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Showing posts from November, 2018

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

A dangerous situation for pedestrians and bicyclists at Atlantic and Vanderbilt (through January?)

Dangerous construction S on Vanderbilt at Atlantic. This cyclist will encounter a ped walking N in that makeshift painted reroute blindspot-plagued lane. The most vulnerable at greatest risk. ⁦@NYC_DOT⁩ ⁦@NYPD78Pct⁩ ⁦@cmlauriecumbo#bikenyc@AYReportpic.twitter.com/XkBdJsj4hL — mdrinkard (@mdrinkard) November 29, 2018
Walk or ride w me, see for yourself, crosswalk gone, painted bike lane concrete enjambed into car lane, no shoulder, peds use it. Thoughtless construction remediation puts peds and cyclists at risk of injury or death. @Pollytrott@cmlauriecumbo@BPEricAdams@CarlinaRivera — mdrinkard (@mdrinkard) November 29, 2018 So, what's been going on? The adjacent railyard is being reconfigured and upgraded as part of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, and the "safe work zone" being created apparently does not mean a safe zone for pedestrians and bicyclists.

However, the sidewalk on the west side of Vanderbilt Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street i…

As Nassau Coliseum reopens for NHL hockey, thanks to Cuomo contribution, a lingering question about who pays for key Belmont upgrade

The Nassau Coliseum has a re-do for major league hockey, as Newsday explains here and here:
The Islanders on Saturday will play Columbus in the first of 21 games this season at the Coliseum, and the first of at least 60 in the next three years before their new arena at Belmont Park is ready. New York State contributed $6 million to make sure the Coliseum arena fits NHL specifications, while the Islanders chipped in $4 million.
Additions include new locker rooms, and investments in dehumidification and ice plant redundancy — the NHL requires teams to have both the ability to maintain the ice, and a backup in case the primary ice plant goes down. There are also updates to the arena’s broadcast capabilities, with two new cameras pointed at center ice. Yes, that's $6 million of public funds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to put in to help both the Islanders and BSE Global, which operates the Coliseum and the Barclays Center, and has been eager--maybe desperate--to move games out of Bro…

Next AY CDC meeting will not be Nov. 29

Remember when I said pencil in Nov. 29 for a long-delayed meeting of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation? Well, it's not happening, and a new date has not yet been set, according to Empire State Development, of which the AY CDC is a subsidiary.

The advisory body, which is mostly toothless but sometimes ventilates project-related issues, is supposed to meet quarterly. It last met 3/29/18--an early second meeting of the year--which was eight months ago.

At the very least, we might hear some more questions--and partial answers from the developer--about the project's expected timetable, which remains very murky.

The loss of an editor at the Brooklyn Paper and more Schneps-i-fication, as networking events get big play

Beyond the pink cover and the Brownstoner Corner, the Schneps-i-fication of the Brooklyn Paper continues, as the new owners, now called Schneps Community News Group, have after two months replaced longtime Editor-in-Chief Vince DiMiceli with his Deputy Editor Anthony Rotunno.

No new Deputy Editor was announced--but a new (young) Digital Editor has been hired. It's a loss in institutional memory, given that Rotunno--no knock on him--has only been at the paper about 18 months and DiMiceli had decades of training young reporters who come and go.

The 11/15/18 article on the new editor didn't mention DiMiceli but said:
“We are thrilled to have Anthony leading our Brooklyn editorial team. His experience, vision, and passion will help us continue to improve, and be the leading source of local news across multiple platforms now and in the future,” said CEO and co-publisher Joshua Schneps. (That article, by the way, was attributed to the mythic "Moses Jefferson," who, um, doe…

Forest City’s corporate responsibility reports on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park mislead regarding MWBE contracting and affordable housing

Corporate responsibility reports, which document efforts toward gender equity, better governance, energy efficiency, and more, can burnish a company's brand both externally and internally, while pointing toward better performance.

But such reports can also serve as window dressing, especially when they lack candor or mislead.

Consider the two most recent annual reports from Cleveland-based Forest City Realty Trust (formerly Forest City Enterprises), whose New York subsidiary was the original developer of the Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn, and which retains a tiny 5% share going forward of what is now called Pacific Park Brooklyn.

