Monday, January 05, 2009

“It’s not going to happen in a nanosecond": a look back at Atlantic Yards in 2008

The year 2008 was chock full of Atlantic Yards news; below, I look back chronologically at some memorable issues, moments, and quotes, including the understated prediction by Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner that the project is "not going to happen in a nanosecond."

Tomorrow, I'll assess the outlook for this year, which is very much uncertain (as are the Construction Updates on the official AY site).

January

I report that pending lawsuits might be cleared in 2008 but point out that there were reasons to be skeptical. Indeed, both major lawsuits remain pending.

Despite reportage that the official Atlantic Yards arena opening date had been moved from 2009 to 2010, I argue that the real story is 2011.

State Court Justice Joan Madden takes eight months to rule against a community challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental review. She punts on the crime statistics and thus doesn't fully assess the issue of blight. Could "Shoot the Freak be a "civic project"?

The Carlton Avenue bridge closes for an announced two-year reconstruction. (Photo by Tracy Collins)

Blight vanishes, magically, on Pacific Street. (Photo by Tracy Collins)

A Forest City Ratner official admits the legal battle over Atlantic Yards cast doubt on the developer's ability to get arena financing and requests that the appeal in the case challenging the AY environmental review to be heard in May rather than September. The request is not granted.

February

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously upholds Judge Nicholas Garaufis’s dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case and suggests (correctly, it turned out) that a U.S. Supreme Court appeal would be tough to mount.

Forest City Ratner finally admits to inflating Atlantic Yards revenue projections in legal documents. (Graphic by Abby Weissman.)

At Borough President Marty Markowitz's State of the Borough address, Atlantic Yards gets a quick mention but no applause.

A former staffer for former State Senator Carl Andrews writes about how Andrews asked a Forest City Ratner representative, “What are you going to do for my support?” (Andrews later gets a job with the Spitzer administration, is held over by Gov. David Paterson, and leaves last month, as reported in the Daily News, during an investigation into whether he pressured the state Liquor Authority into renewing liquor licenses.)

There's little coverage of the news, broken on AYR, that Forest City Ratner, after not giving state political contributions for at least nine years, had given $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account.

A limited amount of tax-exempt bonds threatens pending affordable housing projects, according to city and state officials.

I report on Forest City Enterprises' Investor Day the previous October, which told us, among other things, that it would take 4½-5 years to build a new railyard, not 3½ years, as promised in the Atlantic Yards environmental review and the developer has invested $250 million in the $4 billion project, its largest single investment, but that's only 25% more than its developer fee, and less than the direct public investment of $305 million.

Forest City spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt tells the New York Observer, which broke the news that the firm had hired former Sen. Al D'Amato to lobby against anti-eminent domain legislation in Washington, “When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned." Over the year, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) reminds us 11 times that FCR doesn't meet that standard.

March

The seventh in Forest City Ratner's series of slick fliers touting the Atlantic Yards project focuses on the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, suggesting a continued effort to marshal support in black Brooklyn.

A Special Task Force on Eminent Domain appointed by the New York State Bar Association
recommends a Temporary State Commission on Eminent Domain to address questions like the extent of eminent domain abuse in the state as well as a revised definition of public use, an issue at the heart of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case. New Governor David Paterson, once an eminent domain critic, has other things on his plate, however.

Crain's New York Business predicts that Atlantic Yards has only a 50% chance of being built. I suggest the arena has a better chance.

The New York Times breaks big news by reporting that Atlantic Yards is stalled by the economic downturn and legal challenges, though the planned arena is on track. “It’s not going to happen in a nanosecond,” Bruce Ratner declares.

Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff says architect Frank Gehry should walk away from the project, warning that an arena without towers would be "an enormous eyesore." The Brooklyn Paper (below) overstates the case by declaring Atlantic Yards dead.

Though the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan, approved in December 2006 by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), indicated that Phase 1 of the project was "anticipated to be completed by 2010" and Phase II was "anticipated to be completed by 2016," the belatedly-released State Funding Agreement, signed in September 2007, gives Forest City Ratner 6+ years to build the arena after the close of litigation and the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain; 12+ years to build Phase 1; and an unspecified amount of time to build Phase 2.

The Daily News and the Post report that suites (below) in the planned Barclays Center are up for sale. I point out that the suites might pay for most of the arena.

Ouroussoff, writing about plans for the West Side Yards, refers to Atlantic Yards as a "fiasco."

