Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2018

Featured Post

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

The Barclays Center still has (mostly) a two-toned sidewalk, given dripping rust from facade. So much for that promised power wash.

Atlantic Ave. side Sure, it's hardly the biggest thing about the Barclays Center. But shooting some photos last week I was struck by the distinctly two-tone sidewalk visible bordering both Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, caused by rust dripping from the pre-weathered--but not fully pre-weathered--facade. And I was struck how the sidewalk repairs/replacements on Atlantic Avenue, below right, seem to be limited to structural rather than cosmetic issues, setting up a pattern in which rusty stains prevail. The problem was already visible less than two months after the arena opened, when the New York Times, on 11/27/12, reported : The deliberately rusted facade has dripped patches of bright orange onto some of the surrounding sidewalks, and left them looking as though a very tall and mischievous teenager had gone at them with a can of pumpkin-colored spray paint. Was this the plan? Atlantic Ave. patches Despite the pre-weathering in the factory, the panels were expected t

When de Blasio was asked about empty "affordable" units, he claimed "Atlantic Yards was done in a different time and place" (opposite day)

As I wrote yesterday in City Limits, Mayor Bill de Blasio's office, in coordination with developer Greenland Forest City Partners, in June 2017 orchestrated positive coverage of a "100% affordable" apartment building skewed to middle-income households, with consultant BerlinRosen--working for the developer and with a claimed "agents of the city" relationship with the mayor--serving as intermediary. Here's some more context. In a December 2017  interview with reporters from the then-closed local websites DNAinfo New York and Gothamist  (the latter has since reopened), de Blasio was asked (by DNA's Rachel Holliday Smith) about a stark smudge on his affordable housing record: nearly 100 apartments left empty at 535 Carlton , a "100% affordable" tower in the Pacific Park Brooklyn project (formerly Atlantic Yards). Half the apartments in the 298-unit building are aimed at middle-income households earning up to 165% of Area Median Income (AMI

From City Limits: De Blasio Emails Shed Light on how ‘Affordable Housing’ is Packaged for the Press

I have an article today in City Limits based on the "agents of the city" email trove that the mayor's office was forced to release, which it did last Thursday, just before the long weekend, De Blasio Emails Shed Light on how ‘Affordable Housing’ is Packaged for the Press . From the lead: The emails (below), pried loose after a lawsuit by NY1 and the New York Post, also show how media events are staged, and why consultant BerlinRosen —both unpaid advisor and a paid consultant to de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York nonprofit, which operated 2013-16—might be prized by real estate developers aiming to stay on good terms with de Blasio.... Though the Mayor’s Office claimed, as cited in the court decision, that the “withheld documents relate to communications in which Mr. [Jonathan] Rosen was not acting on behalf of any clients nor interests they represent,” but rather offered advice “represent[ing] solely the interests of the Mayoralty and the City,” clearly there were ove

From the latest Construction Update: East Portal work proceeds

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, May 28, was circulated at 12:16 pm Friday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners. B15 site (There was no explanation about why the previous update skipped a week.) No new vertical construction is planned for now, which is why the B15 site pictured at right, between Dean and Pacific streets east of the arena block, looks so barren at the north end. (There is some equipment at the south end.) Railyard work MPT (Maintenance and Protection of Traffic) installations for the East Portal Median Reconstruction is supposed to begin during this reporting period, according to the notice, though a  separate notice last week  said the first phase, the closing of the west crosswalk, was supposed to begin May 23. This MPT will close the south sidewalk, southern most travel lane, and south parking lane on Atlantic Ave ne

Outside 550 Vanderbilt, a reminder about dogs

I wrote two weeks ago about how the lack of open space in Prospect Heights means that new residents (presumably) are using Dean Playground, with artificial turf and a ban on pets to walk their dogs and, in some cases, leave deposits. Dogs are allowed in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park open space behind 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt, as long as they're licensed, vaccinated, and leashed. However, as the photos below from the back and front of 550 Vanderbilt show, the dog owners may need a reminder. (Smokers, too.) On the back wall designating 550 Vanderbilt open space Outside the front of 550 Vanderbilt

