Skip to main content

Park Slope a great neighborhood, but then there's "over-success"

It sounds like the anti-Atlantic Yards, my ur-urban neighborhood of Park Slope, then there's a bit of a complication, the product of what the late Jane Jacobs would call "over-success."

The American Planning Association issued a press release headlined Park Slope Selected One of 10 Great Neighborhoods in America:
The American Planning Association (APA) announced today that Park Slope, located in Brooklyn, New York's City, has been designated as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2007 through APA's Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planners and planning play in creating communities of lasting value.

"Park Slope is a neighborhood that embodies urban vitality, with its rich history, unparalleled brownstone blocks, great cultural institutions, shops and restaurants, and vibrant civic and street life," said Amanda M. Burden, director of the Department of City Planning in New York City. "We are honored that APA has recognized the attributes that make Park Slope such a wonderful place. This is a treasured and acclaimed neighborhood made special by the people who live and work here."

APA selected Park Slope as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods in America for its architectural and historical features, its diverse mix of residents and businesses, all of which are supported and preserved by its active and involved citizenry.


Economic diversity?

The news coverage, as far as I could tell, left out the affordability issue, even though the press release called Park Slope "a testament to the value of economic, architectural and cultural diversity," according to APA Executive Director Paul Farmer.

As New York magazine recently observed in an article about the post-Dodgers legacy:
The colonizers’ crimes against the spirit of Brooklyn are legion and heavily blogged. Williamsburg is a hipster theme park soon to be augmented by luxury waterfront high-rises. Park Slope is a parody. There are $2.2 million brownstones in Fort Greene.

So the APA's claim faces continued pressure. One paragraph in the press release fudges some history:
Community participation is a touchstone of life in Park Slope and Community Board 6, the local government body that advises elected officials on matters affecting the neighborhood, is one of the most active community boards. Issues address[ed] by residents in the past include changes to local zoning ordinances so multi-family housing could be built along Fourth Avenue that would be more in keeping with the adjoining low-scale buildings.

Yes, the zoning audience harmonized height and density, but the city, as I wrote, missed an opportunity to require some measure of affordable housing in exchange for giving developers the right to build ever bigger.

Zoning bonuses & AY

“We used to give away the value in a rezoning, which is ludicrous," City Council Member Bill de Blasio recently said in an interview with Brooklyn bloggers. "Literally, four years ago, City Planning denied that affordable housing was a valid planning criterion. I had this argument with [Deputy Mayor] Dan Doctoroff personally, and Amanda Burden. They literally said affordable housing is not a City Planning consideration. That has changed night and day, to be fair.”

And that's one of the reasons de Blasio, along with other politicians, can seem to take the high road in supporting Atlantic Yards. On the other hand, any project over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, such as one based on the UNITY plan, would include some significant measure of affordable housing.

So the challenge is to harmonize the social needs of Brooklyn with the virtues of a great neighborhood. These days the city tries to do that through a rezoning--except when it lets the state override zoning, as with Atlantic Yards, allowing what is essentially a privately negotiated density bonus.

Comments

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.