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Showing posts from 2017

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: a brief summary in a new book on gentrification

A few recent books I've been reading--including Neil deMause's The Brooklyn Wars: The Stories Behind the Remaking of New York's Most Celebrated Borough and Kay Hymowitz's The New Brooklyn: What It Takes to Bring a City Back--say interesting (and contradictory) things about Brooklyn, and deserve a longer assessment, along with a third book, Peter Moskowitz's How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood.

Moskowitz's overall arguments are worth engaging, but for now I'd like to address one specific paragraph regarding Atlantic Yards. (deMause's book more extensively addresses Atlantic Yards, if inevitably tilted to the early part of the controversy, while Hymowitz's book goes elsewhere.)

Moskowitz's brief focus on Atlantic Yards is another example of how (inevitably?) complex things get boiled down awkwardly or incorrectly for future consumption. I've seen this in other books, as well. It's unfortunate…

Two books and some advice on "being a better gentrifier"

In an interview headlined Toward Being a Better Gentrifier, CityLab's Brentin Mock interviewed the (out of NYC) academics (two white, one black) who wrote the new book Gentrifier about their experiences. And the interview complicates some easy bromides.

"The problem isn't gentrification: It's that my neighbors are getting locked up, or they are being over-policed, or there aren't any schools, or there’s lead poisoning in the neighborhood, or there aren’t any long-term rentals anymore," says Jason Patch. Those are things to organize about. (Or, I'd suggest, any social action that leads to solidarity and more civic and communal resources.)

"Evictions can happen due to disinvestment in a neighborhood, and [they can also] happen because of over-investment," says John Joe Schlichtman. " Eviction happens because of disconnection from the rest of the city and a neighborhood’s reconnection to the rest of the city. Militarized policing can happen du…

Given lack of walkable land in NY region, a new push for greater density outside NYC

In an April interview, New York magazine critic (and author) Justin Davidson, asked about New York City's future, responded:
The immediate question is how it can cope with an affordability crisis. I wish I knew the answer, but I emphatically don't. I think that the solutions to the question are largely out of local control. I think we're talking about large-scale economic mechanisms and national, international policy. And, perhaps, regional policy, a focus of the Regional Plan Association and other planners. The WalkUP Wake-Up Call: New York, released recently by the George Washington University School of Business's Center for Real Estate & Urban Analysis in partnership with Smart Growth America, recently pointed out that "just 2.4% of the total regional land mass in New York is considered 'walkable urban.'" The full report is embedded at bottom.

And that scarce land is far more valuable than the suburbs. According to the announcement:
Despite the…

From the latest Construction Update: median restoration on Atlantic Avenue opposite arena could begin Tuesday

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning August 14, median restoration work on Atlantic Avenue between Fort Greene Place and Sixth Avenue will likely begin during this week.

That's one block, bordering the Barclays Center and also the perimeter of the Atlantic Center mall (but not the Atlantic Terminal mall).

The MPT (maintenance and protection of traffic) will be shifted, according to approved plans (presumably by the Department of Transportation), starting on or about Tuesday 8/15/17 ,to accommodate the median restoration work. However, the traffic flow will still contain three westbound and two eastbound lanes. The time frame to complete the work was not stated.

Also, relocation of the Vanderbilt Yard site access ramp on Pacific Street will begin during this reporting period. Contractor and LIRR access to the site will be via the LIRR Entrance on Atlantic Avenue.

The update was circulated Friday at 10:18 …

Which Brooklyn are we talking of? At least four.

We all hear about "Brooklyn the brand," or casual references to "Brooklyn" in popular culture. Remember, marketing for 550 Vanderbilt claims "Everything you love about Brooklyn."

But that "Brooklyn" is only a piece of the larger borough.

