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Showing posts from August, 2018

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

Belmont Park environmental review: ESD studying LIRR service for arena events only, no analysis of cost and source of funding

Newsday's Randi Marshall, in a column 8/29/14, found a key twist in the saga of the planned arena at Belmont Park, built by a consortium including owners of the New York Islanders:
Responding to questions about the potential expansion of Long Island Rail Road service at Belmont, the state’s development agency offered this bureaucratese:
“. . . While there have been discussions regarding the provision of additional LIRR service for the retail village during off-peak periods during times with no arena events, the transportation analyses in the DEIS [the draft environmental impact statement] will conservatively assess future conditions with additional LIRR service provided to Belmont Park station for arena events only.”
Translation: Empire State Development will study providing extra service only during New York Islanders games, concerts, and other events at the new arena. However, Marshall inquired, and was told that officials at ESD said there is ongoing discussion about year-round…

What's happened to Atlantic Yards since Battle for Brooklyn? A lot

For those coming to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park new, the 2011 documentary Battle for Brooklyn by Suki Hawley, Michael Galinsky, and David Beilinson (my review) is a worthy introduction.

Though limited in scope at the time (it's just 93 minutes) and now overtaken by events, the film establishes for viewers an enduring taint on the project and its path to approval, with indelible scenes.

Indeed, that taint has been borne out since 2011, though not necessarily as anyone--including myself--expected. It's a "never say never project" (one of my five mantras).

What has been consistent has been the lack of accountability, part of what I call the "Culture of Cheating" (another mantra).

So much has changed since the film, which, after all, was released while the arena was under construction. (See this FAQ for current statistics on the project and this article for a retrospective on Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York, the company that launched the project.)

But s…

Five months later, there's still time (until end of September) for Atlantic Yards CDC to "meet quarterly" and ask about project timetable

The Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), according to a June 2014 document from Empire State Development establishing it, "shall meet not less than quarterly."

So, even though it's been five months--nearly two quarters--since the last meeting in March, which was the second meeting in 2018--there's still time, until the end of September, to meet that overall requirement. And though the AY CDC has been mostly toothless, it has added a measure of transparency, and put representatives of the developer on the spot.

And that upcoming meeting would be an appropriate time to ask representatives of the developer, Greenland Forest City Partners, several questions:

why they revised the estimated full project completion date to 2035, from 2025?why, if Forest City had revised its financial outlook to 2035 back in November 2016, the joint venture didn't change its estimate until May 2018?how the joint venture plans to fulfill its obligation to finish the a…

In Worcester, MA, sports economist Zimbalist backs a stadium deal, citing contingencies; other experts disagree

Remember Andrew Zimbalist, the sports economist who, boosting his clients, unwisely predicted Atlantic Yards would be a gold mine for the city and state? Not only were his methods non-credible, he assumed a full buildout on the most optimistic schedule--which, of course, didn't happen.

Well, he's back, working for a city helping recruit a team, rather than warning--as he has for most (but not all) of his career--that such deals are dangers.

Stadium deal watchdog Neil deMause has been keeping track of the effort by Worcester, MA, to draw the Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox, a Triple A team. As he wrote 11/7/17, Zimbalist was actually working for both Worcester and the state of Rhode Island at the time.

deMause, noting a similar episode, pointed out a January 2013 post that Zimbalist was working as a consultant for Major League Baseball while supporting a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, while omitting that client when talking to the Tampa Bay Times.

Fast forward to last week, when de…

Gotham Gazette Op-Ed: Running for Attorney General, James Takes Her Strong Atlantic Yards Record Too Far

I have an op-ed in Gotham Gazette, published last night, headlined Running for Attorney General, James Takes Strong Atlantic Yards Record Too Far.

A few excerpts:
So it was surprising and dismaying to hear James during two recent appearances inflate her significant and often brave record opposing the Atlantic Yards project, the arena-plus-towers development announced in 2003 when she was representing the 35th City Council District in Brooklyn.
...“Lastly, let me just say that I’m the only individual on this stage that’s actually taken a major developer all the way to the United States Supreme Court,

From Topic: Wall to Wall, Peter Krashes's essay (plus paintings) on art in public space

Check out Wall to Wall, an essay posted at the visual magazine Topic by Prospect Heights artist and activist Peter Krashes, taking off on--with his own paintings--the curious August 2015 block party in which muralists were hired to paint the giant green wall along Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues.

His essay, with paintings, also addresses his own block association's annual block party, and the 2013 block party sponsored by MTV to herald the Video Music Awards.

One relevant paragraph:
From my vantage point, the event seemed primarily directed toward the cameras and media in attendance. It was as if the artwork—mostly geometric abstractions—was curated to be an anodyne backdrop for Instagram photos and TV interviews. The murals would stay up for more than two years, but little construction seemed to be taking place behind the fence, as the developers failed to meet their own deadlines again and again.  Krashes writes, regarding a set of murals in San Francisco: [Ar…

The Times highlights 550 Vanderbilt tax savings, ignores the 421-a maneuver

A front-page story in the New York Times Real Estate section, headlined online as Minimizing the Pain of Trump’s Tax Law, describes how the new tax bite has, among other things, pushed buyers to seek out "buildings with tax abatements to reduce their costs."

From the article:
Some prospective buyers have focused their searches on buildings with tax abatements to limit their tax costs. Buyers at 550 Vanderbilt, a new development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, for example, benefit from a 25-year tax abatement. Owners of studios at the building pay as little as $18 a month in property taxes, compared to $563 a month without the abatement.
“It was a huge factor in our decision to buy here,” said Rebecca Miller, 33, who purchased a two-bedroom at 550 Vanderbilt with her husband, Adam Tau. “We got our recent tax bill, and it worked out to be about $42 a month. It would have been closer to $1,500 a month without the abatement,” she said.
Ryan Serhant, the associate broker with Nest…

Looking at the new site entrance ramp, from Sixth Avenue, now with curb cut

As noted in various Construction Updates, and in photos of its construction, a new site entrance ramp is being built into the railyard from Sixth Avenue, between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. Now there's a curb cut.

