West Atlantic Avenue development deal postponed, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Bronx Borough President hesitates on NYC FC Stadium endorsement, Empire of Soccer
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
By Marisa Gottesman
April 24, 2014
Delray's Community Redevelopment Agency board was slated to sign a contract that would hand over six acres of land the agency owns on West Atlantic Avenue to developers the Equity Group for $1 million. But the board Wednesday unanimously decided to postpone the much anticipated vote that will bring in townhomes, shops and offices until May 22 so both parties could tie up some loose ends.
The biggest concern raised by several board members was what developers planned to do with the existing businesses on the site while construction is taking place. Originally, developers proposed a sequencing plan, which means existing businesses would be allowed to stay put while the construction went on around them. Then they would be moved into a new, completed area.
But because of how the contract is worded, that approach may no longer be feasible because the project calls for a single-phase plan with time constraints. "We all wanted sequencing," said agency board member Bill Branning. "All of us were caught off guard here."
Developers have already thought of alternative plans to help existing businesses survive through the construction period. Ideas include moving them to another site at the developer's expense or giving them a paid vacation for the duration of construction.
Whatever option is selected will need to be approved by the agency board within 150 days of the contract's execution. "They aren't supposed to suffer," Equity representative Mike Listick said about the current business owners.
To help move the project along smoothly and keep the developer accountable for promises made, community stakeholders have been working on coming up with a different type of contract to put in place separate from the financial one — a 'community benefits agreement.'
Not wanting to play police, the Community Redevelopment Agency board decided to keep the two agreements separate and allow residents to control their agreement with the developer. The board did want to be kept in the loop, so members heard an update on the plan.
The final draft hasn't been agreed upon yet, but the presentation by community leaders showed plans to hire local residents for construction and permanent jobs; provide those workers 'livable wages' and report what those amounts are; keep existing businesses in the new development with manageable rents; recruit additional locally owned businesses to the area' and dedicate 20 percent of homes built to workforce housing.
"We are having our voices heard," said resident Chuck Ridley. "We are going to begin a new way of doing business in how it relates to doing development in this city."
Listick said what the residents want is attainable. "It's doable," he said. "Anything can be worked out, we have that attitude. We made a lot of promises. We are trying to keep those promises"
Empire of Soccer
By Dave Martinez
April 28, 2014
Few politicians were as bullish as Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. when it came to enticing MLS with a home for a soccer specific stadium. That once fanatical support has now turned lukewarm.
In a revealing interview with Crains NY, Diaz addresses his stance on building a stadium in his borough — and it hardly reads like a ringing endorsement. “On the soccer stadium as a whole, I’ll say this: I’m not there yet,” he says. “That said, I am open-minded.”
This is coming from a man who nearly one year ago to the date wrote the Commissioner of MLS, Don Garber, “urging” him to “consider the Bronx, not Queens, as the home of its newest franchise, the New York City Football Club.”
Diaz (D) has certainly changed his tune, perhaps as a reflection of the current change in the New York City political environment. Mayor Bill De Blasio brings with him a hard left stance to City Hall; a departure from the right leaning, business friendly environment of the Bloomberg administration. That has made any sort of political support invaluable.
With NYC FC committed first to a home in the Bronx, Diaz may be looking at the situation from a leveraging standpoint. “As I said in my State of the Borough address, with a good community-benefits agreement, with proper community engagement, I think we can get to a place where folks understand the economic benefits of the stadium,” he said. “But those benefits have to be real and be felt. It can’t just benefit the royal family of Abu Dhabi [who co-owns the franchise] or the Yankees.”
Thus far, the only gauge of community opinion came in the form of a Town Hall held earlier this year, with strong proponents and vocal opposition expressing their views on the situation. For now, NYC FC continue to count on Yankee Stadium as their temporary home, and have continued their hunt for infrastructure, securing a training facility in Purchase for the next five years.
Team officials, including Yankee President Randy Levine, insist they will take their time to negotiate with the new administration. With his recent public stance, Diaz will likely be included on their agenda as well.