Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from January, 2020

Featured Post

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

Looking at southeast block parking: potential bottleneck at single Dean Street garage entrance for 758 cars, and 5 cars/minute (?) at peak hour

This is the third of eight posts regarding the 1/28/20 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting. The first regarded delays in B12/B13, the platform, and Site 5. The second concerned progress at B4, B15, and the railyard. The fourth concerned impacts from Barclays Center operations. The fifth concerned the Community Liaison Office, and impacts from workers. The sixth concerned the next Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting. The seventh concerned questions for the Department of Transportation. The eighth concerned DEP digging.
The issue of parking on Block 1129, the southeast block of the 22-acre site, first raised at the previous Quality of Life meeting last November, remains confounding.

The bottom line: though the state studied the impact of far more cars using a three-entrance parking garage on the block, it never studied the impact of a larger number of cars--on a per-entrance basis--now destined to use the currently planned single garage entrance.

Mor…

Foundation work complete at B4, B15 sites; cranes to arrive; railyard operational but punch list work still required

This is the second of eight posts regarding the 1/28/20 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting. The first regarded delays in B12/B13, the platform, and Site 5. The third concerned parking on the southeast block. The fourth concerned impacts from Barclays Center operations. The fifth concerned the Community Liaison Office, and impacts from workers. The sixth concerned the next Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting. The seventh concerned questions for the Department of Transportation. The eighth concerned DEP digging.

According to Greenland USA's Scott Solish, there's been continued progress at both active construction sites: B4 (18 Sixth Ave.) at the northeast corner of the arena block, and B15 (662 Pacific), just east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets.

In both cases, foundation work is complete. At B15, he said, concrete work will stop for the next few weeks while large steel beams are delivered and installed to support spaces in …

Delays: B12/B13 towers now starting in spring; platform to start sometime this year (pressuring 2025 affordable deadline); Site 5 now moving forward?

This is the first of eight posts regarding the 1/28/20 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting. The second concerned progress at B4, B15, and the railyard. The third concerned parking on the southeast block. The fourth concerned impacts from Barclays Center operations. The fifth concerned the Community Liaison Office, and impacts from workers. The sixth concerned the next Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting. The seventh concerned questions for the Department of Transportation. The eighth concerned DEP digging.
The "big" news in the brief meeting (about 66 minutes) was that there was no news--and that the expected representative of the Department of Transportation couldn't make it, so the expected discussion was pushed back until the next meeting, 3/3/20.

But "Hurry up and wait" was the essential message regarding three significant pending elements of the project.

B12/B13 start could be delayed until June

Regarding the B12 and B13…

NBA Commissioner David Stern not only opened Brooklyn for a franchise, he helped ease the way

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern died Jan. 1, at 77, and was the subject of many fascinating reflections and reminiscences. He was singularly responsible for vaulting the league into a new stratosphere of profits, with his business savvy rarely undermined by unsavory facts or his own not-always-diplomatic personality. (See Henry Abbott's description of him in TrueHoop as Exceptional, ruthless.)

He plays a significant cameo in the story of the New Jersey to Brooklyn Nets. Remember when he joined a 2005 breakfast gathering, trying to help the Nets sell season tickets? "Please," he implored. "Do whatever [the Nets] ask of you because we really need the money."

He was there at the Brooklyn Museum in January 2007 to help announce the Barclays Center naming rights agreement, and to bless the deal, claiming it signaled basketball's global reach and "being a leader in social responsibility."

Was incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov "a man of charac…

Prokhorov's Nets success: "incredible intuition," luck, or something of both?

You can't completely trust the machine translation of a 12/19/19 Forbes Russia profile of former Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, but the title seems pretty close, Billionaire with incredible intuition: how Prokhorov manages to go into the cache over and over again and what he is passionate about right now.

Prokhorov, smart and lucky (and connected, which gave him the base for wealth in a corrupt country), managed to get rich(er) from selling two companies, Norilsk Nickel and Polyus Gold, before the respective markets collapsed.

