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Showing posts from February, 2019

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

Looking at blight: panel on March 6 (involving me) should include Atlantic Yards example

Remember blight, an important justification for eminent domain?

As I've written, the colloquial definition of blight—"when the fabric of a community is shot to hell"—offered by academic Lynne Sagalyn sounded more like the 1970s South Bronx than early 2000s Prospect Heights, where cracked sidewalks, weeds, and too-petite properties (like the small house on Dean Street in the photo at right) were seen as indicia of blight.

But the Atlantic Yards site, despite many signs of gentrification within it and nearby, was nonetheless designated as blighted, thanks to New York State's loose definition ("a substandard or insanitary area, or is in danger of becoming” one), a government agency bent on condemnation, and a legal system unwilling to look too closely.

I expect to be talking about some of this at a panel (tickets) next Wednesday, March 6, from 6:30 to 8 pm, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society, Closer LOOK: Blight:
Hosted at our office in the landmark LOOK buildi…

Leasing three sites raises nearly $199 million for Greenland, records suggest; that's nearly what Greenland paid; B12 and B13 to start next year

For leasing development rights to three Pacific Park parcels to two developers, Greenland Forest City Partners--owned 95% by Greenland USA--will get nearly $199 million, records suggest.

That's nearly the same amount that Greenland USA's parent Greenland Group paid in 2014 to enter the project. Forest City Enterprises. Forest City announced 12/20/13, "Under the terms of the definitive agreement, Greenland Group will make a capital contribution at closing of approximately $200 million to acquire a 70 percent equity interest in the project, excluding Barclays Center [operating company] and B2, the first residential building [aka 461 Dean]."

Now that payment also came with significant infrastructure obligations, such as the new railyard, the deck, and the public open space. But the contrast suggests--at least in broad strokes--that Forest City was operating from weakness; indeed, it announced a $242.4 million impairment on the deal.

After building three towers together …

In the new Power 100, James, Jeffries continue rise; lobbyists persists; election tomorrow for Public Advocate

City & State New York has its new New York City Power 100 and its notable how two Central Brooklyn politicians have risen to state and national stature:

Former Council Member
LETITIA JAMES
State Attorney General
THIS YEAR'S RANK: 9 CHANGE: Up 26
LAST YEAR'S RANK: 35
Nobody has risen as fast in state politics as Letitia James – the state’s first female and African-American elected attorney general. But the distinction is only part of what the former New York City public advocate brings to the position. James promises to be a thorn in the side of President Donald Trump, and while she has yet to file a lawsuit of her own against his administration, she has hit the ground running on issues close to home.Former Assemblymember
HAKEEM JEFFRIES
House Democratic Caucus Chairman
THIS YEAR'S RANK: 20 CHANGE: Up 14
LAST YEAR'S RANK: 34
Joseph Crowley’s shocking loss last summer was Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ gain this winter. The Brooklyn congressman consolidated support among colle…

BSE Global's Webster Hall is reopening, and renovations cost far more than projected

From a 2/21/19 New York Times article, Webster Hall Is Returning With Its Old Grit (and New Bathrooms):
When the doors open in April at the renovated Webster Hall — the East Village club, once known as the Ritz, that was renowned for its mix of rock shows and raucous dance parties — music fans will find a revamped entryway and lounge, new bathrooms and upgraded acoustics.
But the most important change may simply be the arrival of an elevator. But here's the interesting part of the renovation, which began after the club closed down in August 2017 and after the independent club was bought "by BSE Global, the parent company of Barclays Center, and the Bowery Presents, which is partly owned by the concert giant AEG, for a price estimated at about $35 million."

