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Showing posts from July, 2023

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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/what's coming/what's missing, who's responsible, + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

Reinvent Albany recommends major reforms for Empire State Development, "secretive" state authority with "amorphous mission"

It's gotten relatively little press attention, but a 7/27/23 report from the watchdog Reinvent Albany on Empire State Development, the gubernatorially-controlled state economic development authority (that oversees/shepherds Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park) deserves significant attention, since there's so much to fix. The headlines so far are  State's development arm is secretive and 'vulnerable to corruption,' watchdog says , from Crain's New York Business, and Report gives rise to talk of economic development transparency reform , from Spectrum News. The full report is available at  Reinvent Albany  and at bottom. The overview From the announcement,  Watchdog Report Calls for Major Governance and Transparency Reforms for Empire State Development : Watchdog group Reinvent Albany’s “Open ESD” report includes 35 specific actions to improve ESD’s transparency, governance, oversight, and ethics. Reinvent Albany wrote the report to encourage the public authority’s Boar

Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp. meeting re-scheduled for Wednesday. Public comment again requires clairvoyance.

OK, after having been postponed from last Wednesday due to a lack of a quorum, the (purportedly) advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) meeting has been rescheduled for this Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 3 pm, at the offices of the parent Empire State Development (ESD) in Manhattan: 633 Third Avenue – 37th Floor Conference Room. The meeting also will be webcast . It might be a chance to ventilate some big questions about the future of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park--or it might not. According to purported building procedures--which haven't always been enforced as such--members of the public attending in-person should  RSVP by 4:30 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 1. Members of the press should call (800) 260-7313 and members of the public should call (212) 803-3795.  The meeting has been re-scheduled with minimal transparency, an ESD  hallmark . A media advisory and agenda appears on ESD's board meetings page , but neither were circulated, as far as I know. (I'm typi

NY Times cultural critic Wesley Morris, contrasting superstars Aaron Rodgers and Kevin Durant, delivers a cordial burn to KD

New York Times culture critic Wesley Morris delivered a cordial-enough burn to former Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant in a 7/24/23 Critic's Notebook headlined  Aaron Rodgers Is Now a Jet (and Becoming a New Yorker, Too) , and subtitled "The Jets’ starting quarterback has thrown himself into the culture of his new professional home before he’s thrown a single pass." Wrote Morris: It’s so rare anymore that a person of note arrives in this city, jumps right in and, before he even does what he’s been hired to do, makes a little splash. The mighty Kevin Durant just spent four years here as a Net and, possibly even to his credit, never got anything wet. Well KD was injured for a year, and then there was Covid, so he wasn't exactly out and about.  But as Matt Sullivan described Durant in his book Can't Knock the Hustle , KD's a pure hooper with an extreme work ethic (and a penchant for getting baked in his downtime, which doesn't diminish his on-court capac

During 2014 negotiations, developer Greenland proposed *blanket city concessions* re future project changes. That didn't happen. But it shows chutzpah.

After Arana Hankin, former Atlantic Yards overseer for Empire State Development project overseer, left in 2013 for a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, her qualms about the project surfaced, as I wrote in 2016. "There really is no accountability," she  declared  in a lecture, acknowledging that public agencies failed to count estimated jobs and that project agreements were "drafted to be as complicated and obtuse as possible.” One of her roles was to determine "how ESD should respond to developer requests for additional benefits, and there were many." In other words, renegotiations were frequent. And they weren't over. I wrote recently about what I believe to be the inevitable renegotiation, based on not only the project's history but common Chinese business tactics.  A request for carte blanche Indeed, documents acquired via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request suggest that the developers proposed asking New York City officials, w

With AY CDC meeting postponed indefinitely, and no announcement circulated, questions about NYS government transparency and responsiveness

OK, the official notice for the once-scheduled meeting today of the purportedly (advisory) Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation does now say that the meeting has been postponed--or, as one director put it, canceled --pending rescheduling. That puts off discussion of key questions facing the project, as well as an update on basic issues, to an unspecified date. That notice appears on the web site of the parent Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. But it doesn't appear on the web site of the AY CDC itself. Nor did an announcement of the meeting in the first place. Nor was the press release circulated, as far as I can tell, though one was posted online. (I and neighbors had previously been sent the press release for and/or an announcement of such meetings.) That further diminishes transparency. Also worrying is the suspension of the previous practice of bi-monthly Quality of Life meetings, which allow ne

Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp. meeting canceled due to quorum issue. When will questions about the project's future get aired?