"As a focused urban placemaker, Forest City has a well-rounded ESG (environmental, social and governance) program that helps us proactively address the issues that matter most to our stakeholders," said David J. LaRue, president and CEO, in a 6/26/18 press release.

Well, maybe. Passages regarding minority contracting and affordable hous…

Daily News op-ed: beware the costs of MTA upgrades to serve Belmont arena (where's Cuomo?)

The Daily News has shown openness to voices critical of the planned Amazon development and now the Belmont arena (but not Atlantic Yards), so it's interesting to see Stop the MTA's Belmont boondoggle: It's the last thing the cash-strapped transit agency should be doing, from Tammie Williams, a board member of the Belmont Park Community Coalition and the most vocal critic of that planned new home for the Islanders.

She writes:
Even as commuter rail and straphangers are bracing for more pain, there is a quiet boondoggle in the offing at Belmont Racetrack, where the state is considering a $300 million giveaway to billionaires like Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, who need a new train station as part of a plan to ram a hockey area and a shopping mall down the collective throats of Elmont, Floral Park and Southeast Queens.
If you thought our state was being short-sighted with Amazon in Long Island City, come to Belmont.
Empire State Development Corp. is telling the public the up…

From the latest Construction Update: work that was supposed to start two weeks ago now might start (including removal of substation)

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 was circulated at 4:40 pm Wednesday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

There are few changes from the previous update, given that no new buildings are under construction, with infrastructure work at the railyard the prime activity.

These updates can be confusing, since (see bottom) they indicate--in red--work that's supposed to be new but actually was forecasted in the previous update, but perhaps never actually started.

For example, portrayed as new is that "the Contractor will continue backfilling, compaction and tamping for Railyard storage tracks in Block 1121." Actually, that was in the last update, except the term "grading" was used instead of "tamping.

Also, "the demolition and removal of the existing Substation equipment and structures west of the 6th Avenue …

Greenland, issuing short-term bonds, said to be among developers facing risks. Its rating = "junk."

Greenland Holding Group, the parent company of Greenland USA (which owns most of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park going forward), is under some financial stress, not unlike other China-based developers. Perhaps that's why they were willing to sell three building sites in Pacific Park.

What does it mean beyond that? Well, we do know that Greenland has been pulling back from other U.S. projects, lowering its risk, and we do know that Greenland no longer has the deep pockets it once had.

"Greenland is the most aggressive of Chinese property developers," the Wall Street Journal reported in August 2014, adding that "Greenland can move quickly partly because of its strong balance sheet." That seems to have changed. So Greenland's overall moves should be seen against the backdrop of a weaker balance sheet.

Short-term debt, high interest rates

From Bloomberg, 11/19/18, Short-Dated Bond Spree by China Builders Flashes ‘Systemic Risk’:
China’s property developers are rushi…

Gilmartin, again, on the Barclays Center subway entrance

OK, it's part of her shtick. As I reported in March, former Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin lamented cost inflation in the subway entrance needed for the Barclays Center: "In the original pro forma, we had it for something like $6 million. It ended up costing $72 million."

Last month, as reported in the Real Deal 10/23/18 and similarly in Real Estate Weekly that day, Gilmartin used that anecdote to highlight the challenges in dealing with government agencies. From the Real Deal:
When building the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, she said, Forest City Ratner had proformaed the cost of a new subway entrance at $5 million. But when the company got a look under the sidewalk at all the corrosion in the subway, executives realized it would cost much more.
When Forest City went to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, though, the agency put all the cost of construction on the developer — $72 million.
“It was harder to build that entrance than it …

The delayed PowerPoint from last week's Quality of Life meeting

OK, I'd previously reported there was no PowerPoint presentation at last week's not-so-eventful Quality of Life meeting, and that was because of technical difficulties.

The document is below. One note is that the original URL, according to Empire State Development, indicates it's a presentation for the AY CDC, or Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, which might meet next week.

