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Showing posts from 2015

Atlantic Yards: Helping Solve the (Wealthy) Chinese Housing Crisis

Remember how Atlantic Yards, according to a promotional flyer produced by Forest City Ratner in 2006 (before the project was trimmed slightly) was to supply "over 6,800 units of badly needed mixed-income housing for Brooklyn"?

Remember how Atlantic Yards was, as the flyer said, "Helping Solve Brooklyn's Housing Crisis"?

Maybe it's the housing crisis faced by rich Chinese.
The Wall Street Journal reported 12/29/15, Chinese Developers Build in America, but Look for Buyers at Home, describing a tutorial in Shanghai regarding American Thanksgiving, aimed at Chinese buyers:
Instead, the attendees were being sold new condos in the U.S. being built by Chinese developer Greenland Holding Group, coupled with a culinary and cultural lesson on the autumnal holiday.
Greenland is in the process of building two large apartment projects, one in Los Angeles and the other New York, and is turning to its standard client base—Chinese investors—to help fill them up...But in man…

Atlantic Yards/Nets/DBNA Community Foundation emerges, with $100K+ of awards for community groups; board revealed; questions/qualms

This is late, but let's look at the inaugural round of donations--more than $100,000--to community groups in underserved areas of Brooklyn, by the Atlantic Yards/Nets/DBNA Community Foundation. The money surely does good, but also represents part of the developer's community strategy.

The donations were announced in a ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall on 7/30/15, with Borough President Eric Adams and bestowing a proclamation.

The DBNA is the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, led by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, largely (if not exclusively) funded by Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park original developer Forest City Ratner, and long a vigorous cheerleader for the project.

Since the Barclays Center opened, the DBNA has distributed free tickets to arena events via community groups, promised in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Last year, it was to finally begin a CBA-promised program in which community groups got lower-cost access to arena spaces. (I've not …

EB-5 reform stymied by Schumer (and allies); most investors' capital simply bolsters profits, doesn't jump-start projects

In a 12/22/15 article, How Efforts to Overhaul Visa Program Failed on Capitol Hill: Sen. Grassley, allies pushed hard for reform, but developers’ lobby prevailed, the Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown explained how even relatively modest reforms of the EB-5 investment visa program failed:
For more than a year, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley had been pushing to overhaul a controversial program that gives green cards to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in certain businesses. So when congressional leaders last week moved forward with a 10-month extension of the so-called EB-5 program without any changes, the Iowa Republican was less than pleased.
“Maybe it is only here on Capitol Hill—an island surrounded by reality—that we can choose to plug our ears and then refuse to listen to commonly accepted facts,” he said in a 33-minute diatribe on the Senate floor Thursday. The program, he said, is “riddled with flaws and corruption.”
Despite broad agreement that EB-5 is in need of change…

Daily News visits "swanky new West End Club" at Barclays Center; Draft Ops branding forgotten

From the New York Daily News today, Barclays Center’s swish West End Club offers luxury to New York Islanders fans:
He sits, he scores!
As journalistic assignments go, it’s hard to top getting an offer to take in the view of a New York Islanders game from Barclays Center’s swanky new West End Club, with all the perks that come with the most exclusive seats in the venue.
...It’s a luxury item, for sure, with seats going for $300 and up per game as part of season ticket packages. All West End Club season tickets also come with unlimited food and non-alcoholic beverages at concession stands. If they actually paid for that luxury item, I would be very, very surprised. Might put a different spin on the enthusiasm.

Also, an important detail is missing.

It sure seems the "swanky new West End Club" is a rebranding of the Draft Ops Ice Club, which was claimed to have the "best seats in hockey" when announced last July.
Could it have been rebranded because Draft Ops, signed …

Crowd before Islanders game snakes arena down plaza, blocking pedestrians, with no ushers or cops

A post on Atlantic Yards Watch, No crowd control for Islanders game, shows the scene on the Barclays Center plaza yesterday at 4:35 pm, nearly 90 minutes before the start of the New York Islanders game.
"Long line of ticket holders blocks pedestrian traffic across the plaza. No ushers or police in sight."
It shouldn't be that hard to manage that line better. But it does show how the arena plaza is a key safety valve for the operation of the building.
After the game, I walked by, and there was a notably large crowd down in the bowels of the subway waiting for a chance to buy MetroCards. I suspect that basketball fans are already habituated to the rather simple challenge of buying their MetroCards beforehand.


Not job-creating: Schenectady casino project would like to raise EB-5 immigrant investor funds, but it's not required

The EB-5 program is reduced to its astounding essence in the 12/18/15 Albany Times-Union article headlined Visas are lure for China casino cash in Schenectady, subtitled "Schenectady's Rivers casino using popular EB-5 program in which foreign investors get visa preference."

Rick Karlin wrote:
The planned Rivers Casino & Resort project in Schenectady wants to tap Chinese capitalists through a Texas firm that uses a growing but controversial visa program designed to foster foreign investment in the U.S.
While the primary owners of Rivers are affiliated with the Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming company and the Rotterdam-based Galesi Group developers, the casino's developers have teamed up with Houston-based Great Texas Regional Center, one of more than 700 companies nationwide that raise money from overseas through the federal government's EB-5 immigration program.

