Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Errol Louis: AY site = railyard + junkyard (Voice: nope)

There was so much to criticize in Errol Louis's July 16 column in Our Time Press that I neglected to point out the dishonest description he offered of the proposed Atlantic Yards site:
The high stakes of the fight over Atlantic Yards were on full display at the Brooklyn Marriott, when Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the $3.5 billion project, held an information session about the 2,250 subsidized apartments scheduled to be built on a site in Prospect Heights currently being used as a junkyard and a parking facility for Long Island Railroad trains.
(Emphasis added)

That suggests that, outside of the 8.3-acre railyard, the rest of the 22-acre site is a junkyard. Well, tell that to P.C. Richard and Modell's, or to Freddy's bar (part of the row above), or to the 60 or so people still living in a dozen or so buildings in the footprint, many of whom may have to leave if the Empire State Development Corporation uses eminent domain to get rent-stabilized tenants out of Forest City Ratner-owned buildings.

Making FCR sound like DDDB

Louis has gone well beyond Forest City Ratner's description last year to the New York City Council, which more accurately but still rather narrowly depicted the site.

Note that the term "some residential buildings" includes several row houses, two buildings renovated into luxury condos, and one building with high-end co-ops.

Voices from the Voice

Meanwhile, in a Village Voice article this week headlined Life in the Footprint: Parting Shots from the People in the Path of the Atlantic Yards, Cynthia Carr offers sympathetic portrayals of the working-class folk still left in rent-regulated buildings. The article does not, however, mention how eminent domain would be used on Ratner-owned buildings with rent-regulated tenants, which a lawyer for some of the tenants says is a means to get them out.

Carr writes:
Today, apart from the homeless shelter, 118 residents remain in the footprint. They are less moneyed, but rooted, and on the whole crankier....
On December 11, 2003, David Sheets went down to Freddy's after work to read the Times, like he always does, and there was Herbert Muschamp's review of the Frank Gehry design for Atlantic Yards, complete with map. Sheets remembers that night at Freddy's, a saloon that functions like the neighborhood living room: "We were all sitting there, like—what is this? That's my house!" Indeed, most locals reported that they found out from the paper or TV that they were about to be forced from their homes....
Maria Gonzalez has been living there for 34 years. We sat on facing plastic-covered couches in the second room of her immaculate railroad flat. She has two daughters in apartments upstairs, other family in both this building and Victoria's, and that's what matters to her. If she moves, she wants her kids with her. "An apartment for my children and my children's children." Her landlord doesn't want to sell to Ratner, but Maria seems resigned to losing her home. She has already worked out a worst-case scenario in her mind, a plan to put her things in storage if the building's condemned. But mostly, she says, she doesn't like to think about it.


So much for the junkyard.

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