It will accommodate daily entry and maintenance vehicles and will be gated. "Ultimately there will be a garage on top of it," a representative of the developer said in July.

Yes, Pacific Park condo buyers were told in June 2015 of timetable wiggle room. But Forest City revised "overall project schedule" in Nov. 2016.

In the wake of the news that Greenland Forest City Partners by May 2018 started acknowledging that the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park buildout should last until 2035--instead of the previously projected 2025--that raises a question: when could they have acknowledged the new timetable?

Answer: I'd say November 2016, when Forest City Realty Trust (part of the joint venture with Greenland USA) announced a pause in the project and revised schedule, with a new financial model--though not necessarily timetable--lasting through 2035. That said, the fine print in the original Offering Plan for the 550 Vanderbilt condominium, filed in June 2015, left wiggle room, saying that the 2025 projection was subject to changing conditions.

In other words, it would've been unwise to have taken 2025 as a hard deadline. But it would've been wise to update the projection earlier, whether or not it was legally obligated (and I'm not a legal expert on condo disclosure requirements).

What buyers to…

Affordable housing by 2025: the Hunters Point South solution?

"Flex" in this case means City refusing subsidized financing to developer under its standard term sheets. Seems unlikely in current environment or any future scenario where a NYC mayor promotes creation of affordable housing. — Gib Veconi (@GibVeconi) August 22, 2018
8.8(d) calls 4 standard term sheets, which typically stipulate affordability levels. Capacity cd b issue, but developer wd still have 2 apply 4 financing 2 comply w 8.8(d). Side deal w mayor 2 refuse wd probably b illegal. 2025 concern is market & logistics, not subsidy. — Gib Veconi (@GibVeconi) August 22, 2018
Market & logistics means viability of building luxury units necessary 2 cross subsidize affordable. Unlikely project cd absorb next 1,470 units as affordable. — Gib Veconi (@GibVeconi) August 22, 2018
A wise man once wrote about #AtlanticYards, "Never say never." ;^) — Gib Veconi (@GibVeconi) August 22, 2018Yes, the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park plan was to assume cross-subsidization, ei…

"Unavoidable Delay": as Pacific Park faces timetable questions, some flex in the 2025 affordable housing deadline

Given ongoing question marks over the future of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, with the developer acknowledging the full buildout should take until at least 2035, rather than 2025 as previously projected, it's worth another look at the settlement announced in June 2014.

We know that the community negotiators, representing the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, were able to get the developer and state to commit to a May 2025 deadline for the project's 2,250 units of affordable housing, with seemingly stiff penalties for delay. (Here are the deal documents.)

But it's worth looking at that commitment again, since a close read suggests it came with some flexibility, given its connection to the Development Agreement. So I've bolded some passages for emphasis

(Also, of course, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park agreements have been modified in the past, though this one would seemingly require participation of a third party, the potential plaintiffs.)

Flex in the timetable?

The most significant…

From The Bridge: Developer Admits Pacific Park Project Will Take Until 2035

From my article published last night in The Bridge, Developer Admits Pacific Park Project Will Take Until 2035: The developers of the vexed Pacific Park Brooklyn development (formerly Atlantic Yards) have quietly acknowledged–in a non-publicized document–that the full 22-acre project, with 11 more towers planned beyond the four already open, likely won’t be finished until 2035.
That’s ten years later than the previous estimate of 2025, which remains the deadline for the 2,250 required units of affordable housing, of which 1,468 remain to be built. (The plan also calls for 3,720 market-rate units to be built; only 460 have been constructed so far.)
The new deadline is 32 years after the arena-and-towers project was announced in 2003, with an estimated ten-year buildout, and comes after enormous changes in the project plans, project ownership, and the apartment market in and around Downtown Brooklyn.The disclosure came in a document filed with the Attorney General's office, not anyth…

From the latest Construction Update: tenant fit-out work at towers; more work at railyard, plus curb cut

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Aug. 20, was circulated at 9:39 am yesterday (late) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

Though no new vertical construction is planned for now, there are some changes from the previous update, though some things were held over.

At the towers
At 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt, tenant fit-out work in the ground floor retail space will be ongoing.

Outside 535 Carlton, there will be a boom lift to caulk joints on the precast facade.

At the railyard
The contractor will begin backfilling, compaction and grading for railyard storage tracks in Block 1121, the eastern block of the railyard.

Pending approval of permits, work on a new curb cut at the site entrance ramp on Sixth Avenue may begin during this period.

A new Generator Attenuator structure from Pacific Street was expected to be installed during the previous two-week period, but …

Enter Brookfield, the global behemoth that's buying Forest City (and does 100 transactions a year)

The pending buyer of Forest City Realty Trust, the Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, is no peer. It's far, far bigger, #165 on the Forbes Global 2000 and #272 on the Fortune Global 500. (Greenland Holding Co., by the way, is #341 and #252, respectively, on those lists.)

As stated in the 7/31/18 press release announcing the Forest City deal:
Brookfield Asset Management Inc. is a leading global alternative asset manager with approximately $285 billion in assets under management. Brookfield has more than a 115-year history of owning and operating assets with a focus on real estate, renewable power, infrastructure and private equity. Brookfield offers a range of public and private investment products and services, and is co-listed on the New York, Toronto and Euronext stock exchanges... As Brookfield stated in its most recent annual report, it operates in more than 30 countries and has over 80,000 employees worldwide. The investment bank Evercore, reported The Real Deal 8/1/1…