Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Outside arena on Dean Street, narrowed passageway not even open; pedestrians wind up walking in street

On the north side of Dean Street east of Flatbush Avenue, on the south flank of the Barclays Center, there's usually a very narrow passageway between the construction fence for the B2 tower and a barrier, protecting pedestrians and bicyclists from the narrowed street.

Today, when I walked by at about noon, that passageway was closed, at both ends, and some unwitting pedestrians wound up walking in the street.

A photo posted by Norman Oder (@atlanticyards_pacificpk_report) on

With demolition of 666 Pacific, lot cleared for 27-story tower; another company not quite fulfilling CBA goals

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update, "Demolition of 664 Pacific Street at the B15 site will continue during this reporting period."

Indeed, it has, though 664 Pacific is the new address for the 27-story market-rate rental tower (with school at base) planned, aka B15, while 666 Pacific Street was the address for a three-story industrial building on the site. See photo at right.

It has now been demolished, as shown in photos below sent by a reader. 

The CBA and MWBEs

Note the presence of A. Russo Wrecking, a WBE, women's business enterprise, which allows Greenland Forest City Partners to check off progress toward goals for MWBE (minority- and women-owned businesses).

As I wrote back in 2010, a firm owned by a white female resident of Nassau County fulfills the official aspirations of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), but hardly represents the groups based in Central Brooklyn--however unrepresentative themselves--that signed the CBA. 

In 2012, the last time statistics were released, the Atlantic Yards developer was well behind both its own stated goals and New York State's goals on MWBE contracting. No update has been provided by Empire State Development nor developer Greenland Forest City Partners, and the promised Independent Compliance Monitor for the CBA was never hired.

The CBA, as I noted five years earlier, is supposed "to encourage systemic changes in the traditional ways of doing business on large urban development projects." But this project has also been supporting long-established firms, like Russo, founded in 1952, and whose officers serve on major industry boards. 

Here's criticism from the Black Institute (led by Atlantic Yards CBA signatory Bertha Lewis) of the city's MWBE programs; Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park goes unmentioned.

Not so courteous in hard hats: more photos of construction workers hanging out in neighborhood near project

There's been ample anecdotal evidence of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction workers using the residential neighborhood--stoops, sidewalks, double-parking--for their breaks, and now there are more photos.

In part, their behavior is understandable--there just aren't too many options. But that's the developer's responsibility, since they already said sitting on stoops is not acceptable.

Bottom line: despite an anecdote in the New York Times about "Courtesy in a Hard Hat," for residents, the experience has been less than courteous.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Two views of Pacific Park construction workers: "Courtesy in a Hard Hat" and "Like Being in a Shark Tank"

Today's New York Times Metropolitan Diary anecdote, by Elana Rabinowitz, Courtesy in a Hard Hat:
Passing the Pacific Park renovations at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn every morning made my walk to work less appealing. The mammoth cranes, road blockages and omnipresent construction workers added to my reluctance.
However, her skirt hikes up, exposing her butt, unbeknownst to her, and a construction worker, not speaking, alerts her to the miscue:
Now when I see those orange vests and cranes, I feel at ease. I keep looking for that man with the dreads to thank him.
That's a nice story, and I'm sure a good number of construction workers, belying the stereotype, are protective of women. Then again, what hasn't made the Times is the story of a local woman regularly harassed by construction workers--"as a female it is like being in a shark tank just to walk down your own street"--as well as periodically by arena attendees.

By the way, there's no such thing as "Pacific Park renovations at Atlantic Yards." They're not renovations, they're obliterations followed by construction. Pacific Park is the name of the project and a professed "new neighborhood," though it's actually within Prospect Heights. Atlantic Yards is not a place but a discarded brand name.

Bark Hot Dogs closes. The arena helped, but was no savior.

So Bark Hot Dogs on Bergen Street just off Flatbush Avenue--once favored by Brooklyn Net Brook Lopez--closed yesterday after seven years, as Eater and Gothamist reported. The owners blamed "many factors," but they excluded the Pintchik family, their landlord.

