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Showing posts from 2017

Real Deal: signs of distress, at least in short-term for office space and luxury units

Is New York real estate showing symptoms of distress? asks the Real Deal asks in its 6/1/17 issue. Here's a relevant passage for AY/PP watchers:
On the whole, office leasing across the boroughs has been healthy.... However, much of the leasing activity has been driven by concessions...
Absorption is especially low in Brooklyn, where about 7 million square feet of office space is in the pipeline despite very little interest from big-name Manhattan tenants. Amid the growing oversupply, the vacancy rate in Brooklyn reached 7.1 percent in the first quarter, up from 5.7 percent in late 2015, according to CoStar Group data. So that suggests that developer Greenland Forest City Partners might not be unhappy that its two contemplated--though not yet approved--office projects are still a good way from fruition: the plan to transfer bulk from the approved B1 tower at the arena plaza across the street to Site 5, as well as the plan to convert the B4 tower at the northeast corner of the arena…

Now "No Stopping" signs in place on Vanderbilt outside 550 Vanderbilt condo

OK, the signs are finally in. As seen below, "No Stopping Allowed" signs have been belatedly installed on Vanderbilt Avenue outside the 550 Vanderbilt condo tower, between Dean and Pacific streets.

That should finally deter the scofflaws parking and blocking the bike lane, since it allows for enforcement. The photos were sent to me Sunday; I'm unsure of the precise date, because it wasn't announced by developer Greenland Forest City Partners or the Department of Transportation.
"I will mention there’s been some frustration about these parking signs, frustration for all of us, that they’re not installed yet," Ashley Cotton, a representative of the developer, said at a meeting 6/6/17. "It takes us and the DOT [Department of Transportation] to get this completed. So we’ll take our side of the blame, it just should have happened faster, but I’m told it’s imminent," Cotton said.


At a 5/2/17 public meeting, more than a month earlier, Cotton said the go…

In Crain's "Most Powerful Women," Gilmartin goes to 11 from 17 (really?)

Lists of "most powerful" are always more art than science, but I have to wonder why Crain's New York Business ranked Forest City New York  President and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin number 11, a decent uptick from the previous ranking, 17, in 2015.

In an Editor's note, The girls are all right, Jeanhee Kim of Crain's writes, "Within all these stories is the idea that time has a dramatic impact on power. Women move up and down and on and off our list every two years."
Sure. But Gilmartin, though advancing institutionally with prominent positions outside her job, hasn't had that great a two years at Forest City. Here's what they write about her:
2016 NET OPERATING INCOME $230 million
NYC IMPACT Member, Executive Committee and Board of Governors, Real Estate Board of N.Y.; co-chair, Brooklyn Downtown Partnership; board member, BAM and N.Y. Public Radio
When the next book on Brooklyn’s rebirth is written, it will certainly have a chapter on MaryAnne Gilmar…

Before NBA draft, a logjam on Dean Street outside loading dock

Thursday's NBA Draft at the Barclays Center was supposed to draw a "significant number of vehicles" and a "large volume of buses" and, indeed, there was some disruption.

As shown in the video below, narrowed Dean Street outside the arena--remember, there's non-AY construction on the south side, starting at Flatbush--made for something of a logjam as a bus pulled out after making a delivery, while another (for NBA draftees and others, I was told but not confirmed) waited to enter. This was shortly before 6 pm, for a 7 pm event.

I'm told the video did not capture a longer period of slowed traffic before the video started. A fire truck returning to its Dean Street station was delayed, though it wasn't an emergency.



