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Showing posts from April, 2020

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

Affordable housing faces city budget cuts; as city gets more selective, keep watch on future Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park towers

De Blasio's signature housing plan poised to take big hit from coronavirus, Politico's Janaki Chadha reported 4/28/20, noting more than $1 billion in cuts over the next two years, a significant contrast with the $1.7 billion spent in 2018. It's part of widespread city budget cuts.

That's capital subsidy, as far as I can tell, which is separate from financing. The latter cuts in two ways. As Politico reported, "record-low interest rates in recent weeks have pushed down the value of federal housing tax credits that contribute to the vast majority of the country’s affordable housing development."

However--and this wasn't addressed in the article--I think that low interest rates could also make it easier for the city's Housing Development Corporation to issue tax-exempt bonds, assuming the projects are deemed viable.

City more selective

The upshot, though, is that the city is getting more selective, while hoping for federal help:
"The agency is taking…

Cuomo's phased plan to re-open NYS requires health precautions and contact tracers; advisory board contains several pro sports reps, though not from Nets/Barclays

A press release yesterday, Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Outlines Additional Guidelines for Phased Plan to Re-open New York, announced the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board.

The advisory board will be chaired by Former Secretaries to the Governor Steve Cohen and Bill Mulrow and includes over 100 business, community and civic leaders from industries across the state. That advisory board (in full, below) pays copious attention to sports and entertainment, including as representatives:
Kathy Behrens - President, Social Responsibility & Player Programs, National Basketball AssociationJames Dolan - CEO, Madison Square GardenJon Ledecky – Co-Owner, NY IslandersRandy Levine - President, NY YankeesKim Pegula – President and CEO, Pegula Sports and EntertainmentJeff Wilpon - COO, NY Mets Dolan, of course, also owns the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. (Pegula owns the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres.) There was no representative of the Barclays Center and the…

Construction resumes at B4 and B15 sites; developers cite "enhanced safety measures" (though social distancing is difficult)

Some four weeks after construction began to shut down out of caution at the B4 (18 Sixth Avenue) and B15 (37 Sixth Avenue, 662-4 Pacific Street) sites, workers were back yesterday, part of a general wave--see below--of construction sites reopening.

As indicated by the blue circles on the excerpt at right from the city's list of essential construction sites, the justification is affordable housing, as each building will contain 30% below-market units (level of affordability not yet established).

After all, the developers of the sites--for B4, a partnership between Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) and The Brodsky Organization, and for B15, Brodsky alone, after leasing the site from GFCP--could have continued construction all through the current coronavirus crisis, given the affordable housing exception.

I asked if there were any changes, in terms of number of workers or new workplace precautions, and got some affirmation of the latter from a spokesperson for Greenland Forest C…

With Islanders gone from Brooklyn, another perceived slap, as "Barclays bingo" ignores hockey

The New York Islanders played their last game ever in Brooklyn 3/3/20, with their season cut short by the coronavirus crisis, and the divorce has been a little awkward, despite the goodbye photo on Flatbush Avenue.

Others have piled on to the observations, as I cited 4/14/20, that the flaws in the arena and game presentation alienated fans and even injured players, though it kept the team in New York, buying time for that new Belmont arena.

See these articles:
The Empire Strikes Back, 3/18/20, Brooklyn Saved the New York Islanders, But It Never Became HomeamNY, 3/22/20, Toxicity aside, Islanders fans should be thankful for Barclays Center stayNY City Lens, 3/14/20, Brooklyn IcedEye on Isles, 3/17/20, Islanders: Barclays Center gets unceremonious end it deservesA few other observations

Matthew Benedetti, writing for NY City Lens, captured a culture clash between the Nets and the Isles:
The traditional organ music that played throughout the second intermission at Barclays Center in Broo…

Cuomo says construction and manufacturing could re-start in phases, based on regional decline in hospitalizations

Will Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction, and other projects paused, re-start? Not immediately.

A press release yesterday suggested potential progress, Amid Ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Outlines Phased Plan to Re-open New York Starting With Construction and Manufacturing:
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today outlined a phased plan to re-open New York and re-imagine a new normal for the state starting with construction and manufacturing. The plan will be implemented in phases and will be based on regional analysis and determinations. Based on CDC recommendations, once a region experiences a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate they may begin a phased re-opening. The State is closely monitoring the hospitalization rate, the infection rate and the number of positive antibody tests, as well as the overall public health impact, and will make adjustments to the plan and other decisions based on these indicators.
Phase one will include op…

CFO of BSE Global, parent of Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, leaves. Was it a budget issue, or something more?

