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Showing posts from June, 2006

Are nine acres of interim surface parking part of the plan?

Missing from Forest City Ratner’s latest brochure (below, right) and the AtlanticYards.com web site is any mention of the two huge interim surface parking lots planned for the Atlantic Yards site, in the north central and southeast blocks of the site, blocks that are later slated for towers and landscaped open space.

How big? How many spaces? For whom? For how long? We don't know yet. The two large blocks occupy about nine acres of the 22-acre footprint. An acre can typically accommodate spaces for about 130 cars (plus driving lanes, etc.), so nine acres could provide parking for 1170 cars. It's unlikely that the entire blocks would be used for parking, though.

Still, the project would take at least ten years to build, so it's possible those parking lots could persist in whole or in part, especially if changes in economic conditions alter the development.

No one’s willing to say much for now. Not the city Department of Transportation. Not the Brooklyn Borough President’s Offi…

Transportation changes: are congestion pricing, East River tolls on the agenda?

One huge challenge for the Atlantic Yards project--or any other major development at the crossroads of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues--involves transportation, and the solution involves citywide issues, not merely project-related fixes. That's why the decision by the Empire State Development Corporation to exclude the East River crossings from the Final Scope of Analysis--the prelude to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards project--was so shortsighted, especially since a good chunk of Nets fans are expected to come from New Jersey.

The graphic at right comes from the New York Post, which published a 6/19/06 article headlined 'NET' RESULT: TRAFFIC CHAOS. The division seems stark:
Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn claim politicians are ignoring the traffic nightmare - on subways and roads alike - that the $3.5 billion development near Downtown Brooklyn will cause, even when the Nets are not using their new stadium.
Borough Pre…

Crain's poll on Atlantic Yards project misses the point

On the heels of Crain's New York Business editor Greg David's misinformed column supporting the Atlantic Yards project, Crain's now offers a stilted poll canvassing readers' opinions:
Developer Bruce Ratner's plan for the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn calls for less commercial space than he had originally envisioned, along with 6,800 residential units--nearly a third of which would be affordable housing.
THE POLL QUESTION: Do you agree with the Atlantic Yards plan?
Yes, the housing market is already tight, and the city needs more affordable units
No, the huge development would destroy the borough's character

Given that the developer traded office space for more lucrative luxury condos in May 2005, the question is a little late--and it treats "the Atlantic Yards" as a place rather than a project. More importantly, it ignores the fact that the developer originally promised 50 percent affordable housing, but violated the spirit--if not the letter--of the affo…

Crain's editor Greg David gets it wrong: chronology, housing, density, and "status quo"

Crain's New York Business editor Greg David, in a column dated 6/26/06 headlined Atlantic Yards is not about sports (subscribers only), repeats some Forest City Ratner talking points, forgets the eminent domain issue that he's previously addressed, and adds some other misreadings.

David writes:
As Bruce Ratner tells the tale, the Atlantic Yards project took off in 2003 following a phone call from the Brooklyn borough president. The New Jersey Nets basketball team was for sale, and Marty Markowitz pleaded with Mr. Ratner to buy it and return a professional sports team to Brooklyn.
Sports and the borough's psyche had been linked decades earlier, and just as the Dodgers' departure in 1958 seemed to start years of decline, so bringing the Nets to Brooklyn would put an exclamation point on its economic revival.
Three years later, sports are merely a footnote to the project.

But sports were always a footnote. The arena was always a small fraction--little more then ten percent--o…

CBA coalition launches invite-only "Meet & Greet" sessions

For those interested in the Atlantic Yards project, a series of Meet & Greet sessions have begun at the Atlantic Yards Information Center on the third floor of the Atlantic Center Mall. While the term "open forum" is used to describe the meetings, they are invitation-only. According to a press release:
The Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement Coalition has started a series of “Meet and Greets” in Brooklyn, NY to both introduce community residents to the proposed $3.5 billion, Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project and to elicit additional feedback.... Future Meet & Greets are planned to occur regularly in the ensuing months.

The source for that press release was the Event Calendar Tuesday of the Electronic Urban Report (EUR), which listed the following: Essence Fest adds rap show, Diddy drops out; NBAF in Atlanta; Hip-Hop Theater Fest in NYC; ‘Thug’ film at Urbanworld; Atlantic Yards Meet & Greet. (Emphasis added)

While the issue of community benefits wo…

MAS presentation on design principles, brochure now online

The 62-slide Municipal Art Society presentation from the June 15 session on design principles is now online. Also available is the brochure distributed at the meeting. (Part of the brochure is at right; click for a larger view.) And here's MAS President Kent Barwick's speech. The MAS web site also collects press coverage of the event.

AY information for BUILD invitees, but not for thee

On Tuesday night I was walking home from Fort Greene to Park Slope, on South Portland Avenue, alongside Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center mall. I needed something from Staples--wasn't there a Staples in the mall? No, but there was something more intriguing: a blue sign pointing to the Atlantic Yards Information Center on the third floor.

