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Showing posts from February, 2020

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

Giving eminent domain a good name: after nine years, a caption regarding a "strange bedfellows" Atlantic Yards meeting kinda came true

Mike Bloomberg's back in the news, which reminded me I never posted on this, another example--as with Bloomberg's kiss from ACORN's Bertha Lewis--of the "strange bedfellows" that Atlantic Yards could generate.

Hey, remember that odd breakfast meeting in, May 2010, with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, developer and Brooklyn Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner, incoming Brooklyn Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, and "resident Brooklyn-credibility totem" (to quote David Roth) Jay-Z?

The breakfast was a photo op only, so the New York Times invited readers to contribute captions.

As I wrote at the time, most captions capitalized on the incongruity of the mayor meeting the hip-hop mogul--a Times photo including Prokhorov surely would've generated different cultural quips--but a few, including mine, referenced the project at hand.

One of the more telling captions came from Daniel Goldstein, long the face of the Atlantic Yards opposition, addressing Jay-Z by his ni…

Some detail on the Tsai-Levy split: "mismatched expectations" (but still murky)

In Joe Tsai and David Levy: a case of mismatched expectations, NetsDaily on 2/17/20 summarized the emerging explanation for the curiously brief term of Nets/arena CEO David Levy, who was gone after less than two months.

Tsai recently told Bloomberg News it was a case of differing expectations:
“He was already looking ahead at how to grow the J Tsai sports portfolio, but we also needed someone to do the nuts and bolts,” Tsai said during the interview. “Maybe he thought that he wanted to do something that’s bigger and he could just bring in other people to do it, and I’m of a view that before you outsource something you should do it yourself.” As NetsDaily noted, Levy talked about such things as mobile betting, esports, and new sports technology: "Still, one team insider told NetsDaily that Levy was surprised to be managing something as small as the Nets after running Turner Media."
As previously noted, Levy told the Times, "It wasn’t one thing. It just wasn’t the job I s…

Flashback: when Bloomberg was asked (in 2012) about Barclays Center jobs, he showed his peevishness

In light of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg's unimpressiveperformance at last night's Democratic candidates' debate in Las Vegas, here's a flashback to an Atlantic Yards event where the mayor displayed his peevishness upon being questioned.

At a press event at the under construction Barclays Center 4/26/12, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and developer Bruce Ratner announced 2,000 arena jobs, saying Brooklynites, including public housing residents, would get priority.

But that nice round number was overinflated. From the press scrum, I asked for the full-time equivalent (FTE) job figure.

I don’t have any idea what that is,” responded the famously data-driven mayor, as I wrote for Daily Intel. "Bruce, you want to--?"

Then Bloomberg cut himself off, and couldn't resist showing his smarts: "Full-time equivalent jobs, I don't know how you--it's really different, it's hard to calculate. If the average person works 30 hours, and you say a full-time job is 40 …

Does building more housing lower rents or push them up? Studies suggest complicated verdict.

On 2/14/19, the New York Times published (online) A Luxury Apartment Rises in a Poor Neighborhood. What Happens Next?.
Writes Emily Badger:
It’s even plausible that both stories could be true at the same time — that new housing might help lower rents across a metro area even as it signals the popularity of a particular neighborhood and nudges up rents nearby.
...Taken together, [new studies'] findings suggest that new housing can ease rising rents in other buildings close by. But their verdict is mixed on whether lower-income renters directly benefit from new supply, too. The studies confirm that new buildings drive more amenities, like restaurants, but new supply tamps down rent increases, at least in the higher-end categories.

Writes Badger:
“These results don’t deny the reality of gentrification,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor at N.Y.U. and an adviser to Ms. Li. “They don’t deny the reality of crushing rent burdens. They simply suggest that building more housing in a neigh…

Strange bedfellows: Behind that Atlantic Yards alliance of Bertha Lewis (then of NY ACORN) and Mayor Mike Bloomberg

OK, then explain this (not-Photoshopped) 2005 pic of NYCC predecessor ACORN's Executive Director Bertha Lewis and Mike. (Atlantic Yards made strange bedfellows.) — Eric McClure (@EricMcClureBK) February 17, 2020
Explanation: Bertha is no longer on the payroll and she is pissed. — Aaron Naparstek (@Naparstek) February 17, 2020 Yes, Atlantic Yards made strange bedfellows. But it was a little more complicated than a payroll issue.