NYC issues modular construction RFP in East NY, but building would be far smaller than 461 Dean

Photo: HPD, via Crain's City issues first affordable housing RFP requiring modular construction , reported The Real Deal 5/24/18 regarding a city-owned parking lot in East New York. It's part of a new city push for mid-rise (not high-rise) affordable modular construction, avoiding the potential hazards that emerged from Bruce Ratner's grand plans. Indeed, on 3/1/2018, the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development issued a Request for Expressions of Interest regarding a modular construction pilot program, especially regarding "market participants knowledgeable about mid-rise plus (4+ story) multifamily, supportive, and senior housing development." “The Grant Avenue RFP will be key to developing our understanding of how modular housing can work for the New York market," said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, in a statement reported by the Real Deal.  The site, at 581 Grant Avenue, is on the corner of Pitkin and Grant Avenue, adjacent to t

Another development executive leaves Forest City New York

In another sign of Forest City New York's diminished capacity, a key development executive on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, and other projects, has left the company. As the Commercial Observer reported yesterday,  Oxford Properties Hires Forest City Exec to Run NY Development : Oxford Properties Group has hired Forest City New York Senior Vice President Kate Bicknell as a vice president and the head of its New York development team, Commercial Observer has learned. Bicknell, who spent 13 years at the New York arm of Cleveland-based Forest City Realty Trust, officially joined Oxford on Monday. In this role, she will guide the redevelopment of the 1.3-million-square-foot St. John’s Terminal, which Oxford and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board purchased for $700 million from Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group earlier this year, as CO previously reported. St. John's Terminal? It's a mixed use complex at the West Village waterfront, at  550 Washington Street ,

Quietly, state board last month approved expanding how required annual payments can support Barclays Center operations & maintenance

Yesterday, I wrote about how the sale of the Brooklyn Nets to Joe Tsai had essentially rescued the Barclays Center finances, because it created a new reserve fund. There's more to the story, though we don't have all the details. On 4/10/18, the little-known Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), the state entity set up to issue tax-exempt bonds for the arena, held a little-noticed meeting. The parent Empire State Development (ESD) posted a media advisory but not board materials. (I've asked for them, but got no response. Transparency!) At 12:16 of the video , though, there's an interesting passage in which the BALDC board approved allowing a broader range of operating and maintenance spending to come from an account funded by the required annual payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs. That in turn lowers the burden on the arena operator, a company owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, to otherwise to contribute to operating and maintenance. But the contours

Moody's: Sale of Nets to Tsai rescued Barclays Center finances, bolstering bonds above "junk" despite negative outlook

The recent blockbuster sale of 49% of the Brooklyn Nets by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to fellow billionaire Joe Tsai—a deal valuing the team at $2 billion-plus and which is expected to lead to Tsai’s full control of the Nets by 2021—didn’t just represent a big payday for Prokhorov. It also provided a crucial backstop to the uncertain finances of the Barclays Center operating company, now owned by Prokhorov’s Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BS&E), which has consistently reaped far less of a profit than expected, due in part to a bad deal with the New York Islanders. Though the $1 billion transaction with Alibaba tycoon Tsai did divert additional revenues from the arena to the team, as ratings agency Moody’s explained May 14, it also allowed Prokhorov to create a $345 million reserve fund to deliver supplemental revenue and ensure that bondholders are repaid. That cushion safeguards BS&E against a downgrade of the bonds, from the lowest rung of investment-grade—

Work zone to begin tomorrow at Atlantic and Vanderbilt for LIRR East Portal project

According to a Community Notice sent yesterday from Pacific Park Brooklyn, temporary changes to the roadway around Vanderbilt and Atlantic avenues are scheduled to begin tomorrow, Wednesday, May 23.  No time frame or duration was provided. This work was not previewed in the latest two-week Construction Update , dated May 14. From the notice: As part of the construction of the Long Island Rail Road East Portal project, the center median of Atlantic Avenue will be reconfigured at the intersection of Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues. To accommodate this work, the west crosswalk of the intersection of Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues will be closed beginning on on Wednesday, May 23. Pedestrian traffic across Atlantic Avenue will be detoured as per the diagram below. Also, the westbound B45 bus stop on Atlantic Avenue will be relocated one block west, moving from the northwest corner of Vanderbilt Avenue to the northwest corner of Clermont Avenue. Please note that this is the firs

Remember how ESD predicted that middle school would open in fall of 2018? It looks like 2021 at best.

