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Showing posts from September, 2010

The question Marty Markowitz can't answer regarding the "green cards for Atlantic Yards"

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz plans to join Bruce Ratner on a trip to China to help the developer gain low-cost financing in exchange for green cards: 498 of them.

From the New York Post:Markowitz spokeswoman Laura Sinagra said in a statement that part of Markowitz's "role is to encourage investment in Brooklyn, and this program is designed to bring investors to the table for projects that create jobs. As the person who came up with the original idea of bringing major league sports back to Brooklyn and one of the biggest supporters of Atlantic Yards, he obviously believes this project is worthy of investment, and is seeking guidance from the Conflicts of Interest Board on the possibility of accompanying the group.”My question to Markowitz's office, yet unanswered: How will this investment create jobs?I don't think it can.

Updated: Yes, Markowitz will go to China to flack green cards for Ratner's project (if he can get past Conflict of Interests Board)

(Also see coverage of the curious disconnect between the actual plans for the money and the NBA.)

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has often gone that extra mile for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner--who can forget Markowitz's praise of the Ellerbe Becket "hangar" arena design?--but now he's willing to fly to China.

Yes, even though Markowitz isn't talking, a spokeswoman confirmed that the Borough President plans to join the developer on a trip to China next month to sell Chinese investors on the EB-5 visa program, which offers green cards to investors who put $500,000 into a fund that creates ten direct or indirect jobs, or retains ten jobs.

(Markowitz's picture, along with that of other project principals, appears at right on a website flacking the project set up by Kunpeng International.)

COIB ruling

However, the trip is not certain, as a ruling from the city's Conflicts of Interests Board is awaited, spokeswoman Laura Sinagra told me tonigh…

An op-ed for the Observer on KPMG's fuzzy math regarding the Brooklyn housing market

I've written a lot about KPMG's curious market study for the Empire State Development Corporation.

Now I've threaded some of those observations and analyses into an op-ed for the Observer online, headlined KPMG's Fuzzy Math on Atlantic Yards, and tweaked to incorporate this week's news: On Tuesday, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner surprised reporters with his candor, acknowledging that the timetable for the project, despite the officially announced 10-year time span, was "market-dependent."

After all, if the arena and all 16 towers take 25 years, as he acknowledged was possible, then the much-ballyhooed benefits (affordable housing, open space, tax revenues) would not arrive as promised. And the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the state's economic development agency, might find itself with some egg on its face.

Damningly, the ESDC's then-CEO said in April 2009 that the project would take "decades." However, in an August 2…

FCR's Gilmartin asserts "groups of four or more" youths will be dispersed at plaza, as at malls (and claims mall policy is "fairly typical")

Forest City Ratner MaryAnne Gilmartin, speaking calmly and clinically, raised numerous eyebrows at Borough Hall when she revealed that the developer would transfer a much-criticized policy of dispersing youth groups at its malls to the open space at the arena plaza.

Such is the difference between privately-operated publicly accessible space and, say, true public parks.

The question came up at a meeting last night on the plaza. Carlo Scissura, the Chief of Staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, read the question: "Adjacent malls have a 'split-up-the-group' security policy that applies to young people. Will that policy be extended to the plaza?"



Gilmartin's response

"The policy at the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls is a policy that is fairly typical and consistent with mall properties across the country," Gilmartin responded.

(Actually, as the Times reported, "Such a sweeping restriction is rare... Of the 1,418 malls in the Unit…

FCR's Gilmartin claims affordable housing goes to (four-person) households earning only up to $90,000 a year; she's off by one-third

Well, you could say Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin explains affordable housing better than she did at a public appearance in July 2009, when she was unable (or unwilling) to describe the monthly rent range.

But you couldn't say she was fully able to explain it at a public meeting last night, given that she significantly downplayed the availability of subsidized housing to middle-income tenants.

She suggested that affordable housing for families of four would be limited to households earning up to about $90,000.

Actually, affordable housing would be available to those earning up to 160% of Area Median Income (AMI), or $126,720 for a family of four.

