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Showing posts from April, 2018

A panel on the legacy of Jane Jacobs. Do we have "more democracy than people are comfortable with"?

My free Jane's Walk on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park/Barclays Center is Friday, May 4, at 5:30 pm. See information here.

The annual Jane's Walk weekend sent me back to a 3/16/17 panel at the Brooklyn Historical Society on the Legacy of Jane Jacobs, on YouTube below. The summary:
In 1960, Jane Jacobs' book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" sent shockwaves through the architecture and planning worlds. New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante talks to Matt Tyrnauer, director and producer of the acclaimed documentary "Citizen Jane: Battle for the City," Rober Hammond, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Friends of the High Line, and Dr. Samuel Zipp, Associate Professor of American and Urban Studies at Brown University and Co-Editor of "Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs," about Jacobs' extraordinary impact on the urban landscape. Starting off talking about Brownstone Brooklyn--today expensive, beautiful, low-rise, a…

Is residential permit parking on the horizon? Well, it's being discussed.

Bill to Create Citywide Residential Parking Permit System Introduced in City Council, the Sunnyside Post reported 4/25/18, which inspired Prospect Heights resident Gib Veconi to tweet, "Would still require legislation in Albany, but would also be a godsend for neighborhoods near #BarclaysCenter."

From the article:
The bill, put forth by Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Washington Heights), calls for the city to implement residential parking zones in areas across the city, including posted times of day and days of the week the system is in effect.
Furthermore, up to 80 percent of parking spaces in a given permit area must be reserved for paying permit holders, with the remaining spaces available for non-residents for up to 90 minutes. A permit system would eliminate free parking for visitors to and workers at the Barclays Center, who compete with local residents for limited space, and would force at least some to pay for parking elsewhere and/or take public transit.

(In 2012…

Yes, condos with 421-a offer some big bargains (so 550 Vanderbilt competes well)

"The End of a Giant Tax Break Creates Bargains in New York Condo Market," the Wall Street Journal reported 4/25/18:
Time is running out on one of the biggest benefits in the new condo market in New York City: microscopic property taxes.
Buyers can still acquire glamorous and expensive condominiums and pay almost no property taxes for up to two decades or more in a dwindling number of new developments--but the deals are disappearing After all, last year, the state legislature eliminated the tax break almost completely, thus jeopardizing new Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park buildings. The article notes:
Technically the abatement is still available in small, less expensive buildings outside Manhattan for buyers who make the condo their primary residence. But Paul Korngold, a lawyer who specializes in property taxes, said the regulations are so strict that few if any buildings will qualify. Unmentioned: that includes 550 Vanderbilt at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, where, as I wrote fo…

State Court of Appeals backs Forest City over Skanska in one stage of dispute regarding modular tower

In a decision yesterday, the state Court of Appeals backed Forest City New York (formally, its affiliate Atlantic Yards B2 Owner) in one stage of a long-running dispute with former partner Skanska USA Building over the ill-fated modular apartment tower, 461 Dean, aka B2.

Skanska was hired to build the tower and also formed a joint venture with Forest City to operate the modular factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The parties dispute the cause of delays, with Skanska blaming Forest City's design, and Forest City blaming Skanska's execution.

The building, for which ground was broken in December 2012, didn't start accepting residents for nearly four years. Forest City gave up ambitious plans to build more towers via modular technology and wound up selling the factory and selling the building--the only tower it owned in full. (The other three are owned by the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners.)

The ruling bolstered Forest City but did not resolve the overall case, wh…

Commercial Observer's debatable Power 100 List: Gilmartin (& partners) at 26; Greenland's Hu at 47 (no building start yet)

The 2018 iteration of the Commercial Observer's always debatable Power 100 list of the most powerful people in real estate lacks any entrant from Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York. That's understandable, since the company has essentially given up on ground up development (as I wrote for The Bridge) and has lost key executives, with Bruce Ratner said to be retired.

But the project has changed, as the Commercial Observer notes:
The project now goes by the name Pacific Park, Ratner has retired, the Gehry plan was ditched and the main owner is the Chinese-based company Greenland USA. Welcome to the list, Greenland USA head Hu Gang. So Gang is on the list, and so is Forest City's former CEO, MaryAnne Gilmartin, in her new position as co-founder of L&L MAG. The question is whether they deserve their rankings, and I'd say the jury is very much out.

L&L MAG, 26

26. MaryAnne Gilmartin, Robert Lapidus and David Levinson

The article notes that Lapidus and Levinson wer…

Alleged shooting inside Barclays Center still murky; if so, how did a gun get inside arena?

For now, the best source of information on the reported [basement?] "hallway" gunshot inside the Barclays Center on 4/21/18--allegedly by a member of rapper Tekashi69's entourage toward a rival rap crew--is the murkily-sourced celebrity gossip site TMZ?

