Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2020

Featured Post

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

DOT rep expected at next Tuesday's Quality of Life meeting; questions about response to arena operations and current/future construction

The agenda for the 1/28/20 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting was circulated yesterday by Empire State Development, the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project.

And while the agenda was typically thin--a mere list of presenters--it did include something new: a New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) representative is expected to be in attendance.

That's a response to concerns raised about traffic chaos on certain Barclays Center event days, as well as during project construction, especially near Sixth Avenue between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue.

Now that construction is expected to ramp up along Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues for the B12 and B13 towers, constraining a passageway that's supposed to accommodate buses and bikes along with business and post office operations, residents have questions.

Other questions

Of course there are other significant questions for the meeting, such as the expected progress for the pla…

2010 document cites milestones regarding crucial MTA platform, including notices and schedules (which we haven't learned about)

On Tuesday 1/28/20 is the bimonthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting, where attendees often get an update on project plans, and get to hear from representatives of the state and the developer, plus--occasionally--other city agencies.

One big question: when will the B12 and B13 towers start?

A bigger question: what's the plan to build the platform over Block 1120, between Sixth and Carlton avenues and Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue? It's supposed to start this year, but we don't have a schedule nor a time estimate (though I reported in November that documents estimated the first phase of the platform would take three years).

Another big question: does developer Greenland Forest City Partners plan to meet the requirement to build 2250 units of affordable housing by 2025 by building three 50% affordable towers, as one state document indicates? If not, does it plan a 100% affordable tower?

And how do they plan to fund that housing, and the platform, as G…

Presence of stars, even if not playing, return Nets to top ten in merchandise sales; ESPN on The Block

The NBA is a star's league. As explained on Nets Daily, not only are stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant 10th and 12th in the league, respectively, in individual jersey sales--despite Durant being out for the year and Irving mjissing many games--the team is now tenth in the league in total merchandise sales.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s new Brooklyn Nets jerseys are the 10th and 12th best sellers, respectively, in the NBA.

Nets as a team sit 10th. pic.twitter.com/Dk5LEfIUWS — Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) January 17, 2020 The Nets as a team were last in the top ten in 2014, not long after their 2012 debut, when they had some stars and were a playoffs team.

That suggests that the 2020-21 Nets, assuming Durant's back and plays well, will do even better.

About The Block

In The fight for New York's next generation of fans starts in Barclays Center's lower bowl, ESPN today describes how Section 114 of Barclays Center has become home to "The Block: a section of 96…

From the latest Construction Update: overnight work at railyard; steel trusses at B15; tower crane at B4

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Jan. 20, was circulated Friday Jan. 17 at 5:01 pm (lead time) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

Newly planned is overnight work, from 6 pm to 6 at the Vanderbilt Yard: "Contractor plans to work second shift to sawcut/trench/excavate, install train servicing equipment, and install yard lighting structures... pending LIRR support availability. Limited demolition work on yard road base may also occur." It's unclear if that also includes weekends.

Ramping up at two tower sites

Also, work is ramping up at the two main construction sites, where excavation for towers has been continuing.
At B15 (664 or 662 Pacific), "Large steel trusses and the equipment needed to install them will be delivered and erected on site," according to the document. That means "Steel will be delivered overnight and stored in th…

Schumer part of bipartisan effort to gut reforms in EB-5, aid projects in cities like New York

Backing EB-5 power players is always bi-partisan, isn't it? In Graham Backs a Bill Friendly to Real-Estate Industry, the Wall Street Journal's Konrad Putzier reported 1/14/20 that not only is Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) a co-sponsor of a new bill, but so too are Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

The pending bill would essentially restore primacy for immigrant investor projects in major cities like New York. As I reported 10/31/19, new program rules raised the minimum investment from $500,000 to $900,000 (but not $1.35 million, as originally proposed), as long as the project is in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), which is a rural area or an area of high unemployment. 
The non-TEA investment, generally ignored in recent years, increased from $1 million to $1.8 million, and it also made it much harder to define such a TEA, long gerrymandered by developers, the middlemen known as regional centers, and local governments eager to attract low-cost capital.
Ne…

Yes, the Barclays Center's capacity for hockey was originally said to be 14,500

According to the Barclays Center web site, the arena offers 15,795 seats for hockey, though everyone knows a good chunk have obscured views--surely more than the 400 claimed in 2014.
But that wasn't always the plan.

As I reported in June 2012, then arena General Manager John Sparks said there would be 18,200 seats for basketball, and 14,500 for hockey, of which about 1,500 would be obscured. That was before the October 2012 announcement that the Islanders would move to Brooklyn.
That total for basketball was eventually trimmed to 18,000 and 17,732, while the hockey capacity was expanded. The reason's unclear, but that would've allowed the arena to sell more seats, and to appear more "major league."
Proof of 14,500
For a while, though, arena developer (and majority operator) Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, stuck with 14,500 capacity for hockey.
Consider Forest City's annual report for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2013, which said:
The…

When's the next Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting? It only met twice* last year. It's supposed to meet quarterly.

The Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), the putative monitoring and advisory body that sometimes can ventilate useful information about the project, was supposed to meet 12/4/19. That meeting was canceled and supposed to be rescheduled, but no information was forthcoming.

The delays in scheduling have been attributed to the difficulty in getting a quorum. But AY CDC meetings also have been scheduled to accommodate a rubber-stamp advisory vote to ease the passage of a project change or contract extension by parent Empire State Development (ESD)

According to ESD records (and my coverage, in the hyperlinks), there have been essentially four meetings in the past two calendar years: 1/17/18, 3/27/18, 3/15/19, and 7/22/19. The latter deserves an asterisk, because directors asked for more time to assess two project changes, so they returned for a vote on them 8/12/19. But that was essentially an extension of a meeting, not a new one.

Questions: affordable housing, and t…

The issue is not just "affordable" units but level of affordability. Which should've been recognized in 2010.

For those wondering if developer Greenland Forest City Partners can meet the 2025 affordable housing deadline by building three "50% affordable" towers, as indicated in a state document I published yesterday--or even by building two towers, with one "100% affordable"--there's something important to remember.

As I wrote in April 2019, the project's guiding Development Agreement--screenshot at right--simply defines affordable units as those "subject to income and rent restrictions" as part of a city or state regulatory agreement.

Rents must be set at no more than 160% of Area Median Income (AMI) or, if higher, the highest percentage of AMI used in city or state housing programs. (So far, they've gone up to 165% of AMI.) Unmentioned was that a certain fraction must typically be low-income units for tax-code purposes.

A middle-income skew

But that leaves room for a disproportionate amount of middle-income units rather than moderate-income ones, as…

Revealed: developer plans first three towers over railyard as "50% affordable." To meet housing deadline, that would be major challenge.

The developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, a newly disclosed document suggests, plan to build three 50% affordable towers over the first block of the railyard, thus potentially meeting the deadline to deliver 2,250 affordable units by the May 31, 2025 deadline.

If so, Greenland Forest City Partners faces a significant challenge, given that the platform over that block, scheduled to start this year, could take three years.

After that--assuming no construction could start until platform completion--GFCP (dominated by Greenland USA) would have less than two-and-a-half years to build three large towers, with a total of nearly 900 affordable units and the same number of market-rate ones. That's a lot of product.

The buildout is possible--after all, this project is no stranger to overtime and weekend work--but not at all easy. That's why various observers, such as Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, have expressed skepticism that the deadline can be met.

And, perhaps, why Greenland ha…

Amid discussion of sports facilities and banking regulations, Barclays Center suggested as a "net positive." I'm not so sure. Nor does it fit the CRA Elita4

The new Sports Illustrated has, I guess, pseudonymous blog contributors, so on 12/30/19 we got Development of Sports Facilities Usually Regarded as a “Net Negative” for Local Municipalities, Multi-Use Arenas Can Be the Exception, from someone known as JohnWallStreet.

That was stimulated by potential revisions in the federal Community Reinvestment Act to allow banks--which must make loans in lower-income areas, to fulfill that requirement by assisting sports venues. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) warned about “handouts for billionaires with no benefit to the low-income communities this program [is] supposed to help.”

So, does it help those low-income communities?

That doesn't quite get answered. But the author notes that sports venues are now "integrated as anchor tenants within a greater neighborhood development project" and quotes sports economist Roger Noll as saying a busy venue "can actually enhance the value of the [neighboring] investments" and suggests that indic…

A decade in real estate: the Barclays Center and the "outer-borough renaissance"

On 12/30/10 6sqft quoted 21 experts on NYC’s most important projects of the past decade. They interviewees cited the World Trade Center site, the High Line, Hudson Yards, and yes, the Barclays Center (though not Atlantic Yards):
Christine Blackburn, real estate broker with Compass: I would say the Barclays Center. It completely transformed that corridor and also expanded Boerum Hill over to 3rd Avenue.  That's interesting, because the transformation of Flatbush Avenue below Atlantic Avenue has very much been piecemeal, and the transformation above Atlantic Avenue has as much to do with the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning and the disposition of city sites around the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Another interviewee cited the arena:
Bill Caleo, founder and managing director of The Brooklyn Home Company: Being a Brooklyn based developer, my impression is the Barclays Center is the most influential new building in NYC in the last decade. Brooklyn for the last 15 years has experienced a renais…

Yes, more Nets live in Brooklyn. (And the practice facility helps.) But we're a long way from Dodger-land.

Joe Vardon of the Athletic wrote 1/10/20 The boys are back in town: How Nets coaches and players live among Brooklynites, like the Dodgers of old, describing how Nets coach Kenny Atkinson lives in "charming Cobble Hill," and various players live in other neighborhoods, with good access to the team's practice facility in Sunset Park.

That's unlike the New York Knicks, whose players have to travel to Westchester to practice.

