Monday, May 15, 2006

"Super design for a great project," says the Daily News (no surprise)

The Daily News editorial page has staunchly supported the Atlantic Yards project, and yesterday's editorial, headlined A super design for a great project, was no surprise. It begins:
The latest designs for the Atlantic Yards development are in, and they are stunning. More than ever, this is a project that must be built - for the good of the city, for the good of Brooklyn and for the good of the thousands of working-class New Yorkers who will get affordable apartments in a spanking-new neighborhood.

There's a strong argument for density at the railyard site, and for affordable housing as part of new construction, but that doesn't equal cheerleading for the single-source Atlantic Yards plan. There's no mention, of course, of the public costs of the project, or Forest City Ratner's dubious economic projections.

Update

The editorial would become fodder for a full-page ad in the 5/29/06 Courier-Life.

About the roof

The editorial notes:
The new arena would blend into a new backdrop and be topped by 3 acres of vegetation, designed to become something of a sanctuary for migrating birds. Adding to enviro-friendliness, rainwater that falls on the 21 acres would be collected, filtered and reused, primarily in the aforementioned ponds.

First, the project would be 22 acres, not 21 acres. Second, however welcome the vegetation might be, it shouldn't be forgotten that the arena roof was originally pitched as a public park, and even Borough President Marty Markowitz was upset about the switch.

NIMBYs, right

The editorial takes on the opponents:
So what's the rub? A small number of property owners is holding out, potentially requiring the use of eminent domain if futher negotiations are fruitless. And some community activists, including chi-chi Hollywood types, think their lives in upscale abodes that are, say, a mile or so away will be crimped somehow. And in full, elitist sanctimony, they cry that the project will defile the character of Brooklyn.

The biggest concern in the community, according to a survey by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, is traffic. City Council Member David Yassky said in March that, "unless there’s a serious and concrete plan” regarding traffic, “I think the project has to be resisted on that ground alone.”

So it's hardly elitist to worry about the spillover effects from the largest development in the history of Brooklyn. After all, the Daily News was the first paper to report that several local politicians, including Atlantic Yards supporter Roger Green, want the project scaled down by a third.

And the newspaper's own Mike Lupica on the same day observed:
This remains, in broad daylight, one of the great shell games in the history of real estate in New York City.
Only the people in the neighborhood look at this thing honestly


If the project were really so super, then why did Forest City Ratner issue such a misleading brochure?

It's about the housing

The editorial makes the pitch for affordable housing:
What Brooklyn? The Brooklyn where they sip lattes, or the Brooklyn that would gain 1,800 apartments for families of four with incomes of $56,720 or less - none paying more than 30% of their income in rent. Another 450 apartments would be reserved for families with slightly higher incomes, and none of them would pay more than 30% of their incomes for rent.
That's not ruining Brooklyn, that's building a Brooklyn where real people can afford to live in decent surroundings.


But the characterization lacks perspective. There would be 2250 affordable rental units, and 2250 market-rate rentals. On top of that, there would be 2360 market-rate condos on site, plus 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units on or offsite (likely offsite). This is, more than anything else, a luxury housing project.

And the numbers are imprecise. The income limit for those 1800 apartments would be $62,800, not $56,720. And the "slightly higher incomes" go up to six figures.

[Updated: 10/10/07: Now it would be about 1100 apartments, not 1800.)

Yes, a significant percentage of affordable housing is a good thing. However, as noted, the affordable housing represents a zoning bonus privately negotiated between Ratner and ACORN, unlike, say, in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning, where the rules were set by City Council. Who decided the project should be the current size?

It was once about jobs

Finally, it's curious that the Daily News doesn't acknowledge how job projections have shrunk. On 1/25/04, an editorial stated, "Having a pro sports team relocate to Brooklyn would become the vivid emblem of the borough's renaissance while producing that most elusive treasure, jobs." Forest City Ratner likes that out-of-date quote enough to reproduce it on its web site. But that "most elusive treasure" is more elusive now.

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