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Showing posts from 2019

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

Years after misleading marketing for "Atlantic Yards II" EB-5 investment, controversy recurs: charges of fraud, countercharges of defamation (plus misleading information about project progress)

It's not surprising that the EB-5 investments, in which immigrant investors and their families get green cards in exchange for a $500,000 investment that purportedly creates ten jobs, might wind up in controversy.

After all, such investments were too often marketed in China with misleading information, enthusiastic U.S. government (and ex-government) officials unwisely vouching for projects, and distracting sideshows--to quote Fortune, "more like pitching vacation timeshares than any normal form of deal finance."

When EB-5 works as planned, the provision of a scarce government resource--entry to the United States--fuels profits and benefits down the line: the investors accept little or no interest but gain green cards for themselves and their families; real estate developers get low-interest loans; middlemen investment packagers (known as regional centers), lawyers, and migration agents all cream off fees and/or interest.

Even as planned, EB-5 can be sketchy, as I've…

Atlantic Yards CDC: updating the board; more apartments in B4 tower; still calling project "Atlantic Yards"

This is the third of multiple articles regarding the 3/15/19 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise the parent Empire State Development (ESD). The first article concerned the expected 2022 completion date for the middle school. The second article concerned the board's inability to hire independent consultants.

AY CDC President Marion Phillips III, an ESD executive, in his President's Report (bottom), updated board members on the past year regarding the project, including:
extending contracts with ESD consultantsGreenland USA's buyout of Forest City Ratner, going from 70% to 95% ownershipthe increased passage available on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, given the removal of a construction fencethe resolution of problems with the Barclays Center oculus, which tended to flash bright light after hours, unnerving neighborsthe opening of the Vanderbilt Yard's West Portal, allowing Long Island Rail Road tr…

Atlantic Yards CDC: not much chance to hire its own consultants on project changes, as per 2018 proposal

This is the second of multiple articles regarding the 3/15/19 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise the parent Empire State Development (ESD). The first article concerned the expected 2022 completion date for the middle school.

Seemingly routine talk about the authorization of the AY CDC's $250,000 budget for 2019-20 (see last three pages here) prompted a few questions about the entity's funding, and its ability to hire its own consultants to advise on a pending project change. Answer: it can't.

The budget is "expected to be funded in its entirety by an imprest account funded by project developers and maintained at and by Empire State Development," the board materials said. (An imprest account is a cash account, replenished routinely.)

The budget covers two employees (salary and fringe benefits), plus $46,300 in other costs, including insurance and occupancy, such as hosting meetings. It's an increase from …

B15 tower is now said to be due in Spring 2022, but the school will be ready in August 2022

This is the first of multiple articles regarding the 3/15/19 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise the parent Empire State Development (ESD).

After a hiatus of nearly a year, the AY CDC met Friday at the offices of parent ESD for little more than an hour and generating exactly zero public comment. (It's not always easy for civilians from Brooklyn to pop in for a 1 pm meeting in midtown Manhattan. Some previous meetings have been held in Brooklyn at Long Island University.)

While the big news--as I'll report later--concerns the failure to require an updated building-by-building timetable, we learned more specifics about the expected 2022 delivery of the B15 tower just east of the arena block between Dean and Pacific Street.

I reported nearly two months ago, based on comments at the bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting, that construction at the long-awaited middle school at B15 would start by March an…

So, were the development leases for B12/B13/B15 good deals?

So, did the new developers working on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park get a good deal or not from Greenland Forest City Partners, at that point 95% by Greenland USA?

I reported last month on the lease amounts paid by TF Cornerstone and the Brodsky Organization for three sites: B12 and B13, and B15. The Commercial Observer (which broke the TF Cornerstone news) and others reported on the least amounts for B12 and B13.

But no one offered context, which I will try to do, with the acknowledgment of limited expertise and major caveats.

First, these are development leases, not sales of land, so they come with somewhat less long-term certainty and thus value.

More importantly, these are leases for sites on terra firma, while most other Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park development parcels, to be built over the Vanderbilt Yard, require an expensive deck. That means the lease for those parcels should cost less per square foot.

But it looks like the lease buyers got relatively good deals--even if Greenlan…

From the latest Construction Update: excavation and foundation construction to begin at B15 site

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, March 18, was circulated at 10:27 am Friday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners. There's not much new from the previous update, but there is a milestone: the start of a new building.

The document indicates that excavation and foundation construction will be begin at the B15 site, previously known as 664 Pacific Street and now likely 662 Pacific Street, located east of Sixth Avenue between Pacific and Dean streets, opposite 38 Sixth and the Barclays Center. The previous update indicated that equipment and materials were being delivered. The building won't be finished until 2022.

Also, at the east end of the Vanderbilt Yard, near Atlantic Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue, "East Portal Structural Steel bolting and reinforced concrete deck installations will continue." This was in the previous update descr…

Consultant Stantec calls Atlantic Yards a "game changing" Transit-Oriented Development project (really?)

