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Showing posts from October, 2018

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

Forest City quarterly results: 535 Carlton now 94% leased, 38 Sixth 80% leased (but still behind schedule)

Forest City Realty Trust yesterday issued a press release, Forest City Reports 2018 Third-Quarter and Year-to-Date Results, indicating positive news, including a significant growth in net earnings, a nudge up in net operating income, and a decline in debt.

"Results for the quarter and year to date met our expectations and demonstrate the strength of our operating properties and core markets, as well as the skill and dedication of our teams across the enterprise. They also reflect the ongoing execution of our strategies to further strengthen and focus our company," said David J. LaRue, Forest City president and chief executive officer.

There won't be any questions today, because, as a result of the 7/31/18 announced plan for "Forest City to be acquired by a fund of Brookfield Asset Management, the company will not conduct a third-quarter conference call with investors." That 7-5 vote by Forest City's board was highly contested, and is opposed by some members

In 2012 Penn discussion of Atlantic Yards plan, some lessons for megaprojects: "be honest about phasing: nothing ever gets built at once"

Remember the 2011 documentary Battle for Brooklyn (my retrospective)? Well, there was also the 2010 “docu-musical” In the Footprint: The Battle over Atlantic Yards by The Civilians (my review), which also focused on the tensions behind the project, depicting polarized communities.

The theatrical piece played in January 2012 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. It was presaged by a community forum titled Megaprojects: Can we balance individual and social good?, featuring Penn faculty members in conversation with other plays in the real-estate world.

I recently watched the video of the event, co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design, and while it began awkwardly from a mistaken premise (more on that below), some panelists offered enduring, if in retrospect rueful, wisdom regarding megaprojects. So it’s worth a look back.


Megaprojects: Can we balance individual and social goods? from PennDesign on Vimeo.

Setting the sta…

From the latest Construction Update: more, noisy work at the railyard

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Oct. 29 was circulated at 1:19 pm Friday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

There are relatively few changes from the previous update, but they do suggest more noise near the project's northeast end.

At the East Portal

Not only will demolition of the East Portal structure continue near Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues, it will now involve the "cutting and removal of structural steel," previously unmentioned, which in turn is said to trigger "appropriate noise and dust mitigation measures."

Pile drilling for East Portal Support of Excavation is expected to begin. Drilling will be conducted during daytime hours and appropriate dust and noise mitigation measures will be followed.

The westernmost travel lane on Vanderbilt Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street will be constrained, whil…

Two signs of change at the Brooklyn Paper: a pink cover, and a Brownstoner corner

Update: see bottom for another sign.

So, have the new owners of the Brooklyn Paper, Schneps Communications (now part of Schneps Community News Group), left any mark yet?

Well, the understaffed Brooklyn Paper remains scrappy, clever, and not so deep.

(Quick: check how many times Greenland USA has been mentioned in its pages. Do Brooklyn Paper readers even know the company now owns nearly all of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park? Then again, the Paper did cover the forced shutdownrevival, and new targeting of The Q at Parkside blog.)

But a couple of things are noticeable. First, the recent pink cover (right) and the pink shading on the web site, all in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A cover editorial, Why We’re Pink, by publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis (profiled rather gently in the Times last October as The Community Newspaper Queen of Queens), explains:
Our writers have valuable information for you, so read it and take action right away!
I am proud and privileged to …

A new Quality of Life Meeting, just five weeks after the previous one, though no date yet for delayed AY CDC meeting

Just five weeks after the most recent Quality of Life Meeting, in which community residents can query and hear updates from representatives of the developer and the state, well, there's another one.
The reason? The previous meeting was postponed, and the upcoming one is on the original schedule.
A message from Empire State Development, the state authority that oversees and shepherds the project:
The next Atlantic Yards Project Quality of Life Meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 13, 2018.
Please send Project-related questions, concerns, or suggested agenda items for the meeting to atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov. Tuesday, November 13, 2018 @ 6:00 PM
Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The issues at the last meeting included the project timetable, project monitoring, and plans for specific towers, notably B4, aka 18 Sixth Avenue. It's hard to see what will be new, but perhaps there will be more details on some other …

Key member of founding Ratner family opposes Forest City's acquisition by Brookfield

The pending Brookfield absorption of Forest City Realty Trust--subject of a contentious FCRT board debate and now a FCRT shareholder vote by Nov. 15--has hit a small bump, with a former company leader arguing that the board's 7-5 acceptance of the deal sells the company way too cheap.

In a press statement (also bottom) yesterday, first published in the Wall Street Journal, Albert Ratner, co-Chairman Emeritus and Former CEO (from 1975 to 1995), urged fellow shareholders to vote against the acquisition. Part of the founding Ratner family that has recently seen its power severely diminished, the 90-year-old Al Ratner controls about 1% of the shares.

His cousin, current Chairman James Ratner, owns 2.46% of the shares and has also indicated his intention to vote against the plan. The plans of other family members--who once collectively controlled the company as owners of now-defunct Class B stock--remain unclear. (The total percentage held by family members remains unclear to me.)

Broo…

In the wake of Staten Island Wheel's failure, another black eye for EB-5

In the wake of the latest black eye involving EB-5 investments, the case of the aborted Staten Island Wheel--which may deliver green cards (though not a lock) but seems far less likely to return the 412 investors' $500,000 each--it's worth looking at some other recent EB-5 news.

