Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2017

Featured Post

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/what's coming/what's missing, who's responsible, + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

OK, so that's why "#550Vanderbilt is booming"?

So, according to the Pacific Park Brooklyn Twitter account, "#550Vanderbilt is booming, all thanks to the brilliant @ryanserhant." First, not sure how much it's booming, since sales are surfacing slowly in public records. But any uptick in sales wouldn't have anything to with a stealth price cut thanks to 421-a maneuvering, would it? #550Vanderbilt is booming, all thanks to the brilliant @ryanserhant . — Pacific Park BK (@pacificparkbk) December 27, 2017 And a screenshot

From The Bridge: How Fixing an Overstressed Region Could Change Brooklyn

My article from The Bridge, How Fixing an Overstressed Region Could Change Brooklyn , subtitled "The tri-state area needs big investments and better leadership, a planning group warns. We highlight 16 ideas, from possible to pipe-dream, that could remake the borough." There's a lot in there, including potential new subways (unlikely), new bus lines (more likely), plans to increase housing supply (partly likely), and even the Brooklyn ripple effects of moving Madison Square Garden. Take a read. (I've already written separately about the Regional Plan Association's proposal to build on suburban train station parking lots, and will write separately about their affordable housing proposals.)

Legal case involving Site 5 and P.C. Richard percolating; resolution in late 2018?

The legal case involving Site 5 , currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard, may be heading toward resolution in 2018, though it's taking a while. Developer Greenland Forest City Partners wants to transfer development rights from the unbuilt--and, surely, never to be built--B1 tower over the arena plaza catercorner across the street to Site 5 to build a huge two-tower office (or condo, it's unclear, as I wrote ) project. It's even been suggested, prematurely, as a home for's second headquarters. P.C. Richard claims that, more than a decade ago, it was promised space in the successor building. Forest City Ratner, which made that deal, denies that. The documents are under seal, so we don't know. Note that the retail picture now, where Greenland Forest City--according to previous statements--is interested in building retail on the lines of the Time Warner Center, is very different. Progress later in 2018? The case is percolating along, with a

A CB8 bump in the road for Mekelburg's at 535 Carlton; would another tenant be (as per Williamsburg project) a restaurant?

OK, we now know that a large outpost of retailer/cafe/eatery  Mekelburg's may come to 535 Carlton by 2019, as I  wrote  12/11/17, but the effort to bring late-night liquor service to a residential corner is not getting any support from Brooklyn Community Board 8. The committee overseeing liquor licenses dialed back on the application, which was seeking a 2 am closing time on weekdays/Sunday, and 4 am on Friday and Saturday, by stipulating a 3 am weekend closure, plus weekend security. But at a meeting 12/14/17, as indicated in a letter below, the full board voted unanimously to deny support for the overall application and the stipulations. It cited concern from building and neighborhood residents regarding "noise, deliveries, trash collection and rodent abatement, and disruptive presence of an eating and drinking establishment with late hours in an otherwise quiet, residential area." That doesn't necessarily have weight with the State Liquor Authority (SLA), wh

RPA points to parking lots near regional train stations as source of 250,000 homes, including affordable ones

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has long been touted as "transit-oriented development," with the argument that proximity to transit can justify increased density. That argument is a question of degree, of course. Atlantic Yards, with a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), can make some dent at full buildout, with 13,503 new residents, 8,358 at market rate. Among the 5,145 people in below-market units, there'd be 1,890 in 900 low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in 1,350 moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals--plus 420 people in 200 middle-income condos. More affordability needed, try the suburbs But the city and region need much, much more. Hence the press release and  report  11/14/17 from the Regional Plan Association,  RPA: Development Near Commuter Rail Stations in Suburban Areas Key to Regional Affordability , which proposes ways to bring 250,000 new homes to the re

Forest City's diminishing presence in Cleveland, its home city

From Crain's Cleveland Business yesterday, Real estate's top 10 stories in 2017 , "2. Forest City sells key properties, then announces it might sell itself." In its home city, Forest City Realty Trust is no longer a property owner, or a new developer. It sold Post Office Plaza and also a 20-acre development site. And it's focusing on larger cities. "The five-year drive to transform the company for today's stock market and gain share prices in line with the underlying value of the company's portfolio drew attention from activist investors," writes Stan Bullard, rather gently describing the forceful, even vicious criticism lodged against the company and, especially its New York arm, even after the extended family ownership has been diminished by adopting a one-class system of shares. "The biggest move came last, however, as the board announced in September it had hired New York investment bankers and law firms to help it review strategi

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 12/20/17,  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. And

Moving to Belmont means Isles fans will get back their "anti-NYC feel" (plus blame all around for failed move)

Some good insights from Dan Saraceni of Lighthouse Hockey last night in  What winning the Belmont RFP means (and doesn’t mean) for the Islanders : It means they’re going “home.”...having the team back in Nassau feels right and longtime Blackhawks writer Sam Fels, put it perfectly : But the Isles and the weirdness that they’re the only ones that come from this specific place and will return there, that has a place. An anti-New York City feel to it is what helped give the Isles their identity. And they’ll get it back. So, was Brooklyn a mistake? Saraceni says no: The move to Barclays Center was a golden opportunity for the previously provincial Islanders to expand their brand to beyond just Long Island. Obviously, that never happened, and the team and arena (which controlled the advertising and business interests as part of their agreement), never quite got off on the right foot. Brooklyn is as unique and weird a market as the suburbs is, but Barclays never understood what hockey and

At City Council hearing on enhancing local retail, some dramatic Brooklyn statistics and a cameo for Atlantic Yards

The stress felt by New York City's small businesses was the subject of a New York City Council hearing and report  Planning for Retail Diversity  issued 12/14/17, with various solutions suggested, reflecting the diverse challenges felt, from 1) Manhattan corridors saturated by chains, 2) gentrifying districts facing landlord maneuvering (as near Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park), and 3) more neglected areas starved for retail. There's definitely a problem. See for example, the web site Vacant New York , focusing on empty Manhattan storefronts, and the more generally elegiac blog--and book-- Vanishing New York . And note the numerous empty storefronts in prosperous areas of Brownstone Brooklyn. Among the Council's suggestions: have the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) take a more comprehensive role in planning, registering storefronts vacant for 90 days; consider allowing limited commercial activity on residential blocks to open up cheaper space consider bring

Forest City completes sale of Atlantic Center/Atlantic Terminal malls; 42nd Street complex still in lease dispute

A press release 12/22/17, Forest City completes conversion of ownership in 10 New York City specialty retail centers , indicated that Forest City Realty Trust has formally sold its 51% share in the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls, as expected, to its partner Madison International Realty. Note this statement: "the 42nd Street retail/entertainment complex, is expected to transact at a later date upon resolution of the ground lease dispute with the City of New York." That's a reference to a lawsuit  (case file ) over the terms of a 20-year lease that renews next year. Forest City paid a base rent of $1.17 million a year for the first 20 years of the lease, gaining that very nice deal in tougher times, and the two parties are in dispute about the way to calculate the value of the lease renewal.  According to remarks at a November hearing by Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos, he is inclined to grant Forest City's request for arbitration to resolve th

From Curbed: Mapping New York City’s affordability gap (with a 535 Carlton cameo)

Curbed published a strong piece 12/21/17,  Mapping New York City’s affordability gap , noting how the median income in each neighborhood (or Community District) compares with the actual Area Median Income (AMI), set by the federal Department of of Housing and Urban Development: To see the gap between AMI and what New Yorkers are actually making, we mapped the 2015 median household income for each neighborhood area ( PUMA district) in New York City and compared that to HUD’s AMI number for 2015. In 47 of these 55 neighborhoods, the AMI was higher than the area’s actualmedian income, and in nearly half of the city (24 neighborhoods), 60 percent AMI was still higher than the area’s income. Of the four Community Boards within which residents get preference for half the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park units, Brooklyn's CB 2 (which has housing projects within it) is slightly below AMI, CB 6 well above it, and CBs 2 and 3 well below it. Click through to the map. And guess what--the

“I was just a hired gun,” says broker Ryan Serhant re Bed-Stuy foreclosure sales (same for 550 Vanderbilt?)

The 12/20/17 Buzzfeed article by Lisa Riordan Seville and Lukas Vrbka,  They Lost Their Homes. Now A Reality TV Star Is Selling Them. , is subtitled, "Behind the scenes of Million Dollar Listing New York are black and Latino families who lost their homes in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis." (It was written with the support of an investigative reporting grant by the Urban Reporting Program of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.) It's a sad and sobering story of sketchy--if not necessarilyillegal--behavior by real estate investors and the tone-deaf (and willfully oblivious) performance of Ryan Serhant, a star of the reality TV show Million Dollar Listing New York , who opened a Nest Seekers International office in Bedford-Stuyvesant to sell houses from there and adjacent Bushwick. From the article: What Million Dollar Listing’s viewers did not learn, and what Serhant told BuzzFeed News he did not know, is that before the fresh paint and white Carrara

Schedule released for 2018 Quality of Life meetings, where developer and state face public questions

Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, has released the schedule for the bi-monthly Quality of Life meetings in 2018, events where updates on the project are aired by ESD and the project developer, and concerns heard. It's one of the few forums in which accountability is pursued, albeit imperfectly. January 23 March 6 May 8 July 17 September 25 November: 13 Location: Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building 55 Hanson Place 1st Floor Conference Room Brooklyn, NY 11217 Time: 6:00 – 8:00 PM Note that, in the past, meetings have been rescheduled, so this timetable is not set in stone.

The Islanders are leaving for Belmont, a privately-financed "economic engine" (+ just $40M lease)

At the press conference The Bridge yesterday published my  The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next? , rounding up the news about the new Belmont arena and the question marks over where the hockey team will play during its fifth season (and perhaps longer), during which the arena will be constructed. Gov. Andrew Cuomo--as did Borough President Eric Adams--supports having at least some games at the undersized Nassau Coliseum, closer to the fan base. The operators of Barclays and the Coliseum, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BS&E), cordially said the same thing. Such a move helps BS&E, operators of the Coliseum, but doesn't erase question marks over that venue's longer-term future. (As I wrote, while Barclays would shed an onerous financial arrangement, replacing those Islanders dates with other events isn't simple.) An "economic engine"? Cuomo at the press event yesterday at Belmont hailed a new hockey-centric arena accessible by p

With Islanders heading for Belmont, some question marks for Barclays (and others)

Newsday Twitter The New York Islanders have won the bid for a new 18,000-seat arena (plus retail and a hotel) at Belmont Park, according to reports ( Newsday , Bloomberg ), presaging an end to a mutually disappointing stint--with low attendance ( last in the league , currently 11,567), and low revenues, as I detailed for The Bridge --at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to make the announcement at 11 am today, presumably with Islanders' owners and players in attendance. (The Islanders' bid is in partnership with developer Sterling Equities , led by the Wilpons, owners of the New York Mets, and the investment advisory firm Oak View Group . Long Island fans are cheering at the opportunity to bring their team "home" and the chances of retaining star John Tavares--NY1 appparently  reported that fans chanted “Belmont! Belmont! Belmont!” at last night’s Islanders game at Barclays. But managers at Barclays likely are wary, given that

Bill de Blasio tries to rewrite history re not-so-affordable Atlantic Yards units. He's wrong.

BdB fabulizes re #AtlanticYards buildings w/empty #affordable units: "The way that we go about our plan is not that. Obviously AY was done in a different time & place" Never supposed2 have 1/2 the #affordable units@ 165% of AMI until he agreed 2 deal in 2014! @ANHDNYC @jwestin2 — Norman Oder (@AYReport) December 20, 2017 At the time, BdB told the NYT, “And what’s remarkable is that we’ve secured nearly twice as many affordable units”—compared to 461 Dean—”for our city investment.” He didn’t say that affordability would differ dramatically. Also — Norman Oder (@AYReport) December 20, 2017

BP Adams takes a look at the resurgence of rats in Prospect Heights

So there was Borough President Eric Adams yesterday walking the streets of Prospect Heights, learning about the resurgence of rats. I’m in #ProspectHeights taking a #rattour with local residents, seeing firsthand the challenge our community faces with infestation. We’re overdue for a coordinated @NYCGov response to combat #rats in this neighborhood. — Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) December 18, 2017 I hate #rats . I’m sure you do too. If there’s a problem in your neighborhood, contact my Constituent Assistance Center. The next #rattour might be in your community. All of us need to collaborate and coordinate to clean up our streets. — Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) December 18, 2017 On NY 1 NY 1's Jeanine Ramirez followed along, reporting : They said the problem has expanded beyond Prospect Heights to Park Slope and Fort Greene. They blame the surge in construction across the area, especially the Atlantic Yards project.

Getting money out of China for real estate: It's Complicated (but it continues)

As I noted last month, the Real Deal reported  on its Shanghai Showcase event: The subject of capital controls and how the Chinese government wields them came up during virtually all of the day’s discussions. Smart investors can get money out of mainland China, said Jennifer Wang, a wealth management executive with PricewaterhouseCoopers. “There’s some practical ways to get the money out, to work around the policy restrictions,” she said. But when pressed by TRD Editor-in-chief Stuart Elliott to elaborate on those “practical ways,” Wang became notably shy. That's interesting . So let's take a look at some of the discussion about this, since it could be relevant to condo purchases in Brooklyn, such as 550 Vanderbilt. In December 2016, attorney Dan Harris, a specialist in law in China, wrote a five-part series on his China Law blog, beginning with  Getting Money Out of China: It’s Complicated . Responding to realtor asking how the Chinese buyer of a $2 million house could m