There are lots of improvements, but they cost far more than the once-projected $10 million, Jay Marciano, the chairman of AEG Presents, told the Times, with a laugh: “I won’t give a specific number, but it was a multip…

Downtown Brooklyn, recognizing open space deficits (and more), looks to "public realm action plan"

A 2/12/19 press release, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership announces WXY and BIG Architects to craft public realm action plan:
Today, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership announced the selection of a joint proposal from design firms WXY Studio (WXY) and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG Architects) to conduct a comprehensive study and implementation plan for Downtown Brooklyn’s public realm. The plan will help advance Downtown Brooklyn as a competitive, national urban center.
Downtown Brooklyn has faced unprecedented growth over the last fifteen years since the 2004 rezoning. Since then, the neighborhood has transformed into a true 24-hour mixed-use community, and with that have come new demands on streets, sidewalks, transit infrastructure and public spaces.
The Public Realm Action Plan is a response to that growth. The solutions set forth will help put Downtown Brooklyn on a new trajectory, reflecting its growing prominence in New York City and the nation’s economy, and taking into account the varied n…

Post columnist: arena built "over the train yard" has led to "malls, businesses, restaurants and people living more interesting lives"

New York Post columnist John Crudele's 2/18/19 column, Why New York City shouldn’t give up on Amazon just yet, suggests that the company should try again:
Was the Queens headquarters for Amazon a good idea? You are damned right it was.
This situation reminds me of when developers wanted to build a basketball arena in Brooklyn. The builders were proposing that they put a platform over a big open space where commuter trains were parked when they weren’t needed during the day.
They’d build the arena — now called Barclays Center — over the train yard, and the whole neighborhood, they suggested, would come alive. Ah, this is another version of "Atlantic Yards down the memory hole."

The arena was not to be built "over the train yard." No platform had to be built.

Rather, the arena was built partly in the bed of the railyard, below grade, with the other railyard functions moved to the remaining two blocks of the yard. The other half, more or less, of the arena block c…

In Los Angeles, Greenland's on its third condo broker, as buyers from China become scarce

From the Real Deal yesterday, Third time’s a charm? Greenland taps Polaris Pacific to replace the Agency at Metropolis. Yes, Greenland USA is now using its third brokerage--after Douglas Elliman and the Agency--to sell condos at the $1 billion, three tower Metropolis condo project, of which the first two towers are done.

It's not a small lift, given that Tower III has 736 of 1,500 total units and a reported 80% of 308-unit Tower I has been sold and there are no figures public on Tower II.

And today's Los Angeles Times, within an article about another developer's project, Construction at massive Oceanwide Plaza in downtown L.A. remains stalled, mentions global changes as affecting both Oceanwide Plaza (504 condos) and Metropolis:
The developers of both projects expected to sell many of their units to Chinese citizens looking for overseas investments, but the Chinese government’s squeeze on cash leaving the country has affected condo sales in Los Angeles....  It’s unclear wh…

Belmont arena approval (and opening?) nudged back, AKRF contract extended; Newsday argues that Belmont needed to keep Isles

Belmont Park arena project to be delayed, reported Long Island Business News yesterday, and while the Final Environmental Impact Statement and thus construction start have been delayed past the once-projected spring date, that doesn't necessarily mean the arena can't open in 2021. But it does raise question marks.

As noted in the article, the board of Empire State Development voted yesterday to extend the contract of AKRF, the authority's go-to environmental consultant,  for one year, through September 2020. That reflects more extensive comments than typical, with the need to respond to them, as well as other factors, as noted below.

According to ESD Board Materials (p. 325 ff.), the original two-year contract term was extended, and the original contract amount, not to exceed $2 million, was amended with a $950,000 fee and a $300,000 contingency. The developer, which includes the New York Islanders and partners, funds the environmental review.

The Board Materials note that…

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: What happened at the Freddy's site

Sure, it's no big deal, but it's another example of what I call "Atlantic Yards down the memory hole," when fuzzy observations turn into mistaken assumptions.