It's safe to say that the Barclays Center was no savior, and it's a reasonable bet that the August 2014 advent of Shake Shack, which served a somewhat similar demographic with a larger location closer to the Barclays Center, did not help.

A Bark employee told this reporter last March:
However, [Frederick] Whinery noticed that business changed in the past six to eight months (2014-2015) because more businesses have come into the area spreading out the customers. “When we were the only burger joint in the area, during the first year of Barclays Center, the impact was more substantial than since Shake Shack opened,” Whinery said. He thinks that there will be a jump in business when the new residential complex that is going up right next to Barclays opens.
“We still get pops for Nets games or big concerts – we certainly see a spike in business,” Whinery said.

Surely various retail operators are wondering what happens when the new residential buildings open.

Going forward

We'll see how the replacement at the Bark space navigates the challenge of trying to appeal to the neighborhood as well as to arenagoers.

Meanwhile, former Allied Orthopedics space at 240 Flatbush just west of Sixth (closed 2013, moved to Queens) is now Bleachers Sports Bar.

Up Flatbush another long couple of blocks, as Here's Park Slope reported, Construction Underway on Union Market, SoulCycle Coming to 342 Flatbush Avenue. That's between Sterling Place and Grand Army Plaza near Franny's.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

As TV makes location less key for sports fandom, the Nets at a disadvantage

Will Leitch's recent New York Magazine column, In the Future of Sports Fandom, State Lines Mean Nothing, makes some verry interesting points about the decoupling of fandom and location:
But 2016 is a far different year to be a sports fan than 1988 was. You can get upset about this as a citizen; that is your right. But for fans, where your team plays has never been less relevant.

In the past decade, the world of sports has changed dramatically thanks to television, arguably in more profound ways than it changed when television came on the scene in the first place. The difference this time wasn’t television itself: It was how we used it. In the past, sports was just another morsel of appointment viewing, like Cheers and Seinfeld and All in the Family. But the rise of streaming services and DVR and everything else that has upended TV has vaporized the idea of appointment viewing: If you’re a cord-cutter, you can drop just about everything and not miss it … except for sports.

This has made sports incredibly powerful: The highest-rated programs at the end of every year are almost always NFL games, and the vast majority of sports teams make their money not from gate receipts but from the deals they’ve signed with various television networks — and the NFL has the biggest television contract of them all.  in the stands.
This may be most true for a sport like football, where people are so far from the action it's truly made for TV. But it does explain why, when the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat visit the Barclays Center, can can feel like an away game for the Brooklyn Nets.

The overall structure of TV deals and marketing still boost Mikhail Prokhorov's franchise. But the ease of fandom for faraway teams, coupled with the Nets' (for-now) weaknesses, will make it ever more difficult to establish a staunch local fanbase.

The disengaged Nets fans

NetseDaily last month noted how Forbes ranked Brooklyn among the 10 "least engaged" fan bases in the National Basketball Association: 
According to Nielsen Scarborough, only 15% of the Nets' market watched, attended or listened to a game last year -- the lowest percentage in the NBA///
Forbes said its rankings are based on "hometown crowd reach (defined by Nielsen Scarborough as a percentage of the metropolitan area population that watched, attended, and/or listened to a game in the last year), three years worth of television ratings (from Nielsen), three years of arena attendance based on capacity reached (from the league), three years worth of merchandise sales (from the league), secondary market ticket demand and premium pricing (from Vivid Seats), and social media reach (a combination of Facebook fans and Twitter followers as a percentage of the team’s metro area population)."
There's been lots of debate about whether the Nets have tried to build a team more organically. We should recognize that one very good player could make a difference. One NetsDaily commenter wrote:
When I was a Nets half-season ticket holder in NJ (not even a full season), I consistently received perks. I had seat upgrades, complimentary tickets, nights with access to the VIP area for free food and drinks, draft night parties, autograph signing sessions, and, what I enjoyed most, Q&As with Rod Thorn and Lawrence Frank! And I was just going to 20 games a year! The Q&As were fantastic, as even when the team struggled post-Kenyon, Thorn would face the music. Qhile I didn’t agree with many of his moves (those drafts from 04 to 07 were horrendous), he got out there, faced the fans, and took accountability. I eventually became a full-season ticket holder when they moved to Newark.
When they moved to Brooklyn – poof – all of that was gone. I was a half-season ticket holder (in much worse seats, due to the enormous price raise), and in two seasons, I was upgraded once (in a preseason game) and went to one post-game autograph signing. That’s it. So, when I had to plan for a wedding, guess what was the first (and easiest) expense to cut? In 2014, for the first time since the mid-90s, I didn’t buy any ticket deal for the Nets. And I don’t regret it one bit. I’ve gone to about a half dozen games individually over this season and last, and that atmosphere is getting worse.

