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Activist investor again goes after Forest City, suggests it's candidate for acquisition

On 4/24/17, Forest City Realty Trust "announced the appointment of Z. Jamie Behar, CFA, and the nomination of Craig Macnab, two highly qualified and accomplished real estate executives with significant board experience, to serve on its Board of Directors."

Behar, joining the board immediately, will fill the vacancy created when Bruce Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City's New York subsidiary, left the board at the end of 2016. As I suggested, the lack of encomia toward Ratner suggested the company was not super-pleased with the performance under Ratner. Macnab, an independent director, would succeed Stan Ross, who won't stand for re-election at Forest City's upcoming, if unscheduled, annual meeting.

Activist investor still pushing

That makes eight of 13 board members independent--enough for the main activist investor, Scopia Capital, but not so for a smaller, feistier activist investor,  Land and Buildings Investment Management, which yesterday issued another…

Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza: public amenity or promotional location? (again)

From the latest Construction Alert: visible work at two arena block buildings

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning April 24 and circulated yesterday at 2:19 pm (a bit late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP), the most notable work will occur around the arena block.

At B3 (aka 38 Sixth), the removal of hoist run (exterior elevator) will begin, as will the installation of panels where the hoist run was. Also, removal of overhead protection may occur in certain locations.

At B2 (aka 461 Dean), exterior site work to complete the sidewalk was to begin yesterday, with some work taking place overnight, as discussed in a previously distributed community notice.

Outside B11 (aka 550 Vanderbilt), part of Dean Street will be repaved where the fence was removed.

Saturday and after-hours work

As in previous weeks, Saturday work could occur at B3, B11 (550 Vanderbilt), B12 (615 Dean), and B14. Then again, pretty much nothing has been happening at B…

Nets TV ratings down, attendance up slightly, gate count reportedly up more (but 71% full)

NetsDaily, drawing on Sports Business Journal, yesterday reported YES ratings drop a precipitous 28 percent to worst in NBA:  "Brooklyn Nets games on YES Network posted a 0.33 rating, the lowest for any NBA team since the 2010-11 season when the Nets on YES averaged a 0.31." Apparently the Nets' ratings went up initially, thanks to the addition of Jeremy Lin, then plunged after his injury. NetsDaily suggests:
Next season, YES will likely have a resurgence, with its two-season long dispute with Comcast resolved. That cost them 900,000 households. The Nets and YES will also have a new contract starting next season, with a substantial boost in rights payments.Attendance and gate count up
NetsDaily noted that reported attendance rose to 15,429, an uptick from 15,125 in 2015-16. That represents 28 of 30 NBA teams ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets, as reported by ESPN.
NetsDaily also reported some statistics that aren't publicly posted: The Nets had a …

Prokhorov said to be selling 49% of the Nets, but that's not easy. Would share of team/arena be worth $1.6B?

Bloomberg reported 4/21/17, Billionaire Prokhorov to Sell 49% in Brooklyn Nets, RIA Reports: Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov wants to sell 49 percent of the Brooklyn Nets, the professional basketball team in New York that he fully owns, according to RIA Novosti.
A buyer for the stake hasn’t been found yet, Prokhovov said, according to the news service. His spokesman didn’t comment immediately when contacted by Bloomberg News.
Prokhorov said in November that he’d hired Allen & Co. to find a local minority investor for the Nets “to further strengthen the team’s New York presence in order to expand upon our business and community relationships.” He didn’t say at that time how much of the club he planned to sell. The news, apparently, is not that Prokhorov wants to sell, given the six-month effort, but that he wants to sell just less than one half.

The more interesting question is how that local investor would "strengthen the team's New York presence" if the major…

Harper's on de Blasio's housing plan: "a target of his own ambitious gamble"

From a thoughtful profile in the April issue of Harper's magazine, headlined Defender of the Community: Bill de Blasio gambles on doing the right thing, from Alan Feuer: Casting himself as a kind of urban Robin Hood, the mayor gave his listeners a choice. He could, of course, sit back and do nothing as the market did to them what it had already done to hyper-gentrified neighborhoods like Williamsburg, in Brooklyn: bury them in glass condominiums and artisanal pizzerias. Or he could use his right hand to welcome builders to the area while employing his left to pick their pockets of apartments people could afford. “I have a huge critique of the free-enterprise system, but it’s not going anywhere,” he said. “There’s plenty of places in the city where someone can build a building in any way they want. That’s the reality of a capitalist system. My vision is that the government intervenes to the maximum extent possible to create balance.” But what if that balance is out of whack, as in…

Irony: Prospect Heights Historic District used to promote 550 Vanderbilt (beneficiary of blight finding)

There's something a little ironic about the tweet at right from Pacific Park Brooklyn, touting the new condo building 550 Vanderbilt. The photo captures not just the brownish brick and large windows of the lower floors of the tower, but also the brown street sign Vanderbilt Av.

A brown street sign indicates a historic district, and the small horizontal band delineates the Prospect Heights Historic District, which was designated in 2009 after several years of activism.

As the map below shows, Vanderbilt Avenue and Pacific Street, just across from 550 Vanderbilt, is the extreme upper right "finger" of the historic district, thus bookending the southeast block of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project.

