Skip to main content

Would Jane Jacobs approve of AY? One Time Out-ster thinks so

The folks at Time Out New York have offered some off-the-cuff blogging on Jane Jacobs and Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards, so I'll offer some off-the-cuff responses.

(Graphic of Bruce Ratner/Jane Jacobs and further commentary from NoLandGrab's Lumi Rolley.)

First off, The great Jane debate: Opening salvo:
Since the goal is to make this interesting, I’m starting it controversially: I think J.J. would approve of Atlantic Yards. Actually, she was a cranky broad who no doubt would have found many faults with it. Let me rephrase. I think Atlantic Yards largely follows Jacobs’s principles and would enliven that neighborhood in a way she would admire.

What neighborhood? Atlantic Yards would be in a border zone, at the edge of Prospect Heights, across a highway from Fort Greene, nudging up against Park Slope and Boerum Hill, and extending the reach of Downtown Brooklyn.

As for following Jacobsian principles, well, I disagree.

The entry continues:
Let’s look at it through the J.J. lens. That neighborhood right now is an ugly traffic confluence and not much else. It’s full of chain stores and terrible for pedestrian traffic. Atlantic Yards would add an amenity where there is none. Though I’m not intimately familiar with the plans, I know it includes extensive mixed-use and varied street-level commercial space, along with many residential units (and a hotel, I believe). It would increase the density of that area, as Jacobs prefers.


The "neighborhood" is not an ugly traffic confluence; the western border of the site footprint is that.

It continues:

I know that Jacobs was not a fan of megaproject-style development because she favored a variety of new and old buildings, but what else can a stadium be but a megaproject? It strikes me as the type of primary-use anchor (like the nautical museum she proposed for lower Manhattan) that she recommends for dull neighborhoods that need a boost. Furthermore, in the time since Death and Life was written, adding stadia to urban settings has been a proven method for bringing a shabby area back to life.(Baltimore was the first major example of this.) There are also ways to mitigate the project’s less Jacobsian qualities—for example, increasing the affordable-housing ratio and adding pedestrian streets to break up the scale somewhat.


Baltimore's Camden Yards is very different from the planned Atlantic Yards, with its baseball and football stadiums separated from residential neighborhoods by a couple of cordons and several parking lots. As for a sports facility as inevitable megaproject, yes, but that doesn't mean 16 towers should be built by one architect and one developer. Yes, streets could be added, but that's the UNITY plan, not Atlantic Yards.

It continues:
I don’t think it’s the “unique quality” of Brooklyn that opponents want to protect; it’s their low rents (which is totally legit—they should just admit to that). And they cast themselves as Jacobs-like crusaders because they don’t know any better. Jane would be ashamed.


Some AY opponents want to protect their low rents or the quality of life they lucked into by moving to Brooklyn at a certain time--and enduring some bad times--for a certain price. And others just might worry about issues like process and good government.

A response

The next blog entry, titled The great Jane debate: Jokester’s response, didn't elevate the discourse:
It’s irrelevant whether Jacobs would approve of the Atlantic Yards project. What real credentials did this woman have?...

The residential area of Atlantic Yards should be pretty jam-packed with people, but I’m not sure it will have the number of small businesses needed (I could be wrong, I haven’t done the homework here) to perpetuate the kind of sidewalk vigilance that Jacobs finds necessary for safe and prosperous urban dwelling.


There might indeed by sidewalk vigilance, but not in areas without streets.

A considered response

The third entry, headlined The great Jane debate: A considered response
My two cents on J.J. and the Yards (what a great band name) is that she would be torn: On the one hand, big parts of the designated area ain’t great shakes right now, as Dustin pointed out. I was biking there with my wife on Sunday and there are long stretches of pretty desolate streets. On the other hand, the Yards project is bound to be a big bag of corporate candy. Picture our “Has Manhattan lost its soul?” cover times 50. (To say nothing of game-night traffic—how bout some congestion pricing there, Bloomie?) And I’m not convinced by the “stadiums revive urban areas” argument.


The big bag of corporate candy starts with the naming rights to Barclays Center and would extend to new advertising signage.

As for whether there are desolate streets, that's a false dichotomy. People and business have been bought out, buildings have been demolished, and the area has stagnated. Despite what the Empire State Development Corporation said, Atlantic Yards would be one solution to the current desolation, but not the only one.

Comments

  1. FROM DUSTIN TO JUSTIN:

    What a Dustin’ up poor Jane Jacobs takes from Mr. Dustin Goot writing for Time Out Magazine! In my mind I hear the phrase: “Oh come now!” and I am tempted to crack ad hominem and say that Ratner’s check to him is in the mail, but I would suggest that the public would be better served if Dustin would confine himself to covering fluffy subjects like on-line dating that don’t benefit from deep thought or credentials and where flippant glibosity may actually serve the topic. (Warning: trying to follow the Google trail from DG’s name I ran into what appeared to be some incipient virus problems.) Going from Dustin to Justin, Justin Davidson has some words of warning in “See Jane Be Co-opted” in the 10/01/2007 New York Magazine that apply to Goot to boot (What a hoot!): “NATURALLY, THOSE WHO LACK HER PERCEPTIVENESS HAVE ENTHUSIASTICALLY PERVERTED HER MAJOR POINTS (emphasis supplied). As with many prophets (Muhammad, Marx, Lennon), JACOBS’S NAME HAS BEEN ATTACHED TO PROJECTS AND CAUSES THAT WOULD LIKELY MAKE HER CRINGE (emphasis supplied). She pointed out that a neighborhood feels most like a neighborhood when it has a mix of uses that keep it busy all day and into the night. SO DEVELOPERS OF THOSE MEGALITHIC COMPLEXES COMBINING THEATERS, HOTELS, APARTMENTS, OFFICES, AND MALLS CLAIM THAT JACOBS WOULD’VE LIKED THEM (emphasis supplied) because they are thronged around the clock. Yes, there is a race to co-opt Jane Jacobs going on right now and it is our job to respond by observing our city and neighborhoods carefully, acknowledge what we see and take appropriate action.

    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…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

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…