Selective outrage: Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's call for payment from Witnesses not matched by pressure on its members

Crain's New York Business on 2/4/15 published Jehovah's Witnesses saved $368 million in real estate taxes over the past 12 years, subheaded "Downtown Brooklyn Partnership [DBP] ups its pressure on the tax-exempt organization to donate $50 million."

From the article:
The study looked at the Witnesses’ Brooklyn portfolio of 37 properties concentrated in and around Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo. As a religious organization, the group is exempt from paying taxes. The analysis estimated that its property taxes would have totaled $138.6 million since 2006, while transfer and capital gains taxes for 21 of its sites sold since 2004 would have added up to about $230 million. Reed called that a conservative estimate, but said it shows the magnitude of the Witnesses' profits and the money that otherwise would have gone to taxpayers.
The DBP certainly has an argument.Generally speaking, tax exemptions for religious and other institutions deserve questions. More specifically, the Jehovah's Witnesses, as this article notes, got a rezoning at 85 Jay Street but never built there--and that rezoning upped the value of the property to perhaps $1 billion.

What's missing

That said, it's more than a little hypocritical for the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (significantly influenced by Forest City Ratner, its board co-chaired by FCR CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin) to be so selective in its outrage. Consider benefits for its members:
  • the lack of affordability requirements coupled with the rezoning that increased the value of Downtown Brooklyn real estate
  • the DBP's call for continued tax exemptions to fuel office space in Downtown Brooklyn
  • the DBP's silence on the (apparent) giveaway of public streets to the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project
  • the DPB's silence regarding the (nonbinding) pledge to require a second sports tenant at the Barclays Center (now, the Islanders) to make payments to New York State

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The backlash against comments from Yormark (not a hockey fan until now) continues; why not dynamic pricing?

On Lighthouse Hockey, Dan Saraceni writes an open letter to Barclays Center/Nets/Islanders CEO Brett Yormark, who recently provoked lots of negative coverage by encouraging visitors in the obstructed-view seats to check their phones or the scoreboard: Dear Brett Yormark: Please stop talking. Signed, an Islanders fan.

Saraceni makes three key points:
  • Hockey fans never forget a mistake...
  • Hockey fans are always upset or outraged about something...
  • Hockey fans want hockey. Good, fun, winning hockey and a lot of it.
He reminds us of a very interesting admission. "I've never really been a hockey fan," Yormark said at about 2:26 of this interview, "and I'm becoming one very quickly." (Remember, Marty Markowitz said he never was a basketball fan.)

Various commenters suggest ways Yormark could have finessed the issue with apologetic candor and empathy.

Separately, a columnist suggests Yormark should step away from the Islanders, which ain't gonna happen. Another catalogued Brett Yormark’s Many PR Gaffes.

Three suggestions

On IslesBlog, Joseph Buono suggests 3 Ways To Improve The Obstructed View Seating Experience
1) Brand it “The Barn”... Hand out rally towels, props, something that makes fans sitting in those seats feel a part of the game. Make the overall game experience in these sections different and not just because they can only see one goalie.
2) Tarp It / Horse Shoe Configuration... It would be far from ideal, but it would be unique, maybe even charming over time....
3) Incentivize the Experience... Dynamic Pricing or no dynamic pricing, these seats should not cost more than $10-15. If you are going to charge more, make other aspects of the Barclays Center experience more affordable for these fans.