TMZ reports today:
Law enforcement sources tell us 6ix9ine's manager, Tr3yway, is a person of interest in two separate gun-related incidents over the weekend -- one that occurred during the [Adrien] Broner fight [at Barclays], and another that went down just hours earlier on the streets of Brooklyn.No official word

But law enforcement publicly has been closemouthed. Asked last night (at a meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council) about the reported incident, New York Police Department 78th Precinct Commanding Officer Captain Jason Hagestad said he had no information to share, and that the Detective Bureau was investigating.

That doesn't count as much of a confirmation, since Michael Woods of NYFights.com got…

Ratings agency S&P (citing Nets' deal) joins Moody's (citing Islanders) in warning that Barclays Center bonds verge on junk

Mikhail Prokhorov may have gotten a record-setting valuation in the sale of the Nets--partial, so far--to Joseph Tsai, but apparently there was a sweetener in the deal--and that may be putting bondholders at risk, according to the ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P). 
The sweetener--instead of the arena operator keeping all food and beverage revenues from Nets games, it would only keep 30%--advantages the team owner, and offers less to the arena operator and thus bondholders expecting secure payments, according to S&P.
On 4/20/18, the ratings agency affirmed the debt rating of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (the state entity that issued the debt) of BBB-, just barely within "investment grade" and above junk, but with a negative outlook, indicating that the rating was unstable. 
Crain's New York Business first wrote about this yesterday, with the headline Barclays Center bonds are just about junk. Note that ratings agencies are paid b…

In 2017-18, Nets' Brooklyn attendance ticked down slightly; Islanders' crowd dropped 8.4%, to 12,002, last in NHL; won't help bond rating

With the regular NBA and NHL seasons over, and no playoffs for either the Brooklyn Nets (28-53) or New York Islanders (35-37-10, though they had seemed playoff-bound earlier in the year), let's take a look at the announced attendance figures. (Remember, official attendance always exceeds gate count.)

The Islanders this past season experienced an 8.4% drop, to a league low of 12,002 (per ESPN), last in the 31-team league, as the team struggled and the owners announced plans to build a new arena at Belmont Park. That's a more than twice the percentage drop in the previous year. In the previous two years, the Islanders were 28th in a 30-team league.

The Nets-- though second-to-last in league attendance, dropping one notch in each of the past two years--are a different story. According to ESPN figures--which I don't find accurate, explained below--the Nets have experienced a slight but steady uptick over the last three years, reaching an average home attendance of 15,556, stil…

Gunshot fired in hallway during boxing match Saturday at Barclays Center; TMZ tags member of rapper's entourage

Earlier this month, a mixed martial arts fighter caused a fracas deep inside the Barclays Center, seen on video throwing a heavy metal handtruck, breaking the window on a van.

Two nights ago, a member of the crew of rapper Tekashi69 (who has his own police record) allegedly shot a gun off during a boxing card.

TMZ was the first to report, stating:
Law enforcement sources tell us cops believe an unidentified member of Tekashi's entourage fired a shot inside Barclays Saturday night during an altercation with a rival rap crew headed by Brooklyn-based MC Casanova, who Tekashi's been beefing with online.
We're told police understand the situation as follows ... Tekashi and his guys were heading down a hallway in Barclays to hit up a VIP area in the arena, when they bumped into Casanova and co. along the way. The two crews started pushing and shoving ... and someone in Tekashi's group allegedly discharged one round from a firearm. The apparent shooter fled the scene, accordin…

From the latest Construction Update: weekend/night work at the Vanderbilt Yard

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Alert (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, April 23, was circulated at 2:27 pm Thursday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, indicates new--and, potentially, disruptive--work at the Vanderbilt Yard.

At night and on weekends, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) will use a portion of the yard lighting near the Atlantic Avenue LIRR Access Ramp for security reasons. This is expected to continue through September. No specific hours were indicated.

At the LIRR's East Portal, at the intersection of Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues, test pit work will be performed during these two weeks to identify National Grid and Con Edison underground gas and electric services nearby. This work will be completed at night because of Department of Transportation permit stipulations. The amount of noise is unclear.

As in the previous update--not sure it is continuing, or just has be…

My free Jane's Walk on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park/Barclays Center: Friday, May 4, 5:30 pm

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) is again sponsoring Jane's Walk in New York City May 4-6, part of "a global festival of free, citizen-led walking tours inspired by urban activist Jane Jacobs."

Numerous tours are available over those three days, with no reservations required--just show up. And on Friday, May 4, at 5:30 pm, I'll be offering my now-annual tour of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn/Barclays Center:
Explore Brooklyn’s Most Contested Real Estate Project  See what’s been built (arena plus 4 of 15 towers) and what’s coming within Atlantic Yards (in 2014 renamed Pacific Park Brooklyn), and learn the project’s tangled history, shifting timetable, changing ownership, and ongoing question marks. The tour should last about 1.75 hours, depending on how many people show up and how fast we move.

Meeting point, ending point

We meet outside the Barclays Center--many subway lines available--on the arena plaza, under the oculus (opening to the sky), next to…

Report: construction costs keep rising in New York City

On 4/16/18, Crain's New York Business reminded us that Sky-high construction costs rose again in 2017, though the 3.29% increase between Q1 2017 and Q1 2018 was actually less than that in the country as a whole, according to a report from thjje consultant Rider Levett Bucknall,

Still, New York City remains world's most expensive place to build, which affects not just market-rate construction but all construction--hence the need for subsidies and also not-so-affordable below-market housing.

