Skip to main content

The sayings of Chairman Bruce, 2014, Part 1: "whenever in doubt, tell the truth"

Also see Part 2, the outtakes.

I recently watched segments from the 10/15/14 WCBS 880 Small Business Breakfast: “Thinking Big” With Bruce Ratner, held at The Carltun, an event destination in East Meadow, Long Island.

Ratner's comments are often bromides, to be sure, but it's remarkable how many of them seem questionable when you look closely at the record. And a follow-up article will address some contradictions elsewhere in his speech.

About arenas

In the below segment, Ratner talks about how live content is key.  "The number one arena in the world, O2, is in London, it has no professional team." That's not necessarily a prediction for the Nassau Coliseum, though, because Nassau ain't London.

(At the time of the talk, Nassau was supposed to get a minor-league hockey team, but that's fallen through.)

Ratner also explains about the "local" food in Brooklyn. "You can't have 50 different cooks in an arena," he says, "so we license the recipes, they get a percentage... we actually cook their food... so it's great advertising for their program." Unmentioned: the cut is low.


In the below segment, Ratner talks about networking, and a key tactic.

"When I went into business, I was almost 40 years old, I joined everything," he says. "If I needed to get a company as a tenant, I'd look up, where is that CEO a member of, I'd go to that event."

He recommends that aspiring business people "try to get on boards," whether they be local community groups or charities. "It all of a sudden gives you credibility... I always make sure that every single day I have a lunch, breakfast, or dinner with somebody that will help my business or charity."

In other words, it's always about the results. Ratner's firm has practiced very strategic

Persistence, relationships, and truth-telling

In the below segment, Ratner shares some professional advice.

"I'm very persistent," he says. "I'm certainly not the smartest, certainly not the best, but I am persistent. I never give up. I think that's probably the most important thing."

Well, yes. Except his company got out of the modular business it tried to revolutionize and sold 70 percent of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (except the modular tower and the Barclays Center operating company; the latter was sold separately).

"I don't think I've ever done a deal where I don't have a good relationship with the person I'm doing the deal with," he says. Except some deals result in rancor and lawsuits, such as the modular deal with Skanska or the Nassau Coliseum development deal with Blumenfeld Development Group.

"There are so many cases--in fact, there are cases where I'll sign a term sheet to make a deal, and we never do the final papers, we just do, this is binding, and we just sign it," he says.

Or, some may recall, in November 2004, a deal with Pace University foundered after Ratner, despite a signed term sheet, asked Pace to pay the sum promised but accept less space, given rising project costs, as the New York Post reported.

 "If you don't have a personal relationship with somebody, the documents do not mean anything," he says.

That's a rather astounding statement. Does that meant that any deal can be torn up? And even if you do have a personal relationship, maybe it doesn't last.

At 4:05, he says, "I really mean this, whenever in doubt, tell the truth. And I mean that, really. Just tell the person what the problem is. If you have to change a deal, just tell the person... Don't try tricks."

Well, even the New York Times reported in September 2012 on "his reputation for promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms."

Remember Ratner's 2008 Daily News essay declaring 2018 as the new "anticipate[d]" completion date of Atlantic Yards?

Seven months after Ratner's appearance in the videos here, some guy warned about Ratner's unreliability.

Knowing your limits

In the below segment, Ratner talks about working within your range of expertise.

"I think I sometimes dream maybe too big," he says. "The second thing is maybe to never step out too far what you do. So if I'm a real estate developer, say, of residential and office, in the city, and all of a sudden, I decide I'm going to go do suburban hotels, that's a pretty big step out."

Wait a sec. Doesn't buying a basketball team and building an arena qualify too? What about launching a new modular business?

"Make your dreams reasonable," he says. "The second thing is making it real... The most important thing for my success is not the me word, it's the we word."

Wait--they've laid off lots of people in the past year or so.

"The most important thing about [deputy and successor] MaryAnne [Gilmartin] is she's a lot better than I am," he says. Better at what?

Nassau Coliseum's future

In the below segment, he talks about plans for the Nassau Coliseum, which he was about to renovate.


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…

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…

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…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

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 …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…