A former city housing official says a a Democratic presidential administration and a Democratic Congress might revamp the rules and allow hard-pressed states like New York additional "volume cap," or the capacity to issue bonds for affordable housing (as in the Atlantic Yards plan).

April

AYR reports on the shadowy Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation, which does not have a public presence, with no listing of criteria for giving grants nor an opportunity to apply for them. It has given $1.7 million in three years.

A protest organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn in response to the Brooklyn Museum's honoring of Bruce Ratner draws an angry (and creative) crowd, with chants of "Shame on you" and signs like "Dung Deal." Borough President Marty Markowitz's wife Jamie takes a few too many pieces of swag. Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris, a key advisor to Mayor Mike Bloomberg on charitable issues, is also present, a sign--as became clearer during the mayor's effort to override term limits--of the intertwining of charity and politics.
(Photo by Adrian Kinloch)

“We still need more” subsidies, Chuck Ratner, president of parent Forest City Enterprises, tells investment analysts in a conference call. Another executive says that the Atlantic Yards “lawsuits may be resolved in the second half of this year”—a not-very-accurate prediction.

Forest City Ratner, though dropping to a eighth among spending on lobbyists statewide in 2007, still manages the second-largest lobbying contract. In the 2006 tally, the developer was third in total lobbying and had the largest lobbying contract. The New York Times ignores the news.

The New York Post, drawing significantly on calculations by Michael D.D. White, a lawyer and urban planner (and, beginning in June, Noticing New York blogger), estimates that Atlantic Yards would cost $2 billion in taxes--a debatable number, but a jumping-off point for further analysis. It still hasn't occurred.

Documents hint that the developer might seek reimbursement for $163 million (likely more) spent on "extraordinary infrastructure costs"--mainly the platform, but also including planned open space--at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard

Backing up the challenge to claims in the Atlantic Yards Blight Study that the AY footprint experienced high crime, the Daily News reports that there's a new need for a police presence at Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Times critic Ouroussoff criticizes the "distorted reality" of architectural renderings for large projects. He does not choose Atlantic Yards (2005 iteration, right) for his case study.

The Newark Star-Ledger quotes anonymous sources who say that, were the New Jersey Nets to sign a long-term (not temporary) deal to play at Newark's Prudential Center, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority would waive the clause imposing a $12 million penalty (which declines somewhat beginning in 2009) if the team moves to a venue other than in Brooklyn or Queens.

AYR describes Forest City Ratner's plans for 80 DeKalb Avenue, which will be a test run in some ways for the Atlantic Yards housing.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority executive director Elliot (Lee) Sander expresses concern (as per the New York Observer) about the whereabouts of the $100 million in cash that developer Forest City Ratner in 2005 agreed to pay for the agency's Vanderbilt Yard.

It turns out taxpayers paid for the "BONANZA" the New York Daily News proclaimed in a May 2004 cover story about Forest City Ratner's buyouts of condo owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint. The Daily News doesn't follow up; nor has the New York Times followed up on its buyouts story.

The City Funding Agreement, signed in September 2007 and acquired by AYR via a Freedom of Information Law request, imposes modest penalties for delay in the project, plus allowance for a much smaller Phase 1 than that outlined in the General Project Plan passed by the ESDC in December 2006.

May

Forest City Ratner pulls out the big gun, p.r. guru Howard Rubenstein, to deny the Newark Star-Ledger's report on efforts to assemble a group of New Jersey investors to buy the Nets and move them to Newark.

City Comptroller (and mayoral candidate) William Thompson, though a supporter of Atlantic Yards, acknowledges, “I’m not sure what that project is any longer” and hints that it might be revived by bringing in additional developers.

Photographers set up a web cam to record the demolition of the Ward Bakery.

A “Time Out” rally held on Pacific Street near Carlton Avenue by three groups critical of or opposed to Atlantic Yards draws several politicians. It's met by a surprise "Build It Now" counter-protest orchestrated by Forest City Ratner, which has several employees on hand. This reporter is ejected from the grounds outside FCR's Atlantic Terminal Mall, as is photographer Adrian Kinloch.

In a Daily News op-ed that is accompanied by a news article that considers no countervailing evidence, Bruce Ratner declares that the project would be complete in 2018, promising a 10-year timetable little different from that announced when the project was approved in 2006, albeit after a pause for delay. It appears that the Daily News has replaced the Times as the news outlet whose audience the developer most wants to reach.

The New York Daily News publishes new renderings of the arena block, with Site 5 absent and details for only two of the buildings, including a smaller Building 1 (no longer dubbed Miss Brooklyn, as an anchor tenant awaits). The arena looks like it has less glass, perhaps a response to security concerns.