That means rents near or above $2000 a month for most affordable units (for four persons), under even the most optimistic scenario. As I wrote in August, with an AMI of $79,200, a four-person household would have to pay the following (at the top of each band from the MOU):
Band 1: $792Band 2: $990Band 3: $1980 Band…

Liu’s CBA task force recommends reforms; dissenters say it will foster too many CBAs; report buffs AY CBA but guidelines might have reined it in

In a report issued not without dissention, the Task Force on Public Benefit Agreements (PBAs) yesterday delivered to Comptroller John Liu “a proposed framework for public benefit agreements in New York City that would create clear expectations, encourage broad-based participation and result in enforceable public benefits that comply with legal standards.”

Included is an increased opportunity for community input by community boards, local elected officials, and small businesses; by contrast, the Atlantic Yards CBA was negotiated very quietly. Also, given that CBAs like the Atlantic Yards CBA are essentially unenforceable (except by signatories with no incentive to go to court), the Task Force recommended several enforceability mechanisms. Such CBAs also would be monitored by the Comptroller.

Notably, the report (PDF and embedded below) states that “the primary purpose of a benefit agreement is to mitigate project-related impacts”--a rationale absent from the Atlantic Yards CBA, in which …

While Ratner wants to use Chinese millionaires' money for railyard and land loan, in China, program portrayed as a piece of Nets/arena

(Also see coverage of Marty Markowitz's plans to go to China.)

There's something very, very strange about the way the New York City Regional Center, the private company authorized to sign up green card-seeking investors, is marketing the Atlantic Yards project in China.

While developer Bruce Ratner told the Wall Street Journal that the $249 million sought from perhaps 498 foreign investors would be used to build a permanent railyard and perhaps pay off the company's refinanced land loan, in China, the investment is being portrayed as strongly connected to the Nets and the Barclays Center.

Another oddity: a graphic below regarding the investment adds $249 million in EB-5 investment funding to city, state, and public/private bond funding, for a total of $1.448 billion, a project figure not previously presented.

(Here's a translation.)

Above, a blogger's web site shows a Nets ball and a water bottle with a Nets and the logo of the NYCRC, the New York City Regional Center…

Post columnist Cuozzo slams plaza design, blames elected officials but saves wrath for activist Goldstein

New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo, in Monstrosity of a design only a mugger could love, takes aim at the design unveiled yesterday but saves his greatest wrath for the Atlantic Yards opposition.

He writes: Dem bums!

What a travesty in the name of bringing Brooklyn its first major-league team since the Dodgers left. Sure, the Barclays Center Plaza shown yesterday by developer Bruce Ratner is an improvement over today's barren site.

But it's still so singularly malevolent in its ugliness, it might actually rehabilitate Walter O'Malley's reputation.

You don't need a degree in architecture to hate the triangular mugging ground of "environmentally conscious landscaping, intimate seating areas" and a goofy, planted-roof subway entrance -- a "flexible open space" more conducive to hosting a Crips-Bloods scrimmage than the intended upscaling of the neighborhood.

There are numerous villains behind the abomination, including city and state officials who win…

Traffic-free plaza unveiled, with bollards (despite NYPD claim), but the big story concerns Ratner's timetable admissions; the Times whiffs

The big news yesterday, led by the Brooklyn Paper and WNYC, was not the publication of oddly traffic-free Barclays Center plaza designs with a new subway entrance and the giant oval oculus at the center (remember, there's a meeting tonight at 6 pm), but Bruce Ratner's admission he has no timetable for the project.

As WNYC's Matthew Schuerman pointed out, "the city, state and Forest City all conducted or commissioned economic impact analyses that assumed a 10-year build out."

(I've previously pointed out that such analyses, such as the one conducted by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, depend on an over-optimistic ten-year time frame. And note the "vaportecture" in the official renderings, by SHoP Architects.)