During a time when the Bloomberg administration was unwilling to require affordable housing as part of rezonings (see: Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City, Park Slope's Fourth Avenue) that delivered enormous benefit to landowners, Lewis, executive director of New York ACORN, and a founder of the Working Families Party, made a strategic alliance with Forest City Ratner.

The developer was willing to promise--if not truly commit to--a significant amount of affordable housing, in exchange for an enormous in…

In Los Angeles, Greenland's Metropolis is done. It's just not well-situated.

I recently visited Los Angeles and almost stayed in the Hotel Indigo, part of the three-tower Metropolis development, which was recently completed (and is not fully captured in the photo I took below).

The price was a relative bargain, perhaps because, well, Metropolis isn't well-situated if you want to walk around downtown Los Angeles, especially if you want access to the nearest Metro station. It's a rather forbidding 9-10 minute walk, especially off-hours. It's near a freeway on-ramp, too.

The location is close to the Staples Center and L.A. Live, but not so close to downtown Los Angeles eating and shopping. And that's likely part of why it's been tough to sell all the condos.

But Greenland USA--see logo at top left in photo below--got the project finished. (Here are my photos from a visit in 2018.)

The question in Brooklyn is: will they stay the course, or sell off more parcels, or even abandon the project? The development of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is mor…

In "The Golden Age of White Collar Crime," a reminder of missed priorities (and it makes me think of EB-5)

The Golden Age of White Collar Crime was, published 2/10/20 by HuffPost's Highline, with the subheading "Elite lawbreaking is out of control. This is the grotesque story of an existential threat to American society," Michael Hobbes lays down some harsh lessons:
OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS, nearly every institution of American life has taken on the unmistakable stench of moral rot. Corporate behemoths like Boeing and Wells Fargo have traded blue-chip credibility for white-collar callousness. Elite universities are selling admission spots to the highest Hollywood bidder. Silicon Valley unicorns have revealed themselves as long cons (Theranos), venture-capital cremation devices (Uber, WeWork) or straightforward comic book supervillains (Facebook). Every week unearths a cabinet-level political scandal that would have defined any other presidency. From the blackouts in California to the bloated bonuses on Wall Street to the entire biography of Jeffrey Epstein, it is impossible to…

From the latest Construction Update: crane at B15 blocks Sixth Avenue traffic this weekend; modifications to Atlantic Avenue median; new railyard lighting

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Feb. 17, was circulated Friday Feb. 14 at 3:34 pm by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

That was seemingly lead time, but not really. The document announced that, as described in previous reports, a tower crane will be installed at the B15 site (just east of Sixth Avenue, between Dean and Pacific streets).

The installation work began late Friday and will continue through to Sunday evening,  February 16. As part of this work, Sixth Avenue between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue will be closed in both directions. Pedestrians will be able to cross Sixth Avenue at Dean and Pacific streets, and flaggers will be on site during this work to assist with pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

A tower crane has already been delivered to the B4 site, 18 Sixth Avenue, as shown in the photo at right, taken yesterday.

Railyard lighting, and work fi…

A Woodland footnote: it looks like they (partly) stiffed their lobbyist

Yesterday I wrote in the Daily News about Eric Adams and, among other things, his dubious defense of the now-closed bar/restaurant/nightclub Woodland.

I recently checked the city's lobbying database and, as the letter reproduced below indicates, the relationship between Woodland and its lobbyist, Mercury Public Affairs, went sour. The letter is from Mercury:
The initial authorization filed for Prime Six Inc. [Woodland's parent company] was effective 7/1/2019 through the end of the registration period 12/31/20 with an expected compensation of $7500 per month. However, after client non-payment, Mercury and Prime Six have mutually agreed to terminate lobbying services effective 10/16/2019.
Mercury will accept a onetime payment in the sum of $20,000 for the period of 7/1-10/16/2019. Given the span of three-and-a-half months, that suggests a not-insignificant discount off the contracted rate, which would be $26,250. (Note that the agreement I saw was for three months, but that appa…

