Tuesday, April 18, 2006

From "Miss Brooklyn" to "Ms. Brooklyn": belated feminism or defensive tactic?

Little-noticed in the 3/31/06 Forest City Ratner press release announcing changes to the Atlantic Yards project was the renaming of Frank Gehry's 620-foot tower, which would become the borough's largest, from "Miss Brooklyn" to "Ms. Brooklyn."

The original name was announced in the 7/5/05 unveiling of Gehry's designs; the New York Times reported (Instant Skyline Added to Arena Plan):
At the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, an office, hotel and residential tower dubbed Miss Brooklyn by its designer would soar 620 feet, roughly 60 stories, balanced by a new 40-story tower across Flatbush Avenue at Fourth Avenue.
(Gehry model below from 7/5/05 New York Times; addenda via NoLandGrab.org. Revised designs are expected.)


The name was repeated in the Fall (mid-October) issue of FCR's Brooklyn Standard. The recent change in name got notice but no explanation in the Courier-Life chain and the Brooklyn Papers.

The change may have been last minute, since the AtlanticYards.com FAQ maintains the previous name:
The height of the buildings will range from approximately 184 feet to 620 feet or 19 to 58 stories. "Miss Brooklyn," the building proposed to be located at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, will be the tallest, at 620 feet.

Why the change?

Given that FCR officials and p.r. people don't answer my questions, I'll have to speculate on the reasons.

1) Perhaps this is a belated recognition that, in the 21st century, calling a building "Miss" just doesn't cut it, even if the architect designing it was reared in an earlier era of gallantry. The problem with that explanation is that the developer, Gehry, and the p.r. team had a lot of time to consider their message before unveiling "Miss Brooklyn" last July.

2) More plausible is that the renaming prevents critics from using the term "Miss" as a verb. As Aaron Naparstek wrote in the New York Press last July, in a column headlined Grumbles About Gehry:
The designs are so bad they’re almost funny. Gehry calls the 70-story skyscraper at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush “Miss Brooklyn,” as in, “We’ll sure miss Brooklyn if this crap gets built.”

We can't ms. Brooklyn, can we? But maybe there's another explanation--the question is worth asking.

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