5/27/2007

Eminent Domain Threatens Brooklyn Financial Service Firm: Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle, 5/23/07

Track Data Employs 100 Onsite, Overshadowed by Duffield Homes

By Sarah Ryley

The Duffield Street homes, allegedly linked to the Underground Railroad, dominated yesterday’s eminent domain hearing to consider the seizure of 21 properties on three blocks in Downtown Brooklyn [NY].

Another lesser-known condemnee is Track Data Corporation, a financial service company six blocks from Duffield that employs 150 people and provides real-time financial and market data. The building, surrounded by parking lots, is within the BAM Cultural District, an area the city wants to turn into mixed-use developments and cultural centers orbiting the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“Given the fairly small footprint of the building, what could you possibly want here more than a high-tech firm that pays salaries, employs 100 people [onsite] and has been here for several decades?” said Track Data spokesman Rafi Reguer. “What is it that you could replace it with that would be more valuable to the borough?”

The answer was nothing, at least for now.

According to information provided by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, there is no development in any planning or approval stage that would replace Track Data. A spokesman for the partnership said it’s a normal part of the redevelopment process to clear everything through eminent domain to ensure that all existing property owners or lease holders are vacated when it comes time to build.

Eight lots that were on the eminent domain list yesterday are within the BAM Cultural District, and four have planned developments. A theatre for Danspace and 350 residential units are in the planning process; the Theatre for a New Audience, a 350-seat theatre, is in the approval process; and a small park is proposed atop one of the parking lots. Forté, a 28-story Flatiron-style residential tower by The Clarett Group, and a residential conversion at 96 Rockwell St. — both market-rate condominiums — are under construction in the vicinity.

Aviva Jakabowitz, Track Data’s corporate controller, testified that the company established its roots in the neighborhood more than 20 years ago, when there were crack vials laying around and employees had to arrange to exit the building in groups.

“Someone, up in an office somewhere, thinks they have a better idea from their perspective. But somewhere else, I guarantee, there is a team of people in city government or city planning racking their brains trying to figure out how to get firms like us to locate here,” said Reguer.

The city initially planned for high-tech and financial firms to occupy much of the office space in MetroTech Center and the Fulton Mall but, with 800,000 square feet of vacant space, changed course last year to set its sight on creative firms.

Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, said last year that many of the financial and insurance companies the city originally thought would move to Downtown Brooklyn instead consolidated their operations or moved to New Jersey or out of the country.

Reguer said Jersey might be a consideration if the company’s property is taken away by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). “We have to look at all our options,” he said. “We get calls all the time from various cities and states that are very aggressive in their efforts to move our business away from here.”

Initially, the inexpensive space and transportation options drew the company’s founder, Barry Hertz, to the area. Since then, Reguer said, the company has installed at least ten 100-megabyte Ethernet pipes — which is 1,000 times the capacity most businesses typically require — so it can pump information from stock markets and financial corporations around the world in and out of the building 24-hours a day.

“We are, if not Verizon’s largest customer in Brooklyn, one of their largest customers in Brooklyn,” he said.

Track Data provides similar services to Bloomberg, L.P. — the company that made the mayor a billionaire — but brings in less than one percent of Bloomberg’s $4.7 billion in annual sales, according to Hoover’s directory.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership did not offer any further comments in time for publication.


Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle: http://www.brooklyneagle.com