Note that in the video above, a van improperly parked on the south side of Dean across from the loading dock hinders turning by the bus. It's unclear whether that was a vehicle for Barclays or for the police, but it wasn't supposed t…

No surprise: company hawking EB-5 for Atlantic Yards country's biggest investor visa middleman

Some useful, if not ironclad, statistics from The Real Deal 6/21/17, Government releases crucial EB-5 data – but beware, it could be full of flaws:
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services issued three years of EB-5 visa data this week, confirming what was already known to many in the industry: big city regional centers servicing developer clients dominate the field for investors looking to immigrate to the U.S.
Between 2014 and 2017, USCIS approved more than 26,000 petitions for visas nationwide and rejected 3,313, its data show. The overwhelming majority of regional centers saw 100 or fewer petitions processed during the period. EB-5 visa issuance is currently capped at 10,000 new investor visas annually.
The US Immigration Fund (USIF), a Florida-based EB-5 regional center company with branches in New York City and New Jersey, accounted for more than 3,100 approved petitions, or 17 percent of all approved EB-5 visas in this period, the data show. In New York, developers …

Bertha Lewis backing "two-time disgraced" Hiram Monserrate because “we believe in criminal-justice reform”

Something kinda strange happened this week. As the New York Post reported 6/21/17, Activist endorses Monserrate’s return to politics: He was expelled from the state Senate for slashing his girlfriend and did time for mail fraud, but Hiram Monserrate was endorsed Wednesday for his City Council run by activist Bertha Lewis.
The support of the Black Leadership Action Coalition, a political fund-raising arm of Lewis’ left-leaning Black Institute, is a major boost for the former lawmaker in the race to succeed Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland in Queens.
...Lewis told The Post her group endorsed Monserrate because “we believe in criminal-justice reform” and most of the neighborhood residents polled believe he’s the best candidate for the 21st Council District, which includes Jackson Heights, Flushing, Elmhurst, Corona and College Point.Um, "believ[ing] in criminal-justice reform"--which could mean revising bail and sentencing standards--does not automatically translate into s…

Forest City NY said to experience major layoffs, disproportionate part of national downsizing

Update: the Plain Dealer reports that 30 of the 50 jobs cut nationally are in Cleveland. Crain's Cleveland Business says the number is 29 and the loss of 50 jobs means 1750 jobs companywide. Assuming my source is correct, New York had the majority of the remaining job cuts.
Forest City New York (formerly Forest City Ratner) yesterday laid off some 15 staffers, I'm told by a well-informed source, including some with high salaries and significant responsibility. That would represent more than a ten percent cut.

That number is not confirmed--multiple queries to the developer did not draw responses--but the Wall Street Journal yesterday reported cuts nationally by Cleveland-based parent Forest City Realty Trust (FCRT).

Forest City Laying Off 50 Workers as It Refocuses on Property Development Business, the WSJ reported, “Today our company is fundamentally different than when we began our journey,” corporate CEO David LaRue said in a company message, the paper reported. “The pending s…

Yormark: Islanders owners have been given "optionality": Barclays + Nassau (plus potential new pipes)

Despite saying (unsurprisingly) earlier this month that Barclays Center managers don't plan to make design changes to the arena--after all, it would be tough to add seats or change sightlines--the arena's top official is hardly ready to give up the New York Islanders hockey team.

In an interview yesterday with WFAN's Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton (who have a food stand at the arena!) Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark indicated that Barclays is very much in play for the Islanders, despite (overstated) reporting that the arena was dumping the hockey team.

At about 6:58 of the interview, Carton stated he believes the Islanders will go to a new arena at the Belmont racetrack. (A new arena is tough to justify in this market, and would be expensive, so I have my doubts.)

Giving owners "optionality"

"Is there any way," Carton asked Yormark, "that the wealthy men that are your bosses, and that own the building and make these ultimate decisions, including …

Pacific Park Developer's Deceptive Affordable Housing Spin--not the first misleading op-ed

I published comments critiquing Tackling New York’s Housing Affordability Crisis, by Ashley Cotton of Forest City New York, in Gotham Gazette. And the same publication gave me a platform to respond, in Pacific Park Developer's Deceptive Affordable Housing Spin.
An excerpt:
Those of us with long memories recall past deceptive essays by the developer. In May 2008, Bruce Ratner, CEO of Forest City Ratner (since renamed Forest City New York), penned an op-ed for the Daily News, contending, "for the first time, I am offering an updated construction timetable for the project...We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018."
Well, we know how that turned out. The timetable stretched to 2035, and then was said to be 2025, at least for the affordable housing, though officials at Ratner's parent company now hint at well past 2030.
"We're still building the iconic Miss Brooklyn tower," Ratner wrote, regarding the Frank Gehry-designed flagship building at the…

Developer's op-ed claims 535 Carlton as example of "Tackling New York’s Housing Affordability Crisis"

Updated with my rebuttal, Pacific Park Developer's Deceptive Affordable Housing Spin.
How about that.