The graphic below, from the report, cites hard construction costs--so, omitting things like design and legal--based on dollars per square foot of gross floor area.

Note that, in New York City, building below-ground parking ($125-$200/square foot) can be quite expensive, as is building office space ($375-$575/sf prime, $300-$400/sf secondary). Apartment construction ranges from $200-$375/sf.

No wonder developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park wanted to reduce the amount of parking.


From City & State NY: "No, Mikhail Prokhorov doesn't 'own' the Barclays Center"

I have an op-ed at City & State NY, headlined No, Mikhail Prokhorov doesn't 'own' the Barclays Center, which begins:
The recent sale by Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov of 49 percent of the team to Taiwanese-Canadian businessman Joseph Tsai was announced by the Nets as not affecting the team’s arena, the “Barclays Center, which will continue to be wholly owned by (Prokhorov's) Onexim Sports and Entertainment.”
The shorthand dates back at least to 2012, when the arena’s developer Bruce Ratner was regularly dubbed the building’s majority owner, such as in a press release from the Barclays Center he controlled, or in a 2015 press release from Ratner’s parent company.
...The claim that the arena is privately owned matters because it obscures the difference between the arena and a related entity – the arena operating company – and conceals how public policies were designed to save wealthy businessmen Ratner and now Prokhorov tens of millions of dollars. For the exp…

Marty Markowitz on the Barclays Center, Atlantic Yards, and Brooklyn: "I still would always hope" jobs & housing would go to neediest

Recently, at a 2/22/18 Brooklyn Historical Society event featuring the most recent three Brooklyn Borough Presidents, I got to hear former BP Marty Markowitz's reflections and shtick--and, intriguingly, hear his typical enthusiasm for the Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park get met with general indifference, perhaps indicating ambivalence. More on that below.

So that sent me back to some other public appearances and interviews with Markowitz, who, not surprisingly, has steadily praised the project.

Tellingly, though, when pressed in late 2016 by a prepared interviewer, Tony Guida, on a 2005 statement that "The jobs and housing for this project will go to those who need it the most," Markowitz responded, deflectingly, "I still would always hope that it would go to those."

Of course, that's not what's happened, given the widely publicized struggles of affordable housing aimed at middle-class households or the demise of the much-anticipated tra…

Film dramatization of Kelo eminent domain case, Little Pink House, opening on Friday

The long-gestating film Little Pink House, dramatizing the 2005 Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision that galvanized opinion nationally regarding eminent domain--and unsettled eminent domain defenders--is screening Friday April 20 through Thursday, April 26 in Manhattan.

It's playing at the Village East Cinemas in the East Village and AMC Empire 25 in Times Square. At the Village East, director Courtney Balaker and real-life protagonist Susette Kelo (played by Catherine Keener in the film) will be doing a Q&A after the 7 pm screening on Friday April 20. (Here's one early--and mixed--review. Here's columnist Jeff Jacoby's supportive take, noting that the project for which Kelo's house was taken never panned out.)

The film is getting a boost from the libertarian Institute for Justice (IJ), which supplied lawyers for and drove publicity in the case, which, while a loss of Kelo and neighbors, spurred many but not all states to tighten eminent domain laws. Here…

Next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting May 8: what about the escalators on the arena plaza?

The next opportunity for updates on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, and to ask questions of the developer and the state, is the bi-monthly Quality of Life Meeting, sponsored Empire State Development (ESD) and scheduled for Tuesday, May 8 at 6 pm:
Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room Interested parties can send project-related questions, concerns, or suggested agenda items for the meeting to atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov.

There's no vertical construction ongoing or immediately planned. Here are a couple of issues I think we may hear about, beyond the requisite update on ongoing infrastructure, including the Vanderbilt Yard and, perhaps, temporary open space: progress on ensuring that the oculus on the Barclays Center plaza doesn't go off overnight.the condition of the escalator at the arena plazaHow about those escalators?
Regarding the latter, a resident recently alerted me with concerns the escalators emerging at the arena plaza, from the A…

More than ten years later, a judge's decision recognizing developer's commitment to community use of the arena looks unwise

The recent Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) championship games at the Barclays Center, the second such school tournament in the arena's 5.5-year history, sent me back to the promises that the arena would be more of a community arena, given promises in the 2005 Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signed by project developer Forest City Ratner to make it available at least ten times a year to community groups, at modest cost.

(An ownership group led by Forest City owned 55% of the arena operating company until 2016, when minority owner Mikhail Prokhorov bought the rest. The arena itself is owned nominally by the state to enable tax-exempt financing and exemption from property taxes.)

And that sent me back to the January 2008 decision, by state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden, in the case challenging the project's environmental review. Denying the community challenge, she wrote:
Petitioners argue that the sports arena portion of the Project does not fall within this statuto…