Never mind. The meeting scheduled tomorrow--my preview --of the (purportedly) advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) has been canceled due to a lack of a quorum, according to Director Gib Veconi, though no official notice has been issued and the meeting is still listed on the website of Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project. (Presumably the meeting would not have been scheduled without a quorum, but the loss of just one RSVP could undermine it.) Getting quorums has hobbled the AY CDC, as directors have cycled on and off the board, with many having little commitment to trying to understand the project. As of now, 11 of 14 directorships are filled, with three slots open, all the responsibility of the Governor, in this case Kathy Hochul.  (Note: I'm going on memory, since the AY CDC web page , no model of transparency, does not specify who appointed each member.) The upshot is that the AY CDC, though gene

From the latest (non-) Construction Update: document again repeats from late May, with no new information (but still that hint about the platform).

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning yesterday, Monday, July 24, has  not  been circulated by email, as it should have been by Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project. But I did notice it yesterday, after it should've been circulated, at ESD's  Atlantic Yards page . (The document has traditionally been prepared by the master developer, long Greenland Forest City Partners, but operating as Pacific Park Development LLC.) Reason for confusion Perplexingly, after two two-week periods ( June 12 ,  June 26 ) in which ESD claimed that there were no new construction activities for the coming two weeks and thus didn't circulate a document, it has twice essentially issued a duplicate of the May 29 document, again with no new activities. As with two weeks ago , while it states that there are no construction activities for the platform, long planned to be built over the firs

Cryptic agenda for Wednesday's Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp. meeting offers little chance for meaningful pre-meeting comment.

Ok, the typically oblique agenda  (also at bottom) for the (purportedly advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) meeting Wednesday at 3 pm--in person, and webcast--has been posted this morning. That leaves little more than 24 hours for public comment--which requires clairvoyance regarding the cryptic agenda. The AY CDC is supposed to advise the parent Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project. (Info on attending the meeting in person--which requires an RSVP--and watching it online, as well as offering public comments, is here .) Agenda items Beyond approval of the minutes, the agenda includes an update on the B12/B13 project, aka 595 Dean Street (which has already opened). The agenda also contains an update on platform construction, which the developer has said is likely to start in the second half of this year but otherwise has not provided any details. Even more cryptic is a reference to "Pacific Park."

Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp. set to meet in person (+ on video) July 26. Public comment on agenda due July 25. No agenda yet.

As I wrote July 7, the expected meeting July 26 of the (purportedly) advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) could mean discussion of some big-picture issues regarding the future of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. The AY CDC is supposed to advise the parent Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project. Those issues include the platform needed to support six towers over the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard; the 876 (or 877) units of affordable housing due by May 2025, and ESD's seeming reluctance to enforce fines; the expected argument by Greenland USA, which controls nearly all the rest of the project, for an extension of that deadline; and changes at both Greenland and ESD, leaving new people as the face of the project. There may even be a discussion of the workaround Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed to enable affordable housing unlocked by the Gowanus rezoning, since that could serve as a template for future Atlantic Yar

Hochul finds workaround to replace 421-a tax break, for Gowanus at least. Will it extend to other neighborhoods? To Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park?