All good ideas, especially the third one.

Construction workers eating and resting on neighborhood stoops: a regular occurrence (despite developer's pledge)

As I commented, this is a consequence of shoehorning a project of this size into a residential neighborhood and... a reminder of one of the unstated (or less stated) arguments for modular construction: fewer workers on-site. But modular hasn't worked out.

At the last Community Update (aka Quality of Life) meeting, in December, when the issue of workers eating/resting on stoops was brought up, Forest City Ratner External Affairs VP Ashley Cotton commented, "We have gone to them again, to say 'stop sitting on people's stoops.' It's absolutely not acceptable."

That hasn't worked.

Friday, February 05, 2016

In Times Real Estate section, 461 Dean gets promotional treatment (no mention of modular troubles; affordability misleading)

Somehow the troubled B2 tower, aka 461 Dean Street, gets prominent position--a photo at the top of the web version--of an upcoming front-page New York Times Real Estate section article headlined
New York’s New High-End Rentals (and in print " Advance of the Rentals").

Notably, there's nothing in the article about how this building has taken two years longer than promised, that developer Forest City Ratner and former modular factory partner Skanska are locked in litigation over huge cost overruns, and that lower floors of the building were plagued by leaks and mold.

Nor is there mention of Forest City's claim that it had "cracked the code" for modular construction, but this is the only Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park building to be built modular, as Forest City aims to sell the factory it operated with Skanska and then operated itself to finish the modules.

Nor that people are--hello--living next to an arena, with attendant crowds, some of them loud, and an arena loading dock that does not operate seamlessly as promised but sometimes stalls trucks on the street, snagging traffic.

What's the affordability?

But that's not all. The article misleads people about the affordability. Here's the relevant text:
One new rental in the current crop, 461 Dean Street in Brooklyn, will be split almost evenly between apartments with below-market rents and market-rate apartments.
The 363-unit project from Forest City Ratner Companies, which is made of prefabricated modules, will have 181 apartments with lower rents. About 40 percent of the affordable units, or 72, will be for people making 100 percent to 160 percent of the area’s median income, or up to $124,000 for a family of four. That family could end up paying $2,800 a month for a two-bedroom, said Susi Yu, an executive vice president of Forest City.
Interestingly enough, that ignores the 109 affordable units for lower- and moderate income people, who perhaps are not expected to read the Times.

Also, that misstates the current Area Median Income (AMI) and projected rents, since it relies on 2012 numbers. And it fails to point out that, while income limits are 160% of AMI, the rent for that cohort is calculated from 150% of AMI.
From FCR presentation

When the building launched in of 2012, when AMI was $83,000, income limits (160% of AMI) were $132,800, according to a Forest City presentation. See chart at right.

However, since rents would be set at 150% of AMI, for the best-off "affordable renters," rents would be calculated at 30% of $124,500. 

That should equal $3,112.50. (Here's the math: [$124,500 x .3]/12.)

But yes, in 2012, the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) did estimate rents at $2,740 a month, so obviously there's an adjustment factor. See chart below.

Today, the most recently available AMI, according to the NYC HDC, is $86,300 for a four-person household. 160% of AMI is $138,080. Now, it's possible the AMI has dipped down or nudged up for 2016, but it's clear Yu's $124,000 figure is wrong.

Rents will be set based on 150% of AMI, or $129,450 for a four-person household, based on 2015 numbers.

That should equal $3,236.25. (Here's the math: [$129,450 x .3]/12.)

Again, however, there's clearly an adjustment factor. 

Let's look at it another way: the most recent AMI, $86,300, represents a nearly 4% rise from $83,000. Apply that percentage to the previous figure of $2,740, and the monthly rent should be $2,849.

That's not too far from Yu's estimate--a little less than 2%--but its far enough off that they shouldn't be rounding off the numbers.

