New York, as generations have been taught by the late Jane Jacobs, is a self-organizing place that fixes itself. But let the additional truth be told that though the life of the block is self-organizing, the block itself that lets life happen was made by the hand of a city planner. As the Mayor said, and knows, what we want the city to look like in 2030 will depend on the rules we make now. Aggressive policies for housing, especially low-income housing; a reasonable process of review to help neighborhoods remain neighborhoods; a less passive welcome to every form of monster store; more support for tenants and small merchants—all of these things are worth arguing for, and legislating for, too. This mayor, who came to power as the ultimate entrepreneurial capitalist, has been willing to impose rules—from banning smoking in bars to cutting out the trans fats in pastries—that make the city the kind of place he thinks it ought to be.
And how exactly does the Atlantic Yards project fit into that framework? Gopnik doesn't address that, but we can test the reality against the ideal.
After all, as the hardly radical Regional Plan Association testified in August:
Unfortunately, the public review process for the Atlantic Yards project is part of a pattern in which the State and the City enter into an agreement with a single developer prior to a full debate of alternatives. Ideally, this strategically vital piece of public real estate would have been the subject of a planning exercise…