A new effort to reframe how we think about the borough--all the boroughs--comes from the urban-focused artificial intelligence studio Topos, in this Medium post (and described in FastCoDesign):
With the exception of Queens/Brooklyn, all boroughs are separated from one another by water. The implications and limitations of this physical partitioning of land have changed considerably since the initial formation of the boroughs. New York City is now connected by over 2000 bridges and tunnels, the vast majority of which were built after 1898.
...Furthermore, we were interested in going beyond more familiar demographic viewpoints to capture the personality of a place, and what it feels like to actually be there. In a s…

Yes, the concessions are here for new Brooklyn rentals

Well, Forest City Ratner's 461 Dean market-rate units are not alone in offering significant concessions on leases.

As reported by The Real Deal and The Bridge, the competition among new buildings has led to a glut. The Real Deal:
In July, concessions at residential rental buildings in the borough were the highest they have been in the seven years that they’ve been tracked, according to Douglas Elliman’s July rental market report for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. This demonstrates how protective landlords are of base rents at their buildings, according to Hal Gavzie, executive manager of leasing at Douglas Elliman. That means that some 22.1% of new leases involve concessions, versus 9.5% a year before, with concessions averaging 1.4 months of free rent. (Longer leases get bigger concessions.)

As Miller Samuel’s Jonathan Miller observed, this current percentage is a new but uncertain situation, because at a certain point tenants can't afford the base rents.

The question, not y…

Brooklyn population growth and poverty demographics from the Chamber

A September 2016 report ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT OF THE BROOKLYN ECONOMY – 2016 UPDATE, prepared for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, offers some perspective on both gentrification and the market for new housing.

The statistics it offers are through 2015, and I have not been able to find 2016 statistics. Notably, a 1.1% population growth from 2010-2014 turned into a .6% growth in 2015, largely attributable to a net loss in domestic migration (more people moving out).

The report is optimistic about growth and, indeed, there is evidence. Consider that a 2013 report from the Department of City Planning (DCP) predicted (p. 3) that Brooklyn's population would reach 2.68 million by 2020. However, DCP estimated the population at 2.63 million by 2016.

But if the rate of growth continues to be slow, that would raise questions about the market for luxury housing, including in projects like Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

Demographic trends

Note growth in white and Asian residents, and zero growth i…

A key stat from the Furman Center: as housing cost rose, incomes did not

A very important piece of context regarding affordability in New York City is often ignored.

A year ago, on 8/15/16, the Furman Center announced, Report: More Than Half of New York City Homes Unaffordable to the Majority of Households, suggesting that even those earning up to six figures had trouble buying homes in the city:
While roughly half of the city’s households (51%) earn $55,000 or less annually, they could afford just 9% of 2014 home sales. Even households earning up to $114,000 annually could only afford 42% of home sales in New York City. Only 22% of the city’s population earned upwards of $114,000 in 2014.
“Since 1990, incomes have stagnated while the costs of housing—both rental housing and home sales prices—have skyrocketed,” said Mark Willis, Senior Policy Fellow at the NYU Furman Center and co-author of the study. “As a result, there are not enough homes available for purchase at prices affordable to the vast majority of New Yorkers.” (Emphasis added)

This is stunning:

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment moving from MetroTech to Industry City

s noted yesterday by the Commercial Observer (Brooklyn Nets’ Parent Company Moving to 70K SF at Industry City) and other sources,  Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, operates the Barclays Center (and other venues) and the Brooklyn Nets, is moving its corporate offices to Industry City in Sunset Park from MetroTech.

That makes sense, as the company, no longer needing to be yoked to Forest City Ratner, its former partner, can move one floor below the Nets' practice facility. The Commercial Observer quotes a spokesman as estimating that the move should be accomplished by June 2018, and will  involve 350 employees. No terms were announced.

The press release, verbatim, below

August 10, 2017

New Sales Office Opens in Manhattan
BROOKLYN – Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment is expanding its corporate footprint with new office locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Since launching Barclays…

"Inspired Urbaneering": Greenland USA's tagline (and web site)

Greenland USA, majority owner of Greenland Forest City Partners, updated its onetime placeholder web site to a nice slick site last fall, and it's worth a look.