Reaching the better off

From the article:
“This is actually a segment of the market that really has been overlooked,” Ms. Yu said, referring to the income bracket of that same family of four.
Well, it may have been overlooked by developers--what middle-income household doesn't want a deal?--but actually the segment is a tiny fraction of New Yorkers, and hardly those who most need subsidized housing. See the chart at right from the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development.

What's market rate?

From the article:  
Forest City has not yet determined what a market-rate two-bedroom would cost in the building. In December, the median price of a two-bedroom in Brooklyn was $3,350 a month, Elliman said.
That's only a 17.6% premium. That said, the median price in the area for new construction may be higher. StreetEasy says the least expensive two-bedroom rental in a new or newly converted building in Downtown Brooklyn is $3,754, while in Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, and Prospect Heights it's $3,300. (That's eliminating one cheaper anomaly.)

While 461 may offer some luxury amenities, the location and troubled history may make it difficult to get premium prices.

About the lottery

The article states:
To score one of the coveted reduced-rent units at 461 Dean, renters must enter a lottery, which will be organized by Forest City and the city’s Housing Development Corporation.
When the lottery is announced, which is expected “imminently,” according to a project spokeswoman, applicants will have 60 days to register at the New York City Housing Connect web page, or by paper application. To get the word out about the application process, Forest City will contact labor unions, community boards and churches.
Each applicant will receive a number. If that number is drawn, he or she must submit tax returns, landlord references and bank statements to verify eligibility. Priority will be given to people with visual impairments and other disabilities, and secondarily, to those who live within the boundaries of Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 3, 6 and 8. Municipal workers also will have an advantage.
(Emphases added)

Note that, in public discussion (and, yes, most of my coverage), mention of the lottery cites the 50% priority to residents (or recently-departed residents) of the three Community Districts.

As I wrote in July 2006, covering an affordable housing information session:
There is a housing lottery, but the preferences announced, required by city regulations, deflated some people in the room. Half the affordable units—1125 of 2250—would be reserved for residents of the three Community Boards, CBs 2, 6, & 8. Five percent would go to police officers and another five percent to city employees. Five percent would go to the mobility-impaired and one percent each to the sight- and hearing-impaired. That’s two-thirds of the units, plus ten percent for seniors, though there could be some overlap.
Note that that was before the preference was expanded to residents of Community Board 3. Also note that the preferences may be re-allocated depending on different buildings. But it also means that a lot of people, especially those seeking low-income units, will be frustrated. 

On Instragram: can anyone help with this Pacific Park translation?

As I commented: Can someone help me with the narration here? Sounds like, "The New York way of life is a place that largely happened by accident. But what if it happened on purpose?" But maybe I'm hearing it wrong?

Either way, it sounds... pretty odd for a Pacific Park promotion.

A video posted by Pacific Park Brooklyn (@pacificparkbk) on

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Mission creep: Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific now closed more of weekend for crane assembly/installation (updated)

Update Friday 3:55 pm: The installation has been canceled, and will be rescheduled.

A community notice circulated yesterday indicates that, to accommodate assembly and installation of construction crane for the 38 Sixth Avenue tower (aka B3), Sixth Avenue between Pacific and Dean streets will be closed to through traffic beginning Saturday February 6 at 6 am until Sunday February 7 at 9 pm.

From Construction Alert
Note that this represents mission creep from the Construction Alert circulated two days earlier, which forecast the closure from 6 am to 6 pm Saturday and from 6 am to noon Sunday.

Local traffic, bicycles and emergency vehicles only will be permitted access. The east sidewalk of Sixth Avenue will remain open. Traffic Enforcement Agents and flaggers are supposed to be on site to assist with vehicular and pedestrian movements.

Yormark: "There are many ways to view the game if you’re in one of those obstructed seats."