From Variety, a 4/23/20 exclusive, Brooklyn Nets Parent Company Loses Chief Financial Officer Eu-Gene Sung:
The parent company of the Brooklyn Nets is losing its chief financial officer, who is one of the highest-ranking female team executives in the National Basketball Association, according to people familiar with the matter.
Eu-Gene Sung will soon be leaving BSE Global, sources, who were granted anonymity because the move hasn’t been announced yet, told Sportico. Her destination isn’t known.Sung was at BSE since 2017. Without a new announced job, that suggests she was pushed.

The scoop was by Scott Soshnick, formerly of Bloomberg, and is now editor-in-chief of Sportico, Penske Media’s new sports business platform, which won't launch until the summer.

For Sportico, that's not the best timing, in terms of advertiser revenue, but there are lots of things to write about in sports business. But that's why the article appeared in Variety, a Penske publication focused on entert…

Bill Gates: "Large sporting and entertainment events probably will not make the cut for a long time." Barclays Center still plays somewhat coy.

In his Gates Notes blog, The first modern pandemic: The scientific advances we need to stop COVID-19., from Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote 4/23/20 about the unclear, "semi-normal" phase of opening up, which could start in the next two months.

That of course will rely on strong testing systems. He writes:
The basic principle should be to allow activities that have a large benefit to the economy or human welfare but pose a small risk of infection. But as you dig into the details and look across the economy, the picture quickly gets complicated. It is not as simple as saying “you can do X, but not Y.” The modern economy is far too complex and interconnected for that. So that affects things like in-restaurant dining, manufacturing protocols, and public transportation practices--all facing changes and, as he writes, "trade-offs based on the risks and benefits of opening various parts of the economy."

But there's a spectrum:
Schools offer a big benefit and should …

Crisis curtails or (temporarily) closes retail outlets, including Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park tenants, some of which are fundraising

The coronavirus crisis is closing or curtailing an enormous swath of retail outlets, and those associated with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park are among those affected.

The 550 Vanderbilt Avenue tower at Dean Street has three retail outlets, with another space not yet rented. Beer Street South had the bad luck to open in mid-February (expanding from a small space in Williamsburg), less than a month before the crisis. It's offering beer, wine, and cider for pick-up, from 2-8 pm daily, as noted in its Instagram.

The solo bakery cafe Ciao Gloria, however, is "closed for the time being," according to its Instagram, and is aiming to raise $40,000 on GoFundMe to stay afloat:
All that momentum came to a screeching halt on March 17th when I made the difficult decision to close the doors and let go of the entire staff of our sunny little bakery cafĂ© for the safety of our employees, our building and our community at large. We hope that our temporary closure has helped in keeping COVID…

Will Barclays Center workers be paid past May? Tsai said they'll re-evaluate. The arena won't be open by then.

On 4/21/20, NetsDaily focused on the admirable donations (in New York, and lately San Diego) of ventilators and personal protection equipment by Brooklyn Nets (and arena operating company) owner Joe Tsai and his wife Clara Wu Tsai.

The article also noted Tsai's commitment, announced in mid-March ahead of most other pledges in the sports world, to pay Barclays Center workers:
“So what do we do with all our hourly wage workers that are working so hard. You see them every day when you’re in the arena. They’re the ushers that are taking you to your seats. They’re the people who are providing security, the people that are providing the food service,” he noted.
“So we made a commitment very early that we were going to provide them with the same pay as though we had continued the games and concerts through the end of May and then we will see what happens.” An anonymous source told the New York Post that the Tsais' commitment was valued at $6 million.

Will it continue?

The question is:…

Boxing promoter: live events in New York "months and months and months, maybe years" away

In a 4/21/20 article, BoxingScene offers an ominous prediction from British fight promoter Eddie Hearn, whose said his company Matchroom Boxing USA likely will promote shows outside of Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, given the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus crisis.

“In America, there’s gonna be states that are safer to stage fights in than others,” Hearn said. “Like you talked about earlier, New York right now, I mean, no one’s gonna be comfortable doing live events in New York for months and months and months, maybe years. You know? But there may be a state where it hasn’t been largely affected, or you can create that sterile environment, with testing, with social distancing. Because that’s how I think it’s gonna go."

