Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2007

The NYT on AY, 2007: fit to blog, fit to print?

Some important news about Atlantic Yards this year has appeared only in the online version of the New York Times, not the print edition of the Paper of Record, and some has been ignored completely, some has been distorted, and some has been delayed. (And, yes, some important news appeared in the Times first.)

The other daily newspapers have been quite variable, too, in their coverage of AY; the dailies can't even keep up with the daily flow of news, much less advance the story with enterprise reporting and investigations.

While the advance of the Times's City Room blog holds some promise for more comprehensive local coverage, the dailies can't keep up with AY; readers have to keep consulting blogs, the Brooklyn media, and the New York Observer.

The belated security scoop

Remember, the Times's article regarding the news--both a scoop and an unacknowledged correction--that the Atlantic Yards arena would be only 20 feet from the street, rather than 75 feet, as previously rep…

The tale of an ESDC non-correction

This may seem to be a minor story, but it does suggest a double standard, in which the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) seems more concerned about having an error I made corrected than correcting another error it made itself.

On November 5, shortly after I posted a document I attributed to the ESDC that indicated that the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge would take two years rather than nine months, I got a flurry of phone calls and e-mails from ESDC spokesmen indicating that I should correct my article, given that it was not an official ESDC document.

I did so, though the information--a summary apparently prepared by a Community Board after an ESDC meeting--was not inaccurate.

What was inaccurate was my interpretation that the duration of the bridge's reconstruction had just been announced. However, my error was based on an error in an ESDC document, which has not been corrected.

Therein lies the tale.

From nine months to two years

I had based my belief that the b…

Private investment, public costs: Fenway Park, Atlantic Yards, and more

So how much would the public contribute to the Atlantic Yards arena? At a panel held at the Museum of the City of New York on 9/27/07, titled Take Me Out to the Brand-New Ballpark (here's a report from e-Oculus), well-respected sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who nonetheless produced a rather skewed Atlantic Yards study for Forest City Ratner, lowballed the figure.

Looking at Fenway

Janet Marie Smith, senior VP of planning and development for the Boston Red Sox and architect behind the redesign of Fenway Park, was the most notable speaker on the panel, sketching out the history of ballparks in the country. Fenway Park, dating from 1912, has managed to not just survive but thrive, even as most other facilities from that generation were demolished and supplanted by suburban or semi-suburuban stadiums. And parks like Fenway (and long-gone Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers) since inspired a new wave of retro urban facilities.

The earlier generation, Smith noted, "fit int…

"Sane extension" of Downtown Brooklyn? AY in some more context

Development (and its potential/discontents) is the story of Brooklyn, so yesterday Bob Guskind of the Gowanus Lounge did us a service by ranking the top 15 stories of the year.

While Atlantic Yards comes in second--a tad generous, I think--more important is the context. AY surely seems less anomalous as other high-rise development comes to the borough, yet at the same time might merit disproportionate concern, given how the city has since learned, as exemplified in the controversy over Coney Island, both to challenge a developer and to promise a more consultative public process.

By Guskind's count, Coney Island ranks first, the halting progress of Atlantic Yards comes in second, and the rebranding of Williamsburg comes in third, followed by, among others, the "Brooklyn Construction Crisis," the return of landmarking, the New Domino project in Williamsburg, "the Flatbush Corridor Boom," "the Carroll Gardens Development Revolt," the "Hotel Boom,"…

The Glory Days and the "public purpose" of a new stadium

Looking for something to do over the weekend? The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957, a bang-up exhibit about the rivalry and cultural presence of the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, and New York Giants, is running just through December 31 at the Museum of the City of New York.

As we know, the latter two teams left for the West Coast and, if you believe Brooklynites of a certain vintage, the borough has never quite recovered--and won't, until we get the Nets and Atlantic Yards.

(At right, the companion volume. More on baseball stadiums tomorrow.)

At the museum

The museum display explains that Ebbets was built in 1913 "in a suburban and somewhat seedy location." That of course changed as the neighborhood developed, but owner Walter O'Malley wanted a new stadium in/near Downtown Brooklyn. The city's power broker, Robert Moses, as well as many in the political establishment, weren't buying it.

A 10/20/53 letter (right) from Moses to O'Malley shows the fo…

Balancing community input regarding the West Side yards

They're discussing traffic and infrastructure and sustainability and open space before any developer is chosen for the West Side yards.

This goes well beyond the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement or housing advocate Bertha Lewis of ACORN candidly saying, "I can't do environment. I can’t do traffic."

And it's not a developer-funded poll, as with the New Domino development, that sets out a false choice between tall buildings with affordable housing and smaller buildings without it, without presenting the details of the project under discussion.

From the 12/14/07 Rail Yards blog:
As promised, here’s a quick discussion of the break-out sessions moderated (in some cases) by members of Friends of the High Line at the community forum presented by Community Board 4 on Monday. The graph above represents some of the main concerns expressed by the various groups (there were 13 groups in all, so you can get a feel for what concerns people most). Some surprises: That th…

Marty says he doesn't know why Doctoroff had second thoughts re AY

The Brooklyn Paper's edited year-end interview with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz includes most of what he says about Atlantic Yards, but a link to the full audio segment provides a tantalizing coda. In it, Markowitz tells editor-in-chief Gersh Kuntzman that he doesn't know why Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff acknowledged Atlantic Yards should have gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) rather than the state review.

