Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A dozen planned demolitions would create "facts on the ground," isolate plaintiffs

With the filing of papers preliminary to the demolition of 12 properties it owns within the Atlantic Yards footprint, developer Forest City Ratner--even as a pending eminent domain case constrains it from construction work on the planned arena--seems poised to create "facts on the ground," empty lots that would foster both a perception of isolation and a sense of the project's inevitability.

The demolitions would include the Ward Bakery on Pacific Street, which preservationists have hoped to see saved for adaptive reuse, but instead would be razed for an interim surface parking lot.

Among those most starkly impacted would be the residents still within the 22-acre footprint. Take, for example, the four story apartment house at 624 Pacific Street (above). In the fall of the 2005, when the above picture was taken, the house was bordered on both sides by existing buildings.

Last summer, after the developer demolished two properties to the west deemed structurally unsound, 624 Pacific (right) was bordered on one side by empty lots. Should the developer follow through on plans filed in the past week to demolish 12 properties, including 626 Pacific just east of the residential building, the residents, who have filed suit in state court to block the condemnation of their building, would be further isolated.

(The suit, which involves 13 rent-stabilized tenants, says the Empire State Development Corporation shouldn't be allowed to override state housing laws. Unlike the eminent domain lawsuit filed by a separate set of 13 plaintiffs in federal court, the state suit does not challenge the rationale of the project as a whole.)

Demolitions on the way

While a 2/20/07 Forest City Ratner press release announced the beginning of site preparation work and the commencement of demolition of one building, 179 Flatbush Avenue, papers filed by the developer with the Department of Buildings (DOB), mainly in the past week, indicate much greater ambitions. The demolitions have not yet been approved by the DOB.
(Map by NoLandGrab, updated 3/8/07--click to enlarge. Note that some of the properties in white are owned by Forest City Ratner and could be demolished after the filing and approval of permits. Others are not owned by the developer and are subject to condemnation. Most of the property between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.)

The developer did not respond to a press inquiry yesterday about the timing, but a worker told Dean Street resident Peter Krashes that the demolitions could begin within six weeks, and an FCR representative said that community residents would get about a month's notice. (Ward Bakery at right)

Both phases targeted

The demolitions would involve properties in Phase 1 (the arena block, scheduled for completion in 2010) and Phase 2 (east of Sixth Avenue, scheduled for completion in 2016), where buildings would be razed for interim surface parking. (Here's the current block and lot map.)

Among those slated for demolition are a building at 465 Dean Street (partial view, at right) between Flatbush and Sixth avenues; it borders an empty lot created when the developer last year demolished two row houses. (Photo from fall of 2005, before the houses were demolished.)

Last year the developer demolished five properties, some of which occupied several tax lots.

In its response to the ESDC's blight study, which cited water damage in the building, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn noted that "Just before FCR purchased 465 Dean, in May 2004, a mental health not-for-profit had been preparing to open offices in the building and had sent in workers to put the building in order. Instead, FCR’s purchase kept the building vacant."

Demolitions are also planned for 618, 626, 642, 644, and 646 Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, 193 Flatbush Avenue, and 191 Flatbush Avenue/616 Pacific Street, the former home of Harriet’s Alter Ego.

On the eastern end of the project, where an interim surface parking lot would sit for in the southeast block years--perhaps only a few, perhaps decades--demolitions are planned for
800, 814, 818 Pacific Street, and 536-538, 542, and 546 Vanderbilt Avenue.

Parking for construction workers would be on that southeast block bounded by Pacific Street, Vanderbilt Avenue, Carlton Avenue and Dean Street.

The interim surface parking plans have concerned a lot of people. (Above, an unofficial rendering--adapted from renderings by landscape architect Laurie Olin--of the entire site east of Sixth Avenue as either surface parking, staging, or railyards.)

The lot would persist during the construction of the first stage, over four years, which would include five towers and the arena. It could last much longer, as Olin recently admitted that the ten-year construction plan would more likely take 20 years, which has generated further criticism.

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