The same day, the New York Post publishes renderings, provided by the Municipal Art Society, of a blighted arena block with empty lots surrounding the arena and the first building planned. The New York Times, in 2005 fed exclusive renderings by Forest City Ratner, ignores both the new official renderings and the Atlantic Lots renderings.

Matthew Schuerman of WNYC (formerly of the New York Observer) reports that plans for a green roof on the arena have been dropped.

According to the New York Observer's quite arbitrary list of the 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate, Bruce Ratner is #8, Frank Gehry is #51, and I am number #77. Among the worthy missing is Charles Bagli of the New York Times, the only reporter who seems to get responses out of Bruce Ratner.

Forest City Ratner, backing off assertions that the arena would open in time for the 2010-11 basketball season, now promises an opening "in calendar year 2010."

Renderings released with the relaunch of the Barclays Center web site show "street to seat brand domination" that is somehow absent from Frank Gehry's new AY renderings.

At a panel on how to build big in New York, panelists, including the ESDC's Avi Schick, point to elements--public planning, realistic timetables, public ownership, infrastructure first, and media skepticism toward overhyped renderings--generally missed in the Atlantic Yards process.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes the AY footprint, says there should be an Assembly hearing on Atlantic Yards. Assembly leaders--whether it be preoccupation with more pressing problems or wariness about the issue--have yet to give it their blessing.

The cover of the Forest City Enterprises annual report, featuring the highly-successful New York Times Tower, jointly developed by FCE subsidiary Forest City Ratner with the New York Times Company, looks a lot like the New York Times Magazine.

The ESDC's 10-year project "is a public relations and marketing scheme; it does not exist in a legally enforceable form," argues George Locker, a lawyer for residents of two buildings in the AY footprint. The ESDC objects to "purported quotations" about the timetable from Bruce Ratner in the New York Times and instead points to Ratner's Daily News op-ed.

June

The arguments for Atlantic Yards offered at the Forest City Ratner-sponsored and -orchestrated “Brooklyn Day” rally sound suspiciously like those aired in the past. Borough president Marty Markowitz seems tense. Daily News sports columnist Michael O'Keeffe calls it "a dud." (Photo by Adrian Kinloch shows three FCR staffers confering with rally MC Delia Hunley-Adossa, who chairs the Atlantic Yards CBA coalition.)

Elected officials and community representatives from the BrooklynSpeaks coalition (below) promote the “Atlantic Yards Development Trust” to oversee the project; while it might channel public input, it would be unlikely to fundamentally change power dynamics.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn asks the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) to revisit its approval of the Atlantic Yards project, given a 50% jump in the arena price tag. No response is forthcoming.

The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear an appeal of the federal eminent domain suit, setting up for a longshot state court challenge. (There's an interesting fib in the ESDC's brief.) The New York Post twists its way to praise AY. I point out ironies regarding the case explored at a conference on the impact of the court's Kelo decision; an urban planner offers a workable definition of the catch-all term blight: when the fabric of the community is "shot to hell." Sounds like Prospect Heights?

A documentary about the West Side Stadium battle, A Stadium Story, screened in 2006 but not yet in wide release, offers some eerie echoes, curious contrasts, and cautionary lessons for Atlantic Yards watchers.

The absence of property taxes on the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard was supposed to raise the price bidders would offer. So why was the cash bid less than half the appraised value?

A "brutally weird" block party scheduled by Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatories, to be held on an AY footprint block scheduled to be demapped, is canceled without public explanation.

The second annual edition of the New York Post's promotional Brooklyn Tomorrow publication again features Atlantic Yards on the cover.

The Internal Revenue Service wants to close a "loophole" regarding tax-exempt bonds and Rep. Dennis Kucinich asks the IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department to wait until his hearings are done. In a letter to the agencies, the New York City Industrial Development Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) cite Forest City Ratner's chimerical ten-year timetable in arguing that the PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) plan for arena financing should stand--and that Forest City Ratner has "acquired" 85% of the Atlantic Yards site. Tax-exempt bonds could be worth $165 million to the developer.

July

Neil deMause, the author behind the Field of Schemes web site, scoffs at the idea that arena naming rights aren't counted as subsidies: "[I]f I decide to put a giant billboard on the roof of my house here--if my landlord lets me do it, I really don’t think he could let me keep all the money from it."