The full home page is reproduced below. It's probably not coincidental that the less controversial and complicated Metropolis project in Los Angeles gets billing over Pacific Park Brooklyn.

A new tag line

Greenland offers this tag line: "Inspired Urbaneering." What the heck does that mean?

If it's a combo of "urban" and "pioneer," well, the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site was hardly the hinterlands. Here's Greenland's overview, which offers some pleasant generalities:
Greenland USA’s mission is to create vibrant communities where people and neighborhoods thrive.
We develop residential and commercial properties that transform communities and exemplify modern living.

They are defined by their ability to fit seamlessly within a city, catalyze the local economy, foster the growth o…

Architect Cook: Pacific Park buildings "not a new neighborhood, but an extension to the existent neighborhood"

From the real estate web site 6sqft, 7/31/17, INTERVIEW: Architect Rick Cook on the legacy of COOKFOX’s sustainable design in NYC

Q: You’ve been working on 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt, part of the greater Atlantic Yards redevelopment. It’s a project with a lot of history, and will soon be a whole new neighborhood in Brooklyn. What’s that project been like?
Rick: We didn’t have an intention of being involved with the project formerly known as Atlantic Yards [now Pacific Park], but we liked the key people we worked with at Forest City Ratner [the developer] on a proposal for Seward Park. I saw how important the sites of 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt would be to the project… they could speak a language that could transition into, and be a part of, the adjoining neighborhood. Not something separate, not a new neighborhood, but an extension to the existent neighborhood. (Emphases added)

OK, so the official line is that the project "will soon be a whole new neighborhood," but …

Class action suit against Barclays Center and partners alleges unfair treatment of job applicants with criminal history

Bloomberg BNA reported 8/7/17, Barclays Center Flouts ‘Criminal History’ Hiring Law, Suit Says:
The Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, unlawfully denies employment to job seekers with criminal records without giving them required notice of their rights or a chance to explain their convictions, a proposed class of workers alleges ( Kelly v. Brooklyn Events Ctr., LLC , E.D.N.Y., No. 1:17-cv-04600, class complaint filed 8/4/17 ).
The actions of Brooklyn Events Center LLC, which owns and operates the arena, and two companies that provide food services at the venue also violate laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race and national origin by improperly relying on applicants’ criminal past to deny them employment. This “imports the racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system into the employment application process,” the class lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 4 in federal court, says.
The case is one of the first class actions under New York C…

Contrasting views of the marketing switch at 550 Vanderbilt, via the Real Deal

If you read the latest issue of the Real Deal, two articles published 8/1/17 offer contrasting views of the marketing switch made by Greenland Forest City Partners, swapping Corcoran Sunshine for Nest Seekers International.

From Solving NYC’s condo riddle:
A first line of defense for many developers is to shake up their marketing teams.
That’s what Forest City New York and Greenland USA did just last month at their 278-unit Brooklyn condo 550 Vanderbilt, where sales started strong but slowed to a trickle last year. Two years after launching, the project is about 65 percent sold. But how much of that early marketing success could be credited to Corcoran Sunshine, if a good chunk of units were sold--thanks to Greenland's domestic connections--to buyers in China?

From the article:
Still, the developers have refused to cut prices at the tower because they’ve counting on the building to establish a high price bar for other buildings at their Pacific Park megaproject.
“We’ve made a deli…

Former Prokhorov deputy Pavlova: "we did look into" making Barclays "hockey-friendly"

There's an interesting anecdote on the Brooklyn Nets fan podcast, The Glue Guys, in the Irina Pavlova Exit Interview, interviewing the recently departed (after seven years)president of ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment, the holding company (owned by Mikhail Prokhorov) for the Nets, Barclays Center, and other properties.