Gotham Gazette, "a pioneering nonpartisan New York City-based online watchdog publication" (for which I've written), today publishes Tackling New York’s Housing Affordability Crisis, by Ashley Cotton is Executive Vice President, External Affairs at Forest City New York:
One creative solution has already proven to be successful in Brooklyn: public-private partnerships. Last week, Greenland Forest City Partners was proud to open 535 Carlton, our COOKFOX-designed, 298-unit building in one of the most desirable parts of the city. The best part? It’s 100 percent affordable, and proof positive that our public-private affordable housing model delivers great results. This pioneering partnership ensures that Pacific Park Brooklyn, our 22-acre project in downtown Brooklyn, enhances the area’s diversity, vibrancy, and accessibility.
Working in conjunction with the city and the …

From City & State: Media Critic de Blasio Should Cop to How He Steers Coverage:

From my City & State essay Media Critic de Blasio Should Cop to How He Steers Coverage:
In a recent interview with BuzzFeed's Ben Smith, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio played media critic, denouncing the tabloid focus on purported fripperies, claiming his vital work gets ignored, and suggesting that corporate media follow a corporate agenda.
Hold on.
Yes, the mayor’s beef is partially legitimate: His Park Slope gym routine and his posture on the Puerto Rican Day Parade are news stories that have drawn disproportionate attention. However, as critics point out, de Blasio didn't seem to mind when political rivals like his predecessor Michael Bloomberg faced similar tabloid censure.
More importantly, de Blasio's no victim...  Consider how de Blasio has steered coverage of "affordable housing," which laypeople often translate as "low-income," but merely means "below-market," with tenants paying about 30 percent of their income towards rent.…

Goodbye Brooklyn! Nets trade Lopez, last holdover from the New Jersey era

Right before the NBA Draft, the Brooklyn Nets made a dramatic trade: longtime center Brook Lopez and the 27th draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for talented but young/immature combo guard D'Angelo Russell and overpriced center Timofey Mozgov.

Analysis from NetsDaily:
All that said, this looks like a steal for [Nets GM Sean] Marks. It isn’t easy to eat the contract of Mozgov, but if the Nets figure they won’t contend for another year or two, they can afford to spend Mikhail Prokhorov’s money strategically if it brings them assets. In this case, Lopez is an expiring contract who could have cost them close to a max contract. He’s also 29-years-old with a history of foot injuries. D’Angelo Russell, on the other hand, is 21-years-old with unlimited potential.By contrast, FanSided suggested Lakers brass were winners:
They did it. We’re not sure exactly what they did, but they did something so high-five! Rob Lowe Pelinka and Magic Johnson LITERALLY traded away one of the two worst cont…

For NBA Draft tomorrow, expect a "significant number of vehicles" and a "large volume of buses" at Barclays

Barclays Center is hosting the NBA Draft on Thursday, June 22 at 7 pm. According to the Community Notice below, there will be no access restrictions imposed on residents and businesses, but there will be a significant police presence.

Here's where it gets potentially dicey:

"a significant number of vehicles servicing guests, talent, and event staff on the arena block is to be expected""a large volume of buses directed to Brooklyn Cruise Terminal as an off-site staging location after drop-off. Please note that there may be a noticeable bus presence around the arena on Thursday afternoon."
If the event is at 7 pm, why will there but such a notable bus presence in the afternoon? If people are arriving over an extended period of time, that's actually better than all arriving at once. But if they're all leaving at once on buses, that could be a logjam.