From Railway Age, 3/11/19, TOD: How New York got it right, by Stuart Lerner, Executive Vice President Infrastructure, Stantec (a design/engineering/consulting company):
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) has gained prominence in boardrooms around the country with the increasing urbanization of society. The TOD terminology used by real estate developers, transit agencies and political leaders is “development that focuses on dense, mixed-use communities, integrated into a neighborhood within a reasonable walk of high-order mass transit—generally high-frequency rail or bus lines.” It serves as a way of capturing the value of large mass transit earlier in a project’s life cycle, thereby increasing the sustainability of the TOD.
This can be done by offering developers something they want—higher-density development, friendlier zoning laws or more retail—in exchange for sharing the cost of big-ticket items that benefit the entire community. The result is a walkable community that contributes…

Will Greenland sell more of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park? Unclear, but Chinese firms face changing policy

As I wrote in April 2015, surveying the "the vigorous (and potentially precarious) ambitions of the new Atlantic Yards majority owner," it's worth recalling a warning at a 3/28/14 board meeting of ESD, the gubernatorial-directed authority that oversees and shepherds Atlantic Yards.

Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council focused on the state’s failure to consider the option of bringing in other developers. The pending Greenland transaction would not represent a multiple-developer strategy, Veconi observed, but rather a single-source development project, one "under the control of a partner exposed to one of the world’s most volatile economies.”

Indeed. We have seen Greenland grow significantly, by one metric the fastest-growing company in the world (!) , yet also pulling back on multiple fronts, in California and in Brooklyn. It has sold development leases to three Pacific Park sites to two companies, The Brodsky Organization and TF Corner…

As work begins at B15 site, a very tight fit along Sixth Avenue

It looks fairly benign, the outline at right (from the 3/5/19 developer presentation at the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting) of the traffic constriction outside the B15 site, known as 664 Pacific Street (or perhaps 662 Pacific Street), where preliminary construction work for a residential tower (with a school) is beginning.

On closer inspection though, it shows, at the top, two very narrow lanes along Sixth Avenue, which borders the arena block, notably the completed 38 Sixth Avenue tower, plus a pathway toward the back of the Barclays Center.

A constricted Sixth Avenue

The upshot, as shown in the video below and photo at left, is that any complication--like, say, a vehicle standing outside 38 Sixth--causes drivers to swerve into the other lane. That didn't cause any significant problem, at least as shown in the video (and the other one below).

But one could imagine that a larger challenge, such as a bus waiting during an arena event, could pose significant complications.


Not-great optics: Islanders are urging fans to support the Belmont arena

Matt O'Leary writes for FanSided, New York Islanders: Send Email To Fans For Belmont Help:
The New York Islanders new arena is allegedly on track for 2021-2022. Yet, the Islanders sent out an email asking fans to sign a petition.
Last year, it was announced that the New York Islanders would be getting a new home at Belmont Park. It was a great sign for the Islanders, who knew they couldn’t play long-term at either the Barclays Center or the Nassau Coliseum.
Although now, the Isles are striking fear in the hearts of every single fan by sending out an email. In that email they are asking you to sign a petition, created by a fan, to convince the powers at be that Belmont Park is a great idea for the Islanders and the community. He suggests that the "optics here don’t look great at all." Indeed, it's a sign of weakness, or nervousness, related to what may be a different political equation regarding big projects, in the wake of Amazon pulling out of Queens, as one commenter…

Real-estate parents disproportionately involved in college cheating scheme

The Commercial Observer yesterday had an interesting take on some big national news, with the headline Nearly a Dozen Real Estate Honchos Charged in College Cheating Scheme:
Nearly a dozen real estate CEOs were among the nearly 50 people charged in a nationwide scheme to cheat on college entrance exams to get children into elite colleges, federal prosecutors said. There were 50 people charged, including coaches and admissions counselors, but only 33 parents. So if "nearly a dozen" means 11, that's a pretty high percentage.

That said, the Commercial Observer's list, which specifies only eight people, includes within the ambit of "real estate" the head of a private equity firm and also the head of a marketing company. Here's CNBC's list.

Whatever the actual percentage, it's likely that a disproportionate number of parents have a real estate connection.

From Quality of Life meeting: illegal parking by arenagoers, free tickets question, arena announcing private events?

This is the fourth and final article about topics raised at the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting 3/5/19. The first concerned the plans to meet the 2025 deadline for 2,250 units of affordable housing. The second concerned plans apparently percolating for the project at Site 5. The third covered police parking, returning tenants, demolition, and more.

The Barclays Center came up a few times.Resident Steve Steve Ettlinger of the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance (BCIZA) asked reps from the Barclays Center how they are addressing illegal parking.

“We can talk to our security and our traffic director,” said Heather Hall, senior director of Community Relations for BSE Global, which operates the arena.

Since the arena opened in September 2012, Ettlinger said, “many of us have made studies, complaints, recommendations that have pretty much gone unheeded. On certain events… we have found as many as 125 illegally parked cars, many in bus stops and at fire hydrants,” during…