Skip to main content

Times: Greenland Forest City seeking record rents for Pacific Park retail (next to construction sites)

I don't completely buy the premise of Merchants Wait for the Promise of Vanderbilt Avenue. And Wait., in today's New York Times, which focuses on how delays in the residential buildout of Atlantic Yards have affected merchants who paid high rents on the anticipated influx of many new customers.

The essence:
Retail rents have been rising in anticipation that the project will change the character of the stretch of Vanderbilt that runs from Atlantic Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. Hair salons and hardware stores have been replaced with artisanal bakeries and farm-to-table restaurants. Some storefronts have remained vacant as landlords wait for higher-paying tenants. Even some newer stores have struggled to survive, according to the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and Ms. [Ellen] Fishman, president of the Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants District.
After all, some businesses, like Ample Hills ice cream, are going gangbusters, as noted in the article.

Timing questions

Nor were the new businesses--some newcomers, some not--necessarily wise in responding to landlords who were, well, speculating.

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park was for years expected to move clockwise, with construction on the railyard just east of the arena, then making its way to Vanderbilt Avenue and around to Dean Street. The change in sequence was only disclosed in October 2012.

And, if Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council says “Nobody projected it was going to take 12 years," well, not quite.

Despite the developer's insistent projection of a ten-year buildout (until, well, 2010), Laurie Olin, the original project landscape architect, said back in February 2007 that the project would take 20 years, and Marisa Lago, the head of Empire State Development--the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project--in April 2009 said the project would take "decades."

High rents coming, but what about construction impacts

Perhaps more importantly, Ronda Kaysen's article buries the lead: developer Greenland Forest City Partners, in renting retail space in the new 550 Vanderbilt and 535 Carlton towers, is seeking $100-$125 per square foot, record highs for the neighborhood.

Unmentioned: the buildings are next to unbuilt construction sites, and the open space--not "park space"--around the buildings is by no means finished. So some visitors to those buildings surely will be faced with construction impacts.

Funny: there's no mention of such impacts in this article, though extended fencing outside 550 Vanderbilt skewed the avenue's path and led, some neighbors think, to crashes, one of which totaled the Korean restaurant Bopsot (in the old Le Gamin space on the west side of Vanderbilt a few doors south of Dean) out of business.

I suspect some landlords pushed rents--and some merchants bit--based on Forest City's misleading promises about construction, as well as misleading beliefs--which not all merchants shared--that the Barclays Center would bring new business.

The 615 feint

Even today, the Times reports--surely thanks to the developer--that 615 Dean (aka B12) "broke ground" in December, though the design was unveiled last September, nothing but site clearing has occurred, and the site, along with its neighbor (and also the B4 site next to the arena) was put up for sale in April 2016.

Consider: the 12/21/15 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update indicated:
DOB has issued an excavation permit and a construction fence separating the B12 site from the B11 site is expected to be installed during this reporting period. Soil that has been classified as clean, contaminated or hazardous will be removed from the site as part of the excavation activities and brought to appropriate disposal locations.
The most recent Construction Update, dated 8/29/16, stated:
Site preparation and removals of any above grade structures within the site, stripping of asphalt, and general excavation and removal of top layer of material will continue during this period. Soil that has been classified as clean, contaminated or hazardous will be removed from the site as part of the excavation activities and brought to appropriate disposal locations.
Sound like progress?

Keep in mind that the building is already behind. According to a tentative schedule the developer prepared 8/13/14, the B12 tower was supposed to start construction in July 2015 and open in February 2017.

Instead, as Forest City executive Ashley Cotton said at a public meeting in June, in response to a question from Veconi, "We do not have a revised forecast" about the timing of that building.

But this formulation suggests to Times readers--and, perhaps more importantly, potential rental tenants--that a new building with well-heeled residents (rather than a disruptive construction site) is on its way.

Vanderbilt's previous rise

Had landlords not pushed, actually, they might have done fine, given that, by 2010, as Fishman told Time Out NY, the city's streetscape improvements had benefited the strip: "And on Vanderbilt, we're proud of our little median; we've had trees planted in the center of the avenue, and it's getting greener."

Wasn't Vanderbilt Avenue doing OK even earlier? Well, let's check out the Times travel section from 10/12/08:
After dinner, the action moves to Vanderbilt Avenue, a wide commercial strip that cuts through Prospect Heights and is littered with boisterous bars. Popular with the late-20s professional set is Weather Up (589 Vanderbilt Avenue), an unmarked cocktail bar that serves high-style drinks in a slick, subway tiled room. Try the Bee’s Kiss, a tequila gimlet with a shot of honey ($11).
A friskier crowd gathers a few doors down at Barrette (601 Vanderbilt Avenue; 718-230-5170), a burlesque-inspired bar with red booths and a black-box stage where go-go dancers twirl.
The writer of that article? None other than freelancer Scott Solish, today Greenland's New York front man.

The developer's take

From the Times:
Greenland Forest City is courting smaller, locally owned businesses. Storefronts that open onto a landscaped park space would most likely house a restaurant or cafe. Others could suit a small grocery store, a pet store or a child care center, said Susi Yu, the executive vice president of development at Forest City Ratner, which was the sole developer before it sold a 70 percent stake of the project in 2014 to Greenland USA, a subsidiary of the Chinese company Greenland Group.
“The goal is not to have big-box retail here,” said Scott Solish, manager of development for Greenland USA. “The strategy is to complement what’s here.”
Of course they're not going to have big box retail. But that's not the question. To the issue of whether new retail will focus on well-off shoppers, the developer asserts that's not the case.

“At the end of the day, people want beautiful spaces at affordable prices, whether you’re the top 1 percent of New York or a teacher,” Yu tells the Times. “You want that really fun, cool cafe where you can get a free Wi-Fi and a cup of coffee and you can sit there for three hours.”

C'mon. The low-income residents won't be spending $3 for a coffee from a shop paying $125/square foot. The Times, which describes 535 Carlton as "entirely affordable rentals, with a mix of incomes," fails to point out that 65% of the apartments will go middle-income households, most with six-figure incomes, who can in fact afford $3 cups of coffee.

(What's with the coffee imagery? Consider Forest City's consistent barista reference.)

The untold story: retail at Site 5

Note this line from the article: "The project includes 247,000 square feet of retail. A large portion of that will eventually be housed in an office tower planned for a site opposite the Barclays Center."

Well, not at all. First, that "office tower" hasn't been approved. Second, the two-tower project for Site 5 (currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard) not only hasn't been approved, it may contain more residential space than office space.

Third, that's a way different plan for retail than ever disclosed.


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…