Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Marty's "letter" on Atlantic Yards: it depends on the meaning of "soon" (and more)

In the Spring 2007 issue of his promotional "Brooklyn !!" publication, Borough President Marty Markowitz finally addresses Atlantic Yards, a subject he has assiduously avoided in this venue, but he can't avoid skewing the facts.

He begins with a statement of support:
The Atlantic Yards project took an important step forward when the state approved the project in December.

Benefits soon?

Then, however, he starts straining:
Atlantic Yards promises not only the return of professional sports to Brooklyn, but the creation of union jobs, affordable housing, and the kind of downtown our thriving and growing borough deserves. We will soon be reaping these and other benefits, such as world-class architecture, an on-site school, street-level shopping, and accessible open space, which will enhance Downtown Brooklyn, knitting together neighborhoods to create a vibrant new center of city life.
(Emphasis added)

Soon? It's hardly clear that an "on-site school" would be a benefit to anyone other those in the project--and the school still wouldn't be big enough and wouldn't be built until after 2010.

Similarly, the publicly accessible open space wouldn't begin until after Phase 1 is finished (2010) and, in the best-case scenario, be completed by 2016. (If he's talking about privately-accessible open space on the arena roof, well, that might happen by 2010, but that's hardly a benefit "we" might reap.)

As for the 2016 target, company executives acknowledge that a ten-year buildout is a long shot, which also would delay the affordable housing. And it's hardly certain that the project would "knit together neighborhoods;" BrooklynSpeaks makes a pretty good case that it would be a barrier.

Frank Gehry is a world-class architect, but several critics have already questioned whether this project represents world-class architecture.

Meaningful cuts?

Markowitz continues by claiming victory:
During the project’s planning process, I suggested changes including a reduction in size, asking that the “Miss Brooklyn” building not be taller than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, and that the project’s four tallest buildings be reduced in size. I am encouraged that my request to limit height was heeded. I also called for increased open space, and am pleased that a full acre was added to the plan.

Of course, the flagship Miss Brooklyn tower would still block the bank's clock and, as I previously discovered, plans to reduce the project's buildings had been on the table since the beginning of last year, months before Markowitz suggested his changes.

Traffic mitigations

He offers a nod to community concerns:
Mitigating traffic, parking, and construction and infrastructure issues will be a top priority for my office in the days ahead, especially now that preliminary work on the site has started. I remain committed to resolving these issues efficiently and equitably.

Note that Markowitz's efforts to mitigate traffic and parking issues were roundly ignored by the Empire State Development Corporation.

He closes:
We must continue to engage the best minds to address quality-of-life concerns, and work together to ensure that this project delivers on its promise of setting a new standard for urban development across America—which I truly believe it will. At this phase of Atlantic Yards’ development, the more voices and energy dedicated to these goals, the better.

Does a new standard mean "densest residential project in the country"? Weren't the "best minds" supposed to help evaluate the project before it was approved, not after?

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