There may be a few hoops left to jump through before Bruce Ratner can begin construction of his SHoP- and Ellerbe Becket-designed arena for the Brooklyn, né New Jersey, Nets, such as completing a partial sale of the team to a Russian oligarch, prevailing in some outstanding lawsuits, and going ahead with eminent domain against the area's remaining holdouts. But the developer appears to have cleared the final major hurdle standing in his way with the successful sale of $511 million in tax-exempt bonds today for his $900 million arena. (There are still taxed bonds and an equity stake to be taken care of, but they lacked the December 31 deadline.) Yes, those hoops may still present challenges, but none had the same drop-dead, end-of-the-year deadline the bonds did, and they seemed the likeliest chance for the project's opponents to succeed. Instead, they sold briskly in a matter of hours, or, as Ratner put it in a release, "The interest in the arena bond offering was beyond our expectations," expectations that have always been highly optimistic, though also always on the money. Perhaps this is why they are already preparing to divert traffic starting next Monday to make way for construction.
Posts tagged with "Brooklyn":
On Monday, we reported on the Bloomberg administration's continued vociferous resistance to Superfund listing for the Gowanus Canal. While the main complaint by the mayor was that the Superfund stigma would poison the area for development for decades to come, we did not mention—at least not this time—that a major concern is also that the city could be held liable for some portion of the Superfund cleanup because of a number of polluting properties on the canal. That seems all the more likely now—as does the potential for listing—as the Post reported yesterday that the city has been sent a notice for its liabilities. According to the tab, "The city’s responsibility comes through previous/current ownership of an asphalt plant, incinerator, a pumping station, storage yard, and Department of Transportation garage." In an interesting new twist, the Navy was also served with a notice for at least nine "facilities where the Navy directed and oversaw government contractors which owned and/or operated facilities adjacent to the canal."
Brooklyn has been called the borough of blogs, which probably explains why that's where the big city papers are all launching their hyperlocal efforts. First there was the Times' Fort Greene blog, and now the Post is getting in on the act—not surprisingly, we were notified about the new venture by the king of Brooklyn blogs, Brownstoner. While the Times has wound up with some odd, interesting mix of community driven news, the Post remains, at least in its first two posts, a decidely top-down affair, though this is not exactly a bad thing. Indeed, the inaugural post for the Post looks at borough president Marty Markowitz renewed efforts to include a retractable roof at the Grimshaw-designed concert pavilion at Asser Levy park, which we first unveiled back in April. At the time, we were told the designers were very excited about the possibility of a retractable roof, but it was deemed not only too expensive to construct but also to maintain, given the salty air out at Coney Island. (If you're wondering what they had in mind, it was very much the parachute-like roof at the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt.) The Post suggests Markowitz sees the retractable roof as a way to assuage the project's neighbors who find it unsightly, but since the $64 billion price tag has already caused a stir, Markowitz would appear to be jumping out of a sinking ship and into the roiling sea: "Adding a retractable roof would likely increase construction fees by at least $3.5 million, sources said. And that doesn’t include anticipated increases in daily maintenance costs to deal with the seaside’s corrosive air." Construction remains at least a year away, so anything could happen by then. Grimshaw has yet to reply to requests for comment.
Last week, we threw out some ideas for architectural-themed Halloween costumes, including a proposal for a New Museum costume. Well, we've been one-, make that twice-upped by this adorable trio, who were spotted Trick-or-Treating in Cobble Hill by a colleague. Marcel Breuer, Frank Lloyd Wright, and SANAA must be so proud.
As we reported back in June, the activists fighting the Atlantic Yards project did not expect any of the various government agencies with oversight of the project to oppose it when they had the opportunity this summer—the MTA revised its sale of the yards, the ESDC approved a modified General Project Plan. What the critics were more excited about was the possibility of additional lawsuits, which, while generally unsuccessful, have helped stall the project nonetheless and paint it in an increasingly negative light. Today, a day before a major showdown over eminent domain in the state's highest court, Develop Don't Destroy filed a new lawsuit, this one challenging the MTA's sale, and it has an important distinction from the others. When we saw the filing, the first thing that struck us was the petitioners. In the past, only Develop Don't Destroy or local residents and businesses had been signed on to the suits. Now, a number of local politicians and a major transit advocacy group have signed on to this latest case. Maybe that's immaterial in the eyes of the courts, a case is a case, petitioners are petitioners, but it certainly underscores the growing opposition to the project. This is not to say prior petitions were invalid, but they did have the patina of NIMBYism. Now, this is much less the case. Again, we're not sure this matters, legally speaking, but given that Yards watchdog Norman Oder points it out in his typically no-stone-unturned analysis of the new suit, it obviously bears mentioning. As for the suit itself, Oder agrees with us that, like its predecessors, even if it doesn't technically succeed, it could still make progress on the Yards all the more difficult:
Even a successful lawsuit might not formally stop the project, but it could throw a wrench into Forest City Ratner's plan to have the state sell tax-exempt bonds and for arena construction to begin this year. As Neil deMause observes on his Field of Schemes blog: "The real question now is whether another lawsuit will make it too expensive for Ratner to get bond insurance so he can start selling arena bonds this month as planned."The MTA has so far declined to comment. UPDATE: Dan Goldstein of DDDB wrote us last night to point out that the Straphangers, as well as the Sierra Club, had been involved in one of the two prior suits, though no politicians. Also, we forgot to mention that this is probably only the first of what could be many more suits now that the MTA and ESDC have officially taken action. In fact, our June story emphasized the latter more than the former, which suggests that one is on the way, though Goldstein made no mention of it. And he's not the only one filing suit. Last week, as the Park Slope Courier reported, neighborhood groups have filed a suit against the state and Ratner for not doing a thorough enough traffic study. The groups are not trying to stop the project, however, but simply get Ratner to make changes to address the problems.