Otherwise, without greater annotation, it doesn't explain much beyond track work, East Portal work, building demolition (on the "bump" buildings that jut below Atlantic Avenue to the railyard), a plan for overnight work that very night, and a rather impenetrable diagram of MPT, or Maintenance and Protection of Traffic, at Vanderbilt and Atlantic avenues.
11 13 18 AYCDC Presentation or for Quality of Life meeting by Norman Oder on Scribd

Checking on the Legends Classic, which fills less than one-third the Barclays Center's capacity

Well, the Barclays Center may get some money-making open dates when it loses the albatross of an Islanders contract--and it's possible that day will come faster than 2021, given the push to moving all games to Nassau Coliseum while a new arena's being constructed.

But the arena might not be pushing for more college hoops. According to ESPN, last night's double-header at the GotPrint.com Legends Classic Presented by Old Trapper, had attendance of 5,967, despite listed capacity of 18,103. And, of course, the number of tickets distributed never equals gate count.

For tonight's doubleheader, featuring the championship and consolation games, only lower bowl tickets are even being sold--that helps with staffing--and a good number are available, according to Ticketmaster and as shown in the screenshot below.


That said, there may be other revenue streams beyond ticket sales. Note the two sponsors: GotPrint does business printing (duh), while Old Trapper, I learned, makes beef j…

#WeGoBig: Jeffries, Adams honor hip-hop artist in promos for Nets' expensive new jerseys

These well-done Brooklyn Nets promos involving Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Borough President Eric Adams, are telling in a number of ways, some unsaid.

They involve shots of the Brooklyn Bridge, interview snippets, murals of the late Christopher Wallace (aka the Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls), the Barclays Center, a basketball court named for Smalls, and kids playing basketball in some jazzy new jerseys. Oh, and a selective soundtrack.

Surely Jeffries and Adams think they, like the Nets, are honoring the Brooklyn hip-hop icon, while gaining a little buzz and cred for themselves.

They are, but they're also saluting the Nets, and the Nets are no charity. What's unsaid is that the hashtag #WeGoBig, and that jazzed up Brooklyn Nets logo--well, they're selling $80 shorts and $30 ballcaps.

It's notable to see Jeffries, who as Assemblyman had a sort of rope-a-dope position regarding Atlantic Yards, ultimately more positive than negative, thoroughly embrace the Nets, somethi…

New $300,000 disclosure statute for LLCs would identify every cash buyer at 550 Vanderbilt going forward

An 11/15/18 article in the Real Deal, Treasury dramatically sharpens LLC disclosure rules, tells us that there will be a lot more sunlight on all-cash real-estate deals pursued via limited liability companies, or LLC, aiming to identify those involved in money laundering or other illicit pursuits: The Treasury Department drastically increased the number of all-cash deals that are subject to its anti-money laundering rules on Thursday.
Starting Nov. 17, title insurance firms will be required to disclose the identity of LLC buyers who spend $300,000 or more on the real estate purchase.
Previously, the rule applied to cash deals above $3 million in Manhattan and $1.5 million in New York City’s other boroughs.  A good chunk of the condos at 550 Vanderbilt, in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, have been bought through LLCs, but many of those deals were under $1.5 million and, based on limited evidence, seem to have involved buyers from China.

The $300,000 threshold would've required every …

The 461 Dean modular failure gets downplayed again (in NY Times roundup)

On the front page of tomorrow''s Sunday Times Real Estate section, an article headlined Real Estate Technology: Try, Try Again (and in print "The Future Is Now, Maybe"), with a section on modular construction:
Roger Krulak, the chief executive of Full Stack Modular, likes to point out that with conventional building methods “almost every construction project is past deadline and over budget.” And he asks: “What other industry could survive that?” Krulak, of course, worked on the Atlantic Yards modular housing plan as an executive for Forest City Ratner before buying the new modular firm--originally FCS Modular, involving partner Skanska, then FC Modular--for an unannounced sum, perhaps a fire sale.

So that rhetoric, much like that before the very flawed effort to build B2 (461 Dean), should be taken with a grain of salt. And this rather tame account should be checked against my more critical February 2017 roundup article for TreeHugger.

Saving money?