At a hearing in which Assemblyman Richard Brodsky grills city officials about Yankee Stadium, city official Seth Pinsky acknowledges that Forest City Ratner is experiencing a "difficult economic and financial environment," a signal it needs more government help, though no specific requests have been made.

The New Jersey Nets acquire Chinese hoopster Yi Jianlian. Bruce Ratner says it's 100% about basketball. Maybe not.

Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist has a bad run, speaking unconvincingly on the Brian Lehrer Show, and finding himself shredded twice while testifying as an expert witness in court.

Neil deMause tells the story of New York ACORN's dubious Brooklyn stadium deal, circa 2000.

"We should stop worrying about other people’s property and start investing in the people’s property," says planner Alexander Garvin at a panel at the Museum of the City of New York.

The ESDC's voluminous environmental review, required to disclose the potential impacts of the Atlantic Yards project, said nothing about the impact on those still in the footprint, apparently because they weren't expected to be there. The upgrade in water and sewer connections means vibrations, dust, cracks in building walls, unsavory aromas, and surprise cutoffs of water and gas over several weeks for Dean Street residents.

August

AYR reports that, contrary to previous statements, Bruce Ratner told shareholders in June that the arena would open in mid-2011, at the earliest. FCR's Bruce Bender, trying to spin, suggests groundbreaking would occur in the fall. It doesn't.

The Atlantic Yards eminent domain case is filed in state court and, though most of the arguments have already been dismissed in the (likely) more hospitable federal court system, the new case adds a novel claim.

The ESDC, which initially said that utility work in the AY footprint would last three months, expands the timetable to 14 months, with no explanation.

The Newark Star-Ledger reports that Vonage Holdings has a four-year sponsorship deal at the Izod Center, through the 2011-12 season. The deal, at about $1 million, could be broken, but hints at the possibility of the Nets staying longer than currently announced.

According to Chapter 17 (Construction Impacts) of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the arena would take "less than three years" to build or, by my calculations, 32 months--not two years or 30 months, as others have said.

Documents show that consultant AKRF was working on AY for Forest City Ratner before it was hired by the ESDC, but the agency's conflict-of-interest policy doesn't address issues of consecutive representation. Also, AKRF was hired without any competitive bidding or public notice because the ESDC was convinced speed and continuity were important.

AYR discovers, thanks to a Freedom of Information Law request, that consultant AKRF was supposed to analyze rent and property values in and near the Atlantic Yards footprint, but never did so--which undermines the ESDC's claims in court that AY critics have only "anecdotal" evidence of the area's revival.

Some dialogue from the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement echoes absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett.

September

In an oral history from sports book author Peter Golenbock, In the Country of Brooklyn: Inspiration to the World, a chapter is devoted to Atlantic Yards, featuring un-rebutted statements from Jim Stuckey, who left his post as FCR's AY point man shortly after the interview. Stuckey lets the author use a prom photo.

The New York Times breaks news, casting doubt on plans to break ground on the Atlantic Yards arena before the end of the year. It reveals that the $400 million Barclays Center naming rights deal requires financing to be closed by November and that Bruce Ratner has asked government for as much as $100 million in subsidies. The Times gets a caption wrong (see below).

"[W]e certainly will do everything we can to work with [developer Forest City] Ratner to get those buildings going," Mayor Mike Bloomberg tells NY1.

In response to questions from Brooklyn Community Board 8, Forest City Ratner offers a response that is often evasive, vague, and disingenuous, for example unwilling to commit to opening the arena only when reconstruction of the adjacent Sixth Avenue bridge is complete.

In the appeal of the case challenging the AY environmental review, two of five justices seem skeptical of state’s blight claim, but questions in court do not predict a final ruling.

Opponents of governmental plans to use eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, the Columbia University expansion, and Willets Point redevelopment are at center stage at a State Senate hearing on reforming state eminent domain laws.

At a Congressional hearing, Rep. Dennis Kucinich says that his Subcommittee’s “still ongoing investigation has uncovered substantial evidence of improprieties and possible fraud” by Yankee Stadium’s financial architects. Kucinich wonders why cities give away naming rights. "[T]here is nothing like professional sports to make public people nutty," Assemblyman Richard Brodsky declares, in response to another question. He's issued a report slamming the deal.

A State Supreme Court justice rejects charges by tenants in two AY footprint buildings that the ESDC is violating a provision of state law that requires disposition of properties within a decade and should hold another hearing because the project has changed considerably.