The answer, most likely, is that Doctoroff is having second thoughts about the procedure behind Atlantic Yards and Markowitz, at least publicly, won't allow such thoughts. Also, Doctoroff can afford to have some second thoughts; his departure comes as he has accomplished many of his goals, while Markowitz's highest-profile project, Atlantic Yards, remains slowed.

Under ULURP, the local community boards hold advisory votes, and the City Council must approve a project. Projects involving state property, such as the West S…

Clear enough? Misreading the Extell interview regarding Atlantic Yards

Errol Louis, columnist for the New York Daily News and the black-oriented Our Time Press, supports Atlantic Yards, which led him to a very selective reading of a recent interview with the head of the Extell Development Company, the only company besides Forest City Ratner to respond to the belated RFP issued by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for its Vanderbilt Yard.

As part of his "Commerce and Community" column (not online, but click below right to enlarge) in the 12/16/07 issue of Our Time Press, Louis included a segment headlined "The Non-Alternative to Atlantic Yards." He began:
Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, when asked what alternative use they'd like to see at the site, often trot out the plan proposed by Extell Development, which put in a bid that was rejected by the MTA, which owns the rail yards that dominate the project site.

Louis is a tad late on this, given that opponents first proposed the mid-rise UNITY plan in 2004, then endorse…

Groups receiving FCR aid say more positive stories should be written about FCR's project

An article appearing in last week's issue of the Courier-Life chain read a bit like something out of The Onion, if you read between the lines.

The article, headlined Yards proponents: Leave Bruce alone, began by casting Forest City Ratner and its partners as the underdog:
Local supporters of the Atlantic Yards project charged last week that the community is being choked out of any positive coverage occurring between developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and the local community.

Well, "the community" isn't being choked, because it's hard to define what exactly "the community" is. Yes, most of the coverage lately has been critical, but that could be attributed to the understanding that, while many arguments have been made in favor of jobs and housing, elected officials have become more concerned about arena security and even Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff acknowledges that the process was inadequate.

Paging the CBA

The article says supporters point out…

The Mobil station on Flatbush and Dean has closed

The "blighted" Mobil gas station (right photo from last summer) at the northwest corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street has closed, and the building, presumably, will be dismantled. I've been told that franchise owner John Tsao was to reopen on Myrtle Avenue.

Below: photos taken yesterday.The buildings to the left of and behind the station retain plaintiffs in pending lawsuits.Note the missing Mobil sign.

Streetsblog: drivers at Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic resigned to Merry Gridlock

During the rush hour last Thursday morning, Streetsblog editor Aaron Naparstek and StreetFilms' Nick Whitaker stationed themselves at the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues to check out a "Gridlock Alert Day" at one of the city's most congested intersections (video).

As Streetsblog states: After about 25 interviews with drivers it became pretty clear that if City Hall truly wants to reduce traffic congestion during the holiday season, it needs to do a whole lot more than just say, "Hey, everybody it's a Gridlock Alert!"

Streetsblog suggests taking a cue from London, which has implemented congestion pricing and even closes major shopping streets (though not necessarily an artery like Fourth Avenue) for holiday shopping.

However, as Naparstek declares near the end of the short film, "Pretty much everyone we're talking to says that the traffic congestion today is, as you expect, atrocious. Congestion pricing doesn't really see…

Forest City Ratner: King of the PILOTs

It's a Christmas story, sort of. Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, writing last Thursday in a column headlined Deals that lead to lost property taxes, highlighted the city's annual loss of $107 million "in property taxes last year because of privately negotiated deals with some of the world's richest companies." The abatements average "a whopping 60% per company." (Graphic from Daily News)

Well, the deals may have seemed reasonable at the time, but... there's little oversight of PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes), incentive deals to keep jobs in town. Only after a 2005 audit from city Comptroller William Thompson did the City Council require the mayor's office to report to the Council speaker regarding PILOT revenues and expenditures.

Focus on FCR

The report Gonzalez obtained presented Brooklyn's biggest developer as the city's savviest dealmaker. He wrote:
The undisputed king of PILOTs is real estate developer Bruce Ratner. His Forest Cit…

PlaNYC 1950: why parking shouldn't be required at apartment projects like Atlantic Yards

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's much-praised PlaNYC 2030 contains a glaring omission, a failure to address the antiquated anti-urban policy that mandates parking attached to new residential developments outside Manhattan, even when such developments, like Atlantic Yards, are justified precisely because they're located near transit hubs.

Last year, several commentators on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) questioned the provision of parking--not just interim surface lots, but also the 2570 underground spaces intended for the project's residential component and an additional 1100 underground spaces for the arena.

(Map from Atlantic Yards web site.)

The issue persists

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) dismissed the questions, but the issue won't go away. The provision of parking for residents is another reason why Atlantic Yards doesn't meet the "sustainability test," argued Hunter College planning professor Tom Angotti in the …

The AY omission in the Times's architectural round-up

New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's year-end round-up in today's paper, headlined Manhattan’s Year of Building Furiously, curiously omits mention of Atlantic Yards when it might have been expected.

After reflecting on the Robert Moses re-examination and the decline of architecture driven by the public realm, he writes:
Additionally, New York is about to embark on a handful of vast developments that could alter its character more than any projects since the 1960s. Twenty-five million square feet of commercial space is planned for Midtown. Madison Square Garden and the woeful Knicks may relocate to the site of the James A. Farley Post Office building, which was supposed to be a grand site for a new Penn Station. An enormous expansion of the Columbia University campus into Harlem has enraged local residents. And let’s not forget ground zero, a black hole of political posturing, cynical real estate deals and outright stupidity.

To date, there is little sign that i…