I took two escalators up. After all, I'm quite interested in Atlantic Yards information, and the last time I saw that sign was on May 11, when I tried without avail to attend the press conference with Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin. (Then again, I hadn't been back to the mall.)

Next to the Empire State Development Corporation's Brooklyn Community Network Office (coincidence: ESDC is in charge of the Atlantic Yards project), in a medium-sized room that likely was unleased retail space (Forest City Ratner now is its own tenant), there's a little piece of Oz in an otherwise drab mall.

Ins…

What's missing? Columnist Louis still sloppy on jobs, the CBA, and AY rhetoric

In his 6/1/06 "Commerce and Community" column in the Bed-Stuy-based Our Time Press, Daily News columnist Errol Louis offered a "back-of-the-envelope analysis" of the jobs at the Atlantic Yards project. Unfortunately he failed to mention some important context, closing with the ahistorical suggestion that "Brooklyn politicians who have already wasted years opposing the project... should be negotiating the details of exactly how to make sure the coming jobs go to constituents who need it."

Louis neglected to tell readers that some jobs at the project have already been subject to negotiations, under the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), and others simply fall outside any political oversight. (This column is no longer online, as it's been replaced by a more recent column, discussed below.) He also ignored the CBA in a recent Daily News column in which he identified five project supporters without pointing out that two are CBA signatories.

Construction jo…

Would Atlantic Yards CBA be part of the emerging template? More doubts emerge

Does the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) negotiated by Forest City Ratner and eight community groups stand as a template for good development? Not if you look at the CBAs negotiated in Los Angeles, where signatories didn't accept funds from a developer, unlike several of the groups in Brooklyn.
(At right, image from Forest City Ratner brochure.)

I went to the Black Brooklyn Empowerment Convention (BBEC) on Saturday at the Concord Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant to see whether the CBA issue would come up. It did, though glancingly. In a discussion of housing and economic development issues, Lois Blades-Rosado, executive director of the Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center, said activists should be "holding elected officials and community boards accountable for the creation of Community Benefits Agreements."

While Blades-Rosado spoke generally, with no reference to the Atlantic Yards CBA, her formulation presents another alternative. Elected officials were not inv…

Novelist Lethem to Gehry: "Walk away"

In an open letter headlined Brooklyn's Trojan Horse, published yesterday on Slate.com, Brooklyn-based novelist Jonathan Lethem, a member of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board (which should've been mentioned in his bio), suggests that it's time for architect Frank Gehry to abandon the Atlantic Yards project.

The reasons:
--the project's oversize scale
--"your partner's manipulative dishonesty"
--"Ratner's abhorrent track record"
--"the divisive zero-sum politics"
--"the principle of eminent domain"
--blocking the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower
--that not-so-comely Miss Brooklyn tower.

He quotes Gehry's words in a January presentation:
"If I think it got out of whack with my own principles, I'd walk away." I can only hope that what was once perhaps just a seed has grown. For I'm positive that is exactly what you should do, Mr. Gehry. Walk away.

It's notable that, two-and-a-half years af…

BUILD claims MAS meeting was "trying to stop" jobs, housing, and opportunities

It turns out the strongest spin on last Thursday's Municipal Art Society forum came not from any of the groups critical of the Atlantic Yards project but BUILD, fervent supporters of the project.

The notably highminded session on design principles for the project was marked by some pre-meeting skirmishing among community groups critical of or opposed to the plan, and even by some press releases issued before the session began.

And, as Neil de Mause observed in the Village Voice's Power Plays blog: [MAS president] Kent Barwick insisted he didn't want to make simplistic headlines, he made them nonetheless with the declaration that "the [Ratner] plan in its current state would not work."

BUILD misreads meeting

Then there is BUILD. The organization, which has vigorously advocated for the Atlantic Yards plan at various public meetings, gets free office space from Forest City Ratner, and receives significant funding from the developer (though representatives at first deni…

MAS says FCR's current plan "won't work;" panel, crowd pile on criticism

Updated 8/21/16: Brochure and presentation embedded at bottom.


In a way, the message was clear, wrapped up in a brochure deftly mixing text and graphics. “Can it work for Brooklyn?” asked the influential Municipal Art Society (MAS), a longstanding advocate for good urban design and sensible development.

The brochure offered a startling analogy: the 17 buildings in the Atlantic Yards project would be the equivalent of more than 23 Williamsburgh Savings Banks. The bank may be the tallest building in Brooklyn, at 512 feet (the proposed Miss Brooklyn would be 620 feet), but it’s tapered, not bulky.

On the other side of the brochure, the answer:
Forest City Ratner’s current plan won’t work for Brooklyn.

The reasons: And while the Atlantic Yards site is right for development, the Forest City Ratner plan threatens Brooklyn’s special qualities. It would overwhelm surrounding neighborhoods with enormous towers. It would eliminate streets to create deadening superblocks that don’t work anywhere in…