That's a plausibly cautious prediction: New York is going to come back slowly, and warily, and live events with large crowds will come at the later end.

Learning (belatedly) from Battery Park City: the need for a realistic timetable estimate and a flexible framework

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has presented a giant learning curve for me and others, since it involves numerous topics, including urban planning, affordable housing, sports facility finance, local politics, and more.

I'm sure I would've done a better job as a journalist had I read David L. A. Gordon's book Battery Park City: Politics and Planning on the New York Waterfront, early on--say, 15 years ago.

No, this short 1997 book can't serve as the definitive history of Battery Park City. But it offers some key lessons that should inform thinking about megaprojects, especially in New York City--and should've provoked skepticism about the heady claims for Atlantic Yards.

Optimistic vs. realistic projections

Consider the launch of Atlantic Yards in December 2003. No one, at least publicly, questioned the professed ten-year buildout or how, as the press packet claimed, the project could "look whole and complete" during each construction phrase.

(Note: while I was…

Given coronavirus closure of fitness facilities, Chelsea Piers plan for Pacific Park sites faces new questions

OK, I've written about the coronavirus-related question marks facing market-rate and affordable housing, the school, the Vanderbilt Yard platform, and a new office tower at Site 5.

But what about the fitness center and fieldhouse, operated by Chelsea Piers, planned under the B12 and B13 (615 Dean, 595 Dean) towers on the southwest block of the project site? (Here's my coverage, from last November of plans for those buildings, as well as previous discussion of the dubious approval process.)


As of early March 2020, those towers, with a combined 800 units, were supposed to start in June or July--a time period already nudged back at least two months. Now everything's been delayed by the coronavirus crisis, with essential construction stalled.

An unwise bet?

Given that gyms have closed due to Covid-19 and are likely, under the most optimistic scenario, to face operating restrictions when they reopen, the planned Chelsea Piers fitness center might seem, in the short term, an unwi…

Coming to Brooklyn (eventually): the WNBA's newest star, Sabrina Ionescu, drafted by the New York Liberty

When professional sports resume (and who knows when), the Barclays Center will have a new tenant, the New York Liberty, with a new star, Sabrina Ionesco, the top pick in the WNBA's recent virtual draft.

She's a tall (for women) point guard from the University of Oregon and a triple-double machine, and already has a sneaker deal with Nike. The New York Daily News (right) put her on the back cover.

As Howard Megdal noted in the New York Times:
Ionescu became the first No. 1 pick under a new collective bargaining agreement that significantly increased player salaries and promised additional investment in marketing. And she will join the Liberty just as the New York franchise is resetting its ownership, its roster and even its logo.The Liberty is now owned by Joe Tsai, who owns the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center operating company. He moved them from obscurity in Westchester after they were cast out of Madison Square Garden by then-owner James Dolan. Hence the double-barreled…

CM Rodriguez: use Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, armory for quarantine

From the New York Daily News today, New York City’s crowded apartments pose particular threat when it comes to coronavirus, cites Upper Manhattan Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez:
It would be unwise, he said, to release people from quarantine without test results that show immunity.

“I’ve been crying for this,” he said.

In an April 9 letter sent to Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, Rodriguez suggested the city could use Madison Square Garden, the Barclays Center and the Armory in Washington Heights to help quarantine people. Yesterday, in a press release headlined Do Not Let Another Latino, Afro-American, Asian, Or The Poorest New Yorker Die, he said:
We need to accomplish the following:

Completely close New York City for two weeks to curtail the spread of infection.Implement mass testing in the poorest communities, such as we have seen done in the wealthier areas.Work alongside the hotel industry to use the over 100,000 rooms they have available for New Yorkers who have tested positive f…

State Senate investigation into live events ticketing industry cites major players, including Barclays Center

A 4/16/20 press release from the New York State Senate, Skoufis Announces Investigation into Live Event Ticketing Industry, Sends Letter to AG:
Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley), Chair of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee, announced the committee launched an investigation into live event ticketing practices earlier this year, an effort that has taken on a new urgency in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Skoufis additionally sent the attached letter to Attorney General Letitia James seeking a formal inquiry into alleged impropriety by Ticketmaster which suddenly changed their reimbursement policy amidst the public health emergency.
Questionable practices and an interest in streamlining a convoluted, user-unfriendly system led Skoufis to launch the investigation earlier this year. On March 5, 2020, the Investigations and Government Operations Committee sent document requests to several ticketing industry stakeholders seeking information on their respect…

From the latest Construction Update: weekend work at railyard; utility work at two tower sites

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, April 20, was circulated yesterday at 5:26 pm (lead time, sort of) by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

That sure represents lead time compared to the previous update, which was released on 4/8/20, seemingly two-and-half days late, given the 4/6/20 date--but actually they skipped a week.