SHoP's new designs for the Barclay's Center at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards site has probably gotten the firm more attention than any of its previous ones, including its rather controversial plans for Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. Today, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn penned an open-letter to the firm, calling out "Mr. Sharples, Mr. Sharples, Ms. Sharples, Ms. Holden, and Mr. Pasquarelli" for signing on to "a very contentious and troubled project that faces widespread resistance from the communities it would impact—and well beyond." Meanwhile, "Mr. Pasquarelli" sat down with the Observer to, uh, talk shop on the project and defend his firm's involvement in the project: "We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building." SHoP and Barclay's collaborator Ellerbe Becket will be discussing their new designs at a special hearing in Brooklyn tonight at 6 o'clock, as will DDDB, no doubt—and us. If you can't make it for the fireworks, we'll recount them here for you tomorrow. Or follow us on Twitter, where we'll be live-blogging the main event.
When Forest City Ratner released new designs by SHoP Architects of the Barclays Center yesterday, it was seen as an effort to right a listing ship. But no sooner had those copper-hewed renderings hit the presses than the city's Independent Budget Office released a report [PDF] today noting that the arena will cost the city $40 million in revenues over the next 30 years as a result of financial incentives granted to the developer. Furthermore, the city lost a potential $181 million in lost opportunities through tax breaks and incentives provided to the developer, which cost the state $16 million and the MTA $25 million, though the report also notes both will release a net gain of $25 million and $6 million, respectively, if the deal goes through.
Having lost its political fight to preserve most of Admiral's Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Municipal Art Society has hit upon a novel idea and is now focusing its energy on the developers who are vying to redevelop the old naval officers’ houses into a grocery store. The RFP was recently released for the project, and through that process, MAS is hoping to persuade prospective builders where the Army National Guard and the city were not. "We hope that our experience and information will be helpful to responders looking to create an exciting new development at Admiral’s Row that combines both new construction and the preservation of the incredibly-significant historic buildings," Melissa Baldock, a preservation fellow at the MAS, recently wrote on the group's blog. The effort seems like fighting a nuclear submarine with cannon balls, but who knows. In these cash-strapped times, a developer might look favorably upon some pro-bono design work and the imprimatur of one of the city's leading civic groups.
Earlier today, the Municipal Art Society posted an incredibly informative presentation that the group gave at the recent City Council hearings on the Bloomberg administration's plans for rezoning Coney Island. The presentation, which can be found above, pretty succinctly explains what's wrong with the city's plan, why it won't work, and alternatives--proposed, of course, by MAS--that could be undertaken. So why has this presentation surfaced so late in the process, when it will have little, if any impact on the rezoning? Rumor has it the group didn't want to rock the boat--after all, they got a warning from planning commission chair Amanda Burden--as the presentation was considered too incendiary for public consumption. Still, it make a far more compelling argument than some loopy renderings. And besides, isn't the MAS supposed to rock the boat? Jane Jacobs would be so disappointed.
Yesterday, in a quiet ceremony attended by Mayor Bloomberg, the city broke ground on the first phase of Bushwick Inlet Park. Situated between North 9th and 10th streets along the Williamsburg waterfront, this initial stage of construction will comprise a synthetic turf athletic playing field. Turns out I was also on the Williamsburg waterfront at the time, on a tour of that neighborhood with photographer and AN Editorial Intern Victoria Monjo, capturing images for our forthcoming developers issue (see last year's here). One of the images we captured was of Bushwick Inlet itself, which sits three or four blocks to the north of where the festivities were taking place. Eventually, park construction will extend all the way to this placid cove, where, according to the Parks Department's initial plan, there will be a beach, planted terraces, and a performance garden, whatever that is. See the view from Kent Avenue after the jump.
With the news today, reported by The Observer, that Larry Silverstein has begun legal proceedings against the Port Authority to end the gridlock at Ground Zero, as well as the developments two weeks prior at Atlantic Yards, it seems obvious to us what's going on here. Having witnessed the financial titans across town receive hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money, these developers now want theirs. Granted, so did Larry Flint and the porn industry, but the comparison bears consideration. To begin with, the market has failed for both finance and real estate--to say nothing of every other industry--leaving "free market" options closed. Where the bankers have turned to the Treasury and the federal government, Silverstein and Bruce Ratner, in one form or another, have turned to local pols. At Ground Zero, Silverstein is having difficulty finding financing for Towers 2 and 3, so he wants the Port Authority to provide it, or at least back it, on those projects. The story at Atlantic Yards has been much the same, with Ratner unable to afford the full amount for the Vanderbilt Yards nor go through a complete public review process for a new general project plan to ensure there is time to qualify for already dubious tax-exempt bonds. In both cases, public agencies that are already hard up for cash have been asked to foot the bill or undersign considerable amounts of risk to ensure projects with uncertain futures go forward. In the case of Atlantic Yards, the MTA and ESDC have already rolled over. It remains to be seen whether the Port Authority will cave to the abiding political and now legal pressures surrounding the Ground Zero deal. It would not be surprising if the authority did, though, given the examples set in Brooklyn and Washington.
Last week, Prospect Height's became the city's newest landmark district. At 850-odd buildings, it is the largest district to be created since the Upper West Side Historic District was created in 1990. Clearly, a lot of work went into the three-year effort championed by locals and the Municipal Art Society and driven largely by the nearby Atlantic Yards project and the undue development it spurred on one of Brooklyn's last unprotected brownstone neighborhoods. To highlight just how hard it is, but also what a triumph, MAS put together this thoughtful little video. Hopefully it will inspire you to do something civic minded as well on this patriotic weekend or beyond.