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Showing posts from November, 2023

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

What are the six development sites worth? Huge clouds over sale, given platform & affordable housing (?) obligation. Could only first block get built?

How much are the six development sites over the Vanderilt Yard, scheduled to be sold at a foreclosure auction in January, worth? Would the holders of the debt, incurred by master developer Greenland USA (which owns nearly all of the project going forward) be paid back? And might it be worth it for a buyer to build on the first block, including only three of the development sites, between Sixth and Carlton avenues? The answers to those questions are murky, since neither the private parties involved nor the state authority overseeing the project have released any details, though I'll attempt some ballpark estimates below.  Looking west from Vanderbilt Avenue at two railyard blocks needing platform Big platform cost One obvious conclusion: the cost of the platform cuts deeply into the value of the sites, and the potential fines for affordable housing cut even further. As estimated in 2016--and costs surely have risen--the platform over the first block, in two parts (for B5, and B6/B7

As foreclosure auction of six development sites looms, big Qs about bidders' obligation to build platform, pay MTA, & deliver affordable housing. What does NYS say?

The bombshell announcement of foreclosure auctions for the six Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park development sites over the Vanderbilt Yard, as I wrote yesterday, raises more questions than it answers. And that means that Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project, must publicly discuss its role and the guidelines and obligations it requires of whatever company (or companies) might take control from Greenland USA. ESD did not respond to my queries yesterday. It is overdue to schedule a quarterly meeting of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), which has mostly been toothless but on Aug. 2 asked for a report on the project's financial viability. That would include the developer's obligation to pay $2,000 a month in fines for each affordable housing unit not delivered by a May 2025 deadline. Of the 2,250 required units, 876 (or 877) remain. That report, requested for early October, has not been delivered.

With Greenland EB-5 debt in foreclosure, big Qs about future of stalled project, including collateral, platform, & investor visa middleman. What's government's role?

The stalled Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project faces another financial convulsion, as news about a foreclosure arrived yesterday, raising huge questions about the future owners of the project, the nature of the collateral, and how any ownership transfer might affect the commitment to build the expensive two-block platform--as well as the role of government. In Greenland losing grip on $5B Pacific Park megaproject , the Real Deal reported that Greenland USA, which owns nearly all of the future Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, has defaulted on two loans totaling $349 million under the EB-5 investor visa program. Those affect control over the six development sites over the railyard, though, as described below, the collateral may overlap. A foreclosure auction is scheduled for January, which could mean a new owner of development rights and, presumably, the obligation to build the platform. It also raises questions about the transfer, enforcement, and potential renegotation of the May 2025 dea

Welcome to the Corner Store! A "bodega"-style store at the Barclays Center, with arena prices: soda, $8; water, $7, beer $13-$15

On a recent visit to the Barclays Center, I noticed the "Brooklyn Corner Store," a retail outlet set up, with yellow and red awning and signage, reminiscent of the venerable, yet fading New York bodega However faithful the rendition, it's jarring: the Brooklyn Corner Store hardly resembles a bodega, known for modest pricing. As shown in the screenshot at right, soda costs $8, water $7, beer $13 to $15, while snacks are $5 to $7.50.  Empanadas and beef patties are $6 each. This is what happens when you have a captive audience--pricing is surely similar at Madison Square Garden and other major venues. It's just a little rich to liken it to a bodega, especially given the history of bodegas, as discussed below. A little history on boedgas A 7/30/02 New York Times article headlined  These Colors Don't Run, But They Droop; Bodegas and Their Awnings Are Both Looking Tired  notes that the "origins of the red-and-yellow bodega awnings and their near-universal applicat

If Brookfield, which bought out Forest City, no longer actively claims Pacific Park, what remaining stake does it have in the future project? "Nominal," says a rep.

