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Showing posts from June, 2018

Next Quality of Life Meeting to be held July 10, not July 17

Change your calendars. The next Atlantic Yards Project Quality of Life Meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, rather than July 17, as previously planned, according to a message from Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project.

Project-related questions, concerns, or suggested agenda items for the meeting can be sent to atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov. The meeting is an opportunity to get an update on construction plans and potential neighborhood impacts.

The details:
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 @ 6 pm
Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Where the Borough President really stands on 80 Flatbush

I have an article in The Bridge headlined How the Borough President Is Essentially Backing 80 Flatbush, with a deck: "While he would chop one tower's height 39%, [Borough President Eric] Adams proposes just a 12% cut in bulk, plus benefits like a new subway entrance."
The relevance to Atlantic Yards is that Adams's basic support for the giant two-tower project suggests a precedent for the percolating--though not yet officially proposed--two-tower project suggested for Site 5 of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, just two blocks away down Flatbush Avenue.

Bloomberg news: Forest City Realty Trust has restarted talks on potential sale to Brookfield

Forest City Realty Trust (FCRT) stock jumped more than 14% yesterday, after Bloomberg reported that Forest City Realty Is Restarting Deal Talks With Brookfield, thus resuming a potential sale of the company to the giant, Toronto-based asset manager.

That suggests a reversal in strategy. FCRT in March, after its board concluded a six-month review of strategic alternatives, announced that it would remain a standalone company, albeit while replacing 9 of 13 board members, with new roles for hedge funds critical of the company, and further diminishing the role of the founding Ratner family.

(My long retrospective on Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York for The Bridge was timed to appear just before the parent company's expected decision.)

Two potential transactions before March

News coverage before that March announcement concerned two rumored transactions, one with Chicago-based Equity Commonwealth, the other with Brookfield Asset Management. A large company (Brookfield, suggested …

Yes, unfilled 38 Sixth middle-income affordable units now marketed outside of housing lottery, including on StreetEasy

It was predictable, wasn't it? As I wrote last November for City & State, in Simplistic math mangles the odds of affordable housing lotteries, it was a "good bet" that, as with the example of the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton that I described in City Limits in April 2017, "many of those not-so-affordable apartments" at the similar Pacific Park building, 38 Sixth, "will be hard to fill."

The building is all below-market, but 152 of the 303 units are for decidedly middle-income households. At least five such middle-income units are now on the open market, as described below, with two-bedroom apartments at $3,206 a month and three-bedroom ones at $3,695. (Studios are $2,121 and one-bedrooms are $2,663 at 38 Sixth.)

While 89,704 households filed applications for 303 apartments, the interest, understandably, skewed strongly toward lower income units. Only 1,876 households fit the income guidelines--up to 165% of Area Median Income (AMI)--for …

Post: expected next Council chief of staff worked until recently for lobbying powerhouse Kasirer (including on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park)

Business as usual. The New York Post's Anna Sanders reported yesterday, in Council speaker’s next chief of staff was a top lobbyist:
Speaker Corey Johnson is expected to promote an ex-lobbyist to become the Council’s powerful chief of staff.
Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Goldman, once a top lobbyist with the city’s most profitable firm, is poised to replace his boss Ramon Martinez, several Council members told the Post.
The chief of staff advises lawmakers, keeps Council members in line and whips votes. Martinez was the Council’s highest paid employee, making $235,512 last year, and is headed for a gig at Chase bank.
Before Johnson first hired Goldman this winter, he had no experience in city government. Goldman was a VP at Kasirer, which made $11.48 million last year, and worked for the United Federation of Teachers. His Kasirer clients included real estate interests like Brookfield Properties and Forest City Ratner, plus the Hotel Association of New York. Goldman was hired in Febr…

Forest City wins skirmish in modular case after Court of Appeals decision, but battle continues

The long-running legal battle between Skanska USA Building and Forest City New York (and affiliates) over responsibility of cost overruns in the ill-fated modular project recently saw a partial win for the latter in the New York Court of Appeals.

In a decision dated 4/26/18 (but only recently made public), the court agreed that lower courts properly dismissed part of Skanska's claim, which alleged that Atlantic Yards B2 Owner, the special purpose entity that owned the building now known as 461 Dean, had breached the Construction Management and Fabrication Services Agreement (CM Agreement) by allegedly failing to comply with a state law.