After Bruce Ratner admits that a state appeals court decision not to dismiss the pending eminent domain lawsuit "may" delay an announced December groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena by six months, I calculate that 2012, not 2011, is a more realistic best-case scenario for an arena opening.

October

Forest City Ratner issues another promotional brochure, aka "liar flier," with recycled paper and recyled rhetoric. A rendering of the Atlantic Yards arena is oddly cropped, as is a rendering that emphasizes trees as opposed to towers.

The New York Post reports that developer Forest City Ratner, as well as allied contractors, "have quietly funneled at least $680,000 to three nonprofits set up by Markowitz," promoting his charitable endeavors and concert series,

Landscape architect Laurie Olin is no longer working on Atlantic Yards; FCR says he's essentially on sabbatical, given that preliminary work is done. But there's no evidence there's a retainer or consulting relationship. Olin tells an interviewer that AY will work out, "with other architects and other hands involved, and it will be richer for that."

In an interesting turnabout from much Atlantic Yards rhetoric, a nationally-distributed AP story is headlined Economy, uncertain financing plague Brooklyn arena. WFAN's Mike Francesa, among others, embraces the conclusory meme that AY is "about down the drain."

DDDB's fourth walkathon raises $45,000. (Photo by Jonathan Barkey)

In a big boost for Forest City Ratner, the U.S. Treasury Department issues a regulation that would grandfather in tax-exempt bonds for the planned Atlantic Yards arena under a rule the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service called a “loophole.” Still, it's questionable whether "adoption" of a General Project Plan represents approval of the project by the ESDC.

The City Council overrides term limits, giving a likely third term to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and a host of others. Leading opponents are Council Members Letitia James, an AY opponent, and Bill deBlasio, a come-lately AY critic. Among those testifying memorably at the Council's hard-to-attend hearings are AY opponents like Michael D.D. White and Patti Hagan, perhaps because they can recognize a backroom deal.

As Forest City Enterprises' stock declines dramatically, rating company Standard & Poor's cuts FCE's credit rating, citing "concerns about Forest City's debt load and the company's ambitious development plans in a weak economy."

At a Congressional Subcommittee hearing, periodically testy Rep. Dennis Kucinich presses some New York City officials on “gaming” the Yankee Stadium assessment. The officials don't give much ground, but Richard Brodsky thinks he's found a “smoking gun.”

Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Bruce Ratner talked to Russian oil tycoons about investing in Atlantic Yards, while a Middle Eastern group also expressed interest to the NBA and Nets ownership. Then again, oil revenues are down.

A public hearing held by the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the designation of part of Prospect Heights as a historic district is mostly a love-fest, but mention of the Ward Bakery demolition and AY briefly unsettles the mood.

An anonymous Nets official tells Ian O'Connor, a columnist for the Bergen Record, that the Nets will stay in New Jersey, because "Bruce just won’t end up with the money to do it."

MaryAnne Gilmartin, FCR's point person on Atlantic Yards, says "every deal dies three times.” The comment comes in recounting the saga of the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan, but it could easily apply to AY.

November

An city housing official, at the First Annual Jane Jacobs Forum, says development trade-offs should be transparent and that the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)--which Atlantic Yards critics stress was bypassed in the state approval process--doesn’t work for large projects.

The New York Post quotes sources saying there are layoffs at FCR, part of corporate cuts nationwide.

Barclays recommits to the Barclays Center naming rights deal for the Atlantic Yards arena; a statement says Barclays was "unwavering," but no dollar figures are announced. Barclays now has a piece of the financing action--perhaps a sweetener.

An unreleased appraisal might be hiding a city-enabled bonus of nearly $55 million for Forest City Ratner, given that the developer was reimbursed $100 million by the city for property for which it spent $103.5 million--but was more likely worth $158.1 million.

Documents show that Forest City Ratner, preparing to demolish 86 street trees around the Atlantic Yards footprint, contended that it did not need to pay $159,000 in partial restitution to the city because the trees in the (unscheduled) AY open space eventually would “add much more value than the trees that will be removed during construction. The city Parks Department doesn't agree. (Photo by Steve Soblick)

Forest City Enterprises tells a real estate conference that "we control the pace" of Atlantic Yards.

December

Despite a stall in Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner continues with demolitions, creating "developer's blight" on Dean Street. (Photos by Tracy Collins; graphic via NoLandGrab)

AYR reports that, with a grant and (low-interest) loan worth $1.5 million, developer Forest City Ratner this summer helped rescue the embattled advocacy organization ACORN, whose interim leader, Bertha Lewis, signed the AY housing agreement as head of New York ACORN. The national media ignore the scoop.