From an interview with Barclays Center/Nets/Islanders CEO Brett Yormark (who said "attendance since the first nine games is up 23%") by Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Fuchs:
JF: I have to ask about the obstructed view seats. There’s been a lot of criticism. How much have you heard from fans and is there any movement to change it? 
BY: Our seating capacity is over 15,700. Within that capacity there’s a lot of great seats. Do we have some obstructed seats? Yes we do. Are fans aware of those obstructed seats before they purchase them? Yes they are. There’s really nothing we’re going to do from a capital improvement standpoint. You can watch the game on your mobile device. The game is on the scoreboard. There are many ways to view the game if you’re in one of those obstructed seats. We aren’t going to be able to change the seats in the building. That is what it is. But there are certainly other ways we can enhance the experience.
Even if Yormark meant people should consult the scoreboard at only certain times in the action, that didn't sit well. Dan Saraceni, on Lighthouse Hockey, commented:
(Also, memo to Brett Yormark: No one in their right mind is going to an arena to watch a hockey game on their phone. Erase that bullet point from your script, please)
As I wrote last June, arena officials in June 2012 said there'd be only 14,500 seats for hockey, of which about 1500 would be obscured. That was then increased to 15,813, then tweaked to 15,795. They're selling a lot more than "some" obstructed seats.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Lost in translation: how exhibit/book obscure story and controversy behind Gehry's Atlantic Yards

Exhibit at LACMA; photos by Norman Oder
When the massive Frank Gehry retrospective opened at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2014, Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Hawthorne suggested the exhibit drew a "sociological blank," as it omitted controversy, including "the political uproar that greeted his plan, sponsored by Bruce Ratner, to drop more than a dozen separate buildings and an NBA area into the middle of Brooklyn."

After observing the re-mounted and expanded retrospective (open through March 20) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and perusing the accompanying 2015 book, Frank Gehry, I'm afraid that Gehry's Atlantic Yards (mis)adventure is even more ill-treated.

LACMA exhibit panel

Sure, it's but one episode in Gehry's vast, mostly lauded career, one that went unnoticed in recent reviews.

But the failure to describe Atlantic Yards clearly thus obscures the mutually beneficial relationship between architects and real estate/political officials that helps gets projects built, especially in cities like New York.

The first gaps

First, Atlantic Yards--announced in 2003--goes unmentioned in the exhibit chronology, which skips from Gehry's 2001 Guggenheim exhibition to Sydney Pollack's 2006 documentary film, finally mentioning Gehry's 8 Spruce Street tower in Lower Manhattan, which opened in 2011.

(By the way, The wall text notes the building was also known as Beekman Tower, but omits developer Forest City Ratner's marketing name, New York by Gehry.)

Approaching the model of the 16-building project, even the caption attached--"Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Masterplan, model, 2003-2008 (unbuilt)"--is insufficient.

Sure, Gehry's buildings remain unbuilt, as he was dropped as architect during the 2008 recession. Developer Bruce Ratner ran the numbers and concluded that Gehry's voluminous arena, which would share mechanicals with four towers around it, would have to be shrunk and stand alone, at least for a while. (Two towers are now under construction on the arena's flank.)

LACMA caption
But Gehry's plan, indeed, had been approved in 2006, involving a significant override of city zoning by the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing and shepherding the project.

Today, the 22-acre project--renamed Pacific Park in 2014--is being built out at the approved 8 million square feet, a huge change in scale, especially when approaching the site from the residential blocks to the south and east.

Looking at the plan

Gehry got results. The presence of a world-famous architect helped neutralize resistance to Ratner's massive plan, which also involved significant public assistance (subsidies, tax breaks, low-cost land) and the state's use of eminent domain in a gentrifying neighborhood.
Gehry's Atlantic Yards plan
As I've noted, the model shows a new--and, obviously--scrapped version of the tower at Site 5, the current home of low-rise Modell's and P.C. Richard. It shows the B1 office tower, currently on hold, as well as designs for five towers.

Dissecting the book text
From the book

The accompanying book, by the Pompidou's Frédéric Migayrou and Aurélien Lemonier, muddies the project's history.

