Skip to main content

Elected officials ask Empire State Development to intervene in sale of Barclays Center (operating company) to get guarantees for community benefits and responsiveness

Update 8/15/16: Here's the response letter (also at bottom) from ESD CEO Howard Zemsky, who said, unsurprisingly, that public review was not legally required because the transfer falls within the confines of previously approved contracts. Nor is the state a party to the Community Benefits Agreement. But he said ESD "will continue to enforce" obligations required of the Brooklyn Events Center, the arena tenant, and will encourage ownership to work with the community on quality-of-life and other issues.

See the with letter from the elected officials, at bottom. See also push for new protocols from the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance.

According to a letter leaked yesterday to Stephen Witt of Kings County Politics (and posted at bottom), five elected officials are asking Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park and the formal owner of the arena, to intervene in the planned sale of the arena operating company to ensure that community benefits are maintained and arena operating impacts are addressed. They also seek an opportunity for public comment.

The officials are Assemblymembers Jim Brennan, Walter Mosley, and Jo Anne Simon, state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and City Council Member Laurie Cumbo. As I note below, there's both merit and irony to both requests.

Developer Forest City Ratner, which with its parent Forest City Enterprises owns 55% of the arena operating company, plans to sell it (according to an unconfirmed but unrefuted Bloomberg report) to the minority owner, the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who currently owns the minority stake. Forest City also will sell the 20% of the Brooklyn Nets it still owns to Prokhorov's Onexim Sports & Entertainment.

Last week, at an Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting, a state official said no board approval--just staff approval--was necessary for the arena transfer. The state owns the arena, thus allowing the issuance of tax-free bonds, and leases it to the operating company for essentially nothing. (The PILOTs, or payments in lieu of taxes, go not to public coffers but to pay for arena construction.)

At the meeting, Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and BrooklynSpeaks, requested that the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), the advisory body set up last year to provide input on the project, review the sale.

The sale is not on the agenda for Thursday's ESD board meeting, though, given that it's not now subject of a vote, it might be subsumed in the ESD President's Report.

Community benefits?

“We strongly urge the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESD”) to review the terms and oppose of any such sale until assurances are made that the community benefits promised by Forest City Enterprises will be preserved. We ask that any such sale be subject to a fair, open, and timely public review. Public comment should be accepted and evaluated prior to ESD making any decision regarding the finalization of this sale,” according to the document cited by Kings County Politics.

It's interesting that the elected officials think that community benefits regarding the overall project are contingent on the arena. After all, most of the promised community benefits from the project are unenforceable in the first place, and most (such as affordable housing) are not connected to the arena or otherwise contingent on other governmental entities. 

And the promised Independent Compliance Monitor, which was supposed to guarantee the benefits in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was never hired, an issue that has drawn minimal, intermittent scrutiny from such officials.

The CBA was signed by eight signatories, several of which had little if no role beyond advocating for the Atlantic Yards project:
  • All-Faith Council of Brooklyn, now Faith in Action (supposed to work on clergy-related programs, never did much)
  • ACORN (and now successors, responsible for affordable housing, which relies mostly on city agreements)
  • Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, AKA BUILD (responsible for job training, now defunct, part of a recently settled lawsuit)
  • Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, or DBNA (responsible for arena-related programs)
  • Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium, now Brooklyn Voices for Children (supposed to work on charter schools, never did much)
  • First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee, now Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (supposed to work on environmental issues, never did much)
  • New York State Association of Minority Contractors (helping to ensure minority contracting goals, which are just goals, and also separately stated as goals in state contracts outside the CBA)
  • Public Housing Communities (didn't do much beyond helping recruit workers at housing projects, which could be done through other means)
The arena/CBA connection

So only the DBNA, founded by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, does have a regular relationship with the arena and, perhaps not coincidentally, has had work--full-time and consultant--for three members of the Daughtry family.

The DBNA distributes at least 50 free tickets to nearly every arena event to community groups via a raffle, and this year for the first time gave out more than $100,000 via an arena-related foundation, the board of which is majority executives related to Forest City and the arena. This presumably would be at risk during a transfer to Prokhorov, who might recognize that it is a small expenditure to win friends, do some good, and keep community peace.

The DBNA said it has chosen the groups that would get low-cost use of the arena, another CBA promise, but no announcement of those events has been made, as far as I know.

Community responsiveness to arena impacts?

The letter also makes reference to the ongoing problems related to arena operations.

“We also request that if the sale is approved the new owners be legally committed to being responsive to the community with regards to the impact of arena related events and be able to response in real time to the public’s complaints about arena-related illegal parking, intersection delay, lighting, hygiene, noise, etc. by maintaining and enhancing the integration of response into both existing and planned oversight structure like the AY CDC [Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation]," according to the letter cited by KCP. "Complaints and their responses are to be logged in a transparent and open way in order to facilitate dialogue about improvements with the adversely impacted community."

Those certainly are worth addressing, and could be part of a Neighborhood Protection Plan (proposed in 2012 but not fulfilled) that requires commitment of new funds for monitoring of vehicles, fan behavior, etc.

But only part of the problems can and should be solved by the arena, whose representatives typically respond with pablum and apologies.

Enforcement and fines by government agencies--the New York City Police Department, New York City Department of Transportation, New York City Department of Buildings, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and others--surely would improve the quality of life for residents.

A missing issue: funds from hockey

None of the elected officials has pushed the state to fulfill the nonbinding 2/18/05 Memorandum of Understanding that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner signed with New York City and New York State, which said that, if Forest City wanted to bring a second sports team to the arena, it and the Public Parties would "negotiate and agree to additional rent and other terms before the Public Parties consent to use and occupancy of the Arena by the second team."

That never happened, even though the Islanders arrived this year.

I queried ESD multiple times about this, but never got an answer.

The unfinished arena
By the way, the Barclays Center is still on a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, its 17th, expiring 1/21/2016. According to this page, there are 25 open items of of 140 required.

As I wrote in October 2013, an extended TCO is nothing new for sports facilities. Yankee Stadium got its Final Certificate of Occupancy after nearly three years, which is faster than Barclays, but Citi Field, which also opened in the spring of 2009, got its document in July 2013, more than four years later.

The Barclays Center, which opened 9/28/12, is nearly three years and three months old.



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 + 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…