Needless to say, no such offerings were possible for the Atlantic Yards plan. Extell's competing bid for a portion of the site, the Metropolitan Transporation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, came more than 18 months later, and any matrix would've compared apples and oranges, since Forest City Ratner's project extended beyond the railyard. But other issues, such as a basketball arena and the willingness to use eminent domain, would've had to be included in the chart.
The RPA's guidance
The current issue of the Regional Plan Association's (RPA) Spotlight on the Region newsletter recommends that citizens view the display models, at the northwest corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and 43rd Street, daily from 8 am to 8 pm, through December 14 and attend the session Monday. (The display was supposed to end Monday, so the extension points to the high level of public interest.)
RPA suggests some questions to keep in mind:
Does the proposal create a well-defined public space?
Does the circulation system within the project connect to the surrounding street network where possible?
How well does the open space network connect to surrounding open spaces like the High Line, Hudson River Park, the Moynihan Station Corridor and 10th Avenue?
Does the proposal enable connections to public transit?
What kind of commitment does the proposal make to environmental design?
What kind of risk and reward does the proposal offer the MTA?
Does the proposal allow for some level of incremental development or does it need to be built out all at once?
Much of the conversation around these proposals in the media revolves around the buildings' architecture and aesthetic qualities. Yet the planning and infrastructure components of the proposals are at least as important as the towers' designs, and questions about those components need to be asked - and answered - now, early on in the planning process. Time is short: the MTA will select a developer in early 2008, after which the project will proceed through the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
West Side yards vs. Atlantic Yards
RPA Regional Design Program Director Rob Lane observes: “The scale and complexity of the initiative makes this not so much a 'development project' as an exercise in 'city building,' requiring active and ongoing participation from the public.” Let’s build a city, not develop a plan."
Note that Lane last May cited Atlantic Yards as a missed opportunity for such "city building."