In an essay in last Sunday's New York Times Sunday Review, headlined online as The City of Lost Love and in print as "The City That Belonged to Us," novelist and contributing writer  Kaitlyn Greenidge reflected:
If you live in New York long enough, and date and make friends here, you have your own secret map of the city and the places that make you nostalgic...
Freddy’s hasn’t been on the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue for years but every time I pass the place where it used to sit, I think of the night a few writer friends and I got into a tiff with some poets from N.Y.U., left a bar in the West Village to buy $60 worth of Gray’s Papaya for friends who stayed at the bar, returned to find the place closed; stood for a moment on the corner wondering how we’d get nine people and 25 hot dogs to…

The Barclays Center's peculiar financial underperformance

Yes, both the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Nets seem playoffs-bound, which is definitely a boon for the Barclays Center, adding more games likely to draw larger crowds and more revenues. So yes, the 2018-2019 fiscal year promises to be better than 2017-18.

But the latter was a financial disaster, as documents show and Crain's New York Business reports today, in Barclays Center is sending the Islanders packing. Could it improve its fortunes?

The subheading is "Arenas overestimate revenue and understate expenses because demand is so fluid," which is surely true in part, but also because they have reason--aiming to convince bond buyers of financial stability--to project over-optimistic scenarios.

I'll have a longer analysis of financial results one of these days, but first, let's look at the Crain's article. "Since inception, they've underperformed," said Richard Donner, senior credit officer at Moody's. "We thought they'd eventuall…

Prescient warning in 2013: "Chinese real estate developers should be more cautious when trying to scoop up foreign property"

It now seems a prescient warning, this October 2013 article from Beijing Review, China's only English language weekly, published by China International Publishing Group, which very much reflects establishment views.

Chinese real estate developers should be more cautious when trying to scoop up foreign property was the headline on the 10/28/13 article/column by Lan Xinzhen. It was actually a mixture of reportage and analysis, with the headline more provocative than even the analysis, much less the reporting.

It was keyed to the announcement that "China's real estate heavyweight Greenland Group [was] preparing to invest in a high-profile Atlantic Yards apartment project in Brooklyn, New York," with the company taking a 70 percent ownership stake.

At the point, the terms were not clear: soon, it seemed that Greenland had gotten a bargain or, at least, seller Forest City Ratner/Forest City Enterprises was taking a hit.

An ambitious, growing company

The article quoted Green…

From the latest Construction Update: Saturday night shift added to East Portal work

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Feb. 18, was circulated at 4:40 pm Friday (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

There are very few changes from the previous update, given that vertical construction is not quite ready, and most ongoing work is infrastructure or demolition. In fact, the only changes I noticed were not--as is supposedly required--marked in the document.

For example, near the intersection of Vanderbilt Avenue and Atlantic Avenue:
● East Portal construction acceleration will continue during this reporting period and include a night shift between the hours of 3:30pm and 11:59am, Monday through Saturday. Necessary light/dust/noise mitigation measures will be utilized. This night activity can be expected to continue for the next 4 weeks. Note that previously the night shift was Monday through Friday, not Saturday, and the work was previous…

In Chicago and Richmond (Va.), the "Yards" notion surfaces

The "Yards" thing, it's going around. First in Chicago, then in Richmond, Va.
Another ambitious mixed-use plan w/"Yards" + big promises.
Well worth a read @NextCityOrg@hideoutchicago assumed new identity 1996, same year @FreddysBar1 (since displaced by #AtlanticYards, then reestablished in Brooklyn) transformed from cop bar https://t.co/yqS71fkqEbhttps://t.co/BNVEbZlPlX — Norman Oder (@AYReport) February 14, 2019 From Richmond Business Sense, 2/14/19, Updated: Local developer proposes Coliseum redevelopment alternative dubbed ‘Navy Hill Yards’:
Dubbed Navy Hill Yards, Bilder’s project would call for rehabbing the recently shuttered Coliseum and adding onto the exterior with a new structure that would encircle it with residential, hotel or office uses. The proposal cites the Barclays Center in New York City as an example.

Split decision: Islanders to play first round of playoffs on Long Island, later rounds at Barclays

OK, this is a bit odd.

