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Showing posts from March, 2017

AY CDC signs off on extending environmental monitor's contract. Neighbors (and a board member) say monitor's just not effective.

The meeting Wednesday March 29 of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) was relatively brief and mostly uneventful, but one sequence of exchanges encapsulated the ongoing tensions over the project—and the limits to the board's effectiveness as an advisor to Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project.

The AY CDC board was asked to endorse the staff recommendation to extend for one year the ten-year contract of the consultant HDR, which serves as the environmental monitor for ESD. The contract value is $500,000, and the cost is reimbursed by the project developer.

As stated in the board materials (bottom), ESD had assumed it would conduct a new RFP for a potential replacement before HDR’s contract expired, the uncertain nature of the project’s phasing—notably, a stall in construction and brewing plans for a huge shift in bulk—argues for a short-term extension rather than a new solicitation and possibly a new monitor…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

First five buyers at 550 Vanderbilt surface, including two from Shanghai and Forest City's Cotton

Well, the first five closings at the not-so-speedy-selling 550 Vanderbilt condominium--which has a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy but is not yet open--have finally surfaced in city records. So we have preliminary clues about the buyers.
Two of the five units were bought by residents of Shanghai, where Greenland Holdings--the parent of Greenland USA, which owns 70% of Greenland Forest City Partners--is based. Another was bought by a Brooklyn Heights resident. Another was bought by a couple from Fresh Meadows, Queens, with Chinese surnames. (The developer has marketed to Chinese buyers.)
And the largest of the units, a two-bedroom apartment listed for $1,925,000, sold to Ashley Cotton, Forest City Ratner's Executive VP for External Affairs, for $1,881,688. (Whether an investment or place to live, Cotton wisely chose a unit in the southeast corner of the building, away from future construction. Either way, it helped nudge sales figures ahead.)
Among the other units sold, three o…

From the latest Construction Update: traffic limited on Sixth Avenue; railyard drilling; street trees coming at 535 Carlton

Acording to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning March 27 and circulated yesterday at 1:59 pm (somewhat late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP), a few changes are expected.

Traffic on Sixth Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue is expected to be modified during these two weeks period, with traffic will be limited to one northbound lane. The start date of this work depends on the receipt of the applicable permits.

At the Vanderbilt Yard, drilling of foundation piles will begin in the B10 site--just west of Vanderbilt Avenue, between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue.

Also, 48” steel water main installation is expected to start during this period--location unspecified.

And street trees will be planted around 535 Carlton Avenue (aka B14), the 100% affordable building that already has residents.

Weekend and after-hours work

As in previous weeks, Saturday work c…

Agenda for tomorrow's AY CDC meeting posted

Just in time for tomorro'w's 3 pm meeting (must RSVP today)  of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), parent Empire State Development has posted the agenda and, as usual, it doesn't signal anything crucial.

It includes approval of the AY CDC budget and a consulting comment and the president's report, which often includes an update from developer Greenland Forest City Partners--which can be revealing.

And while public comments get their own agenda line, they are actually supposed to be accepted after each agenda item (though sometimes that doesn't happen).

Beyond anodyne rhetoric from Borough Presidents, follow the money (Adams has much, and much from real estate)

A major feature in the New York Times Metropolitan section, Five Leaders on New York’s Five Boroughs, was supremely anodyne, perhaps inevitably so, given the brevity imposed. (The headline in print was "What Does a Borough President Want?" which should be answered as "to be re-elected," to be put on a path to higher office" and "to enact various changes," not necessarily in that order.)
Consider: The first two paragraphs regarding Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams--unopposed for re-election and already having announced his intention to run for Mayor in 2021--concerned his gym-like office and concerns about diabetes, which for him is not just an issue for the borough but also personal. Then, in full, the following exchanges:
What are Brooklyn’s biggest challenges?
New development. Our young people coming in need to understand that they are not the modern-day Christopher Columbus: They did not discover Brooklyn. Brooklyn was here long before they se…

Triangle parks along Flatbush just past Barclays to get pedestrian makeover

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Transformation of Flatbush Avenue ‘Triangle Parks’ begins next week:
After more than a decade of advocacy and planning, a project to transform three triangular parks along North Flatbush Avenue into pedestrian-friendly islands of green will kick off next week.
The North Flatbush Reconstruction Project will bring new sidewalks, benches, wayfaring signs, solar compactors, infrastructure and greenery to three traffic triangles formed where Flatbush Avenue intersects with Carlton, Sixth and Seventh avenues, not far from Barclays Center. Above right is a rendering of the triangle at Flatbush, Sixth and St. Marks avenues, which is just two blocks from the southeast corner of the arena block. (That blank wall in the back, I believe, would be the nightspot Woodland.)

