Deeds and Deals

Private School? Play Here! Public School? Wait Over There!

On Buffy, on Preston, on Danforth and Arianna! The Randall’s Island fields are yours!

The city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee on Feb. 15 approved a deal that allows 20 private schools to help finance renovations of Randall’s Island’s existing fields and the construction of new ones in exchange for exclusive access to about two-thirds of the fields from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. The deal runs for 20 years—or until the private-school kids become I-bankers or Gawker items.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer cast the lone dissenting vote against the deal.

“This is a public land grab,” Mr. Stringer said, according to WNYC. “It’s a sweetheart deal that gives new meaning to ‘pay to play.’ We are creating a timeshare at the best hours, 3 to 6 p.m., when tens of thousands of public-school children would also like the opportunity to enjoy these fields.”

—Tom Acitelli

Amanda Burden Isn’t Afraid of Heights

Amanda Burden, the City Planning Director, never joined in the chorus calling for a shorter Miss Brooklyn tower at Atlantic Yards. And, last week, Ms. Burden wouldn’t predict if the tower’s last-minute downsizing (to 511 feet) would have a chilling effect on developers citywide.

But she did say that skyscrapers are good for the soul.

“The city needs big projects,” Ms. Burden said at a Feb. 14 breakfast sponsored by Crain’s. “And, in fact, tall buildings are aspirational and give the city, really give the world, a feeling that we welcome innovation and expressions of aspirational architecture.”

—Matthew Schuerman

From Shut Up to Stand Up At the ESDC

The Empire State Development Corporation used to send out meeting notices to the press that read: “Meetings are open to the public for observation, but not for direct participation.”

Last week, the state economic-development agency sent out one for the Feb. 15 board meeting—the first under Governor Eliot Spitzer’s co-chairmen Patrick Foye and Daniel Gundersen—that read: “The meeting is open to the public for observation and comment” (italics ours).

And indeed, before every vote, Mr. Foye would ask if the public had any questions. Also, Mr. Foye said he would try to attend the public hearings on ESDC projects in person as much as possible. In the past, only staffers would attend these meetings and relay the gist of them to the board members, who were the ones voting on this stuff.

(By the way, no one did have any questions at the Feb. 15 meeting; only three members of the public actually showed up.)

Let’s see what happens when something controversial turns up on the agenda (which, by the way, ESDC hopes to post on the agency’s Web site three days before each meeting.)

—M.S.

Cuomo Lunges For Starrett City Headlines

Two weeks ago, it was Senators Schumerand Clinton, along with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and two Brooklyn Congressmen, Anthony Weiner and Edolphus Towns.

Last week, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo joined the Starrett City fray, microphones blasting and press releases churning.

Mr. Cuomo, staking a claim to predecessor Eliot Spitzer’s reformist agenda, announced that he had discovered that David Bistricer, one of the would-be owners of East Brooklyn’s Starrett City, was permanently banned from selling and operating co-operatives in New York City back in 1998. (The politicians are all worried that Mr. Bistricer and his partner, Sam Levinson, will turn the subsidized rentals into for-sale housing, thereby booting thousands of tenants.)

Mr. Cuomo, himself a former H.U.D. Secretary, said that he would enforce the ban should the landlord try to convert any of Starrett City or build new for-sale units.

—M.S.

Hark, Mumbai! City’s Office Market Gains on Manhattan’s

If you hear any more brokers groaningthat midtown Manhattan is too expensive, you can tell them this: At least you don’t work in Mumbai!

Manhattan has dropped from seventh to ninth place in a list of the most expensive cities to rent office space, according to brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. What are the two cities that speed-raced ahead? Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and Dublin, which now rank fifth and sixth, respectively.

No one ever doubted the purpose and place of Manhattan brokers, but it might have produced some soul-searching this week to realize that brokers in central India might be getting way higher commissions than the brokers at CB Richard Ellis.

The other cities on the list, in decreasing order of expensiveness, are London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Moscow and Milan.

The next city to watch out for, not surprisingly: Dubai, which for the first year joins the rankings in 10th place, is now breathing hard down the Big Apple’s neck.

—John Koblin

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Donald Trump has put his hair on the line in a bet with World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon. The Donald last week, somewhat inexplicably, appeared on a WWE program to taunt Mr. McMahon: “I’m taller than you. I’m richer than you. I’m better-looking than you. And I’m stronger than you.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. McMahon agreed to send representatives to Wrestlemania in Detroit on April 1 to duke it out. The one with the losing representative has to shave his head bald. Is this the end of Mr. Trump’s confused coif? Stay tuned ….

—T.A.

Brooklyn Punctual on Mortgage Payments; Queens, Not So Much

New foreclosures in New York City are at the lowest point in two years, according to a new report from the Web research site PropertyShark.com. Home foreclosures tumbled from the third quarter of 2006 to the fourth by 16.7 percent.

Of the five boroughs, the most precipitous drop was in Brooklyn, where foreclosures fell 34 percent quarter over quarter.

The downturn, however, could just be the winter drop usually seen in foreclosures, analysts say, but the housing market here does remain strong, unlike much of flyover country and the West Coast.

Queens, on the other hand, made up half of the top 20 ZIP codes with the highest number of fourth-quarter foreclosures. Manhattan kept its foreclosure profile low—literally. With 20 foreclosures, none of the island’s ZIP codes broke into the Top 20.

—Mark Wellborn

Spitzer Camp Mulls Moving Madison Square Garden

The Spitzer administration’s keen interest in moving Madison Square Garden came out into the open on Feb. 15.

The board of the Empire State Development Corporation, the state economic-development agency, allocated $500,000 for a supplemental environmental-impact statement for the Moynihan Station project that would consider the implications of moving the basketball arena one block west from its present home, at 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue, to the place where the Farley Post Office Annex now resides.

The “scoping document,” due out in the next two or three months, will have more information about what the Garden and the private developers behind the move—Vornado Realty Trust and the Related Companies—want to do back there.

It will be another two or three months for a draft general-project plan, and then another two or three (or more) months before reaching the final-approval stage that the old Moynihan Station plan had reached last October, when it was unceremoniously dumped by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

M .S.