My Daily News op-ed: Eric Adams’ gentrification double standard

I have an op-ed in the Daily News online today, headlined Eric Adams’ gentrification double standard. It begins:
Though Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called his passionate “go back to Iowa!” admonition on Martin Luther King Day a “gaffe,” others suggest he’s strategically aiming for a black and Latino voter base in the 2021 mayoral election.
Having closely watched Adams navigate one gentrification-related issue, I found his “kumbaya” open letter in the Daily News equally strategic. Yes, “rapid changes [are] causing a lot of pain among long-time residents and businesses.”
But it was disingenuous for Adams to cite “The restaurant owner of a neighborhood institution who received so many noise complaints she’s forced to close down her business.” Why? Because he’s prominently defended relatively new destinationnightclubs that featured bottle service.
In Brooklyn, it was Woodland, a nightspot on Flatbush Ave. at the edge of Park Slope that generated numerous complaints for noise, publi…

As Forbes values Brooklyn Nets #7 in NBA value, team operating income ranks #25 and revenue/fan #29 (should change this year/next year)

In NBA Team Values 2020: Lakers And Warriors Join Knicks In Rarefied $4 Billion Club, Forbes reported 2/11/20, that, despite problems like a lousy Knicks team and geopolitical tensions from China, "NBA franchise values continue to soar, up 14% in the past year to an average of $2.12 billion." That outpaces football and baseball.

And the Brooklyn Nets, the league's seventh most valuable team, are going gangbusters. Forbes's Kurt Badenhausen, Michael Ozanian and Christina Settimi cite the recent transaction: Alibaba cofounder Joseph Tsai agreed in 2018 to buy the Brooklyn Nets over three years for $2.35 billion, but he accelerated the purchase in August and added the operating rights to the Barclay’s Center in a deal worth $3.3 billion for the team and arena. Forbes now values the Nets at $2.5 billion, a 6% rise, perhaps accounting for the potential of the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving pairing in the 2020-21 season.

Value ≠ income

The value of the Nets seems partly base…

Now it's "ironclad." Islanders will move to Belmont with 25-year commitment.

When the New York Islanders in 2012 announced a move to Brooklyn, the 25-year lease was said to be "ironclad," with no opt-out. That was a lie.

Now the Islanders' 25-year lease at Belmont Park is said to be "ironclad," and that sounds more likely, given that Newsday reporter Jim Baumbach got a copy.
No option for modifying agreement after three years, as with "ironclad" Barclays deal, right? — Norman Oder (@AYReport) February 10, 2020
I'd encourage you to FOIL for a copy of the document and see for yourself! #PrimarySources — Jack Sterne (@JRSterne) February 10, 2020
I read the agreement. It's fairly ironclad. — Jim Baumbach (@jimbaumbach) February 10, 2020Islanders, Belmont Park have 25-year 'non-relocation' agreement, Baumbach reported 2/10/20, noting that the team would have to pay a significant, but decreasing, penalty to Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project.


Updated: At the Barclays Center plaza, the subway system's worst privately owned elevator (and a need for more MTA oversight). Escalator problems too.

Updated: A day later, things were better. See bottom.

Spokespersons for @barclayscenter and the InterContinental Hotel Group did not respond to requests for comment
(This isn't new: — Norman Oder (@AYReport) February 11, 2020BARCLAYS CENTER HAS SUBWAY’S WORST PRIVATELY OWNED ELEVATOR, Jose Martinez wrote last night for The City, noting that not only was the elevator connecting the arena plaza to the subway mezzanine out of service, so too were the two escalators.

"That elevator, at Brooklyn’s busiest station, functioned just 74.2% of the time in 2019, MTA records show, falling far beneath the 96.5% reliability standard aimed for by New York City Transit," the article states.

The article springs from a report released by the advocacy group Transit Center.

It's disappointing that spokespeople for the arena operator, which is supposed to maintain the elevator and escalator and has regularly promised…

Residential property tax reform proposed, could foster equity, but untangling the current system will be fraught

"Affordable housing" and a fairer city requires a lot of changes, notably property tax reform, given that poster child Mayor Bill de Blasio's well-valued homes in Park Slope have a lesser tax burden that houses in less tony neighborhoods.

It's a problem, as Ben Adler wrote in August 2018 in City and State:
Property tax reform. The city currently disincentivizes dense development by taxing rental buildings more than co-ops, condos and private houses. The much-maligned 421-a program is a kludge intended to offset that. Instead, taxes should be distributed more equally on all units, regardless of building type. Then 421-a could be repealed and the increased property tax revenue could be used to fund affordable housing development through HPD. The mayor’s property tax reform commission is currently mulling just that.Well, after more than 18 months of work, the New York City Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform released its Preliminary Report on January 31, 2020, wi…

Will de Blasio's "Save Our City" plan include Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park housing? Probably not.