Created in 1990, the EB-5 program allows foreign nationals to get preference for visas if they com…

The Daily News and the Brooklynettes

News you can use: an article headlined Brooklyn Nets dancers, the Brooklynettes, went to Barbados to shoot 2016 swimsuit calendar is near the top of the Daily News home page, below.

Note that one photo from the calendar shows a plane from JetBlue, which is a Barclays Center sponsor. Synergy! (Oh, and the Daily News is/was a sponsor of the arena plaza.)


Brooklyn "again has a hometown team": how Brooklyn Historical Society hockey exhibit advances the narrative

The Brooklyn Historical Society is well worth a visit, with a strong permanent collection and a varied lineup of temporary exhibits.

However, like a lot of museums, it's not averse to pandering a bit. So it's hard not to sense a whiff of expediency--toward the audience, toward funders--in the slim but much publicized small exhibit Brooklyn Americans: Hockey's Forgotten Promise, which is on view through March 27.

The exhibit concerns the justifiably little-known episode in which a team wore the name Brooklyn on its jerseys, practiced in Brooklyn, and played in Manhattan's Madison Square Garden--all in one season, 1941-42, before suspending operations. And when World War II ended, the grand plans for a Brooklyn-based franchise were killed by the New York Rangers.

“With the [New York] Islanders coming to the Barclays Center, it is the right time to tell a story most people have never heard before,” exhibit organizer Marcia Ely told the Brooklyn Paper. “And this is a great…

So, even the much-praised Los Angeles CBA had its problems (and AY CBA a "borderline calamity")

Thanks to NextCity's 12/24/15 What One L.A. Development Deal Says About the Future of Community Benefit Agreements, we now know that CBAs--even the one promoted as the template for "good" agreements--don't work as promised.

The essay points to Nicholas Marantz, a scholar at the University of California at Irvine, who wrote a study, What Do Community Benefits Agreements Deliver? Evidence From Los Angeles, for Journal of the American Planning Association about the CBA, negotiated in 2001, regarding the development of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District (LASED) around the Staples Center

His takeaway:
Although CBAs may not fulfill all the claims that advocates make on their behalf, they can play important roles in community development by directing public and private spending to under-served neighborhoods. But collecting and verifying the relevant data may be challenging, even if reporting requirements are clearly spelled out in the CBA. As the complexity o…

AY down the memory hole: arena's green roof cited among NY Mag's Reasons to Love New York

The lead-in paragraph to New York Magazine's Reasons to Love New York 2015 states:
Because New York is the heart of political ambition. Because we’re gourmands (and our rats are, too). Because our galleries travel on wheels. Because Zingsanity is upon us. Because the Mets had better hair than the Royals. Because a Citi Bike is going across the country, and a boat full of Williamsburgers is going around the world. Because you don’t need a ticket to see the cast of Hamilton live. Because, from a miniature underground Eden to a lawn on the roof of Barclays Center to a farm at JFK, we make imaginative use of our space, and our jostling, dizzying, possibility-filled crowds of new and old New Yorkers remake the city all over again every day. (Emphasis added)
The print magazine, as shown in the excerpt at right, categorizes the Barclays Center's green roof as part of the 34th reason.
Well, the stonecrop sedum ain't a lawn.
More importantly, this glib characterization--as with N…

de Blasio's defense of donations from developers = "the ends justify the means" (which sounds like Markowitz)

Let's take a deeper look at a very telling exchange during Mayor Bill de Blasio's 12/21/15 roundtable with reporters. The summary from Newsday:
He was also asked about the ethics of limit-less contributions by real estate groups and other special interests to a nonprofit group that backs his administration’s priorities.
“The bottom line is that the resources go to promote a progressive agenda,” de Blasio said. “That’s what matters.” The summary from the New York Times:
In the interview, Mr. de Blasio said he had no qualms about accepting contributions for his political fund from real estate developers and groups with business before the city, saying that he needed resources to advance liberal causes in an era of big-money politics.
“We’re in an environment where a lot of very wealthy, powerful people will use their money to reinforce the status quo,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We’ve seen it directed against me and directed against other progressive leaders around the country.” In ot…

Outside arena last night: illegal parking (in three places), a plaza scuffle, and a Jose Cuervo "souvenir"; ESD mealymouthed about VIP parking

On Monday morning, I queried Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, to ask about the blatant use of public space for private parking at the Barclays Center the day before.

Yesterday afternoon, some 2.5 business days later, I got a response from ESD: “We have spoken with Forest City/Greenland about this issue. We will add it to our log and report the neighborhood’s concerns to NYPD and DOT.”

That wasn't particularly helpful, because when I walked by the arena last night at about 8:30 pm, nearly halfway into the game between the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks, I saw 13 vehicles parked in the "No Standing" zone, plus a sign indicating "Lyft Zone," presumably a drop-off for those using the ride-hailing app.

