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

Recapping Eric Adams' record on Atlantic Yards: from wariness, fence-sitting, and faux outrage to enthusiastic support (plus some $ from the arena)

So now that everyone's wondering about Mayor-in-waiting Eric Adams, it's worth a recap of his shifting but ultimately supportive posture of the Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

And that suggests that he will do what he can to ensure future ribbon-cuttings, while perhaps ensuring some additional public benefits--whether meaningful or a mere gesture, we shall see.

The early days

Some 18 months after Atlantic Yards was announced in December 2003, the battle for public opinion was continuing.

In June 2005, the minister-led Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition, working with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), promoted a "March to City Hall," with the lead article by Bob Law, a radio host, Prospect Heights merchant, and ally of Council Member Barron, who considered the proposed Community Benefits Agreement “corrupt.” 

To Law, project supporters like the Rev. Herbert Daughtry (an Adams mentor) had backed "wealthy White powerbrokers," while the bypass of the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) disempowered minority Council Members. 

The march drew more than 400 people, albeit few from the ministers' congregations. "Join us, they wanna take our homes for a basketball arena," proclaimed Council Member Letitia James, wearing sneakers beneath her suit. "If you want your tax dollars to go to libraries, join us."

Outside City Hall, activist/gadfly Adams (who’d co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care) served as MC. He was an ally of DDDB attorney Norman Siegel.

Shifting posture

A year later, a 5/13/06 post on No Land Grab quoted Adams, then a candidate for state Senate, on Atlantic Yards:
First of all I am not in support of subsidizing developers to build luxury houses. There's no such thing in New York as non-prime real estate, so why are we paying developers to develop it….To deal with the AYP directly – I cannot support that project as it stands. [reasons: terrorism, asthma, sewer, traffic, evacuation] I would never be supportive of any project that deals with eminent domain. Until we answer all of those questions, it's difficult to move ahead with any project of that magnitude.
Three months later, as Gotham Gazette reported 8/14/06, rival Anthony Alexis supported Atlantic Yards (while opposing eminent domain), while Adams was described as now on the fence:
Eric Adams, the co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, has not taken a position on the Atlantic Yards plan. He says he wants to look at the issues of environment, affordable housing and labor before reaching a decision.

But he was not, if I recall correctly, part of the public hearings on the project, pro or con.

The project received official approval in December 2006, and then was revised and re-approved three years later.

Update, 2012

Fast forward to January 2012, when the arena was being constructed but without the promised jobs or housing. At a press conference, three local Democratic officials, previously project supporters or wafflers, sounded harsh. "We are outraged," declared state Senator Adams, gearing up for a 2013 run for Borough President, joined by Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries and Karim Camara.

The trio's wobbly record prompted reporter Mary Alice Miller, from the black-oriented Our Time Press, to point out the absence of James, the project's most prominent opponent. "So for five years," Miller asked, "where were y'all?"

"Elected officials use different methodologies," Adams responded smoothly.

Since then, backing

Since his election in 2013, however, Borough President Adams has loyally backed the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park and the operators of the associated Barclays Center.

In 2013, when a broad range of elected officials urged that the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement be revised to require the affordable housing to be built on the originally promoted ten-year schedule before the developer was allowed to sell 70% of the remaining project, incoming BP Adams was absent.

Asked by NY1's Errol Louis about "accusations that the affordable housing has been delayed for far too long," Adams responded evasively.

"We have to develop the housing, and not only because we need affordable housing--we must build up--but also, we need the jobs," he said, not addressing the issue of delays, or the implied question about imposing new conditions on the developer.

"We need to look at what Bruce Ratner is doing, with his great, really cutting-edge, trying to build up using pre-fab housing, can we do this throughout in the borough of Brooklyn, and can we encourage others to do that as well," Adams continued.

While that was, at the time, not implausible--after all, Ratner claimed to have "cracked the code"--the modular plan was a debacle.

Then, when the developers eschewed modular, Adams ritually praised the opening of the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton residential tower as “a victory for Brooklyn,” disregarding that half the units are aimed at middle-income households earning six figures. and have been tough to rent.

Barclays backing

Adams has embraced the arena. For example, modeled a new Brooklynized jersey for the New York Islanders in September 2015, claiming, "I can't wait for the @NYIslanders to arrive in #Brooklyn."

By December 2017, however, he coldly bid the team good riddance: after the announcement of a new hockey arena planned for Belmont Park in Nassau County, he tweeted, “There’s only one #Brooklyn team for @BarclaysCenter and that’s the @BrooklynNets. We wish the @NYIslanders well on their journey to Belmont and they should consider Nassau Coliseum in the interim period.”

With the latter statement, Adams was carrying water for BSE Global, the company then owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, that operates both Barclays and the Coliseum and is eager to fill dates at the latter. 

Perhaps in reward, or merely to maintain comity, two top BSE executives soon gave $5,100--the maximum--to Adams’s campaign coffers.

The awkwardly named Atlantic Yards/Nets/DBNA Community Foundation launched in 2015, distributing more than $100,000 annually to community groups in underserved parts of Brooklyn. Borough President Adams, who’d counted the Rev. Daughtry--the DBNA founder--as a mentor, proudly hosted the ceremonies.

Arena contributions to Adams' nonprofit

As with his predecessor Marty Markowitz, Adams used an affiliated nonprofit to raise significant funds--well beyond what the campaign finance system allows--and from those potentially doing business with the city and borough. 

Here's coverage from:

The Conflict of Interests Board donation search, which goes back to 2018--there's a separate system before then--lists several cash and in-kind contributions by arena operators (Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, now BSE Global) to Adams' One Brooklyn Fund. (Here's the list of contributions to One Brooklyn since 2018.)

They are by no means the majority of his fundraising, but it's a way to maintain lines of communication.

On 6/12/18, an entity (mis)described as Barclays Sports and Entertainment (Barclays/Nets) gave $8,500. A separate 6/12/18 contribution by Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment of $8,500 is listed as well--it may be a re-filing of the same transaction.

On 10/10/19, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment provided four tickets and access to the Qatar Awards Club, worth $1,000.


Another odd thing

One other aspect, not connected to Atlantic Yards/Barclays, struck me as... curious. Apparently it's not unusual to for the Borough President transfer some portion of the budget to the BP's affiliated nonprofits--just like to unrelated nonprofits. But it can't be best practices.

I asked a question, but never got an answer. 

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