Skanksa noted that Forest City's lease with Empire State Development (ESD), which formally owns the project site, requires that it to "satisfy all requirements of Section 5 of the New York State Lien Law . . . as such requirements and law are interpreted from time to time by [ESD]."

Skanska alleged that B2 Owner breached the CM Agreem…

An architectural critic's thoughts on revisiting buildings, and why that applies to the Barclays Center

What do architecture critics think of the state of architecture criticism today?, asked the Architects Newspaper 5/21/18, assessing a media environment with fewer paid critics, more online opportunities, and evolving challenges in assessment.

Justin Davidson, architecture and classical music critic for New York magazine, offered a thoughtful quote, excerpted below, noting that critics must also be reporters and that criticism usually goes beyond esthetics (an indirect knock, some might say, against previous critics like the New York Times's Herbert Muschamp):
In order to be effective, architecture critics have to look beyond architecture. I got into this business because I loved writing and I loved beautiful buildings. The deeper I dive, the more aware I am of the overlapping areas of expertise that get called into play every time the easy equipment shows up: finance, planning, zoning, activism, preservation, politics, performing arts, engineering, retail, gentrification, transit,…

Some reading: Islanders arena, a project in DUMBO, EB-5

A few links, the first two by me...

CityLab: The Costs Behind Hockey’s Return to Long Island

The Bridge: How a Huge New Project Will Change the Face of Dumbo

The Real Deal: Chinese EB-5 investors in major New York developments want their millions back (no mention of Atlantic Yards; also see this post by attorney Douglas Litowitz, The EB-5 Program Is Legally Defective And Has Become A Scam)

At "Community Conversation," vague discussion about delayed middle school, NYPD parking at garage

A couple of nuggets of Atlantic Yards-related information emerged at the "District 35 Community Conversation" on June 9 held at PS 9 in Prospect Heights, with representatives from several government agencies.

Though purportedly co-sponsored by Assemblymember Walter Mosley, Council Member Laurie Cumbo--er, Majority Leader, as she introduced herself--and her staff got all the introductions.

That delayed middle school

What's the current status of the middle school promised for the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site? "The SCA [School Construction Authority] is not actually building the school," commented Tamara Smith, an SCA community relations manager. Rather, that's the job of the developer (which she referred to as Forest City Ratner, rather than Greenland Forest City Partners).

"But the developer got into a series of litigations, so the school building has been on hold," she said. "When they are done with legal," the design process will res…

In Hey BK podcast, Regina Myer says: "No one in the early 2000s understood how strong the residential market would be in any place in Brooklyn"

Given that real estate executive Ofer Cohen now chairs the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, as I wrote yesterday, I thought I'd again check out his Hey BK podcast, in which he interviews various people in the real estate world. (Here's coverage of the previous MaryAnne Gilmartin episode.)

Cohen in April interviewed his future partner, Regina Myer, President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and formerly head of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, and previously heading the Department of City Planning's Brooklyn office.

At about 8:18, after talking about development in Williamsburg, Cohen observed, "You guys probably had no idea residential development was going to take off. Nobody had the idea that rents are going to go up and support the residential development that eventually happened in such massive scale."

"No one in the early 2000s," Myer replied, "understood how strong the residential market would be in any place in Brooklyn.&…

Head of Terra CRG, with office across from AY/PP site, now Chair of (expanding?) Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

From the Commercial Observer, 6/4/18, TerraCRG Chief Ofer Cohen Tapped to Chair Downtown Brooklyn Partnership:
Ofer Cohen, the founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based commercial brokerage TerraCRG, has replaced MaryAnne Gilmartin as the chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s board of directors. [Note: the board list hasn't yet been updated.]
...The longtime investment sales broker has served on the board of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership since 2014, in addition to serving on the boards of directors for the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation. Under his leadership, the local development corporation will continue to pursue its goals of creating a business-friendly environment, producing new office space and attracting new companies and amenities to Downtown Brooklyn. Gilmartin expressed pride in the work accomplished; she in January co-founded L&L MAG, with a broader focus than Brooklyn, so presumably she has less focus on the borough.

From the article: …

In print, NYT Real Estate section shows tiny shot of 550 Vanderbilt open space

Hey, I missed something when I wrote about the online version of today's New York Times Real Estate section cover story, New Parks Sprout Around New York, The print version does not include the photo of the 550 Vanderbilt open space that was posted online but rather included a tiny, narrow-focused shot, below, looking east.