The New Jersey Nets team is among seven of 30 in the NBA that have declined in value, according to Forbes, with the Nets experiencing the largest retreat--all increasing the pressure to move to a new arena and/or sell the team.

Work at the Vanderbilt Yard and the Carlton Avenue bridge is suspended, with Forest City Ratner not-so-credibly blaming litigation. Documents show FCR has missed three deadlines to construct a temporary railyard. An unnamed ESDC spokesman informs the Courier-Life, "Forest City Ratner has told us there are no changes in the schedule at this time" to reconstruct and reopen the bridge. (Photo by Jonathan Barkey)

The Civilians debut a not-quite-documentary theater piece, Brooklyn at Eye Level, inspired by Atlantic Yards; produced on a whirlwind schedule. While the show remains a work in progress, crowds are enthusiastic as they grasp the passions behind the controversy.

The IFC Media Project's report on Atlantic Yards turns up a scoop: Forest City Ratner executives got Daily News reporter Deborah Kolben kicked off Atlantic Yards coverage, likely for articles she'd written while at the Brooklyn Paper. Bruce Ratner gets a cameo, looking like an orchestra conductor while being honored at the Brooklyn Museum.

Forest City Enterprises announces a major slowdown in its projects and suspends its dividend. Despite Bruce Ratner’s pledge in May that “[w]e anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018,” Chuck Ratner, president and CEO of FCE, tells investment analysts the market would determine the timeline. "I must confess, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. We believe conditions will worsen," he says. His claim that Atlantic Yards is not on hold relies on a suspension of disbelief.

Sports Business Daily reports that, in a sign of commitment to the Brooklyn project, Nets CEO Brett Yormark is close to signing an eight-year deal. No further announcement emerges.

"We’ve rebranded the entire arena," Nets CEO Yormark enthuses about the Izod Center. "And it’s a perfect setting for us right now." He scoffs at the idea of moving to Newark.

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez finds more evidence that valuations of Yankee Stadium land were "jacked up." Would something similar happen before Atlantic Yards arena bonds get issued? A look at one "comparable" for the Yankee Stadium site, a plot in Alphabet City, is "brutally weird."

Gramercy Capital, which lent Forest City Ratner nearly $153 million to buy property in the Atlantic Yards footprint, awaits repayment of $177 million by February--or a renegotiation of the loan. Meanwhile, like FCE, Gramercy has seen its stock tank and suspended its dividend.

The New York Observer reports that Forest City Ratner is seeking all sorts of ways to indirectly increase subsidies, such as a speed-up in delivery of pledged city monies and a delay in paying the MTA. I point out that there are additional indirect subsidies, such as the undervaluing of city streets and city property. Can the City Funding Agreement be revised?

It looks like the third AY residential building would not contain condos but rentals, 80% market and 20% low-income, assuming housing bonds are available. Otherwise, a briefing for local elected officials is vague. Commercial real estate organizations suggest a Washington bailout; an ex-commercial banker warns against it.

I estimate that the Nets fudge attendance by 25%; in the NBA, attendance is determined by tickets distributed, not gate count, and there's a big difference. The Nets dump tickets via a company called Saveology, then start giving them away.

The Nets, thanks to the presence of Yi Jianlian, sign deals with Chinese companies. Fan voting for Yi distorts balloting for the All-Star Game; some Nets fan wonder if marketing trumps hoops.

Frank Gehry has laid off his staff working on Atlantic Yards, though one commenter says they were shifted to other projects.

The Urban Land Institute says it's likely no projects in New York City will go forward for two years. However, construction unions may dip into their pension funds and also come to an accord with contractors, lowering costs.

Nets CEO Brett Yormark blames me (!) for his decision to take the job. Nah.

Investment firm Morningstar says Forest City Enterprises' stock is likely worthless, though conditions could change. The company points out other financial analysts differ strongly. A hedge fund head says she's short on FCE.

Borough President Marty Markowitz, in a Brooklyn Paper interview, posits a novel (and specious) argument for the arena: it would be a corporate magnet. He also asserts that "I don't see the slightest conflict" with Forest City Ratner serving as a major donor to his charities.

NoLandGrab reminds us of the Ward Bakery site; photo from AY cam.

Forest City Ratner debuts a lean new web site. Much is cut and little is new, but the latter notably cites a key element of the company's history: "a firm that consistently takes on and completes large, complex mixed-use projects."

Questions about completion linger.

No comments:

Post a Comment