Below is the full plan, as of 2013, from the New York City Department of Transportation.

Flatbush Avenue Triangle Reconstruction Plan NYC DOT by Norman Oder on Scribd

A Ratner cameo in New Republic essay, Why Lying Is So Easy for Trump

From Ben Adler's New Republic essay Why Lying Is So Easy for Trump: For New York developers, blatant deception isn't just good for business--it's completely legal:
Bait-and-switch tactics are an everyday practice in Trump's industry. The real estate mogul Bruce Ratner dangled star architect Frank Gehry before city officials when seeking approval for the arena that would anchor his enormous Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn. Once the deal was in place, however, Gehry was booted off the project and a cheaper design was swapped in. And more than four years after the arena opened, local residents are still waiting for the eight acres of parks that Ratner pledged to create. I'd say that it's not "eight acres of parks," but rather "open space," and it's long been known it would take a while. The clear lie--part of what I call the Culture of Cheating--is describing the "park" as already in existence, as in promotional we…

Atlantic Yards CDC meeting rescheduled for next Wednesday, at ESD offices

The Board of Directors of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), recently postponed, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, March 29, at 3 pm. No agenda has been released.

The change in date means that the meeting can't be held, as scheduled, in Brooklyn at Long Island University, but rather will be held at home court: the offices of parent Empire State Development, 633 Third Avenue, at the 37th Floor Conference Room.

This meeting is open to the public and will be web cast.

Due to building procedures, those attending should RSVP by 5 pm on Tuesday, March 28. RSVP public line (212) 803-3766. RSVP press line (800) 260-7313

This will be the first meeting of AY CDC since 11/14/16, or more than four months.


LICH redevelopment now named River Park

It's going around. Not unlike the way Greenland Forest City Ratner transformed Atlantic Yards into Pacific Park Brooklyn, the unbranded Long Island College Hospital (LICH) project--involving new construction as well as some adaptation--will now be known as River Park, according to Curbed.
A spokesman for Fortis Property Group provided this statement to Curbed:
The name River Park is a natural and fitting evolution for this idyllic location in Cobble Hill. Given the existing park space surrounding and within the site, which Fortis will only enhanced and beautify, and with the serene river adjacent location and spectacular East River views, the name is simply descriptive. Of course, that's exactly what a development with towers of 15, 17, and 28 stories would be called. Just the way a project with 6,430 apartments, an arena, and significant amounts of office and retail space would be called Pacific Park.

Transparency? Waiting for the ESD Board agenda

Update 9:55 am. Now the agenda and board materials are up. Nothing about Atlantic Yards.


So there's a board meeting this morning at 9:30 of Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

Occasionally the project comes up, so it's important to see the agenda to know whether it's worth attending the meeting in Midtown Manhattan, or watching on a webcast.

However, as of 5 pm yesterday, the deadline to RSVP to get into the building ("due to building procedures," which surely would be waived if a VIP really needed to get there, right?), no agenda existed.

With less than an hour before the meeting, there's still no agenda, much less board materials.

Below, the media advisory requiring a day-before RSVP



Do the 35th District fundraising totals indicate a tight race? Not yet.

So, is the 35th District Council Democratic primary race getting tight, as Ede Fox prepares to challenge incumbent Laurie Cumbo? I'd say it's early.

Fox Out Fundraises Cumbo In March 15 Filing Period, according to Stephen Witt of Kings County Politics:
According to the Campaign Finance Board (CFB), Cumbo reported having raised $66,457 while spending $26,732 to net out with $39,725. Fox raised $29,456 and spent $260 to net out with $29,716.
While this looks like Cumbo has an edge, it should be noted that she has been fundraising for some time and her total is a culmination of several filing periods, while this is Fox’s first filing.
If you just look at this filing period, which ran from Jan. 17 to yesterday, Fox outraised Cumbo by more than 2 to 1. Fox raised $29,976, while Cumbo raised only $13,720.
This is not to write off Cumbo, however, as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has an upcoming fundraiser for Cumbo.... "This is not to write off Cumbo"? C'mo…

The irony! 461 Dean modular apartments hyped as "handcrafted locally"

Potential renters in the new 461 Dean apartment tower flanking the Barclays Center can not only snag two months free rent, they also can move to a unit that's been "handcrafted locally in the Brooklyn Navy Yard," according to the Douglas Elliman listing.

