Sunday, April 16, 2006

Current conditions? Don't trust the photos on FCR's web site

There's a slideshow on the new Atlantic Yards web site (dubbed AtlanticYards.con by Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab.org) that purports to show the current conditions of buildings in the project footprint. While some conditions are current, others are decidedly stale, thus obscuring renovations or new signage.

Notably, as shown at left, the residential building at 636 Pacific Street, renovated in 2002, is shown in pre-renovation state. At right is a photo I shot yesterday. This is also the building where Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein lives (and since he hasn't sold and signed a gag order as part of the process, he hangs a DDDB sign from his window).

Forest City Ratner is trying to have it both ways: on the one hand, this building seems blighted (and thus a justification for the exercise of eminent domain); on the other, this was a building where condo owners, according to the New York Times, doubled their money. Forest City Ratner wasn't paying handsomely for an empty shell; they were paying some upper middle-class residents who had invested in a nice apartment to hand over their apartments and to desist from any support of groups opposing the Atlantic Yards project.

Missing BUILD

At left is 640 Pacific Street, described on AtlanticYards.com as a "low-density commercial/other use" building. At right is the photo I shot yesterday, which shows the sign at 640 Pacific and the renovated facade of its neighbor.



While 640 Pacific Street (not Avenue, as the slideshow states) is low-density--it could be four floors and about 50 percent larger given the current Floor Area Ratio allowed, the site likely could accommodate more density, if its eight-story neighbor is a cue. That's an argument for rezoning.

However, to build an arena (this building would be near center court) and four much more dense surrounding buildings of 620 feet, 511 feet, 428 feet, and 322 feet, there's no rezoning. Because this is a state project, the Empire State Development Corporation can override current zoning.

There's little excuse for Forest City Ratner not to provide a current photo of the building. After all, they're offering the space rent-free to BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), which FCR funded even as the developer and BUILD denied such funding.

Back of a building

At left, 463 Dean Street is shown on FCR's slideshow as a dilapidated residential building--but that's an unusual second building in the back part of the lot. (At right are the two buildings of 461 and 463 Dean Street at the street line, from Brooklyn Views in December.)



Engineer Jay Butler, hired to represent community groups in their challenge to FCR's plans to demolish buildings on five properties it owns, said in an affidavit that the building was worth saving:
There is a 3-story structure in the rear yard of 463 Dean Street. This type of building is potentially valuable because construction in the rear 30 feet of a lot is no longer permitted (except at corner lots). If demolished it could not be rebuilt. For this reason, most owners would invest in preservation rather than allow it to fall into ruin.

Forest City Ratner also plans to demolish 461 and 463 Dean Street, relying on a report by their engineers, which said that the interiors had deteriorated significantly. Butler, who was not allowed to inspect the interiors, gave a preliminary assessment:
Any defects to the buildings or threats to public safety appear to be consistent with conditions found at countless other buildings in New York City. Such defects can be safely stabilized with commonly-used repair measures.
...In other parts of New York City (Harlem, Clinton, Greenwich Village, Brooklyn Heights, etc.) buildings with these exterior conditions would be restored, particularly the severely damaged rear unit.


What does it look like?

Forest City Ratner's slideshow left out some of the nicer buildings, like the renovated Spalding factory at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street (photo taken yesterday). For some of the better buildings in the site footprint, look at the brief compilation by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. And for the most balanced (and broad) photo essay of buildings and lots in the footprint, go to Forgotten NY.

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