Follow @barclayscenter for updates and contact Sarah Berlenbach of Barclays Center Community Affairs (sberle…

From the latest Construction Update: work on Pacific Street will occupy sidewalk and parking lane

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning June 19 and circulated yesterday afternoon at 4:27 pm (late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, work on the new DEP Water Service will continue on Pacific Street between Carlton and Sixth avenues. A portion of the parking lane and sidewalk on the north side of Pacific Street will be occupied by this work.

Oddly, this is listed in red in the document, indicating new activity, but the phrasing "will continue" suggests it's ongoing. But it was not listed in the previous Construction Update.

Outside B3, 38 Sixth Avenue, rRemaining sidewalk construction should be completed with the removal of the sidewalk shed/overhead protection.

Work on the railyard

Drilling of foundation piles in the area of B7 will continue, and drilling of foundation piles in the B10 area is expected to be completed.

Saturday and after-hours work

A…

Post: Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has been dumping trash at high school for six years

In Cleaning crew admits they dumped trash at high school, the New York Post reports:
A downtown Brooklyn group that collects cash from businesses to clean streets has dropped tons of garbage at a high school for at least six years — leaving it for city Sanitation to pick up.
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership admitted the dumping only after being told The Post had photos of trucks dropping mountains of trash bags at George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education HS in the Metrotech area.
The partnership runs three Business Improvement Districts, or BIDS, and collects fees from companies — including Metrotech developer Forest City New York. The partnership then pays the non-profit DOE Fund $1.7 million a year to collect and dispose of trash. The fund runs a “Ready, Willing an Able” program, which gives trash-collection jobs to the homeless and ex-convicts. There's a lot unexplained here. The DBP claimed it had permission from the Department of Sanitation, which said it hadn't …

At AY CDC, questions about oversight of Times Plaza, Site 5 plans; need for state to coordinate agencies; project "has never been feasible"

Also see coverage of the Atlantic Yards CDC meeting regarding project timing, explanations for the giant green fence on Dean Street, a planned pedestrian refuge at Atlantic and Sixth avenues, and building updates/railyard progress/delayed no-parking signs and more.

One question that arose during the most recent Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) meeting was exactly how the board would fulfill its mandate: to "improve oversight and monitoring of the project," which includes monitoring developer compliance with public commitments, monitoring quality of life issues, making recommendations on increasing transparency, and "evaluating the quality and effectiveness of monitoring, support, and other services."

Answer: it's still pretty fuzzy, because 1) the parent Empire State Development (ESD) has ceded control on certain issues to other agencies, 2) ESD does not necessarily keep AY CDC members fully in the loop, and 3) only a handful of AY CDC …

Next Quality of Life meeting shifted to July 18

A message from Empire State Development:

The next Quality of Life Meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 18 instead of the previously scheduled June 28 date.

Atlantic Yards / Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting
Tuesday, July 18, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Please feel free to send any Project-related questions, concerns, or suggested agenda items to atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov.

NYDN on the Brooklyn Nets' "worst trade ever"

There's a lot of good insider info in Stefan Bondy's Daily News retrospective Worst trade ever: Looking back (and forward) on '13 draft when Nets went ‘all-in’ on deal for Celtics' Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce.

The Nets gave up four top draft picks, mortgaging their future for an uncertain but high profile present, and the team was a bust. Writes Bondy:
But the story of that trade isn’t quite so black-and-white. Reaching this point of disproportion required so much to go horribly wrong for the Nets, so many miscalculations and in-fighting before and after the agreement with Boston.
This is really the story of an ownership that reneged on its monetary pledge, a point guard who was the absolute wrong choice, a season of dysfunction and a pattern of sacrificing draft picks by the GM. Bondy's sources criticize absentee owner Mikhail Prokhorov and his top underling, Dmitry Razumov. an investment banker who "knew nothing about basketball before joining the Nets,"…

Yes, the Islanders will be playing a (pre-season) game in Nassau, and the arena operator will pay Nassau a penalty

A 6/15/17 press release from the New York Islanders announced that Islanders To Play Preseason Game At NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum. That's Sunday, 9/17/17 at 1 pm, which is a family friendly time.

The simultaneous press release, Islanders Announce 2017 Preseason Schedule, noted two preseason home games at Barclays Center and one at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT.