An announcement from the team:New York Islanders Announcement Regarding The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Following consultation with Governor Andrew Cuomo's office, the New York Islanders and BSE Global have announced that should the Islanders qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, any first round home playoff games will take place at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Should the team qualify for further rounds of the playoffs, any home Islanders games will take place at Barclays Center, reflecting that the Nassau Coliseum does not qualify as an NHL major league facility.
This agreement has been approved by the NHL, with the understanding that the scheduling of games will be in accordance with usual League practices. So why might that be? Yes, Barclays has more capacity and more luxury suites, but the Coliseum has, in general, drawn more fans, as it's closer to the fan base. But a playoff game should sell out. And maybe there's …

Belmont non-update: LIRR station still in question

It's worth remembering this 2/14/19 Long Island Herald article by Ronny Reyes, Belmont LIRR station plans are still unclear:
Last January, the Herald printed a two-part series on the dilapidated Long Island Rail Road Station at Belmont, and the need for a new, year-round station in the proposed Belmont arena project. More than a year later, the prospect for a full-time station at Belmont is still up in the air, despite the insistence of the arena developers and the Islanders that construction of the arena would begin in the spring.
While Empire State Development officials announced that they had secured two trains for events at the arena, which would run from Jamaica to Belmont, local residents and officials have said the service would fall far short of the promised full-time station that Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted when he initially announced the arena project in 2017. Indeed, a lot of people would be driving:
Other residents and local elected officials said they had hoped train serv…

The Amazon aftermath: the Atlantic Yards angle (and comparison)

Sure, there was some chatter yesterday about Atlantic Yards in the wake of Amazon's surprising decision--I and others would have bet on renegotiations--to pull out of plans to build a campus in Long Island City.
I'm surprised too... but Amazon hadn't bought a money-losing basketball team it had to move to Brooklyn or a deal it had to revise post-recession (or purportedly blighted land to be acquired via eminent domain) — Norman Oder (@AYReport) February 14, 2019That was former Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, who's still working on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park government relations (I think) as an executive at L&L MAG.

Amazon had invested relatively little in Long Island City. Not only did it not have a team it had to move, it hadn't started buying land, sometimes at inflated prices and with money borrowed at high interest rates. So it had much less pressure to close the deal.

Thing is: had Amazon gone ahead with its campus, it likely could have--as sho…

Next Quality of Life meeting coming March 5, six weeks after previous one; lingering questions about project timetable

Just six weeks after the 1/22/19 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting--my coverage--the next one is coming on Tuesday, March 5 at 6 pm:
Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 Interested parties can send project-related questions, concerns, and suggested agenda items to atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov. Perhaps we'll learn some more about plans to start building two towers (B15, B4) in the next months. 
Or maybe even about plans for a giant complex at Site 5 across Flatbush Avenue from the Barclays Center, given a court decision (under appeal) requiring the project developer to provide space to retailer P.C. Richard in a future building.
The lingering irony
The irony for project watchers is that, while the bi-monthly meetings are very much on schedule, the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), supposed to meet quarterly, has not met for nearly 11 months, and the meeting scheduled for yesterda…

So does Amazon need New York more than vice versa? The talent is here, but...

As consternation rises about whether Amazon is really threatening to pull out from the tentative deal to establish a campus--half a second "headquarters"--in Long Island City, there's debate from all sides.
One thing to remember is an exchange from the December hearing at City Council.

“Did you need the $3 billion [in incentives] in order to come to New York?” asked Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

“Talent was the primary driver for our decision,” said Amazon’s Holly Sullivan. “Incentives were certainly a part of that process."

That's inconclusive, but it certainly suggests a lot of wiggle room. After all, tech companies are expanding in Manhattan without the same subsidy package.

(With Atlantic Yards, did the New Jersey Nets need incentives to become the Brooklyn Nets? Well, it did turn out that everything was more expensive, and less remunerative than they projected, but... the team owners were desperate to move to a major media market and a brand-new arena, w…