bring in 'da noise
Rihanna brought down the house at her concert at the Barclays Center on Sunday night, taking the entire neighborhood with her, according to Prospect Heights residents.
But the loud, booming bass rumblings that disrupted the neighborhood on Sunday night were nothing new for people who live in the direct vicinity of the Barclays Center. These complaints come less than a week after Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner Companies was ordered to pay the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) a $3,200 fine for violations after a Swedish House Mafia concert in early March.
Even though Forest City Ratner made sure to tout the groundbreaking of the first housing tower at Atlantic Yards late last fall, few would have described the developer’s approach towards housing, particularly affordable housing, as passionate. Forest City Ratner itself has made no secret of the fact that its focus was on the arena, the linchpin of the development site and the first and only building to be completed up to this point.
Apparently, though, newly appointed president and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin is now thrilled about affordable housing. As she told a crowd of urban planning gurus, developers and real estate powerbrokers at a CURE. (Center for Urban Real Estate) dinner at Columbia University Wednesday night, while all of the positive feedback on the arena had been nice, “it is the housing component that will truly revolutionize the project.”
When Forest City Ratner executive vice president—and soon to be CEO, once Bruce Ratner steps down—MaryAnne Gilmartin spoke to Westchester Magazine, she was asked for “the most baseless criticism” leveled against her. She responded, “That I don’t really know Brooklyn, so I’m not qualified to develop a project there. I lived in Brooklyn from 1988 to 1993.”
That criticism is about to get a little more baseless: Ms. Gilmartin and her husband, James, just bought a townhouse in Park Slope, according to city records. The couple paid $3.85 million for the four-story, 20-foot-wide brownstone at 113 St. John’s Place, and will presumably be moving from their home in Edgemont, New York.
In the last few months, the battle cries of the Atlantic Yards opponents have quieted—or been drowned out by the hubbub of basketball games and concerts at Barclays. There has been a subtle shift in tone and subject matter, with the conversation turning away from Atlantic Yards and the bitter debate that has characterized so much of the development’s history.
But despite the shift in focus, the eastern end of Downtown Brooklyn remains scarred by an open railyard—an 8.5-acre tear in the urban fabric that Forest City Ratner is supposed to someday heal.
The platform over Vanderbilt Yards, as it’s known, is the difference between a highly challenging “blighted” development site—arguably deserving of special subsidies, tax breaks and the seizure of private land through eminent domain—and a prime development site in a plum location.
The City of New York, like many other large landowners, has been selling its land for centuries. However, these last few months have brought what many consider to be a disconcerting flurry of real estate transactions as the city, citing a cash crunch, moves to sell off a number of schools, libraries and municipal buildings.
The city and others have lauded the sell-off as a way to bring much-needed monies to institutions that are in dire need of help. Trading in valuable real estate, we are told, will keep the city’s civic institutions afloat. If only it didn’t have the vaguely desperate vibe of a pawn shop swap.
The Brooklyn Public Library is looking to sell off two of its branches near downtown Brooklyn to developers, the New York Daily News reports, and what do you know—both of them are right next to Forest City Ratner-owned properties.
The first library on the block is the Brooklyn Heights branch, a squat 1960 building. It sits on a triangular parcel directly north of Forest City Ratner’s One Pierrepont Plaza, a late ’80s skyscraper that pierces the Brooklyn skyline with its green faux-mansard roof, virtually indistinguishable from those of la Ville-Lumière.
Bruce Ratner did not win out with the tax man this week, but he has secured an even bigger deal with another New York City institution that will be a linchpin for his Atlantic Yards project. Today, Forest City Ratner announced it is going forward with its long-planned intentions to build a modular apartment tower as part of the 22-acre arena-anchored mega-development. The project is made possible in large part through an agreement with the city’s labor unions to allow the 32-story prefab apartment building to proceed.
Modular construction has long been a dream of architects, for its efficiency and control, and now it could be a boon for New York City developers as well, since prefab methods can save 20 to 30 percent from traditional design methods. The only issue is for construction workers. Because the projects are built in factories, even when using union labor, the jobs tend to be less skilled and thus lower paying. Many labor unions had bridled at this, especially since Mr. Ratner had made extensive promises about the well-paying jobs Atlantic Yards would provide. But today the Building and Construction Trades Council announced its support for the development, saying that the prefab builders will get their own division within the labor group.
The battle over the Atlantic Yards has been a punishing experience even for the most dedicated community activist. It has been long and unrewarding and now, with the opening of the arena, many are finally calling it quits, The New York Times reports.
While searching around the Municipal Bond Database (as is our wont)The Observer stumbled upon the quarterly cash receipts of ArenaCo, subsidiary of Forest City Ratner Corporation and the owner operator of Barclays Center. The reports revealed a whopping $46,866,337.14 in sales from tickets, suites and sponsor installments between April 1st, 2012 and September 30th, 2012.
All of which amounts to just a drop in the bucket of the total $510,999,996.50 PILOT Revenue Bond issue currently being paid off by ArenaCo in payments in lieu of taxes to the city or state. This is good news for the bond holders, who presumably need all the help they can get. After all, their bond holdings are currently being given a BBB- rating, the lowest rating a bond issue can have while still being considered investment grade and one which ranks Arena Co and Barclays Center in the same investment strata as the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.
An Arena Grows in Brooklyn
Some good news for Bruce Ratner today, but probably not for the neighborhood or the folks who want to move into the developer’s promised apartment towers at Atlantic Yards. The Islanders will mean more crowds roaming the streets of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene before and after games, and more revenue for the Barclays Center, but this will not help speed up construction of the long-delayed apartments, according to Mr. Ratner.