Chinese investors sue Nick Mastroianni over alleged EB-5 fraud, the Real Deal reported 10/15/18, citing a lawsuit against the founder of the U.S. Immigration Fund, the nation's leading regional center, or middleman, pooling those immigrant investors' funds:
According to a lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court last week, Mastroianni raised $99.5 million from 199 EB-5 investors for the Harbourside Place development in Jupiter. The deal was he would raise $100 million.
The complaint, filed through Miami-based Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider + Grossman, alleges Mastroianni intentionally structured the EB-5 investments so that he was one investor short for the $100 million, first-priority, …

So, will all EB-5 investors in Staten Island Wheel get their money back? I doubt it. They may not (all) even get green cards.

The Staten Island Wheel, a troubled, ambitious project to bring a giant ferris wheel to the waterfront, was canceled yesterday, as the Staten Island Advance first reported, with some $450 million money spent to little avail.

The question is what happens to the 412 immigrant investors, who invested $206 million ($500,000 each) with the hope of getting green cards for themselves and their family and, of course, getting their money back, perhaps with a slight measure of interest.
An ambiguous official statement
A press release from the EB-5 loan middleman, Can-Am Enterprises, a so-called regional center that typically earns significant fees on each deal: NEW YORK, Oct. 23, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- CanAm Enterprises is disappointed that the corporate entity behind the New York Wheel project has informed it that they have decided to suspend all development. The company, which made a $206 million loan to the developers of the New York Wheel through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, believes t…

Controversial Nassau Hub plan outside Coliseum: does "reasonably cooperate" clause let BSE Global steer the process?

We know that the Islanders' 25-year lease at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was not "ironclad" as claimed, and we know that there are question marks--notably regarding the cost of Long Island Rail Road service and the fairness of the RFP (request for proposals) process--regarding the planned arena at Belmont Park in Nassau County.

Now, as development proceeds in "The Hub"--the land surrounding the Nassau Coliseum, the largest undeveloped site in Nassau County and long the site for failed dreams--more questions arise, at least according to the New York Post and one rival developer, regarding the fairness of the process.

The Post cited the role of developer Scott Rechler, who Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed to the MTA and Port Authority boards and who since 2009--if you count associated family members and companies--has contributed nearly at least $548,982 to Cuomo campaigns since 2009.

More on that below, but do note that other coverage has been less critical and C…

On the passing of Islanders' owner, the genesis of Belmont (just after Barclays started) and some "ironclad" amnesia

Upon the passing of former New York Islanders owner Charles Wang yesterday, at 74, we learned a few things. Newsday's Jim Baumbach reported that Wang fought for years to keep Islanders on LI, even if it meant a Brooklyn detour, detailing not just his unsuccessful effort to win a referendum for a new arena in 2011 but the genesis of the now-planned Belmont arena:
New York Racing Association board member Michael Dubb, who partnered with Wang on a previous business deal, said he brought the idea of an Islanders arena at Belmont to Wang toward the end of 2015, around the time the Islanders were playing their first official games in Brooklyn.
“He always felt the team was a Long Island team and belonged here,” Dubb said Sunday. "Charles deserves all the credit. The Islanders don’t come back to Long Island without Charles.”
Wang was immediately intrigued with the idea, Dubb said. So on a December day they went to Belmont together in Wang’s car — Wang picked Dubb up at his office — t…

So, does increasing transit capacity foster gentrification?

Looming behind the 2003 Atlantic Yards proposal--and ever more present as the project has moved fitfully forward--is the question of gentrification: would the project further it, or help fight it? The answer, so far, is more of the former, though if built as proposed--with faster and more affordable below-market housing--that might be less pronounced.

(To clarify, I'm referring to residential gentrification in the overall study area within a 3/4-mile radius, not the blocks immediately near the project, some of which have stagnant retail.)

But it can't be teased out from everything else going on, notably the huge influx of market-rate units in Downtown Brooklyn, thanks to a rezoning, ostensibly to enable office space, that instead ushered in luxury towers. (The affordable units are significantly in a segment near the Brooklyn Academy of Music where city-owned sites lowered land costs and allowed the city to mandate some below-market units.)
So that leads to another question: do…

Executive Gilmartin gets continued kudos from local nonprofits, including "Robert F. Kennedy" award

It's a time-old tactic, mixing generosity, civic-mindedness, and surely strategy.

Consider: a real-estate executive who's built some impressive buildings but also generated controversy through failure to fulfill promises or less-than-gentle business tactics can burnish his or her reputation thanks to the halo from local nonprofits that raise funds from the honoree and/or their friends/colleagues.

We saw that when Bruce Ratner (then Executive Chairman) and MaryAnne Gilmartin (CEO) of Forest City Ratner (later Forest City New York) were honored in 2014, when the Municipal Art Society awarded them the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal.


And we saw it this past June when Gilmartin, now at L&L MAG, was honored by the DUMBO-based arts organization, St. Ann's Warehouse

The organization's announcement said, in part:
It’s Gala time again at St. Ann’s Warehouse! We hope you will join us on June 12th, 2018, where we will be honoring a few spectacular women for their stunning br…