As Newsday's Jim Baumbach reported, in Islanders return to Nassau Coliseum for preseason opener vs. Flyers:
It will be the Islanders’ only appearance next season at the team’s former home, which means the arena operator will owe Nassau County $1 million for not meeting a clause that called for two preseason and four regular season games, a spokesman for Nassau Executive Edward Mangano said Thursday.
“They are contractually obligated and the penalty will be fully enforced,” Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said. This is a step up from a previous reports in which Mangano wouldn't say that the penalty would be …

On the NewsHour: illuminating the Kushner EB-5 saga (and I get a cameo)

Following up on reports by me (in City and State) and the Washington Post, the PBS NewsHour goes to Jersey City.

Local reporter Terrence McDonald guides correspondent Paul Solman around the gerrymandered Targeted Employment Area that somehow qualified a glitzy rental tower, Trump Bay Street (which licensed the name), built by Jared Kushner's real estate company with a partner, to purport to be serving a high unemployment district. Guess what: it doesn't help the poor people who got used.

See Kushner family’s real estate dealings land foreign-investor visa back in the spotlight. Yes, I have a cameo, but that's repackaged from a 2015 appearance (plus essay) on the NewsHour. The topic is apparently evergreen.



Also see the accompanying article by the NewsHour's Paul Solman, How Jared Kushner and others gerrymander to sell visas to foreigners — at a steep discount, which credits my City & State piece. To be precise, they get states to gerrymander, and the federal govern…

AY CDC: building updates, railyard progress; delayed no-parking signs; school site still delayed; open space signage

Also see coverage of the Atlantic Yards CDC meeting regarding project timing, explanations for the giant green fence on Dean Street, and a planned pedestrian refuge at Atlantic and Sixth avenues.

So, where does Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park stand? Board members of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) got an update during their 6/6/17 meeting (video), along with the slideshow at bottom.

Forest City New York executive Ashley Cotton, representing the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners, began her update at about 1:11:25 of the video.

Lease-up and construction

At 461 Dean (B2), the modular residential building, "we’re at 60% leased," she said, which strikes me as partial progress for a building that not only is half affordable (with units presumably easy to lease) and which has been leasing for about six months.

"Sidewalk replacement is complete," she said, " and final pieces are being done on the Flatbush Avenue corridor. Retail spa…

Coming (eventually): a pedestrian refuge on Atlantic Avenue at hazardous Sixth/South Portland crossing

Also see coverage of the Atlantic Yards CDC meeting regarding project timing and the explanations for the giant green fence on Dean Street.

Neighbors and visitors instantly see the problem: the blocked travel lanes on Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center going east to Sixth Avenue/South Portland Avenue, in combination with
construction at Sixth Avenue, forces northbound traffic from Sixth Avenue to swerve.

That also means southbound traffic from South Portland turning left on Atlantic threatens those crossing, and flummox pedestrians and bicyclists.

As shown in the screenshot at right, from a video below, the striped pedestrian path is at a sharp angle. Not only does that conflicts with the metal lane barrier, it comes dangerously close to the path for northbound drivers. Neighbors are understandably unsettled.

Now there are plans--with no specified timetable--to ultimately add to pedestrian safety with a new median.

See map posted below from April 2017; note that the projected r…

Year of the Sheep, again: 535 Carlton opening celebration provokes little skepticism about actual affordability

They really can get away with it, hailing the opening of a "100% affordable" building which has half the units aimed at middle-income households who are hardly struggling for housing.

I called the December 2014 groundbreaking "Year of the Sheep," as only a few news outlets noticed the lack of affordability. Even fewer news outlets even covered the "opening", none of them the major dailies, and only one recognized the contradiction between message and reality.

Yesterday's press event was a platform for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Eric Adams, as well as developer Greenland Forest City Partners to praise a shiny new building while overlooking the fact that, among more than 92,000 applications, only 2,203 were income-eligible for half the building, as I reported for City Limits.

As shown in the screenshot above right, the mayoral press release says "First 100 percent affordable building serves New Yorkers earning as little as $20,100, …