And, Schuerman noted, "Ratner’s associates repeatedly used the 10-year time frame in talking to the press and the public." (I also pointed to Ratner's 2010 contradiction of his 2008 op-ed as well as a changing sto…

Forest City Ratner refuses to let me into press conference on new arena plaza designs

Wonder why I wasn't at the press conference yesterday unveiling the new arena plaza designs?

Well, I filed an RSVP Monday night and was told by Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, "Hey, sorry, we are doing a small group of print press but will send out all to entire list in am, including you."

Yet somehow WNYC and NY1 made it in.

Some back story: I've been barred from some events and, with some nudging, have been admitted to others.

Maybe they're not so comfortable with someone who remembers how Bruce Ratner has contradicted himself.

Times looks into tainted past of Paladino aides; what about the New York City Regional Center, in charge of EB-5 visas?

A New York Times article about the Republican nominee for governor, Carl Paladino, is headlined Paladino Has Aides With Tainted Pasts:But some of the people whom Mr. Paladino has recruited to run his campaign are plagued by brushes with the law and allegations of misconduct, an examination of public records shows.

His campaign manager failed to pay nearly $53,000 in federal taxes over the last few years, prompting the Internal Revenue Service to take action against him. An aide who frequently drives Mr. Paladino on the campaign trail served jail time in Arizona on charges of drunken driving.

Another adviser has been indicted on charges of stealing more than $1 million from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s re-election bid last year. And Mr. Paladino’s campaign chairwoman left a local government position amid claims that she had steered $1 billion in public money to a politically connected investment manager.

Their backgrounds could raise questions about the kind of cabinet Mr. Paladino, a Rep…

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: the first tower was supposed to break ground this year, not next spring

Forest City Ratner is delaying the first residential building, but no one seems to notice.

The New York Observer today: Mr. Ratner reiterated his intention to begin building housing by next year, in a tower on the south side of the arena, on Dean Street, though there is no funding in place.Crain's New York Business: Mr. Ratner will announced [sic] the name of the architects that will work on the project some time in the first quarter of 2011, while construction could begin in the spring of next year, with construction of a new residential building beginning every six to nine months thereafter.
WNYC: He also said that construction on the first residential tower -- a mixed-income building -- would likely begin in 8 to 10 months.Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall, 2/24/10: "As we've stated publicly, we intend to begin design of the first residential building in such a way that it can break ground in the fourth quarter of this year."

Bruce Ratner 2010 contradicts Bruce Ratner 2008 on Atlantic Yards timetable

From WNYC today, Ratner Abandons 10-Year Timeline for Atlantic Yards: Developer Bruce Ratner said Tuesday morning what many of his critics and even some of his associates have been saying for years: there is no way the entire Atlantic Yards project will be done in 10 years. He said the 10-year timeline was always misunderstood. It was never meant to be more than a best-case scenario to be used in environmental impact statements.“That was really only an analysis as to what the most serious impacts [would be], if all the other planned development in downtown Brooklyn happened right away,” Ratner says. “It was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.”He added: “I would say it's really market-dependent as to when it will really be completed.”WNYC's Matthew Schuerman added a bit of skepticism:But the 10-year-timeline was also used by the city, state and Ratner’s own consultant to determine that the financial benefits to the public outweighed the roughl…

Sports debate between Zirin ("The socializing of debt and the privatizing of profit") and Leitch ("I know I am willfully putting on blinders")

"It makes no sense to be a sports fan," says Will Leitch, founder of the influential sports blog Deadspin and now a contributing editor to New York magazine. "It's kind of dumb that we do it, but we do it, because it's awesome."

Leitch said that at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 12, and his take on sports--savvy and clever, but willfully divorced from any overarching politics--deserves notice, because it's far more prevalent than that of fellow panelist Dave Zirin, who writes about the politics of sports for The Nation and his syndicated Edge of Sports column.

And Leitch and Zirin got into a forceful but friendly disagreement about that overarching frame.

First, the AY angle

Zirin, whom I've criticized for not writing about Bruce Ratner in his new book about owners, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love, was ready for a Brooklyn crowd.

