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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)

Nets, Islanders both playoffs-bound, but unclear whether Isles would play home games in Nassau or at Barclays

The Brooklyn Nets, after the second-best record in the league since Dec. 7, are now sixth in the NBA's Eastern Conference and thus playoffs-bound, as I noted on Twitter.

And that would certainly help the bottom line of the Barclays Center, since extra games, especially ones that sell lots of tickets, bring more revenues.

As noted in the response to me on Twitter, the New York Islanders are also playoffs-bound, ranked fifth in the National Hockey League and leading the Metropolitan Division.

So that would be good for the bottom line of BSE Global, which operates both the Barclays Center and the Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders have been splitting their season.

Actually, it's not an even split--nearly all the end-of-season games are in Nassau: 15 of 18. However, the Barclays Center has more luxury suites--and more seats.

Attendance at the Barclays Center has been generally poor, sometimes under 10,000, while the Coliseum has often sold out, or come close to selling out, its …

Rapfogels (one ex-Forest City) resurface as lobbyists in Albany

Judy Rapfogel Is Back In Albany With A Big Lobbying Contract, the Forward's Josh Nathan-Kazis reported 1/14/19. It's $20,000 per month for a year.

Rapfogel, of course, was the former Chief of Staff to New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, convicted of corruption in 2016. And she's married to William Rapfogel, former executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, a charity powerhouse, who was pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing from his employer.

And they were connected to Forest City Ratner in a couple of ways: the Met Council gave executive Bruce Ratner an award, presented by Silver; Michael Rapfogel, who's now partnering with his mother at GrandRap Strategies, was hired by Forest City; the developer directed profits from a cantorial concert to the Met Council; Silver and William Rapfogel attempted to steer a Lower East Side urban renewal project to Forest City; and Forest City and the Met Council later partnered (unsuccessfully) on a bid f…

From the latest Construction Update: night shift work at railyard Monday-Friday for four weeks

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Jan. 21, 2018, was circulated at 11:41 am Friday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

There are few changes from the previous update, given that vertical construction is not expected to start until spring, and the ongoing work is infrastructure or demolition.

But there will be some more evening work, presumably at the east end of the Vanderbilt Yard:
East Portal SOE [support of excavation] and general excavation activities to Yard Grade elevation will include a night shift between the hours of 3:30 pm and 12:00 am, Monday through Friday during this reporting period. Necessary light/dust/noise mitigation measures will be utilized. This night activity can be expected to continue for the next 4 weeks. Also, there will now be mechanical demolition at 728 Atlantic Avenue, one of the two buildings that "bump" s…

Lessons of Rezoning: When It Doesn’t Work Out as Planned

I have an article in The Bridge, Lessons of Rezoning: When It Doesn’t Work Out as Planned, which begins:
Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City (LIC) have been utterly transformed since city policy toward those neighborhoods changed in 2004 and 2001, respectively. Numerous towers have sprouted after rezonings unlocked permission to build big on formerly low-rise industrial or commercial space. By one account, LIC is the nation’s fastest-growing neighborhood.
But those new towers almost exclusively contain apartments, rather than the expected result of mainly office space. The failure to plan for new residents means overcrowded public schools and insufficient open space, according to a recent report from the Municipal Art Society (MAS), a longstanding advocate for a more livable city. The neighborhoods are “whiter, wealthier, and more crowded than ever.”
In Downtown Brooklyn, a key piece of open space, 1.15-acre Willoughby Square Park—to be built over a parking garage—didn’t materializ…

How the Nets rebuilt

The Nets are not just, by far, the better team in New York basketball, but also, thanks to a surprising run of wins against strong teams, a playoff contender.

How Nets went from worst trade ever to Kings of New York basketball, by Anthony Puccio, notes:
[Owner Mikhail] Prokhorov's five-year plan had suddenly turned into one of the biggest failures in NBA history and they had to dig their way out.

It's February of 2016. Lionel Hollins and Billy King had officially been axed, and it was time for Dmitry Razumov to introduce new GM Sean Marks to the media. Razumov explains how he was "proud" of the hiring and later echoes something the Nets probably should have done from the start:

"We didn't rush."

In other words, they didn't hire the big name. They hired the right guy. Since, then, strong hires (coach Kenny Atkinson), trades (D'Angelo Russell), draft choices (Caris LeVert), and more.

A bit of mythmaking

Strong piece on rebuild of Brooklyn Nets...