Joining Bruce Ratner's unreliable prediction of 2018 project completion should be the prediction, just two years ago, that the promised middle school--dubbed M.S. OneBrooklyn by advocates--would open this year. Consider the 7/18/16 letter (below) from Howard Zemsky, President and CEO of Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, as first published 8/16/18. Responding to concerns raised by Assemblymember Walter Mosley and fellow legislators, Zemsky wrote, "A district wide middle school is also expected to open in the Fall of 2018." As of then, that was doubtful. I'd written a month earlier that the plan for 664 Pacific, a 27-story market-rate rental building with a school at its base, was delayed, and project documents suggested it would be a four-year buildout. As I reported, a court file revealed that a representative of developer Greenland Forest City Partners said excavation and construction at the site would ta

A 550 Vanderbilt footnote: the Development Agreement is expected to be modified (for Site 5, most likely)

Stay tuned, all of those waiting for action on the seemingly stalled Site 5 project . Well, a change was (seemingly) contemplated as of June 2015, when the Offering Plan for the 550 Vanderbilt condominium was filed with the New York State Attorney General. As excerpted below, it indicated that there would be a modification to the project's governing Development Agreement, to be approved at a later date. The most obvious candidate is Site 5, given that it requires first a revision to the project's guiding Modified General Project Plan, in order to move bulk approved for another site, B1 (aka "Miss Brooklyn") across the street, and then surely an amendment to the Development Agreement between the state and developer. From the 109th page of this document , part of the Offering Plan: WHEREAS, in order to effectuate the intent of the MGPP, Declarant and affiliates of Tenant entered into: (i) that certain Development Agreement, dated March 4, 2010, as first amended

ANHD chart: affordable housing still threatened in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights (Brooklyn CBs 3 & 8)

Recently, the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) released the 2018 edition of their annual housing risk chart, How is Affordable Housing Threatened in Your Neighborhood? As the organization explains , each year, it collects a variety of indicators of key threats to affordable housing in the city that illustrate issues and patterns that are specific to each community district, as well as the city as a whole. This year’s housing risk chart shows displacement is a growing crisis. The neighborhoods losing the most affordable rent stabilized units between 2015 and 2016 are Astoria (634), Central Harlem (500) and Bedford Stuyvesant (460), or Brooklyn Community Board 3. In Brooklyn, Bedford Stuyvesant had the most new residential units approved, with over 1,000 new units in 2017. It also had a dramatic decline (-81.8%)  in home purchase loans made to low- and moderate-income buyers, as did Brooklyn Community Board 6, Park Slope/Gowanus/Red Hook (-85.7%).

Yes, Gilmartin says she expects Site 5 to be built, rejects her company's original "urban planning decision"

So, former Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York MaryAnne Gilmartin, whose new company L&L MAG has a service contract to represent Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, wants to see Site 5 built. Of course. As reported yesterday by The Real Deal,  Adding some zeroes: Is Pacific Park ready for a 1M sf office tower? : Building a 1 million-square-foot-plus tower with significant office space at site five — occupied by P.C. Richard & Son and a Modell’s — would help amend that, she said during a panel at TerraCRG’s Only Brooklyn conference on Wednesday. Such a building would require public approvals and the transfer of air rights from the arena. Those rights were once pegged for a 62-story skyscraper next to the arena, designed by Frank Gehry and dubbed “Miss Brooklyn.” “To me, at the end of the day, it seems to me a much better urban planning decision to put more density on that site than to muck up our beautiful arena by landing a building in front of it,” she told The Real Deal af

Developer debuts West Portal, easing LIRR path to terminal; upgrades said to be worth $500 million!