Yes, look to the bottom left of this screenshot.


Below is the image, looking west, that showed more of the 550 Vanderbilt open space, but also indicated how limited it is (and, as I wrote, misleadingly said the remainder of the open space would be behind the fence, which is rather the site for two new buildings).


Here's a better look at the scope of the open space, regarding 535 Carlton, which is in the distance of the photo above.


And here's the schematic. 550 Vanderbilt is B11, 535 Carlton is B14.



From the latest Construction Update: East Portal work and Barclays sidewalk replacement

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, June 11, was circulated at 9:58 am Friday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

No new vertical construction is planned for now, and there's not much change from the previous update.

Barclays Center sidewalk work continues, with with daytime work on Sixth Avenue in front of Sugar Factory for sidewalk and plaza replacement. Night time work will resume Monday night thru Friday night on Atlantic Avenue, with sidewalk chopping and subsequent new concrete to be poured in these areas.

This both fixes cracked sidewalks and, as I wrote, obviates the need to clean sidewalks deeply stained by dripping rust.

Railyard work at East Portal

Installations of Stage 1 MPT [Maintenance and Protection of Traffic] for the East Portal Demolition/Reconstruction will continue, closing close the south sidewalk, southern-most travel lane, …

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment rebrands as BSE Global

A press release 6/7/18, BROOKLYN SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT INTRODUCES NEW BRAND IDENTITY: BSE GLOBAL
BROOKLYN – Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has launched a new company identity, BSE Global. The rebrand comes as BSE has grown its broad portfolio of venues, teams, partnerships and emerging businesses, extending its roots beyond Brooklyn.
To complete the rebrand, the company has opened a new global headquarters in Industry City, Brooklyn, one floor beneath the Brooklyn Nets’ HSS Training Center. The move unites the organization’s business and basketball teams under one roof.
Located just one subway stop from Barclays Center, the office occupies 70,000 square feet on the seventh floor of the historic waterfront warehouse, which was built over a century ago. The space underwent a full renovation and features an open floor plan with custom furniture by Brooklyn-based powerhouse West Elm. TPG Architecture, which served as the architect of record and interior design firm in the refit, c…

Guess what, de Blasio owes a politically connected law firm, Kramer Levin

A New York Post editorial, 6/8/18, De Blasio opts to stay a deadbeat:
Mayor Bill de Blasio is in no rush to pay the $300,000 he still owes for legal fees he ran up while facing a state probe of his pay-to-play political fundraising. Indeed, it looks he’ll never cough up the dough himself: He wants the City Council to pass a law so he can get lobbyists to pay it for him.
He can’t dump the cost on city taxpayers, as he has with another $2.6 million in fees (after long insisting that he wouldn’t). And he won’t sell some real estate to clear the debt.
But Speaker Corey Johnson says the council’s not giving him the law he wants anytime soon — one that would let him take fat-cat donations for a legal-defense fund. As the Post notes, the bill is "owed to a firm, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, whose lobbying arm represents clients that have business before the city."

Kramer Levin is not actually listed as a lobbyist for Forest City New York or Greenland Forest City Partners. But…

Times Real Estate section promotes "new parks" at developments, lets Serhant make self-serving claim about 550 Vanderbilt, acknowledges slow pace a problem

New Parks Sprout Around New York, declares the New York Times Real Estate section, in a front-page article just posted, and, while not ignoring criticism of the Pacific Park open space, inevitably gets things wrong and fails to tease out distinctions between fractional space like the latter and public open space delivered in full, earlier in the development.

Writes C.J. Hughes:
New parks are coming to life across the city, many courtesy of new apartment complexes, which, in addition to the usual extras, are offering swaths of switch grass and swamp oaks, waterfalls and fountains, benches and boulder-lined paths.
And although these nods to nature are created by developers and are on the grounds of condo and rental buildings, you won’t need to have a pricey apartment there to enjoy them. In a change from the residents-only courtyards of the past, these open spaces are truly open and, despite their private roots, can be used freely by the public. Get ready for the self-serving quote:
The…

Pacific Park buildings are aiming at LEED Silver. Advocates say rating system must upgrade on climate change.