Lemonier's academically abstract language, which caused me to shake my head, probably made more sense in the original French:
Two scales are combined here: that of a growing need for housing and offices for the city of New York, and that of the renovation of the Atlantic Yards sector in Brooklyn. The proximity of one of the hubs to the metropolitan transit system at Atlantic Terminal allowed the neighborhood to be easily accessed. In order to increase the attractiveness of the site for companies, entertainment infrastructure was later associated to the project The stadium--the Brooklyn Arena at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue--was designed for the NBA basketball team, the Nets. A series of buildings of around 30 stories each constituted the new physiognomy of this neighborhood (which was not very developed at that time), combining the various scales of offices, housing, and shops. The work on positioning the buildings, along with the creation of pedestrian access to the center of the plots arrayed in strips, produced a hierarchy in the forms of circulation and gave rise to variety in the public spaces.
Let's look closely.

The "growing need for housing and offices"? Well, Atlantic Yards, upon launch, was promoted as "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," but most of the promised 10,000 office jobs were quickly swapped for condos. In other words, the developer and city had misread the need for offices.

The "Atlantic Yards sector of Brooklyn"? There was never such thing. "Atlantic Yards" was a brand name conceived by Ratner's firm, cleverly yoking privately-owned land and city streets to an 8.5-acre railyard, not a cohesive location. The association of the project site with the railyard, formally known as the Vanderbilt Yard, obscured the need for eminent domain.

Nor could there still be an "Atlantic Yards sector," since the name vanished in 2014 after Ratner acquired a new joint venture partner/overseer, the Shanghai government-owned Greenland Group.

Was "entertainment infrastructure was later associated with the project"? Hello, the arena--built to house sporting events, concerts, and family shows--was from the start used to leverage Ratner's pursuit of the larger site.

A "series of buildings of around 30 stories each"? Actually, the buildings on the southern flank of the site are generally smaller--a few about 20 stories--while the tallest exceed 50 stories. Gehry, to his credit, tried to punctuate the skyline rather than create a monolithic project.

Was the "neighborhood... not very developed at this time"? Well, the 22-acre site wasn't a neighborhood, but rather a section of Prospect Heights. (Still, the developers today tout Pacific Park Brooklyn as "Brooklyn's newest neighborhood.")

The book
If it was "not very developed," it was undergoing change. Blocks in the site included handsome row houses and three former industrial buildings rehabbed as condominiums and office space, and, yes, fallow buildings and empty lots.

Ratner cleverly proposed a project just before public officials and neighborhood activists began to grapple with rezonings and/or the sale of railyard development rights.

Finally, regarding pedestrian access, the Atlantic Yards design was widely criticized (including by the Municipal Art Society) for demapping a major street at the center of the eastern segment and providing enclave-like open space mainly aimed at residents, rather than the public at large. Today, Greenland Forest City Partners misleadingly proclaims the open space a "park."

In 2005 Gehry said that typically he would have brought in "five other architects" to work on such a large project, but his client Ratner required him to design it all. Today, four firms [SHoP, CookFox, KPF, Marvel] are working on six towers, and a fifth firm [Ellerbe Becket] collaborated on the arena. But Gehry's Atlantic Yards master plan was far more of a success than the exhibit suggests.

Other perspectives

The Los Angeles Times's Christopher Hawthorne 9/29/15 wrote:
The result is a view of Gehry that is deeply informed if always admiring — and one that is given plenty of room to unfurl, with space at the close of the show for a number of the oversized models that he and his design partners rely on, a major omission in Paris.
..If it also fails to confront with any force the weaknesses of the Gehry projects that have slid off track — the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Stata Center at MIT and the IAC building in Manhattan are among the most flawed — it joins not just previous Gehry retrospectives in that reluctance but also Paul Goldberger's new biography of the architect
Curbed's Alexandra Lange wrote 10/15/15:
But Gehry has tried and tried again to build them bigger, as at the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, represented by an enormous model in the exhibition (Gehry's proposal for the development was ultimately scrapped). In enlarging his idea of difference, Gehry seems to lose the small, material-based touches that make his early work endearing in its awkwardness. And when you go big, you tend to lose touch with the street. What would Gehry have done at the ground level in Brooklyn? We'll never know, and so his ability to design space between the skyscraper and the house is still an enormous question mark.
Another Gehry view

I took a photo of his much lauded Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles.