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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Metaphor? 17-minute blackout before third-period at Barclays hockey game.

Call it a metaphor, perhaps.

Lights go out at Barclays, and Vegas extinguishes Islanders, the New York Post reported, citing a 17-minute blackout before the third period last night, when the New York Islanders lost to the Las Vegas Golden Knights.The power's out at Barclays Center, because of course it is. — Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 13, 2018#Isles D Thomas Hickey on lights going out at Barclays Center. “Amateur hour.” But notes both teams had to deal with delay. — Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) December 13, 2018Note that, after mid-February, all the Islanders' home games will be in the Nassau Coliseum, the undersized/downsized arena closer to their fan base, and which sold out the first two games (13,197 attendance), while drawing fewer than 10,000 people to Barclays in the last three games.

The team is supposed to split the next two seasons, during the expected construction of a new arena at Belmont Park, between Barclays and the Coliseum, but …

The bid for Amazon in Brooklyn offered two Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park sites, plus towers over Atlantic Center mall

Sure, the most notable thing in my article yesterday for The Bridge: Amazon in Brooklyn: Why the Bid Didn’t Quite Measure Up, was that dramatic (and fanciful) illustration of the Amazon sign on top of the former Watchtower building, now called Panorama.

And there are other interesting comparisons between the Brooklyn bid and the Long Island City offering, with better logistics and lower costs.

The Atlantic Yards angle

But, yes, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park was part of it, with two sites offered as potential office towers. One was the B4 site at the arena's northeast flank, now planned as space for 810 apartments. See DT 10 in the graphic below. It says 830,000 square feet.

The other was Site 5, currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell’s parcel, slated for a larger development, assuming the state permits the shift of bulk of the never-built tower approved for the Barclays Center plaza across the street. See DT 13 in the graphic below, with 1.14 million square feet, likely in two to…

From Gotham Gazette: The Fuzzy Fine Print of Amazon’s Queens Real Estate Deal

I have an essay in Gotham Gazette, The Fuzzy Fine Print of Amazon’s Queens Real Estate Deal
The first of several New York City Council public oversight hearings on the deal to bring an Amazon campus to Long Island City will be held Wednesday at City Hall. Titled by the Council as “Exposing the Closed-Door Process,” the questions should concern not just the big-picture issues but also some fine print regarding the company’s acquisition of city-owned real estate.
Of course, the estimated $3 billion in tax breaks and subsidies in the deal made among Amazon, the state, and the city deserve scrutiny, though, except for a state capital grant that could reach $505 million, those questions -- as Gotham Gazette previously reported -- mostly concern revising existing policy.
... But Council members also should look at two maddeningly complicated passages in the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Amazon signed with Empire State Development (ESD), Gov. Andrew Cuomo's economic devel…

From the latest Construction Update: new infrastructure work at East Portal

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 was circulated at 5:13 pm Friday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

There are few changes from the previous update, notably the start of some new infrastructure work around the East Portal at Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues (a vexed intersection for bicyclists and pedestrians), part of preparations for a deck and ultimately vertical construction:

Foundation installations in the East Portal footprint will begin during this reporting period.Pile drilling for Vanderbilt Retaining Wall is expected to begin during this reporting period. Drilling will be conducted during daytime hours and appropriate dust and noise mitigation measures will be followed. This operation may also be performed during Saturday daytime hours.Excavation to Yard Grade elevation in the East Portal area will begin during this reportin…

From Crain's Cleveland Business: "The lights go out for Forest City" (blame debt & messy family control)

A couple of interesting passages in the 12/9/18 corporate obituary for Forest City Enterprises/Forest City Realty Trust (now part of Brookfield Asset Management) in Crain's Cleveland Business, The lights go out for Forest City:
The ability to spot opportunities and spend years making them a reality distinguished the company, especially when its projects took it to new markets. For example, when Forest City began developing MetroTech in Brooklyn, the borough was not seen as a New York office market. With seven buildings there now, it helped set the stage for Brooklyn's rebirth. Over the years, it would do that again and again in new locations, such as in a venture with MIT in Boston, remaking the former Navy Yards on the Potomac in Washington, D.C., an old rail yard in Chicago and the Presidio former Army barracks in San Francisco. I'd point out that those opportunities were usually public-private partnerships, so they had a high barrier to entry. (Also see my March 2018 re…

The end of Forest City: stock delisted, assets now part of Brookfield

First, half of the executive team goes, then the company identity vaporizes, as Forest City has now been absorbed by Brookfield, with the transaction closing yesterday.
At right is the message on Forest City's home page:
For nearly a century, Forest City has owned, developed and managed dynamic commercial, residential and mixed-use real estate in core markets across the United States.
In November 2018, the company announced that its stockholders approved the acquisition of Forest City by a real estate investment fund of Brookfield Asset Management, a global leader in alternative asset management. The transaction closed on December 7, 2018.
Forest City’s property portfolio is now managed by Brookfield Properties, a global, best-in-class real estate operating company. Here's the Brookfield press release yesterday, Brookfield Completes Acquisition of Forest City Realty Trust:
NEW YORK and CLEVELAND, Dec. 07, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (“Brookfield”) (…

As Brookfield deal closes, Forest City executives in Cleveland get fired; assets to become Brookfield Properties

The absolute end of Forest City Realty Trust, and thus Forest City New York, is nigh, as the Plan Dealer reported yesterday action from the new owners: Brookfield cuts jobs, including top executives, at Forest City as acquisition looms.

About 75 executives in FCRT's headquarters have been let go, with another 35 on short-term extensions, which will cut management from 350 people to 240 by next summer. The transaction, approved by Forest City shareholders 11/15/18, is expected to be complete today, the newspaper reported.

While workers at various Forest City properties will be retained, it's unclear what will happen to executives at Forest City's major subsidiaries, in places like New York and Washington, DC.

It is clear that the name will gone. The firm will be called Brookfield Properties. That raises a question about the joint venture to build Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, owned only 5% by Forest City going forward, currently called  Greenland Forest City Partners. Will i…

The down escalator at Barclays Center: out of service until Dec. 14

Well, the elevator from the Barclays Center plaza to the subway has been chronically out of whack, and the escalator isn't so great, too. Both are the responsibility of the arena operator, BSE Global.

Two days ago, a resident alerted me that the down escalator at the plaza had been down for two weeks, with barriers but no signage.

I got a response yesterday from arena spokeswoman Mandy Gutmann:
As you said, the down escalator has been having issues for about two weeks. The initial problem was a faulty battery back-up system.
That took a little over a week to source and replace due to the holiday. Following the replacement of that, a drive unit part failed. It is currently on order and expected to arrive within the coming week, at which point it will immediately be installed. Pending no further surprise issues, the escalator should be up and running at that point. There should be signage, but we will ensure it’s more visible. I took the photos yesterday, so a day after my initial q…

Continuing new trend, Chinese companies still selling assets in U.S.; will Greenland sell more?

From the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Chinese Dumped $1 Billion of U.S. Real Estate in Third Quarter, Extending Recent Retreat:
Chinese investors offloaded more than $1 billion in U.S. real estate in the third quarter, extending their recent retreat from hotels, office buildings and other foreign property under pressure from Beijing to reduce debt and curb money sent abroad. This marks a two-quarter trend in which Chinese companies have flipped from being buyers to sellers. Beyond pressure on debt and foreign investment, the WSJ suggests that "trade tension" between the two countries may be a factor.

In Brooklyn

What does that mean for Greenland USA, the majority owner of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park? Well, they've already offloaded three sites (B12, B13, B15) to two local developers, TF Cornerstone and The Brodsky Organization, and announced plans to build another tower, B4.

Those are the remaining towers on terra firma, with the exception of Site 5, currently home to …

The Isles draw just 9,125 fans, but it's not their low

Oh my. Not even on the Coliseum’s worst day did it look like this. Incredible — Robert Brodsky (@BrodskyRobert) December 5, 2018
Official attendance = 9,125, 57% of @barclayscenter capacity
But that does not appear to be gate count#Isles — Norman Oder (@AYReport) December 5, 2018
Do they take face offs during warmups? — Matthew Sexton (@RealMattSexton) December 5, 2018This actually wasn't a low. The Isles drew 9,0728,806, and 8,790 at some earlier games at Barclays. If they can consistently sell out the Coliseum, it may become their full-time interim home.

As Brooklyn Nets bolster superfans, attendance lags, at bottom of NBA

From the New York Times today, New York’s N.B.A. Teams Don’t Have Much to Celebrate. These Fans Cheer Anyway.:
When a team has had eight home arenas in two states over a half-century, it’s tough to build a dedicated fan base. At Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where the Nets moved in 2012, they are last in the N.B.A. in attendance and most fans tend to make noise only when T-shirts are being shot from cannons.

Then there’s Section 114.

It’s called The Block — a rowdy section purposely set in a corner of the arena where the fans, who rarely sit down, wouldn’t obstruct anyone else’s view. Indeed, according to ESPN, as of today, the Nets rank well last in average attendance per game, at 13,862, which is well behind last year's average of 15,556 (29th in the 30-team league) or the Nets' worst season, which averaged 15,125 (27th).

That said, the percentage capacity, 76.6%, is matched the results for the Minnesota Timberwolves and just a tick below that of the Detroit Pistons.

The New …

Barclays Center December 2018 calendar: lots of basketball

The Barclays Center has released its December 2018 calendar, which has a lot of basketball.

It includes 22 events in 22 days, including nine Brooklyn Nets games, three Islanders games, two Michelle Obama book events, two high school basketball events (Battle in the Apple, Kyrie Irving Invitational), one Harlem Globetrotters game, one boxing night, and four concerts, including New Year's Eve with Post Malone. There are no tickets available for the Invitational, so it may be an invite-only event.

December 2017

The December calendar included a total of 20 ticketed events, including eight Islanders games, six Nets games, two Globetrotters games, one concert, one comedy show, and two film-plus-concert Nightmare Before Christmas events. The arena at the time was not announcing nonticketed events, though it resumed doing so.

As Michelle Obama fills Barclays, the Islanders fill the Nassau Coliseum


Last night, Michelle Obama took her book tour to a sold-out Barclays Center, while the New York Islanders, with terrible attendance in Brooklyn, began the first of 21 games this season at the Nassau Coliseum by selling out the building, with an amped crowd.

That 13,917 in attendance is well above the Islanders' average in Brooklyn, but would still make for the smallest NHL arena.

Keep watch to see consistent high attendance, which might--along with the possibility of more well-attended Brooklyn events--convince BSE Global (which operates both Barclays and the Coliseum) and the team to move all games over the next two years to Nassau, rather than splitting them with Brooklyn.

Still, as many have observed, it'll be tough for a new Belmont arena, assuming it's built, to coexist with the Coliseum nearby, without one suffering in terms of attendance.

A split season

Update: as noted by Newsday 12/3/18:
Their final regular-season game at Barclays Center will be Feb. 16. S…

From The Bridge: In a Buyer’s Market for Condos, a Brooklyn ‘Flash Sale’ Is Telling

From The Bridge yesterday, my article, In a Buyer’s Market for Condos, a Brooklyn ‘Flash Sale’ Is Telling:
Dramatic, desperate, or maybe both? To get the final 32 units sold at the 550 Vanderbilt condominium in Brooklyn, developed by Greenland Forest City Partners, uber-broker Ryan Serhant, of Million Dollar Listing fame, has alerted real estate brokers to a flash sale.
“On this Sunday (December 2nd) we will have a 1-day, 20% OFF SALE from 11am – 4pm,” Serhant wrote in a message to brokers this week, inviting potential buyers in for previews. “Happy Bidding :)” The building, which has 278 units, has faced a roller-coaster ride of sales, strategies, and even a Million Dollar Listing episode in the last three years.
If the flash sale might seem a stunt—would they really decline to offer discounts later?—a citywide slowdown in condo sales reflects a clear buyer’s market. Recent quarterly reports by the real estate brokerages Corcoran and Stribling indicated sales slowing in pricier parts o…

Flatbush Avenue asking retail rents rise, but that may not be the full story

According to a Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) report surveying the summer of 2018, average asking rents for available ground floor retail spaces increased year-over-year in seven of the 16 top Brooklyn retail corridors. REBNY states:
Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, between 5th Avenue and Grand Army Plaza, recorded another average asking rent increase this period compared to last year. The $118 psf average was a nine percent increase when compared to the summer of 2017. This marked the third consecutive year-over-year increase on the corridor. Growing foot traffic in the area—generated by new, high-density residential projects, popular restaurants, and a strong office leasing market—contributed to this upward trend.

Some caveats

As noted in the full report, an increase in asking rent is not necessarily dispositive:
Although this report shows changes—positively and negatively—in average asking rents in most of the corridors analyzed, we must stress that a change between two c…

A dangerous situation for pedestrians and bicyclists at Atlantic and Vanderbilt (through January?)

Dangerous construction S on Vanderbilt at Atlantic. This cyclist will encounter a ped walking N in that makeshift painted reroute blindspot-plagued lane. The most vulnerable at greatest risk. ⁦@NYC_DOT⁩ ⁦@NYPD78Pct⁩ ⁦ — mdrinkard (@mdrinkard) November 29, 2018
Walk or ride w me, see for yourself, crosswalk gone, painted bike lane concrete enjambed into car lane, no shoulder, peds use it. Thoughtless construction remediation puts peds and cyclists at risk of injury or death. @Pollytrott@cmlauriecumbo@BPEricAdams@CarlinaRivera — mdrinkard (@mdrinkard) November 29, 2018 So, what's been going on? The adjacent railyard is being reconfigured and upgraded as part of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, and the "safe work zone" being created apparently does not mean a safe zone for pedestrians and bicyclists.

However, the sidewalk on the west side of Vanderbilt Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street i…

As Nassau Coliseum reopens for NHL hockey, thanks to Cuomo contribution, a lingering question about who pays for key Belmont upgrade

The Nassau Coliseum has a re-do for major league hockey, as Newsday explains here and here:
The Islanders on Saturday will play Columbus in the first of 21 games this season at the Coliseum, and the first of at least 60 in the next three years before their new arena at Belmont Park is ready. New York State contributed $6 million to make sure the Coliseum arena fits NHL specifications, while the Islanders chipped in $4 million.
Additions include new locker rooms, and investments in dehumidification and ice plant redundancy — the NHL requires teams to have both the ability to maintain the ice, and a backup in case the primary ice plant goes down. There are also updates to the arena’s broadcast capabilities, with two new cameras pointed at center ice. Yes, that's $6 million of public funds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to put in to help both the Islanders and BSE Global, which operates the Coliseum and the Barclays Center, and has been eager--maybe desperate--to move games out of Bro…

Next AY CDC meeting will not be Nov. 29

Remember when I said pencil in Nov. 29 for a long-delayed meeting of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation? Well, it's not happening, and a new date has not yet been set, according to Empire State Development, of which the AY CDC is a subsidiary.

The advisory body, which is mostly toothless but sometimes ventilates project-related issues, is supposed to meet quarterly. It last met 3/29/18--an early second meeting of the year--which was eight months ago.

At the very least, we might hear some more questions--and partial answers from the developer--about the project's expected timetable, which remains very murky.

The loss of an editor at the Brooklyn Paper and more Schneps-i-fication, as networking events get big play

Beyond the pink cover and the Brownstoner Corner, the Schneps-i-fication of the Brooklyn Paper continues, as the new owners, now called Schneps Community News Group, have after two months replaced longtime Editor-in-Chief Vince DiMiceli with his Deputy Editor Anthony Rotunno.

No new Deputy Editor was announced--but a new (young) Digital Editor has been hired. It's a loss in institutional memory, given that Rotunno--no knock on him--has only been at the paper about 18 months and DiMiceli had decades of training young reporters who come and go.

The 11/15/18 article on the new editor didn't mention DiMiceli but said:
“We are thrilled to have Anthony leading our Brooklyn editorial team. His experience, vision, and passion will help us continue to improve, and be the leading source of local news across multiple platforms now and in the future,” said CEO and co-publisher Joshua Schneps. (That article, by the way, was attributed to the mythic "Moses Jefferson," who, um, doe…

Forest City’s corporate responsibility reports on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park mislead regarding MWBE contracting and affordable housing

Corporate responsibility reports, which document efforts toward gender equity, better governance, energy efficiency, and more, can burnish a company's brand both externally and internally, while pointing toward better performance.

But such reports can also serve as window dressing, especially when they lack candor or mislead.

Consider the two most recent annual reports from Cleveland-based Forest City Realty Trust (formerly Forest City Enterprises), whose New York subsidiary was the original developer of the Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn, and which retains a tiny 5% share going forward of what is now called Pacific Park Brooklyn.

"As a focused urban placemaker, Forest City has a well-rounded ESG (environmental, social and governance) program that helps us proactively address the issues that matter most to our stakeholders," said David J. LaRue, president and CEO, in a 6/26/18 press release.

Well, maybe. Passages regarding minority contracting and affordable hous…

Daily News op-ed: beware the costs of MTA upgrades to serve Belmont arena (where's Cuomo?)

The Daily News has shown openness to voices critical of the planned Amazon development and now the Belmont arena (but not Atlantic Yards), so it's interesting to see Stop the MTA's Belmont boondoggle: It's the last thing the cash-strapped transit agency should be doing, from Tammie Williams, a board member of the Belmont Park Community Coalition and the most vocal critic of that planned new home for the Islanders.

She writes:
Even as commuter rail and straphangers are bracing for more pain, there is a quiet boondoggle in the offing at Belmont Racetrack, where the state is considering a $300 million giveaway to billionaires like Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, who need a new train station as part of a plan to ram a hockey area and a shopping mall down the collective throats of Elmont, Floral Park and Southeast Queens.
If you thought our state was being short-sighted with Amazon in Long Island City, come to Belmont.
Empire State Development Corp. is telling the public the up…

From the latest Construction Update: work that was supposed to start two weeks ago now might start (including removal of substation)

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 was circulated at 4:40 pm Wednesday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

There are few changes from the previous update, given that no new buildings are under construction, with infrastructure work at the railyard the prime activity.

These updates can be confusing, since (see bottom) they indicate--in red--work that's supposed to be new but actually was forecasted in the previous update, but perhaps never actually started.

For example, portrayed as new is that "the Contractor will continue backfilling, compaction and tamping for Railyard storage tracks in Block 1121." Actually, that was in the last update, except the term "grading" was used instead of "tamping.

Also, "the demolition and removal of the existing Substation equipment and structures west of the 6th Avenue …

Greenland, issuing short-term bonds, said to be among developers facing risks. Its rating = "junk."

Greenland Holding Group, the parent company of Greenland USA (which owns most of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park going forward), is under some financial stress, not unlike other China-based developers. Perhaps that's why they were willing to sell three building sites in Pacific Park.

What does it mean beyond that? Well, we do know that Greenland has been pulling back from other U.S. projects, lowering its risk, and we do know that Greenland no longer has the deep pockets it once had.

"Greenland is the most aggressive of Chinese property developers," the Wall Street Journal reported in August 2014, adding that "Greenland can move quickly partly because of its strong balance sheet." That seems to have changed. So Greenland's overall moves should be seen against the backdrop of a weaker balance sheet.

Short-term debt, high interest rates

From Bloomberg, 11/19/18, Short-Dated Bond Spree by China Builders Flashes ‘Systemic Risk’:
China’s property developers are rushi…

Gilmartin, again, on the Barclays Center subway entrance

OK, it's part of her shtick. As I reported in March, former Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin lamented cost inflation in the subway entrance needed for the Barclays Center: "In the original pro forma, we had it for something like $6 million. It ended up costing $72 million."

Last month, as reported in the Real Deal 10/23/18 and similarly in Real Estate Weekly that day, Gilmartin used that anecdote to highlight the challenges in dealing with government agencies. From the Real Deal:
When building the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, she said, Forest City Ratner had proformaed the cost of a new subway entrance at $5 million. But when the company got a look under the sidewalk at all the corrosion in the subway, executives realized it would cost much more.
When Forest City went to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, though, the agency put all the cost of construction on the developer — $72 million.
“It was harder to build that entrance than it …