Skip to main content

Following up on Atlantic Yards CDC: the plaza defense; ESD misspoke; ventilating a dispute about board conflicts

The first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), a subsidiary of Empire State Development (ESD) set up to monitor the delivery of benefits and the impacts of the project, was held 1/30/15, and my coverage deserves a few updates.

First, about a week later, ESD released both the brief PowerPoint presentation (bottom) produced by Greenland Forest City Partners, with a tentative project timetable and previously released renderings of three towers (bottom), as well as a single graphic of the site map and timetable.

Note that all building start/finish times are tentative, which means that the coverage (in NetsDaily and especially Curbed) suggesting the Barclays Center might lose its entrance plaza by 2016 deserved caveats.

But comments in the defense of the plaza, as a key to the arena's functioning, suggests that if/when Greenland Forest City does build that tower, there will be a backlash.

It also sets up a situation in which the developer--I speculate--might ask the city/state for a trade: maintain the plaza in exchange for equally valuable development rights somewhere else.

Note: I reproduced a truncated version of this map last week by scanning it. The hard copy document was given out to the AY CDC members, not others at the meeting, but I asked for and got a copy from an ESD staffer.

As I exited the meeting, I asked Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton if they expected to post a web version of the document, so I could be assured of a clean copy. She responded that I wasn't supposed to have the document, and asked for it back. I refrained.

After all, the document had been projected on screen, and anyone could have taken a photo, or a screenshot from the webcast of the meeting.

As we were exiting, Marion Phillips III, president of the AY CDC, confirmed that all documents delivered at the meeting were public, and the agency would post them.

ESD hands-off?

At the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting last Tuesday, I reported that resident Peter Krashes challenged Phillips on whether ESD had [updated: released and] reviewed the scope of work for the developer's environmental monitor. Phillips said no, though the agency's own document said they should have done so.

I concluded that meant the state authority was backing off its role in overseeing the project's environmental impact. At the end of the Friday, ESD told me that that the agency did review the scope of work for the monitor, and Phillips misspoke. 

That may reassure those who thought the agency had lapsed. Then again, it's not completely reassuring to know that Phillips--who does have numerous other responsibilities--wasn't fully up to speed on Atlantic Yards, or that it took more than two business days to revise his statement.

Update and correction from Krashes: "No, I asked for them to release the scope of work because I assumed they had reviewed it. My request stands."

The Brooklyn Paper coverage and conflict of interest

I posted critical comments about the the Brooklyn Paper's secondhand coverage, Many familiar faces in Yards watchdog group.

But the print article was tougher, simply because the headline, "New Atlantic Yards watchdogs on the job," was followed by the subheading, "But oversight body includes Forest City Ratner allies, and can't enforce rules."

I commented that the article nearly suggested but didn't quite establish that the board faces questions about conflicts of interest, given the role of two partners in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement. (The print subheading did so.) I also pointed to the role of two state officials.

And I suggested that it was unwise to rely on Gib Veconi, a main negotiator of the agreement that led to the CDC and a new timetable for affordable housing, as the most significant source. (Sure, he's a legitimate source.)

Veconi took issue with my criticism, calling it an ad hominem argument. I suggested it wasn't a stretch "to suggest that the negotiators of the settlement want to portray it in the best possible light."

A dispute about the board

Others piled on, with one commenter suggesting, unfairly, that Veconi was a shill for ESDC. After all, as he pointed out, was "an organizer of the lawsuit that overturned ESDC's approval of the 2009 MGPP." Veconi added, in response to my criticisms:
I also helped draft legislation on which AYCDC was modeled, so I understand that every State agency has State employees on its board. Their presence on the AYCDC board does not indicate an unintended outcome detrimental to the community.
With respect to questioning the CBA representatives on the AYCDC board, we all can surely acknowledge that the contention among community stakeholders over the history of the Atlantic Yards has cost us tremendously in terms of influence over the course of the project. To exclude a stakeholder group from this new platform would torpedo its effectiveness before it ever gets off the ground.
My response:
Yes, other state subsidiaries have state employees on their boards. This *seems* a little different, because the AY CDC board is not decision-making but rather advisory. I'm not sure of the precedent in which board members advise themselves.
The overall context is a history of distrust regarding Empire State Development and its oversight of Atlantic Yards. Does the presence of ESD board members on the AY CDC tamp down or add to the distrust?
Same goes for members of the Atlantic Yards CBA. Yes, it's worth finding a way to incorporate the views of all stakeholders. However, the board is not exactly balanced. There's no equivalent or counterweight on the board, such as someone long involved in project opposition or criticism. And if it seems wrong to include one of them, then why include CBA members?
Maybe this is why the state resisted releasing the names of the board members before the meeting.
As another commenter suggested, why not appoint attorney Norman Siegel, a noted public watchdog and a former attorney for project opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, to the board.

The presence of CBA representatives tilts the board. As I wrote, it would be understandable to have a spectrum of people, including potentially CBA signatories like Sharon Daughtry and Bertha Lewis, in the Stakeholder Council originally contemplated as informing a new governance structure. But that's not the same as the membership of the subsidiary assigned to monitor the project. 

And while "the contention among community stakeholders" may have diminished public influence, as Veconi put it, that also should be seen in the context of Forest City Ratner recruiting and even creating organizations to serve as partners and thus surrogates for the public. The CBA signatories already have a line to the developer and thus some impact on the project.


  1. For anyone who thinks the AYCDC is going to do anything to protect the community's interests, I've got a rail yard to sell you.


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).


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…