According to the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park 2009 Modified General Project Plan from Empire State Development, "All of the Project buildings will be 'green' buildings, meeting, at a minimum, LEED certification, which is the recognized standard for measuring environmental sustainability of new buildings." 
That refers to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the "most widely used green building rating system in the world," issued by the U.S. Green Building Council.

According to a project fact sheet, all the buildings are "Designed and/or expected to gain LEED Silver." That's the second highest level. As the USGBC states, "Based on the number of points achieved, a project then earns one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum." ("The federal government now requires LEED Gold for every new building it constructs," according to CityLab.)

As I wrote, LEED bars smoking in com…

Greenland sells South San Francisco project, at a seeming profit

In a further confirmation of a retreat from a West Coast project and diminishing ambitions (as previously noted), Oyster Point Development, controlled by Greenland USA, has sold a 40-acre site in South San Francisco called Oyster Point, destined for office and science lab space.

The San Francisco Business Times reported 6/4/18 that Kilroy Realty's payment of $308 million, suggesting "a nice return on investment for the seller, which paid $171 million when it bought the fully entitled site" in August 2016.
That seems so, but surely the demolition and infrastructure work already begun has some costs, along with financing.

Barclays Center June 2018 calendar: seven ticketed events, plus four graduations and a private event

The Barclays Center has released its June 2018 Community Calendar. It contains seven publicly ticketed events, including six concerts and the NBA draft, plus one private event and four graduations.

While the graduations are not specified, a web search turns up Medgar Evers College (June 4), New York City Technical College (June 4), LaGuardia Community College (June 5), and Brooklyn Technical High School (June 25).

June is typically fairly slow. That compares with eight publicly ticketed events in June 2017 (below), plus an unspecified number of nonticketed events.

Pacific Park bans smoking in affordable buildings (plus condo common areas); where are "designated smoking areas"?

I wrote recently about the unintended consequences of the smoking ban at the 535 Carlton residential tower in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, with resident smokers going out on the sidewalk and even across the street. 
According to city housing lottery notices, smoke-free buildings include 461 Dean535 Carlton, and 38 Sixth. The latter two are "100% affordable," while 461 Dean is 50% below-market.
It's a little fuzzier at the condo building 550 Vanderbilt. This rental listing says it's smoke-free, but the Seventh Amendment to the Offering Plan for the 550 Vanderbilt condominium allows for smoking inside apartments: SMOKING AND ODORS
18.1. No cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoking is permitted in any of the public areas including but not limited to: stairways, hallways, roof deck, basement and elevators. Anyone entering the building or leaving a unit must extinguish all cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

18.2. Residents may not permit any offensive odors to emanate from their …

The real strategy behind broker Ryan Serhant's 550 Vanderbilt "takeover": a stealth cut in buyer costs

The Real Deal 5/22/18 published How to conduct a new development “takeover”, hailing super-broker Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers International and his team's ability to get 550 Vanderbilt, the only condo building in Pacific Park (formerly Atlantic Yards), from 65 percent to 80 percent sold.

The article suggests that the Nest Seekers team's secret sauce, after taking over from Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, might have been organizing "a community smorgasbord" with vendors from nearby restaurants and relying on, as the reality TV show star put it, "pure hard work and mass exposure.”

This omits two major factors. The first tranche of units at 550 Vanderbilt went to buyers in China, who signed on even before the official launch, thanks to Shanghai-based Greenland's connections there, as noted in Real Deal coverage.

Many of them are presumably less price sensitive than domestic buyers, as they want a piece of real estate in New York and also to get their money …

As dispute over Grammys charitable event emerges, evidence of a significant proposed Barclays discount

The Barclays Center plays an intriguing role--notably, its competition with Madison Square Garden and its apparent willingness to trade profit for prominence--in a music industry controversy that began simmering in late May.

As Variety reported in a 5/23/18 exclusive, Fired MusiCares Exec Accuses Grammy Chief of Steering Money From Charity to Cover Shortfall:
In a letter addressed to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees, which is holding annual meetings in Hawaii this week, former MusiCares VP Dana Tomarken accuses chairman/president Neil Portnow of choosing to steer money away from the charity in order to fund a deficit from this year’s Grammy telecast, and of brokering a deal to hold the organization’s annual Person of the Year event at a venue that left the charity with a significant loss in 2018 fundraising efforts, resulting in a projected $1 million for this year’s event, as opposed to $5 million in 2017. MusicCares offers emergency help to those in the music business. Tomark…