Writes Vardon:
Atkinson is the first coach of a major pro team to live in Brooklyn since 1958 — when Walter Alston managed the Dodgers before they moved to Los Angeles. Like Alston before him, Atkinson walks among Brooklyn’s people because he’s become one of them. The same thing typically happens to the Nets’ players, like the Dodgers before them. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have been seen at the courts at Brooklyn Bridge Park:
Upon signing with the Nets last summer, Irving purchased a high-rise condo overlooking the park in the DUMBO neighborhoo…

Sites seemed cleared for B12 and B13 construction

Yes, it looks likes the sites for B12 and B13, 615 and 595 Dean Street respectively, have been cleared for future construction.

They're expected to start this year, with some 800 rental units, at least 25% affordable, though the affordability level is unclear. As of last week and this coming week, no work other than fence repair was expected.

Click on the links for more on the towers' design, open space, parking, and field house/fitness center.


Deciphering the Times's "Ultraluxury Condo" story: more rentals than condos in Downtown Brooklyn, and rezoning had bigger effect than the Barclays Center

I had to twice read The Decade Dominated by the Ultraluxury Condo, a New York Times Sunday Real Estate section cover story (1/12/20) published online today, to understand what it was really saying about Brooklyn.

Could it be that, as shown in the screenshot at right, Downtown Brooklyn had only 1,574 condo units built between 2009 and 2019, fewer than not only Williamsburg but also Bedford-Stuyvesant?

Not unlikely, I guess, as long as we're talking about for-sale condos. Downtown Brooklyn, as detailed in multiple reports, had far more rental units, especially if the starting point is moved back to the 2004 rezoning.

For example, as cited in a February 2016 report from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams's office,
In terms of raw numbers of housing units, it was estimated that 979 projected units of housing would be built over the course of a decade, but the reality is that over 11,000 housing units have been developed or are in the pipeline. According to a 2019 report from the…

So, the first group of EB-5 investors in Atlantic Yards has been repaid. But it didn't create the jobs claimed nor build the arena and other components touted.

I must say, I had my doubts.

But the first of three rounds of EB-5 investors into Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park--and the only round led by the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) as middleman--have apparently been paid back, some eight-and-a-half years after the loan closed, according to a 1/6/20 press release from the NYCRC.

That stretched the original plan for a five-year maturity date and a two-year forbearance period, but perhaps the documents were amended.

Or perhaps the investors--mainly Chinese nationals seeking green cards for themselves and their families--didn't have a choice.

Greenland in charge

The loan, originally made to a subsidiary of original developer Forest City Ratner, was originally said to be $249 million in funding from 498 investors, which later became $228 million from 456 investors, for reasons never publicly explained.

That saved more than $100 million versus conventional financing, by my calculation.

(There are two other EB-5 loans, of $249 million and $1…

The rise of "Hakeem" and "Tish": from Central Brooklyn to national prominence

To a good number of people in and around Central Brooklyn, they're simply "Hakeem" and "Tish," charismatic, capable lawyer-politicians who've shown up at so many events and functions that they seem familiar.

To political observers around the city, state, and country, they're now New York Attorney General Letitia James and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, House Democratic Caucus Chair.

Those are powerful positions: other than Special Counsel Robert Mueller and House impeachment managers, James has been best positioned to investigate President Donald Trump, given that his companies and foundation conduct business in New York. Jeffries, fifth in the House Democratic leadership, is poised to rise even higher once senior leaders retire or step aside.

James, in many ways, has a bigger job, and a tougher one. After all, she's got to run a vast department, while also pursuing policy reforms discussed during the campaign (cleaner government, voting reform) and, not wit…

From the latest Construction Update: Saturday work may continue all year at B4 and B15 sites

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Jan. 6, was circulated yesterday at 5:24 pm (late!) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

The only element seemingly new, compared to the previous update, is marked in red type and seems minor: at the Vanderbilt Yard, "Contractor to install minor steel structures (stairs, gates, etc.) in various locations within the yard, no public access ways will be impeded."

It's not clear whether this is part of the completion of the revamped railyard, or a precursor to future work on a platform over the railyard.

But some repeated boilerplate--unless it's just a careless continuance from the previous update--is probably more significant: Saturday work is expected at both the B4 (18 Sixth) and B15 (664 Pacific) sites "through the end of the calendar year," which suggests, well, 51 more Saturdays. That's a lo…

From Urban Omnibus, "the rhetoric... is remarkably slippery": insight on the ill-fated effort to build 461 Dean and the challenges of modular construction

On 12/4/19, Urban Omnibus published Unruly Bits, an intriguing essay on the challenges and complexity behind modular construction, notably the ill-fated 461 Dean (aka B2) at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, by Daniel Cardoso Llach, Associate Professor of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, where he chairs the Master of Science in Computational Design and co-directs CodeLab.

The author notes the promise of the tower:
Combining the latest digital design and building technologies, the tower would not only help the developer fulfill his multiple obligations towards the city — including public space, affordable housing, and construction jobs — but also herald a new era of efficiency in American construction.... The remarkably contentious and costly process of building the tower — which finally opened in 2016 (most of the renewal project remains under construction) — offers a lesson on the intertwining of design and urban politics with technology. The rhetoric of efficiency that helped a…