Skip to main content

The "park" at Stuy Town--a harbinger of Atlantic Yards?

"Lots of New Yorkers visit parks, but not many live in one." So goes the promotion (click to enlarge) for Stuyvesant Town, the newly-privatized complex for which, along with neighboring Peter Cooper Village, developer Tishman Speyer agreed to pay $5.4 billion last October.

Now they've got to make it pay off, raising rents on the apartments that are no longer rent-stabilized. The tariff: 1 bedroom from $2975, 2 bedrooms from $3900, and 3 bedrooms from $5300.

And to sell it, the developer claims that the open space in the 80-acre, 110-building development is a "park." (A print ad further states: "Work out in an 80-acre park right outside your door.")

It's not. It's privately-managed, publicly-accessible open space and, as this City Council document (about access) shows, private interests do not necessarily match public ones.

AY warning

Stuyvesant Town's open space serves more as a private park than a public one, and thus has been targeted by Atlantic Yards critics as the poster child for what to avoid. "Would there be an invisible "keep out" sign, as in Stuyvesant Town or other apartment complexes with interior parks?" wrote Anne Schwartz last August in the Gotham Gazette.

Schwartz cited the analysis by the Municipal Art Society (MAS), which pointed to the importance of extending open space to the streets, so it is welcoming to the public.

MAS is part of BrooklynSpeaks, which has cautioned, "The problem is that the open space proposed won’t feel public, because it will be situated directly behind buildings. The park space is likely to feel more like a private backyard than a public park, similar to Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan."

BrooklynSpeaks goes further, arguing that the "open space should not only be publicly accessible, but be mapped as public parkland and designed to feel public."

AY open space

An October 2004 flier (right) from Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner promised that the open space would be "for the entire Brooklyn community to enjoy."

On the Atlantic Yards web site, the developer promises it "will transform portions of the exposed rail yards into publicly accessible open space that everyone can enjoy."

Of course, crucial to the Atlantic Yards open space would be the demapping of city streets, notably Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, as the New York Observer noted in a 2/25/07 profile of landscape architect Laurie Olin.

Would they call it a park?

The developer has been careful, so far, not to call the open space a park. Others have been less cautious; in court on 2/7/07 for the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, Douglas Kraus, an attorney for the Empire State Development Corporation, declared "the creation of public parks" to be one of the public purposes served by the project.

[Update: Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab points out how Bruce Ratner predicted "parks" in an interview with the Post's Andrea Peyser.]

Would the real estate agents marketing Atlantic Yards--the same ilk who identify Gowanus as Park Slope and Bed-Stuy as Clinton Hill--resist the temptation to deem Olin's creation a "park" to help sell luxury condos to new residents?

Comments

  1. The languaging of the sales pitch presented here selling Stuyvesant Town is marvelously astute in its subtle reenforcement of the idea that the “park” it describes is private to the residents of Stuyvesant Town. In listing the “park” parts of Stuyvesant Town it describes Stuyvesant Oval as “a COMMON SPACE where RESIDENTS CAN unwind by the fountain and enjoy wireless internet access or BRING FRIENDS to FREE concerts.” And goes on to say, with repetition of a key phrase, “RESIDENTS CAN enjoy playing bocce, paddle tennis. .” The picture of the space is conspicuously labeled “home” and referred to as “the space around US” setting up a we/they dichotomy. Consistent with expressing things in we/they dichotomy terms it says, “Lots of New Yorkers visit parks, but not many live in one.” In one corner of the presentation there is even the phrase “PRIVACY POLICY legal notice” (Emphasis is supplied in capital in all the above.)

    The language never refers to the space as a “public park.” Instead it opts to use the term “common space” which in the real estate world of New York City cooperatives and condominium has a general connotation of space open only to those who share in its “ownership,” space such as lobbies, hallways and community rooms to which the general public can be denied access. The phrasing “residents can” “bring friends” suggests that those friends get there by “invitation” of the residents rather than intruding on the space as uninvited members of the public. By comparison, it is doubtful that sales language for an exclusive co-op beside Central Park and offering its amenities as positives would toy with these subtle language tricks to emphasize exclusivity and possession.

    But, to be fair, the Stuyvesant lawns must be sold as they have been designed and for what they are. If the Ratner Atlantic Yards are built with similarly planned lawn, trees and pathways replacing the demapped streets then a similar psychology will inevitably attach. The sad thing is that this “exclusivity and possession” psychology does not necessarily make real estate more valuable than design that orients itself beautifully in celebration of civic works attaining their majesty by being truly shared with the greater public. Which is to say, we all know that Vanderbilt Yards needs to be developed and designed by people with much better imagination and sense. (Goodbye to Bruce and Frank.)

    BTW: Those Ratner lawns will require a hardy species of grass because there won’t be much sunlight reaching them.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.