Some questions for Quality of Life meeting Jan. 22: project timetable, affordable housing, railyard completion, AY CDC, escalator, Times Plaza work

The next bi-monthly Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting is Tuesday, January 22, at the usual location, starting at 6 pm:
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The agenda (right) typically reveals nothing beyond the entities making presentations, so here are some questions that should/might come up.

Timetable questions: short term

What's the timetable for the next buildings, which would represent the first new building start since June 2015? (The ongoing construction work has otherwise been infrastructure.)

Note that B4 (18 Sixth) and B15 (664 Pacific, with school) are expected to start this year, but no specific schedule has been announced.

B12 and B13, the two remaining sites on the project's southeast block, also are expected to start this year or next.

Timetable questions: longer term

What about the full project, which has until 2035--or 2025 for the affordable units?

There's a long percolating plan for Site 5 and unspecified plans for six towers…

Greenland 2018 metrics: rise to #252 on Fortune Global 500; to #341 in Forbes Global 2000, but tops (!?) in revenue growth

Shanghai-based Greenland Holdings Group, the parent of Greenland USA (the main Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park developer as of now), may not be rising quite as fast as it once projected on the Fortune Global 500, but Forbes magazine last year had some pretty good news.

Forbes in 2018 ranked Greenland #341 on the Global 2000 list of largest public companies. Fortune ranked the firm #252, up 25 spots from the previous year's #277--though that was not far above a previous rank.

But Forbes--more on this below, since I have questions--also ranked Greenland as the fastest-growing company in the world, based on revenue growth, which was surely related to the firm's rapid overseas expansion.

That ranking, through 2017, did not reflect the company's recent pullbacks from investment in California. Nor could it encompass Greenland's subsequent decision to sell development leases in Pacific Park Brooklyn, a sign of caution, which raises questions about its current ambitions. So even …

Another team for Barclays (or Coliseum)? Nets part-owner Tsai said to be buying WNBA's Liberty

The Associated Press reported last week that an "An investment group led by the co-founder of the Alibaba Group"--that's Joe Tsai, Nets' 49% owner and likely future full owner--"is close to a deal" to buy the New York Liberty WNBA team from James Dolan, who owns the Knicks. There hasn't yet been a follow-up.

The Liberty before last season said it had “lost money every year since its inception and cumulative losses exceed $100 million," but moving 2018 home games to the Westchester County Center--its 2019 plan, as well--meant operating costs were slashed enormously, along with attendance.

The team last year averaged 2,823 fans--but only 1,886 in Westchester, given a couple of bigger games at the Garden. In the previous season, 2017, the team averaged 9,899 fans at the Garden, as noted in the Guardian--but not enough to make a profit. Perhaps the Garden also found more profitable alternative programming.
A move?

If the Tsai purchase goes through, the …

For Belmont arena, $40 million lease would get plowed back into infrastructure improvements (and get repaid slowly)

Last week included three days of relatively uneventful public hearings on the proposed Belmont Park arena (plus retail/entertainment/hotel) project, which could provide a new home for the New York Islanders by 2021.

Most of the criticism understandably concerned local issues like traffic, parking, and transit issues, as reported by Newsday, and supporters talked economic development and jobs (especially union ones).

Big picture financing issues, however, didn't get as much discussion, at least according to the media coverage. Both project approval and construction start are anticipated for the second quarter of 2019, which means between April and June.

The money comes back

Guess what, the Belmont arena developers' seeming bargain on leasing public land, just $40 million for 43 acres over 49 years, might be a bigger bargain: all the money would be plowed into infrastructure improvements at the site.

(Yes, this is undeveloped land, and requires significant private investment, but…

In Times round-up on the housing lottery, a happy 535 Carlton resident (though she doesn't consider her apartment that “affordable”)

Better Than the Powerball is the headline on the cover story for today's New York Times Real Estate section, subtitled "For New Yorkers looking for an affordable home, the odds of winning a housing lottery are 1 in 592."

But, of course, that overall figure isn't particularly helpful. Then again, the article complicates things:
Despite those daunting statistics, chances of winning are better than it may seem. That is because many of those who apply are disqualified, either because their earnings exceed or are below the requirements for a specific development, or because they fail to provide the necessary paperwork, including work history and tax records.

And depending on the housing project, preference may be given to those who meet certain criteria, like municipal workers, the homeless or residents of the neighborhood where the development is being built. Odds differ, depending on income

As I commented, that deserves more context, because the odds for better-off appli…

Now some middle-income units at "affordable" 535 Carlton come with three months free rent as a concession

First it was a month, then two months, now.... three months.