The Times intervi…

Forest City Realty Trust shareholders, by significant margin, approve acquisition by Brookfield

Despite the significant questions raised by former CEO and co-Chairman Al Ratner, a lawsuit, as well as a deeply divided board, Forest City Realty Trust shareholders, in votes totaled yesterday, weren't swayed from approving an acquisition by Brookfield Asset Management.

So when the acquisition is completed, by 12/10/18, it will mark the end of a standalone company founded in 1920, as Forest City will become a part of a much larger corporation.

As detailed in previous articles, Forest City was considered undervalued, due to the complexity of its business, an atypical corporate structure (for most of its existence, not a real estate investment trust, or REIT), and a two-class share structure that left the founding Ratner extended family in control.

That share structure and a family controlled board was looked at critically by experts in corporate governance. Over the last few years, Forest City streamlined its operations, for example lowering debt and risk, turned over some board s…

From the Brooklyn Eagle: For Amazon HQ2 deal, Atlantic Yards serves as a warning

My article today, headlined For Amazon HQ2 deal, Atlantic Yards serves as a warning, begins:
The plan for a new Amazon complex in Long Island City, Queens, arrived this week with huge fanfare — at least 25,000 jobs! (over ten years). But we must remember that, despite gauzy estimates about public benefits, nothing is certain. So promises of jobs and tax revenue deserve deep scrutiny and continued oversight. For the rest of the article, click here.

Pencil in Nov. 29 for Atlantic Yards CDC meeting. Otherwise, not much progress reported at recent QoL meeting.

Update: see PowerPoint at bottom.

As expected, there was not a lot of news at the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting held two nights ago, 11/13/18, since the previous meeting was held just five weeks earlier.

Nor (because of technical difficulties) was there even a PowerPoint regarding the steady but not easy to grasp progress in work at the railyard. Work at the project's East Portal should be finished "hopefully end of March," said Greenland USA's Scott Solish, as should demolition of the "bump buildings" that jut out into the railyard from Atlantic Avenue.

Solish also made the surprise announcement--based on a late-breaking request--that a crane would be working in the railyard for four hours that night, beginning at midnight, to remove a Long Island Rail Road substation.

AY CDC 

Perhaps the most notable thing was that the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) might actually have its third meeting of the year, with a t…

As Forest City shareholder vote approaches, a lawsuit from former CEO Al Ratner aims to stall Brookfield deal (updated)

Updated: Forest City, according to the Plain Dealer, called Ratner's filing too late and charged he was trying to game the system. A judge denied the request to delay the vote, saying Ratner couldn't prove irreparable harm.

Citing “materially inaccurate information and omission of material facts” in the proxy statement produced for shareholders to evaluate the pending acquisition by Brookfield Asset Management, former Forest City Enterprises (now Forest City Realty Trust) CEO and co-Chairman Albert Ratner two days ago filed suit in federal court to postpone the special meeting of shareholders set for tomorrow, 11/15/18.

His goal: a more honest proxy statement regarding the firm’s potential value and the process behind the sale. (See press release, suit, and proxy statement at bottom.)

Ratner, building on themes expressed in three previous press releases, argues, more pointedly than before, that the sale, endorsed by Forest City’s board majority after a narrow 7-5 vote that fe…

Before Quality of Life meeting, a report slamming Barclays Center elevator (plus competing meeting to pull electeds)

Tonight's Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting--with a vague agenda and not much new since the previous meeting just five weeks earlier--is probably not the biggest meeting at that hour for public officials like Assemblyman Walter Mosley, Council Member (um, Majority Leader) Laurie Cumbo, and Rep. Yvette Clarke, and their staffers.

They'll be at a Crown Heights Development Town Hall from 6-9 pm, at Full Gospel Assembly at 131 Sullivan Place to discuss five major developments in the southern part of the neighborhood, including two near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Bedford Union Armory.

That out-of-service elevator at the Barclays plaza

That said, there is one piece of news that deserves some discussion tonight. Yesterday, the TransitCenter, a nonprofit organization concerned with--duh--transit, announced The El-Evaders, stating that "eight of New York City’s wealthiest real estate owners are shirking their legal obligation to maintain and operate their subway stat…