In his 2/6/20 State of the City speech, Mayor de Blasio Unveils Blueprint to Save Our City, Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined several initiatives boosting affordable housing, under the rubric of Your Home NYC.

From the press release:

Keep New Yorkers in their Homes: We have already kept 255,000 New Yorkers in their affordable homes, and in the next two years, we will protect 78,000 more New Yorkers.Build New Homes for the Lowest-Income New Yorkers: Your Home NYC will prioritize building new homes for our lowest-income New Yorkers. Half of all City financed newly-built homes will be for families making under $50,000 per year, and at least half of those will be for families making less than $30,000 per year. In total, this will mean 2,000 more units for low-income New Yorkers over the course of the plan.Rent Without a Security Deposit: Too many New Yorkers work hard to afford rent, but don’t have enough cash upfront for a security deposit. Starting with up to 60,000 City-financed homes, we…

Ex-con pol Monserrate, in second comeback bid, again boosted by Lewis

(Revised 2/10/20)

From the New York Times, 9/10/17, Monserrate, Ex-Senator and Ex-Convict, Seeks Votes Amid Disdain:
But to his supporters, Mr. Monserrate deserves another chance.

Bertha Lewis, the former chief executive of the defunct community organizing group Acorn, who endorsed Mr. Monserrate and has been assisting his campaign, said that his criminal past should not impinge on the race. “He’s a returning citizen,” she said. “Do we actually believe in reform, do we believe in redemption, or is this something abstract and when it comes to individuals, you wear the scarlet letter forever?” She's not wrong that people shouldn't wear a scarlet letter forever, though presumably there's a higher bar for public service. Now there's an update.

From the New York Times, 2/2/20, He Assaulted His Girlfriend. Now He Wants a Political Comeback.:
Bertha Lewis, the president of the Black Institute and a prominent civil rights activist, said that corruption was so endemic to New Yo…

More brands for the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center: a Spain-based hotel company; a new bar from Hershey; an official sports drink

A bunch of new partnership deals for the Nets and the Barclays Center, though the financial specifics aren't public. From Insider Sport 1/9/20, Brooklyn Nets signs suite deal with Palladium Hotel: A season-long partnership has been announced between National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise the Brooklyn Nets and Spain-based hotel chain the Palladium Hotel Group.
The deal, which marks Palladium’s first sponsorship of an NBA outfit, is the latest overseas deal for an NBA franchise since the league opened up international territories to its teams. According to Palladium's web site, they operate hotels in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, and Spain.

From FSR Magazine, 1/23/20, First Hershey Bar Opens at Barclays Center:
The first experiential Hershey Bar just opened as part of an official partnership with Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets.
A first-of-its-kind, the Hershey Bar at Barclays Center serves both non-alcoholic beverages and spiked cocktails, …

Starting at 5 pm today, through Sunday night, tower crane installation for B4 site closes Sixth Avenue between Dean and Flatbush

An announcement yesterday from Empire State Development:
Please be advised that as described in previous reports, a tower crane will be installed at the B4 site this weekend. The installation work will begin on Saturday, February 8th at 5 pm and continue through Sunday evening. As part of this work, 6th Avenue between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue will be closed in both directions. Pedestrians will be able to cross 6th Avenue at Dean and Pacific Streets, and flaggers will be on site during this work to assist with pedestrian and vehicular traffic It should be noted that the previous reports did not describe the duration of the work nor that the street would be shut down. The site, at the northeast corner of the arena block, goes west from Sixth Avenue and south from Atlantic Avenue.

Second look: the flaw in the traffic/parking analysis was to focus on Nets games rather than smaller events drawing more vehicles

As I recently wrote, regarding the confounding plan for a single entrance to a 758-space parking garage on Dean Street, there seems to be a fundamental flaw in the state's analysis of traffic and parking, one that appeared not only in the studies of the project before the opening of the Barclays Center, but also after the arena had been operating.

While a Nets game, given the likelihood of 15,000-plus attendees, was assessed as drawing the largest crowds, experience shows it does not necessarily provoke the most congestion: basketball fans are more attuned to public transportation, while concerts (like Barbra Streisand) that attract older audiences and family shows (like Disney On Ice) that draw children are more likely to bring vehicles, whether for parking or for drop-off.

Even the post-operating study of the Barclays Center, focusing on Nets games, looked only briefly at concerts, and while it noted that family shows and some concerts drew a greater number of cars, it didn'…