Wait--can this 32-story tower really be pitched like a bespoke ottoman or a seasonal beer? After all, 461 Dean, the first residential building in Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park), was supposed to revolutionize construction as the world's tallest modular building.

Rather than rely on "handcrafted" work at the building site, as is typical,  apartment sections (aka "mods") were produced at a climate-controlled, process-optimized factory, aimed to be faster and cheaper.

Alas, developer Forest City Ratner ran up against some pesky problems, namely delays, a dispute with then-partner Skanska, and cost overruns. (The former partners blame each other.) The tower took twice as long as planned and scotched…

The EB-5 racket: Jared Kushner's connect says projects don't need the money (so investor visas = profit)

I have an essay in City Limits, Emerging Kushner Deal Suggests What’s Wrong With U.S. Investor Visa Program, about how an emerging deal involving Jared Kushner's family real state firm and a politically connected Chinese company illustrates what's wrong with the EB-5 investor visa program, which purportedly would be used to raise cheap capital.

Below is an excerpt, plus video (that wasn't embedded) on the City Limits page.

It contains a damning admission about EB-5 by the Nicholas Mastroianni II, he of the "checkered past" (as documented by Fortune's Peter Elkind), who happens to be the hottest money-raiser in the world of investor visas and Jared Kushner's past EB-5 connect: the projects he works on don't need the money. Which confirms that EB-5 is a racket.

From the article

This wouldn't be the first Kushner EB-5 project. The Trump Bay Street luxury apartment tower in Jersey City, NJ, used $50 million in EB-5 funds, about a quarter of the total b…

Instagram-plus! Celeb living in new tower (300 Ashland) gets paid to promote it

Ok, in this time of rising competition among luxury buildings and rental "incentives," every developer needs an edge. I've written about deals with Instagram fashionista to produce gauzy, park-promoting advertorial for 550 Vanderbilt (1, 2, 3), which actually came after similar promotion for 365 Bond in Gowanus.

Reports New York magazine's The Cut:
Last week, one influencer broke new ground in the ever-expanding world of celebrity spon-con. Tavi Gevinson, the 20-year-old actress and founder of the socially conscious teen magazine Rookie, started advertising her own luxury apartment building on Instagram.
Gevinson, who has over 500,000 followers on the app, posted several photos documenting her move to 300 Ashland, a glossy 35-story tower in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. In many of the posts, she explicitly listed her new address — 300 Ashland Place — in the location field. In captions touting the building’s amenities and prime location, she used the hashtag #300AshlandPartner…

Atlantic Yards CDC meeting postponed until week of March 27

Empire State Development informs us that, due to an unexpected scheduling conflict, there's no longer have a quorum for the scheduled March 21 (at 3 pm, LIU) board meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC)

The meeting will be postponed to the week of March 27. Details of date/time/location will be issued at a later date. Presumably, an agenda will be issued as well.

This will be the first meeting of AY CDC since 11/14/16, or more than four months. It's supposed to meet quarterly.

The Barclays Center's changing corporate partners (and the odd prominence of LIU)

Let's take a look at the shifting line-up of the Barclays Center's corporate partners.

We don't know the dollar value of the deals, but... if Long Island University was listed in 2016 as one of the top ten partners, in terms of dollar value, doesn't that signal either that LIU is paying big for the privilege, and/or some of corporate businesses aren't paying all that much? LIU, by the way, has been a staunch supporter of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project as a whole.

As of 2009

Below is an excerpt from December 2009 Official Statement (aka prospectus) for the arena bonds.
Note that Jones Soda, at least, withdrew and was replaced by Coca-Cola. Also note that MetroPCS had a retail outlet briefly on the north side of the arena--until it didn't.

By 2012

On the eve of the arena's opening, the mix had shifted, as stated in a 9/25/12 press release (names from 2009 bolded):
In addition to Barclays, the naming rights partner, Founding Partners for Barclays Center…

For Barclays Center, most events outside pro sports draw modest crowds (except concerts, also most profitable)

The Nets and Islanders don't fill the Barclays Center, as I reported, with actual gate count significantly less than announced attendance (and maybe worse, for the Islanders).