And that reminds us that the historic district designation came a few short years after the Atlantic Yards site, including many properties on that southeast block, was found to be blighted, to enable eminent domain.

It's not typical for blight--"substandard" a…

My segment on WBAI talking about my affordable housing lottery article

On Thursday, April 20, I appeared on the WBAI morning show, hosted by Michael Haskins, talking about my article for City Limits, The Real Math of An Affordable Housing Lottery: Huge Disconnect Between Need and Allotment.

My main message: whenever you read an article about an affordable housing lottery, and someone says there's a tremendous need for affordable housing, recognize there's a much higher chance for a middle-income household to win than a low-income household to win.

So, Islanders owners want a new arena at Belmont? How do the numbers work?

With the Barclays Center still awkward for hockey, Newsday reported yesterday, Islanders plan to submit bid for arena at Belmont Park, NHL’s Gary Bettman says:
The Islanders plan to submit a bid to the state to build a new hockey arena at Belmont Park, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday, marking the first public confirmation of the team’s stadium strategy.
Saying that the Islanders “are reviewing their options,” Bettman also mentioned the land next to Citi Field in Willets Point as a potential landing spot for the Islanders and added that the renovated Nassau Coliseum is “not a long-term option.”
“Yes, there is an RFP [request for proposal] for Belmont and I know they are going to participate in that,” Bettman said of the Islanders. “I believe that everyone thinks there is a terrific opportunity there, if not at Willets Point, to create a more hockey friendly environment for the Islanders, which is something [Islanders co-owner] Scott [Malkin] is committed to do.” Neither team ow…

No Surprise: EB-5 middleman Mastroianni big donor to Trump's inaugural

From the New York Times, 4/20/17, From N.F.L. Owners to Florida Retirees, a Who’s Who of Inaugural Donors:
A million dollars came from Nicholas A. Mastroianni III, whose family firm, the United States Immigration Fund, is a major force in the contentious federal EB-5 visa program. The program, which allows wealthy foreigners to seek United States residency in exchange for investments here, expires at the end of April; Mr. Trump has not yet taken a position on it. Yes, indeed, EB-5 backers want the status quo--or a slightly modified version---to remain.

As I wrote in City Limits, Emerging Kushner Deal Suggests What’s Wrong With U.S. Investor Visa Program (and with video linked on this blog), Mastroianni made a damning admission regarding EB-5, which is supposed to create ten jobs per investor. Last November, when asked at a panel in Shanghai how EB-5 could escape allegations of fraud—after some high-profile scams and scandals—Mastroianni advised picking the right project.

“Projects tha…

Overnight work this week outside 461 Dean to replace sidewalk and road

According to a community notice circulated by Pacific Park Brooklyn, there will be overnight work Monday, April 24 through Friday, April 28. The sidewalk and road in front of 461 Dean (B2) will be replaced, with work lasting from 11 pm through 5 am.

There's an Atlantic Station/Atlantic Yards spec office project. But it's in Atlanta.

Now this was an interesting headline from Bisnow, Hines Teeing Up 500K SF Spec Office At Atlantic Station, especially since it was followed by this:
Hines is expected to go all-spec on a 500K SF office project called Atlantic Yards, connected to Atlantic Station. Hines senior managing director John Heagy said the developer will look to break ground in the second quarter of 2018 on a dual-building project that will use brick instead of the typical steel-and-glass towers seen at Atlantic Station. After all, there's a spec office tower to be built at Site 5 of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, and it's expected to be a dual building project. But it's not called Atlantic Yards anymore, and there's no Brooklyn project called Atlantic Station (though there are malls called Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center). Ah, this is Atlanta. Only just so many names to go around, I guess.

About those "poor-er floors" in affordable towers: NYC says units redistributed (but new document not yet filed)

In November 2016, I reported on subleases for the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth towers that seemed to assign most of the low-income units to the lower floors of each tower.

For example, at 535 Carlton, the 15 neediest households, paying $589 for a one-bedroom and $713 for a two-bedroom, were assigned to the three lowest floors (2-4). The other 75 low-income units were distributed more extensively, but concentrated in the lower half of the building. 
While that wasn't the "poor door" or even the "poor floor," I called it "poor-er floor."

Pushback, but no documentation
A representative of the developer said that was not accurate, but wouldn't provide specifics. 
When the question was raised in public that month, Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton said, "And we're working with HDC [New York City Housing Development Corporation], and it will be much more spread all around. The final determination will be done by HDC,…

On the affordable housing lottery analysis: 1M in Housing Connect; an advocate's concern

I'll be on WBAI/99.5 this morning at around 7:30 a.m. to talk about my housing lottery article.
My City Limits article, headlined The Real Math of An Affordable Housing Lottery: Huge Disconnect Between Need and Allotment, was spurred by two things: the common-sense suspicion that many more lower-income people apply for housing lotteries and my increasing frustration with the use of catch-all statistics by the press and others.

(After all, the developers of Hunters Point South had to advertise and assemble a street team to recruit middle-income households.)

So I got the data and drilled down. As I wrote, such statistics camouflage how low-income applicants face crushing odds compared to middle-income ones:
Exactly 92,743 households (not quite 95,000) entered the lottery for the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton tower, city data show. But only 2,203, according to City Limits' analysis, were eligible for 148 middle-income apartments, such as one-bedrooms renting for $2,680 …