemnation; eminent domain has already been approved.

The question is compensation and timing of their departure. An offer is sometimes sweetened in order to get people to leave faster (see the example of Daniel Goldstein, 2010).

In this case, the state and Forest City may have another edge: the construction slated to occur around the site may prove annoying enough to push owners to settle and leave.



Comments

  1. Anonymous10:28 AM

    https://statejobsny.com/public/vacancyDetailsView.cfm?id=142

    The clarity of how Empire State Development does business with Atlantic Yards can be showcased by their ongoing employment issues with their ever changing staff. Here's another new posting. Every 2 years we go through a change of staffing at this agency where there is no consistency, and as the political environment changes so does the staffing.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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 January 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 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't be so cheap.

As …

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).

As…

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…