And--guess what--most other events don't even come close. Also, concerts are lots more profitable than anything else (though the business can be fickle).

That emerged in the Official Statement released last August for the refinancing of the Barclays Center bonds. It suggests why most (but hardly  all) events cause fewer neighborhood ripples than once feared.

We've long known some reasons regarding the impact of Nets basketball games: notably, the number of New Jersey-based fans driving to the arena diminished, as fandom declined during the team's long goodbye, and more Brooklyn-based fans, including those who walk, went to games.

Beyond that, the arena shrank from a once-contemplated 20,000-seat venue to instead hold 17,732 for basketball games, which, even with sellouts, typically means fewer th…

The Brooklyn Nets' bleak future (and the inevitable departures of Lopez and Lin?)

NetsDaily summarizes a Washington Post article, The Brooklyn Nets are stuck in a dismal present, staring at a dim future, which suggests that the team's rebuild will take at least four years, given the lack of top draft picks. Writes the Post's Tim Bontemps:
 That makes it hard for the Nets to truly begin a long-term rebuild until 2019, when they finally have control of their picks again (that is, unless they can convince multiple stars to come to play for them in 2018, when they currently are on pace to have less than $20 million in committed salaries on their books). Given the lack of incentive for stars to come play in Brooklyn, as well as the methodical approach being implemented by General Manager Sean Marks and Coach Kenny Atkinson, it seems unlikely any kind of quick fix will be attempted. Bontemps thinks only rookie Caris LeVert will stick around, that center Brook Lopez may be traded (though it would be tough to get fair value), and that point guard Jeremy Lin could b…

New report on Prospect Heights: incomes rise, racial mix flip, shift in concerns from education/safety to affordability/diversity

Though Prospect Heights is absent in the Regional Plan Association's recent report on potential displacement, a new report from the Intersection | Prospect Heights project, We’re All Part of the Neighborhood, starkly details dramatic changes that indeed, point to past and potential ongoing displacement.

Consider the dramatic change in income in Prospect Heights, as detailed in the graphic below: as of 2014 (and surely rising), 40% of households earn six figures, up from 15% in 2000. That's well above projections, as noted lower down.

The report draws on federal statistics and also surveys sponsored by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council in 2004 (366 respondents) and 2015-2016 (508 respondents). The surveys are not scientific polls, but the general trends they track have resonance.

Changing racial mix

Prospect Heights, once 53% black and 31% white, has in 14 years flipped to 28% black and 56% white.

Changing concerns

For example, between 2004 and 2015-6, residen…

From the latest Construction Update: new Con Ed work; sidewalk shed outside 535 Carlton may go

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning March 13 and circulated yesterday at 2:03 pm (somewhat late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP), there are no new work items, at least not as indicated in red with an asterisk.

However, not listed as new, but not in previous Updates, is that Con Edison will be working in sidewalk vaults on north side of Pacific Street, across the street from parking garage near Sixth avenue, for new railyard electrical service.

Also, the sidewalk shed along Dean Street and Carlton Avenue, outside B14 (535 Carlton) is expected to be removed, as was expected in the previous alert.

As shown in the photo at right that I took yesterday, that hasn't happened yet.

Weekend and after-hours work

As in previous weeks, Saturday work could occur at B3 (38 Sixth), B12 (615 Dean Street), and B14. Then again, pretty much nothing has been happening at…

A 35th District race surfaces: Fox prepares to challenge Cumbo

Incumbent 35th District Council Member Laurie Cumbo faces a likely challenge from one of her top 2013 rivals, Ede Fox, who's formed an exploratory committee.

And while the issue of Atlantic Yards hasn't yet surfaced, development issues--notably Cumbo's position on the Bedford Union Army project, far less wary than that of other pols and the 2013 support she got from real estate interests--will surely be important.

Though Council races feature 6-for-1 financial matching and thus potential funds to run a reasonable campaign, it's very tough to defeat an incumbent, at least one not rocked by scandal. Fox will decide by May whether she has enough money to mount the challenge, according to Kings County Politics. (Two other candidates may run, as well. Contributions to all campaigns can be made here.)

Cumbo's debatable decision to steer a significant share of her discretionary funds to the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, which she founded, surely will com…