I approached the yellow-coated Pedestrian Monitor from Sam Schwartz Engineering, who seemed to be overseeing the space. "How," I asked, "can you get to park around here like this?" He ignored me …

Deal for Nets/Barclays completed, now valued at $1.7B; arena seemingly a loss; Moody's reveals dangerously low debt coverage; Prokhorov pledges community continuity

See my update on arena finances and valuation.

Upon formal announcement of the deal to sell Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Sports & Entertainment the 20% of the Brooklyn Nets and 55% of the Barclays Center (operating company) controlled by Forest City Enterprises, the arena deal appeared to be a loss [see below for questions about that] and a bond rating agency revealed that the past year's debt service coverage ratio--the net revenue available to pay back the construction bonds--was dangerously low.

Prokhorov also vaguely pledged community continuity in the wake of local concerns, stating that existing Forest City Ratner staff would remain as interfaces with the public. 
That makes strategic sense, given the difficulty in finding new people, but also means that the Forest City staffers will be conduits, with no clear power to implement policy changes.
The new value
According to the Forest City press release, "The transaction values the team at approximately $875 million a…

How Barclays Center got aggressive alcohol policy for hockey games past potential overseers; what happened to required Quality of Life committee?

Everybody missed how the Barclays Center got sneaky in 2012, getting a more aggressive--and profit-seeking--alcohol service policy for NHL hockey games than the nationwide norm, with no public discussion.

Now, after an altercation, the arena has dialed back. It now cuts off service after the second period of New York Islanders games rather than, as previously, only after the 8th minute--"no later than 12 minutes prior to the end"--of the 20-minute third period.

That's what it should have been in the first place, according to experts. (Also, that's the policy at Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers and was the policy at the Nassau Coliseum.)

As IslesBlog notes, the altercation occurred during the second intermission. Others have noted that drinking is already an issue on LIRR trains before the game.

The initial plans

In 2012, when the Barclays Center applicants, Levy Premium Foodservice and Brooklyn Events Center, sought a liquor license, they told involved c…

During Nets game, vehicles block Dean Street turn lane; limo blocks pedestrian path

Ok, what's wrong with these pictures, taken during the Brooklyn Nets game yesterday and posted on Atlantic Yards Watch by resident Peter Krashes?

Short answer: public space on the south side of the Barclays Center becomes private space, just as it does on the north side of the arena. And it's dangerous

First, a pedestrian walking east of Flatbush Avenue on the north side of Dean Street (see annotated photo below) had to walk in an improvised pedestrian lane caused by the construction fence outside the B2 modular tower, aka 461 Dean Street.

But, as shown in the photo, a truck was wedged in near the area where the road was cut off, and an SUV used as a limo narrowed--if not blocked completely- the pedestrian passage around the B2 construction site and the bicycle lane.

So the pedestrian would be forced into the street. According to the report, the limo driver as well as Flyte Time International limo employee talking with him (same company?) acknowledged that they use that area u…

Carlton Avenue outside B14 site closed for utility work, with no notice

Sometime during the late afternoon yesterday, Carlton Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets closed for utility work, apparently related to the 535 Carlton Avenue (aka B14) construction.

This closure was not announced in either of the two most recent Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Updates, 12/7/15 and 12/21/15, nor, as far as I know, in any interim announcement. It's now open, I'm told. But still that seems an other example of inadequate disclosure.


Why is VIP parking (and Lyft Zone) in "No Standing" area outside Barclays Center?

The violation is blatant--again.

As shown in the photo at right, posted on Atlantic Yards Watch Sunday afternoon by Gib Veconi, a "No Standing" zone on Atlantic Avenue next to the Barclays Center was filled with parked cars, just before a Nets game.

(Just like it was last week.)

He wrote:
The attendant in the yellow jacket, who worked for Sam Schwartz Engineering, told me that the area was being used for VIP parking for the arena. The "no standing" sign is clearly visible at the right.
It's ironic that an employee of the consultant that authored Barclays Center's Transportation Demand Plan is guarding an amenity encouraging people to drive to the arena (including several cars I noticed with out-of-state plates).
This problem was also reported in a separate ticket filed last Sunday. DropCar, Lyft, and more

Evidence had suggested that this area was being used for DropCar, a valet service.

But, as the attendant said, it's being used for VIP parking.

Some …

Are the Nets and Barclays Center really worth $1.9 billion? An expert's doubts

Let's remember, in keeping with the opacity regarding the sale of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center operating company, there is exactly one, unnamed source--originally telling Bloomberg News--that the team/arena are worth $1.9 billion together.

Mike Ozanian of Forbes expressed doubt: And given the apparent complexity of the deal–loan forgiveness, relatively little cash exchanging hands, a minority interest in the team with a majority interest in the arena rights–the purchase price allocation for this transaction will be fascinating. Ozanian said he had verified a previously reported valuation of the team at $700 million (which, I'd add, is well below the $1.5 million that Forbes previously estimated). If so, that values the arena least at $1.2 billion.
But the Nets lose money--that could/should stop with a new payroll and coming TV deal, I'd add--and the arena, at least according to past reports, was making a relatively small profit. 
Ozanian "really doubt[s] P…