And he (via his Onexim Group) bought into the New Jersey Nets--thanks to a connection from NBA Commissioner David Stern--when the team was cheap. As the team value role, thanks to the league's new business deals--labor, TV, streaming--and the Nets' move to Brooklyn, Prokhorov looked to sell:
“We realized that there was a reassessment of the NBA teams,” says [Prokhorov deputy Dmitry] Razumov. The second factor, according to him, was the genera…

Flashback to 2017 branding episode: when Prokhorov joined Colbert, the Nets logos were everywhere

I missed the 7/20/17 episode of the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Show, described as "Billionaire Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov shows Stephen the ways of a Russian oligarch, which involves luxurious mansions, grandiose yachts and plentiful bologna."

Bottom line: Colbert wears a Nets jacket, Prokhorov wears a Brooklyn Basketball track suit. It's all good branding. Money cleanses.

Colbert offers a definition of oligarch as "rich guy--don't ask where his money came from" and says they "were given sweetheart deals to buy state owned resources after the collapse of the Soviet Union."

As the intro explains, Prokhorov was allowed to buy a state-owned nickel conglomerate "for just pennies on the nickel," and was forced to sell it, fortuitously, before the economic crash, after he got bad publicity after bringing "20 Russian models" women to France and was briefly jailed (but not charged) on suspicion of human trafficking.

Nets owner Tsai again calls the NBA "kind of a socialist setup" (not quite)

From a 1/22/20 Bloomberg Quint article headlined Nets Owner Joe Tsai Is Caught Between Brooklyn and Beijing, more on the back story of the sale, and another quote (here's previous) about the league's "socialist" economics:
When representatives of the Nets’ previous owner, Russian mining magnate Mikhail Prokhorov, called in 2017 to say the team was for sale, Tsai investigated the NBA’s economic fundamentals. “We had several long conversations,” says NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “I came away incredibly impressed.” Tsai also liked what he saw. The league splits revenue roughly evenly between players and owners, as well as among teams, regardless of market size or wins and losses. “It’s kind of a socialist setup,” Tsai says. “Basically all 30 teams get to make money.” He ended up buying the Nets in two stages, acquiring the first 49% in 2017 and the remainder, along with the arena, last September. He paid about $3.5 billion, all told. “NBA teams are not going to lose as…

With new regulations, EB-5 program said to be "hit with a stun gun"; increased minimum has ripple effects

Somehow EB-5 can turn up some juicy quotes. Remember the guy who called it "legalized crack cocaine"? 
Well, Bisnow, in a 1/22/20 article headlined EB-5 In 2020: Managing The 'Stun Gun' That Just Hit The Investment Program, quotes a real estate attorney as saying "The program's been hit with a stun gun."
Why? Because the minimum investment has gone from $500,000 to $900,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), which is an area of high unemployment or a rural area, and from $1 million to $1.8 million elsewhere.
Of course, until recently, every project was located in a TEA-- but new rules also restrict the long-practiced gerrymandering of such areas, as with Atlantic Yards.
While investor interest has waned, experts say, it also offers a potential advantage: loan packagers now have to recruit fewer investors to reach a requisite sum. That is, unless a pending bill to essentially nullify the changes passes, making it far easier to recruit investors for non…

Yes, 2010 document was over-optimistic about timetable to revamp railyard, and about platform too (everything always takes longer)

Two days, in writing about the milestones for the future platform over the Vanderbilt Yard, I cited is the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC, now simply ESD) response to a state Supreme Court’s November 9, 2010 Order, arguing that no Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was necessary to assess the impacts of an extended buildout. (Ultimately, a SEIS was ordered.)
The document (bottom) is also inadvertently instructive regarding project timing: with this project, elements always take longer than announced, and deadlines get stretched.
Consider the revamped Vanderbilt Yard, used to store and service Long Island Rail Road trains. The document contains a reference to the Vanderbilt Yard Relocation and Construction Agreement: That agreement imposes a deadline of 2012 for the commencement of construction and an outside date for substantial completion of the Yard of 2016. At the same time, it calls for the submission of a “proposed preliminary schedule” by FCRC, showing “the …

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 the …

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…