In what the New York Times called "stopgap measures," on 7/18/23, Governor Hochul Announces New Executive Action on Housing Crisis to Increase Supply, Create Affordable Housing, and Promote Broader Housing Growth . Notably, in response to the state legislature's failure to approve her proposed replacement for the 421-a tax break, seen as crucial to advancing much rental housing, Gov. Kathy Hochul: announced a program aimed at targeting specific benefits and housing obligations in line with the former 421-a(16) program for development proposals currently vested in the expired program in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn. Proposals would respond to a request for applications administered by Empire State Development. For eligible proposals, Empire State Development would purchase the privately owned properties for a nominal fee, lease the property back to the original owners for a long-term lease term that would parallel the 421-a(16) benefit period, and deed the propert

Is "The Book of HOV" for anyone but Jay-Z? Well, maybe a bit for arena developer Bruce Ratner (and designer SHoP), thanks to Barclays Center replica

Barclays Center, Book of Hov online Do read Adlan Jackson's necessary essay in HellGate,  Is ‘The Book of Hov’ Really for Anyone but Jay-Z? , subtitled "The Brooklyn Public Library exhibition glorifies Jay-Z and advertises his products—but we’re being told it’s for the people." He writes: There's just not much here for you to engage with unless you're a Jay-Z superfan, and want to look at a jacket he wore once. If that's you, that's fine, but even you might wonder why on earth it's in the middle of the fucking library. And do read Theodore Hamm's 7/18/23 essay in Hyperallergic, Brooklyn Public Library Has 99 Problems but Jay-Z Ain’t One , subtitled "Should a struggling public library be used as a shrine to a billionaire’s glamorous life?" Photos by Norman Oder Who else is it for? For now, let me add that the exhibit, at least in one way, is "for" some others beyond Jay-Z: the arena developer, Bruce Ratner, and the arena designer

Averting possible strike, food and beverage workers at Barclays Center announce agreement lifting wages, better terms, and some progress on health insurance.

Union President José Maldonado and workers; BP Antonio Reynoso is on other side of mic After threatening a strike and keeping pressure on with  tweets  and op-eds  and articles ,  food and beverage workers at Barclays Center, members of UNITE HERE Local 100, have reached a tentative agreement with their employer, Levy Restaurants, averting a planned strike authorization vote.  They held a spirited pep rally/press conference yesterday outside the arena's Dean Street entrance, with union leaders in attendance, along with Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso (whose aunt works for Levy) and Council Member Lincoln Restler (whose district starts a little farther away). Assuming the contract is ratified by the 650 workers, they will "will receive raises between $5-$11.20 an hour," said the union, presumably over the life of the five-year contract, which is retroactive to last year and will be in effect until 2027. "By the end of the contract, the lowest paid worker w

Another Atlantic Yards renegotiation is inevitable. Forest City started use of tactic. Greenland has picked it up. Plus: common Chinese business practice.

With the departure of Greenland USA's Scott Solish, and Empire State Development's Tobi Jaiyesimi, both the public faces of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park for their respective entities, the project seems adrift. At the same time, however, Greenland, which owns nearly all of Greenland Forest City Partners, faces a looming May 2025 deadline to deliver 2,250 units of affordable housing, with $2,000/month fines for each missing unit--as of now 876 (or 877). But Greenland surely doesn't want to pay $1.75 million a month in fines, part of a settlement agreement announced in 2014, which set that new affordable housing deadline. Though Solish had long said Greenland would meet its obligations, at the June 2022 meeting of the (purportedly) advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), he hinted that the developer might ask ESD, the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project, for an extension or other accommodation. ESD posture This past April, at a meeti

Everybody loves The Book of Hov, right? The New York Times ignores those who noticed how the Brooklyn Public Library's sponcon disserved users

If you check Twitter  and other social media, most commenters think the new Book of Hov Jay-Z tribute exhibit at Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library is fantastic, including memorabilia like tour photos, a replica of his studio, and interviews about all of his albums. That's not surprising--he's a huge star, and worthy of a major exhibition. It's fascinating and well-executed sponcon, or sponsored content. (I'm just going by the coverage and online exhibit; I haven't been to the library yet.) But should that exhibition dominate--and in some ways displace--a public library? Should that exhibition be more than a tribute produced and paid for by his company? (I  pointed out  that there might be contradictions in a presentation that seems to ignore--or at least gloss over--Jay-Z's early career as a drug dealer, or his alliance with developers.) Those questions were aired not in the major New York Times article that appeared online Thursday, July 14,  How a