From Brookfield web site, 2023 If you search "Brooklyn" on the website for Brookfield Properties, the results , at right, deliver nine properties, including several at Brooklyn Commons, formerly known as MetroTech. Absent, however, is any part of Pacific Park Brooklyn. That's been the case for a while, though I'm not sure how long, which raises the question: is Brookfield still involved? Flashback, 2018 In December 2018, after Brookfield Properties had absorbed Forest City Realty Trust, parent of the original Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park developer, I wrote  that Brookfield seemed a little overoptimistic about the project, stating, prematurely, that, "Multiple residential building components are under construction." As of then, Brookfield owned 30% of two rental towels, the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth, plus a 30% share of the remaining unsold condo units in 550 Vanderbilt, all built as part of a 30/70 joint venture between original dev

Following up: more on the Jay-Z takeover of the Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library

So, to follow up on my essay yesterday in Common Edge, Jay-Z’s Unseemly Takeover of Brooklyn’s Central Library , let me address a few of the questions and comments that have surfaced, plus add some bonus photos. (And I may update this further.) Waiting on line for the video section Isn't this bad timing? First, the exhibition's closing Dec. 4. Second, the library just got hit with a budget cut.  Well, sort of. I first pitched an article in July to a major publication that said no. My response was, "OK, but please do publish something on this, perhaps both a critical and a supportive piece." Then I got delayed, and decided to wait until after the gala. Then it took a while to get this published. Does the money raised make up for the (proposed) budget cuts?   Nope. Rather, $1.5 million goes to the Books Unbanned initiative. The take from the gala, $1.5 million gross--which likely translates to $1+ million after expenses--presumably goes to the general fund. Why do you s

From Common Edge: "Jay-Z's Unseemly Takeover of Brooklyn’s Central Library"

I have a long essay today in Common Edge, headlined Jay-Z's Unseemly Takeover of Brooklyn’s Central Library , with the subheading, "Crowds love 'The Book Of HOV,' but the library’s ceded space for a self-produced Hall of Fame tribute from his company Roc Nation." From the opening: Occupying a wedge of land between two major Brooklyn arteries, the landmarked Central Library (1941) of the Brooklyn Public Library is designed to resemble an open book. Since mid-July, the building’s concave limestone facade has been covered by white panels emblazoned with lyrics—decidedly not NSFW—from Brooklyn-born rap superstar, billionaire entrepreneur, and cultural force Jay-Z. If this vaguely recalls, say, Christo wrapping the Reichstag , the latter’s goal, according to the artist’s biographer, was “revelation through concealment.” This reifies an icon. If a few observers grouse (on social media) about a “darn temple” or “a massive ad for Jay-Z,” most are enthralled by “The Bo

Would new school coming at B15 at Dean St. and Sixth Ave. opposite arena also include a relocated (from Downtown Brooklyn) M.S. 915? In 2024?

Many have expected that I.S. 653, the coming 806-seat middle school at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park B15 (491 Dean Street), would have an arts/culture/STEM focus. Advocates dubbed it M.S. One Brooklyn.  (The building, at Sixth Avenue opposite the Barclays Center, has a 662 Pacific Street address for residents and is branded Plank Road.) Well, city schools officials are exploring at least one other--and potentially complementary--option: the relocation of M.S. 915, currently located on Johnson Street/Tech Place in Downtown Brooklyn, as part of the building that hosts Westinghouse High School. It had 258 students in 2022-23, according to Inside Schools . According to a message to parents and staff from principal Danielle Scott, "the District 13 Superintendent’s Office is currently engaging with the MS 915 community around a potential relocation" to 491 Dean.  It will be discussed tomorrow night at a meeting of the District 13 Community Educational Council.  "Although we reco

At Barclays Center Nov. 27, free event for college students, the U.S. Surgeon General's Tour: "We Are Made to Connect"

Once I belatedly got ( link ) the Barclays Center's November 2023 Community Notice event calendar, I noticed it contains a non-ticketed free event Monday, Nov. 27, 6:30-8 pm: U.S. Surgeon General "We Are Made To Connect" Tour ( link ). It's billed as "A conversation on Mental Health, Community and Connection for College Students." As summarized in a Patch calendar notice Recognizing the significant challenges that loneliness, social isolation, and mental health pose to college-aged Americans, the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is launching the national “We Are Made to Connect” Tour. The Surgeon General will travel across the country throughout the month of November to inspire people to incorporate moments of connection into their daily lives to help improve their health and well-being. For the Brooklyn leg, the conversation will also feature Grammy Award Winning Musician Jon Batiste. The tour, with various local interlocutors, has pr

City Council passes new legislation to further equity in affordable housing production, but without teeth.

