I know what you’re thinking… How can we use the term “rape” in this context? Doesn’t using this word belittle the act of rape itself and therefore demean women everywhere?
Well, we would respectfully submit that developer RXR’s actions this past summer: new demands and calculated threats are so egregious – and such a violation of the public trust – that use of this term is warranted. Indeed, “the rape of the land,” is a phrase historians have used for a generation, and what’s happening at Garvies Point in Glen Cove is no different.
RXR Demands of Massive Increase in Debt for Glen Cove
At the quickly cobbled-together City Counsel vote for $120 – $150 million bond Glen Cove had been “asked” to take on for RXR to construct certain amenities – so-called “horizontal amenities” – Glen Cove’s special counsel for the project, Michael Zarin, cited just two paragraphs – buried deep within the agreement – in an effort to explain away this strange new development.
You can be certain that when the contracts between RXR and Glen Cove/Glen Isle were negotiated and executed, no one ever expected two minor paragraphs about road construction and similar details would wind up necessitating a $120 million bond being shouldered by Glen Cove. Mr. Zarin wouldn’t have expected that, Mayor Spinello wouldn’t have expected that – no one would have. Why? Because the City of Glen Cove was negotiating with RXR in good faith.
At the bond vote hearing, Mr. Zarin tried to explain this all away. He cited that “the cost of building certain roads and construction costs have increased. Really? Have they increased to the tune of $100 million, Mr. Zarin, or is possible – just possible – that RXR is taking advantage of our city?
“Unforeseen construction costs,” Mr. Zarin? You and Mayor Spinello are promising Glen Cove residents “$400 – $600 million dollars in increased revenues for the city,” but you cannot accurately forecast some construction expenses over ten years? Can you see why many of us can no longer believe such claims?
The Threat of “Walking Away”
Time and time again now, we’re being told “if we don’t do x, RXR could walk away from the project!” “If we don’t do y now, RXR will walk away from the project!”
First, it would be highly unlikely RXR would actually walk away. Scott Rechler already bares the scars of his completely botched Colosseum/Uniondale rehabilitation some years back, along with his failure as Vice Chairman of the Port Authority. His over-inflated ego just couldn’t handle another check in the ‘failure’ column.
In addition, Rechler and RXR must continually fret about creating the right impression and atmosphere for their uber-wealthy Chinese investors. (Let’s not forget, Glen Cove residents, as we sell our land to RXR, a part of our city will be owned by the Chinese or other foreign investors.) So the point is, Rechler cannot afford to lose face in front of his rich Chinese pals. This would endanger other grand visions swirling in Mr. Rechler’s head: the perverse “urban-suburban” landscape he intends to foist across all of Long island.
What happens if RXR does walk – do they sue us for $42 million we don’t have? Fine – we’ll be tied up in court for years, and we would have no way of paying anyway. The adage blood from a stone comes to mind. The bad press and the acrimony with their Chinese investors will be RXR’s problems to contend with.
RXR Realty – The Lone Shark
To folks who have been following the proposed development at Garvies Point for a while, it’s been frightening to see how RXR has been bullying Glen Cove. And it’s sad to see Mayor Spinello, the Planning Board and Mr. Zarin just bend over and take it.
RXR fronted a desperate rust-belt city some cash for this project up front. Glen Cove took the money. Now, RXR keeps changing the terms to their advantage. This is called lone sharking. Or if you prefer – the Drug Dealer strategy: give a little up front, get ’em hooked, then make more and more demands that cannot be refused. Is this truly the partner we want to develop our waterfront?
Does RXR have no scruples whatsoever? Is Scott Rechler completely devoid of a moral compass? And if not, doesn’t he at least care about his company’s reputation? Here are four examples:
We’ve seen the number of apartments at Garvies Point go from 500 – to 800 – to 1,100. 1,100 units is just ridiculous for a strip of land that has just one road to access. If they had stuck to the original 500 units, it’s safe to assume that Sea Cliff and other North Shore towns would never have risen up in such vocal (and legal) objections – the project would have moved forward already. But, showing his true colors, Mr. Rechler got greedy, and insisted on raising the number of units and moving to 11 stories.
Then we saw the change to the “Plan C” option which raised the towers to 11 stories. Despite Mr. Zarin’s endless caterwauling about how many years this project has been debated, the 11 story build-out was not the option discussed openly or agreed to by residents. So as far as we’re concerned, we’re just getting started debating the merits of what’s proposed for Garvies Point, as as the Village of Sea Cliff argues, a new SEQRA Review is entirely warranted.
Next, we saw a change in how much land RXR was willing to purchase – a blatant violation of the PUD Agreement, whose zoning allows for just 20 units per acre. This too was swept under the rug.
Finally, we see Glen Cove, a city with a dismal credit rating, forced to accept an additional $120 – $150 million in new bonds to subsidize RXR! This is the kind of deal Glen Cove Officials and the Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce think is good for us? “If we don’t vote yes on this bond, RXR could walk away!” we were told. Well, if that’s the case, good riddance.
It’s sad to see Michael Zarin, the highly regarded (and highly paid) “special counsel” for this development reduced to an RXR apologist, instead of serving the interests of the residents of Glen Cove, which is what we’re paying him to do. In a number of meetings he seems to have blatantly crossed the line from representing the City of Glen Cove to representing RXR Realty – perhaps someone should send a letter to the Bar Association.
And, regarding Mayor Spinello, we imagine by now that if RXR told him he needed to dress in drag to support their development, we’d see him careening around Glen Street in a pink chiffon dress and heals. The mayor, who himself was once fervently opposed to this development, has mortgaged our city’s future to one private developer. He has left us no Plan B, no options, no flexibility. The very definition of poor leadership…
Dear Mayor Spinello, Mr. Zarin, Glen Cove Planning Board and Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency:
This is our land you’re selling to RXR. For pennies on the dollar. You still hold some cards. You can push back to RXR, negotiate further and question some of their changes and demands. There are other developers who would love to re-develop Garvies Point. Some of them would probably cover the $42 million that RXR Realty fronted us.
A NO vote to the 100 million dollar bond would have sent a message to RXR: we’re not a bunch of impotent fools who can forced to bend to every one of your whims. Unfortunately, regarding Mayor Spinello and Mr. Zarin, it seems that’s not the case. (and hats off to the three Planning Board members who did vote ‘No’ on this bond, btw)
“RXR might walk away! They could walk away!” you cry. The threat of a developer walking doesn’t mean we should just blindly accept every single demand they make. The threat of a developer walking doesn’t mean the development as it’s proposed is actually beneficial to the North Shore.
RXR might walk away? We have just one response:
It’s frightening to note that at the bond hearing, no one could adequately explain who is paying the interest or who is responsible in the case of default. Mr. Zarin stammered that it was residents – no – people who will live in the development – no, RXR was responsible. He didn’t seem to be sure!
Ask three members of the Planning Board who is paying the interest on this $120 million and you’ll get three different answers. We mortgage our children’s futures with $120 million and it seems no one can even explain the most simple terms of this loan?
This shoddy, under-handed and unexpected $120 million bond alone should give any state official – or any resident of Glen Cove, no matter what your view on Garvies – reason to question just what’s going on here.