Newsday and two TV stations seem (so far) to be the only news outlets covering the unveiling of the operational West Portal to Atlantic Terminal, an upgrade to the Vanderbilt Yard that allows trains being stored and serviced to go directly to the commuter tracks rather than perform a more time-consuming and awkward maneuver. (I wasn't invited to the press event.) Newsday reported yesterday, in LIRR: New path to Atlantic Terminal may ease commuter delays For more than a century, routing a train from Atlantic Terminal into the yard, where it would be cleaned and serviced, required a complicated and time-consuming set of movements. Trains would have to travel east from the station about three-quarters of a mile, and then back west again through the only portal leading to the adjacent outdoor rail yard. The movement, which takes about three minutes to complete, would block all train traffic into and out of the station until the tracks were clear. That should ease potential and

Sports betting legalized, as NBA sought; now it's up to the states; Nets looking forward

Sports betting is coming, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, and it will have to affect sports fandom in New York City, as well as the atmosphere around venues like the Barclays Center, which, after all, already has the Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza . It is legalizing what is now an underground economy, and, as in London , there may be numerous legal betting outlets, with the ability to bet on various aspects of the game (quick: how many assists will LeBron get?) and gambling companies will be advertisers and sponsors. Gambling and the point spread will be part of game analysts' discourse. And there will be the collateral damage of problem bettors and, perhaps, some shady behavior (though there will be new safeguards). Nets are poised to cash in on new sports-betting freedoms , the New York Post's Brian Lewis reported yesterday, noting that the recent high valuation for the Nets reportedly agreed to by Joe Tsai, who just bought 49% and will buy the rest, is bolstere

From the latest Construction Update: potentially disruptive railyard work continues (document's a week late)

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, May 14, was circulated at 12:58 pm yesterday by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners. That seems only slightly late to alert people to construction work, but, actually, they missed a week. The previous two-week Update was issued for April 23. Why were they so sloppy? I don't know; my query about the delay hasn't yet gotten an answer. But there's no new vertical construction or much, if any, new infrastructure work. Some of what was predicted in the previous Update regarding potentially disruptive work at the Vanderbilt Yard continues, though it appears in red in the document below, which indicates new work, though it's not. Much concern was raised about Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) construction impacts at the recent Quality of Life meeting; a representative of Empire State Development (ESD), the state authorit

How Trump lawyer Michael Cohen played EB-5 intermediary for major middleman (that's also worked on Atlantic Yards investor visas)

The original 5/9/18 Wall Street Journal article, Trump Lawyer Helped Recruit Corporate Client With Ties to Kushner Probe , subtitled "U.S. Immigration Fund LLC, which supplied Chinese investors to Kushner Cos., is among clients Michael Cohen delivered to Squire Patton Boggs," is paywalled, but it's a doozy. The gist: the EB-5 investor visa program is just as sketchy as we suspect, and a key national figure in it--who's raised money for Atlantic Yards--is at the heart of it. (Also see derivative coverage in The Hill,  Cohen referred client with Kushner ties to lobbying firm , and the New York Times,  How Michael Cohen, Denied Job in White House, Was Seen as Its Gatekeeper .) From the WSJ lead: President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen helped a law and lobbying firm land a corporate client with ties to Kushner Cos., the family company of White House adviser Jared Kushner that is currently the subject of a federal probe. Under a 2017 contract

Dean Street Block Association considering expansion to "represent northern Prospect Heights" near Pacific Park

The Dean Street Block Association (DSBA), which represents residents on Dean Street between Sixth and Vanderbilt avenues, is considering expansion, forming "a single neighborhood organization to represent northern Prospect Heights." (Presumably, the name would change.) Shadowing that, it seems, is response to the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project. DSBA members have absorbed significant project impacts, and have led efforts to monitor the project. According to a post on the group's web site, a meeting Monday will address the possibility of including St. Marks, Carlton, and 6th Avenues, as well as Bergen, Dean and Pacific Streets. The meeting will be held at 7 pm at the Community Room at the Latin Evangelical Free Church, 506 Bergen Street . "This is a special area with shared issues," the post states. "We have a history of working together successfully." The DSBA has held public meetings nearly every month since 2004. "The area we are p