The City Council yesterday unanimously passed Council Speaker Adrienne Adams' Fair Housing Framework legislation, which has worthy goals--to further equity in affordable housing production, given widely disparate amounts of income-restricted units built across the 59 community districts--but no teeth. According to the summary , city agencies now have to create and submit to the Mayor and the Speaker of the Council a fair housing assessment and plan every five years, first due by October 1, 2025. As noted by City Limits: That assessment would set development targets, including for supportive housing —homes that come paired with support services like mental healthcare—as well as units for older New Yorkers and apartments for households earning at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income (equal to $84,720 for a family of four ). A year later, the administering agency would submit an assessment of long-term citywide housing needs, five-year production targets distributed to the c

Finally, scrutiny for Winnie Greco, ethically dubious liasion to Chinese communities for Brooklyn BPs & now Mayor. She met 2014 w/incoming developer Greenland.

Winnie Greco, a longtime Bronx resident who somehow served as the liaison ( link ) to Brooklyn Chinese community for Brooklyn Borough Presidents Marty Markowitz and Eric Adams, and now serves as an aide and close advisor to Mayor Adams--close to him at his swearing-in ceremony and  traveling  with Adams’ son, Jordan Coleman--has long struck me as deserving of scrutiny, given her dubious and nontransparent roles. Now, as described below, there are two tough pieces of journalism, from the New York Post and, especially, The City. Flashback, 2014 In Brooklyn, (l.-r.)  Borough President Adams, Greenland's Xu Jing, Borough Hall Liaison Greco As I reported in September 2014, Greco, who claimed on one web site that she was "director of China-US affair in Brooklyn," helped organize Adams's trip earlier that year to China, aiming "to mutually promote economic development and tourism," including discussions with government officials about bringing a friendship arch t

New state Enhanced Database of Economic Incentives excludes Atlantic Yards, because it was approved before 2018. Database also omits tax breaks & local subsidies.

What are the economic incentives, past and present, behind Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park?  (They include direct city and state subsidies of $305 million and far more in tax breaks, roughly summarized in my  FAQ .) Well, a new Database of Economic Incentives from New York State isn't that helpful, since 1) it doesn't provide information on projects that were approved prior to 2018 and 2) even if it did, it ignores city subsidies and most tax breaks.  Note: ESD says "Details on [previously-approved] projects can be found in historical ESD reports," but I haven't been able to find anything related to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.   A trumphant announcement Governor Hochul Launches Enhanced Database of Economic Incentives to Increase Transparency Around Key Economic Development Projects , the state announced Nov. 8, updating a project first launched in 2021 and updated quarterly "New York State’s Database of Economic Incentives [ link ] is nation-leading in terms of

Belated transparency: ESD posts Board Materials 3+ days before meeting, but still requires comment before discussion. AY CDC budget update raises questions.

Let me offer some credit, when credit is due, since Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversee/shepherds Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, has made a belated, if incomplete, move toward transparency. As of Saturday, Nov. 11 (and presumably sooner), ESD had posted not just a media advisory but also an Agenda and Materials  document for Nov. 16 board meeting. That's an improvement over past practices in which the Agenda and Materials was posted only a day or two before the meeting. That left limited opportunity to comment, given the requirement to submit public comment before the meeting. In its "Open ESD" report in July, Reinvent Albany noted that ESD often posted meeting materials and agendas less than 24 hours before comments are due, typically noon the day before a Board of Directors Meeting. It recommended that ESD provide all materials for Board meetings at least three days in advance. So the change is an improvement--but only partial. Clairvoyance