After explaining how the land takeover for the Dodgers' stadium in Los Angeles was the t…

New York Magazine profile of Gary Barnett addresses competition with Ratner (and gets "Atlantic Yards" wrong)

From No Land Grab's Eric McClure:The Anti-TrumpGary Barnett, the builder of this era’s glitziest buildings, does not have cotton-candy hair or a big mouth—but what he does have is hubris.New York Magazine
by Gabriel Sherman The anti-Trump? More like the anti-Ratner. NY Magazine's profile of developer Gary Barnett goes into a good deal of Atlantic Yards backstory — some of which gets "Oderized" in the comments section. Barnett’s lone-wolf style has not exactly endeared him to his peers. New York real estate has long attracted players who view business as both a commercial and a civic pursuit. Jerry Speyer, the co-CEO of Tishman Speyer, is perhaps the most famous archetype of the New York macher, serving as a confidant to mayors and governors. Inside the fishbowl of New York real estate, Barnett has few friends. He’s a subject of fascination and derision, a combative figure who is unafraid to challenge the industry order. Since blasting onto the scene at t…

On the day of the Atlantic Antic, Flatbush Avenue gridlock (and no DDDB or FCR)

Yesterday, returning home from the Atlantic Antic at about 3:30 pm, I stopped at the southwest corner of Sixth and Flatbush avenues--two short blocks south of the southeast corner of the arena block-- and took out my camera.

The Atlantic Antic, the borough's biggest street festival, closes down the Atlantic Avenue artery west of Flatbush Avenue (the intersection of which is the western tip of the Atlantic Yards site).

Needless to say, traffic was heavy and, as the video indicates, unruly. Without a traffic agent at the corner, some vehicles going northwest on Flatbush blocked the intersection at Sixth, thus stopping southbound vehicles from passage.

While a Sunday afternoon in September is too early for a basketball game, it's surely a good time for a family-oriented arena event. If so, on the day of the Atlantic Antic, then the gridlock on Flatbush--even with traffic agents--likely would be worse than was observed yesterday.



Who was missing?

At last year's Atlantic Antic, wit…

Petition asking Supreme Court to hear challenge to eminent domain for Columbia argues that Court of Appeals failed to address Kelo

As plaintiff Nick Sprayregen of Tuck-It-Away Storage pledged, he'd go to the U.S. Supreme Court to fight the state's pursuit of eminent domain in the Columbia University.

Now, after seeing a surprising Appellate Division victory overturned unanimously by the state Court of Appeals, which relied on its Atlantic Yards decision, Sprayregen and the Kaur/Singh family that owns a gas station on the project site have filed their Petition for a Writ of Certiorari (below), the request for the court to hear the case.

It's always a long shot--fewer than 1% of petitions are granted--but this petition, authored by attorney Norman Siegel and a host of others, hammers home the state court's failure to address the guidelines seemingly set forth in Justice John Paul Stevens's majority opinion and Justice Anthony Kennedy's concurrence in the 2005 Kelo v. New London case, in which the court upheld eminent domain by a 5-4 margin.

Ignoring Kelo?

The petition states: In sharp contrast …

Prokhorov's debut continues, with launch of Snob magazine, but Men's Journal's Taibbi offers darker portrait of oligarch's wealth

Explaining billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's backing of Snob magazine, New York Magazine's Michael Idov (a Snob contributor) wrote in May: Prokhorov's endgame is to buy himself cultural and intellectual credibility on a massive scale and to will into existence, and lead, a group of the globalized world’s Russian-speaking elites.That day is on us. The Wall Street Journal reported 9/13/10: Mr. Prokhorov this week is bringing Snob, a Russian-language, general-interest magazine that caters to that country's global elite, to the U.S. Currently distributed in Russia and Britain, it will hit New York Wednesday with an initial run of about 20,000 copies of its September issue. And a Bloomberg article made a connection to the Nets, however strained: “Russians who live in the borough and come to games easily will be an important target audience for ticket sales,” once the Nets move, Prokhorov said. “There is certainly a crossover here with the potential Snob audience.” An ad in th…