Seven middle-income "affordable housing" units at 535 Carlton in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park now come with three free months as concession, but only for the first year, according to StreetEasy.

That means the listed rent for a two-bedroom apartment goes from $3,223 to a "net effective rent" of $2,417, and for a one-bedroom from $2,680 to $2,010. Of course the idea is that the tenant re-ups.

The income ranges, at least when tenants first applied, were $111,909 to $149,490 for the two-bedrooms, and $93,258 to $119,625 for the one-bedrooms, depending on household size.

This raises the question about the appropriate term for these apartments. The city calls them "affordable." I used the term "below-market" in a tweet and was tweaked because, well, if they're not renting, they're not below-market.

And keep in mind that the income ranges are well above the median for New York City, n…

AY down the memory hole: Barclays still said to pay $400 million for arena naming rights

From Bloomberg, 1/10/18, Oracle Pays More Than $200 Million to Rename San Francisco Giants’ Stadium:
The pact is the latest in a wave of blockbuster branding deals for professional sports facilities. JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to pay $15 million to $20 million annually over 20 years for the rights to the new Chase Center in San Francisco, where the Golden State Warriors will play once it opens for the 2019-2020 basketball season. Barclays Plc agreed to pay $400 million over 20 years for the name to the Brooklyn Nets arena in New York City. Wait a sec.

That last sentence links to a poorly sourced 1/19/07 New York Times column, headlined What's in a Name? $400 Million, which stated:
But the Nets aren’t laughable anymore, and yesterday, their principal owner, Bruce C. Ratner; some of his investors, like the rapper Jay-Z; and a few of their players were at the Brooklyn Museum to announce that Barclays will pay a record $400 million over 20 years to put its name on the team’s new…

From the Bed-Stuy Boomerang to the Fort Greene Finger: how NY state kept gerrymandering maps of high unemployment to help Atlantic Yards get cheap EB-5 immigrant investor financing

First, the Bed-Stuy Boomerang. Now, the Fort Greene Finger.

Those are my shorthand descriptions of the oddly shaped maps gerrymandered by New York State to to create zones of high unemployment, thus making it easier for the Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park) project to attract immigrant investors under the EB-5 program.

While the practice is common, and not yet disallowed, it makes a mockery of the intent of the law: to steer investments into areas of high unemployment.

Officially, immigrant investors are required to park $1 million in a low- or no-interest loan for five or more years, as long as it creates ten jobs, at least according to an economist's estimate.

But few investors actually do that. The requirement is only $500,000 for those investing in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs), which are either rural areas or zones of high unemployment, 150% of the national average.

Gaming the system

Of course, many EB-5 projects in places like New York City are built in prosperous areas. …

So, how well is the Nassau Coliseum doing? You can't quite tell from the numbers.

So, how well is the Nassau Coliseum doing? By one metric, pretty well. But it's quite murky, and there's reason for doubt.

On 12/28/18, Newsday published Nassau Coliseum is America's top arena of its size, according to Billboard:
NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum is America’s top arena of its size and one of the Top 10 in the world for 2018, according to Billboard’s year-end issue.
The Uniondale arena, which reopened in 2017 following a $165 million renovation, produced 158 [non-sports] events that drew 462,153 attendees and grossed $29.3 million in 2018, according to the magazine, landing it at No. 8 in the world for venues with capacities between 10,001 and 15,000.  Though Brett Yormark, CEO of arena operator BSE Global told Newsday "we have been thrilled with the success of NYCB Live and the Long Island community’s response to the events,” the arena does not disclose its net income, I was told in response to a query. That is typical for many arenas that do not have to re…

If "Chinese Investors Back Away From Global Property Markets" and "China’s Property Market Strains the World," that doesn't bode well for Greenland

A 1/1/19 Wall Street Journal article, Chinese Investors Back Away From Global Property Markets, does not mention Greenland Holding Group, parent of Greenland USA (majority owner of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park going forward), but it's hard not to think the company's not in the same general boat.

From the article:
Chinese investors will likely continue beating a retreat from the world's top commercial real-estate markets in 2019, adding to the downward pressure on prices from rising interest rates.
For years, the increasing flow of Chinese capital, alongside investments from other foreign countries, helped push property values higher. But now, the opposite is happening as Beijing continues its tight restrictions on capital outflows. Among the issues: a decline in the Chinese yuan vs. the dollar, domestic policies, and rising interest rates in the United States and Europe. In other words, another sign of the reversal of the buying trend that began in 2014, and which was quite…