Work at the railyard

And while it seems to offer lead time, it cites site remediation work on Track 3 in Block 1121, the eastern railyard block, which will be done during the day and night shifts on this weekend and next. In other words, it should've been in the previous update.

While weekend and night work will continue at the railyard--including electrical punch-list closeout, train toilet servicing maintenance and repairs, site demobilization, and track restoration work--the document, unlike its predecessor, no longer says that such work…

More short-term doubts for Site 5, since the market for a new office tower in NYC surely tanked

The coronavirus crisis is upending the world of real estate in multiple ways; as I wrote recently, a lesser demand for market-rate units in New York City suggests a possible shift to a greater number of affordable units, at least in the short term.

That said, none among the two Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park towers under construction and the two scheduled to start later this year were supposed to be finished by 2021, which is the best case for a vaccine and a key step--but only a step--to the recovery of the New York economy.

So perhaps a stalwart developer build for that potential future demand. Or, perhaps, without significant government support, the shock to the system might last for years.

What about office space?

The crisis has also changed the outlook for office space, notably the long-percolating but long stalled plans for a two-tower complex at Site 5, opposite the Barclays Center and currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard. Condemnation has been stalled by resistance from…

National poll: 61% of sports fans (and 72% of total) won't go to games without a vaccine; no large gatherings until 2021?

Nearly 3 of 4 Americans Say They Won’t Attend Games Without Coronavirus Vaccine Developed, stated a 4/9/20 press release from the Seton Hall Sports Poll:
Asked what they would do if the leagues resumed play before the development of a vaccine, 72 percent of Americans said they would not attend games, with 12 percent saying they would if social distancing could be maintained. Only 13 percent said they would feel safe attending as in the past. Among sports fans the number drops to a still significant 61 percent. Note that late 2021 is the announced target for an approved vaccine, science marches on. Previously, Zeke Emanuel, a key advisor on #COVID19 issues, also suggested that larger gatherings would return until "fall 2021 at the earliest."

In the interim, note that it wouldn't be easy to maintain social distancing both in competition and in sports facilities, which typically have lines for concessions and for bathrooms. Even selling every other seat leaves people clos…

Last month, in quick teleconference meeting, ESD board approved extending environmental monitor's contract

Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, last month quietly extended for two years a consulting contract with an environmental monitor, whose job it is to ensure that the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments is being met.

The decision was made at the end of the ESD's 3/26/20 ESD board meeting, conducted by teleconference.

It came after the scheduled 3/18/20 meeting of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), which was moved from in-person to teleconference, then postponed.

No agenda for the AY CDC meeting had been posted. Presumably, the advisory body was expected to advise approval of the extension, as it had similarly at a meeting two years ago. But it didn't have the opportunity to do so.

Decision overview

According to the ESD board materials (at bottom), the current contract with HDR (Henningson, Durham & Richardson, Architecture and Engineering P.C.)  of $5,645,000 expires …

As government bodies meet virtually, how maintain open government and public comment? Well, you can submit comments on ESD agenda items (but not board materials)

Someday public bodies will be meeting more frequently, if not in person, and perhaps the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation--its scheduled 3/18/20 meeting moved from in-person to teleconference, then postponed--will finally meet again. And the parent Empire State Development has been meeting by teleconference.

So it's worth a look at the 3/15/20 Gotham Gazette article 'Open' Government Amid an Outbreak, in which Ethan Geringer-Sameth explains a 3/12/20 executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which suspended aspects of the state's Open Meetings Law.

Here's the relevant passage:
Suspension of law allowing the attendance of meetings telephonically or other similar service: Article 7 of the Public Officers Law, to the extent necessary to permit any public body to meet and take such actions authorized by the law without permitting in public in-person access to meetings and authorizing such meetings to be held remotely by conference call or similar service, …