Skip to main content

FCR's Gilmartin: "Atlantic Yards was always a working title" (+ "35 lawsuits" canard)

From an interview today in the Commercial Observer, Forest Ranger: MaryAnne Gilmartin on Her 20-Year Career at Forest City Ratner, with emphases added by me:
CO: Do you think the Barclays Center has realized its potential?
MAG: I do. For us, Barclays was always the cornerstone of something much bigger, which is Atlantic Yards, now Pacific Park. We wanted to launch something more ambitious than just an arena. But as a freestanding single asset, it has certainly exceeded expectations. It’s been the number one performing arena in the country and number two in the world, just in terms of ticket sales. And it’s an architectural gem … Of course, it’s not yet stabilized financially. If you were to look at the numbers and research it, you would learn it’s still a work in progress. It takes awhile to get an asset like that to its stabilized, operating income.
Indeed, it's well behind the original plan for stabilization, as noted in the Wall Street Journal.

Also, while it's correct to say the Barclays Center was the top arena in the country, that applies to 2013, during which Madison Square Garden was under renovation. In 2014, MSG reclaimed its place.

The name change, and the "35 lawsuits"
CO: Why was the rebranding of Atlantic Yards to Pacific Park necessary?

MAG: Atlantic Yards was always a working title. But it went on for a decade because it had the longest beginning of any project in New York’s history. I don’t think anyone wants to live on a railyard [but] as we built the arena we thought about people making this place their home, it seemed that Atlantic Yards wasn’t the best name for it.
It also had a 10-year history that was tired and in need of refreshing. We had a new partner. We had equity lined up to build expeditiously. And so with 35 lawsuits, the recession and other challenges that the project went through, an early renaming would have just gotten stale and seemed like a false start. So we were deliberate about making sure when it was renamed. This is marketing 101.
I doubt it was "always a working title," since the project was approved in 2006 and 2009, and was "begun"--if you count the arena groundbreaking--in March 2010, six years and four months after it was announced.

I do agree that the history was "in need of refreshing," given the goal to push the controversy away.

There weren't 35 lawsuits. Maybe 35 legal decisions. The press shouldn't simply repeat it without confirmation. I've publicly challenged Forest City on providing backup.

Sheldon Silver and FCR's integrity
CO: Sheldon Silver helped push through the Atlantic Yards proposal in 2006 and helped obtain tax breaks for the project. How do you think his indictment will impact your work at Forest City Ratner?

MAG: I don’t think [his absence] will at all. I don’t see any relationship to [our work]. We also built 8 Spruce Street, which is in Shelly’s district. There is a school in the base [of the building]. At that particular project, which identified a need for a school, [Mr. Silver] was tirelessly committed to getting the school for the people in the area. I worked with his office. His role on Atlantic Yards was part of the PACB [Public Authorities Control Board], which was a requirement of the project, that it get that approval. I wasn’t personally running the project at the time, but I stand by the integrity of our company.
If there's no relationship, then why did the Times report, last March, regarding the son of Silver's Chief of Staff:
"The Rapfogels’ eldest son, Michael, finished law school in 2005 and soon went to work for Mr. Ratner. The job was seen internally as a way to please Mr. Silver, say people familiar with the son’s work; Mr. Ratner’s company rejects the notion.
As for Forest City's integrity, well, do see my summation of The Culture of Cheating and the Yonkers trial.

What's missing?

It's interesting that there were no questions about partnering as subordinate to new 70% project owner, the Shanghai-government owned Greenland Group, or the dubious promotion in China of EB-5 investments in the project.

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…

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 (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, 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.

The previous graphic, from August 2017 (without the ghost B1)

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…

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 …