The segment starts at about 8:26. One host asks if, in retrospect, there's anything that could have changed about the move of the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn.,

"I am satisfied how it's worked out, I mean, obviously, leaving basketball aside," Pavlova said. "There are a few things that we would have changed about the arena if we could. But at the point we got involved, it was already a done deal. So we couldn't go back and redo the drawings."

Remember, Forest City Ratner (led by Bruce Ratner) and parent Forest City Enterprises were the majority owners of the arena, and had already decided (in 2008) to swap Frank Gehry's larger …

Based on reportable metrics, Forest City gets high marks for gender equality

A 7/31/17 press release from Forest City Realty Trust, Forest City Recognized as a Global Leader in Gender Equality:
Forest City Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) recently earned international recognition for its inclusive programs, policies and practices, receiving a spot on Equileap's 2017 Gender Equality Global Report & Ranking.
Equileap, an organization aimed at accelerating gender equality in the workplace, created the survey and ranking to help investors and others identify companies that are leaders in gender balance and opportunity... The survey evaluated more than 3,000 global public companies and ranked the top 200 worldwide. Forest City ranked 174th and is the sole U.S. REIT to make the rankings.
...The report and ranking, which will be updated annually, was sourced exclusively through publicly accessible data from external reporting by the companies surveyed. Equileap assessed each company on 19 specific data points within four broad categories: gender balance in lea…

PR Week honors Rosen, mentions "groundbreaking campaigns for... mixed-use developments"

From PRWeek's 40 Under 40 awards, published 8/1/17
Jonathan Rosen
Principal and cofounder, BerlinRosen, 38
Jonathan Rosen was only 26 when he cofounded BerlinRosen with Valerie Berlin in 2005. The duo built an agency on the idea there was a market for companies, organizations, and candidates looking for a PR firm that operates with the speed and intensity of political campaigns.
Over the past 12 years, BerlinRosen has grown from a two-person shop started in an NYC apartment to a 110-person firm with offices in New York; Washington, DC; and Los Angeles. It also touts a client base composed of the world’s top companies, nonprofits, foundations, and candidates.
Few, if any, agency founders or principals Rosen’s age are running firms the size of BerlinRosen or achieving the same level of success. He led public affairs and comms strategy for the 13 leading philanthropies, including the Ford Foundation, where he was behind the Detroit "Grand Bargain" to settle the city’s bankruptc…

Forest City not signaling new towers: "we intend to... be prudently cautious in our decision-making"

After representatives of Forest City Realty Trust said nothing of substance regarding the future of Pacific Park Brooklyn in their latest quarterly earnings press release, I thought that maybe investment analysts on the subsequent earnings call yesterday would bring up the issue. They didn't.

However, at about 11:30 of the call, Chief Financial Officer Bob O'Brien made some observations about company activities that, to my mind, certainly derived from past experience with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (among other projects), and pointed to caution going forward.

"Before I turn it back to [CEO] Dave [LaRue]," O'Brien said, "let me comment on the construction and development pipeline. Development has always been an important part of our growth and value creation proposition, and the high quality portfolio we own and operate today is primarily made up of assets we conceived, developed, and built."

"At the same time, with hindsight, we also recognize tha…

Is Belmont RFP a done deal for the Islanders?

Long Island Business News editor Joe Dowd writes, Bet the ranch, Isles skating to Belmont. His argument is that the request for proposals (RFP, also below) from Empire State Development "specifically calls for Belmont to become 'a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality.' The state is not seeking proposals that include housing or tech jobs, items advocated by the local community."

"Who gains the most from such an arrangement?" he asks, suggesting that Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan would gain from competing with Barclays Center and the Nassau Coliseum, as would MSG Network, owned by Dolan, which broadcasts the Islanders, as would "Scott Malkin, the Islanders’ owner, or his brother, Anthony, a major developer of retail and commercial properties."

And all "are major financial backers of Gov. Andrew Cuomo."

Yes, but so are a lot of people. And I'm still not sure how another arena would…