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Reference or fantasy? The (projected) ten-year Atlantic Yards timeline

(Click to enlarge)

Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards is supposed to be completed in a decade, by 2016, according to the construction schedule (document at bottom) included in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Graphic designer Abby Weissman has combined elements of the construction schedule with the Atlantic Yards site plan. Time will tell whether it's a valid reference or a fantasy.

Project landscape architect Laurie Olin said it could take 20 years. Chuck Ratner of parent company Forest City Enterprises said it could take 15 years. Such schedules would delay the provision of promised benefits like affordable housing and open space and cause "interim surface parking" to persist.

Behind schedule

When Atlantic Yards was announced 12/10/03, backers said that arena would begin development in 2004. It's more than two years late.

Beyond that, the project is likely well behind the stated timetable. De…

A subtraction from the Ward Bakery

What's missing from the Ward Bakery? A two-story, seemingly-improvised temporary cinderblock wall that rose above the western segment of the building, in the foreground of the photo above, forming a link of sorts with the adjacent building and creating some additional interior space.

That wall existed after 200 feet of the parapet tumbled on Thursday, as shown in the bottom of the two photos below. It likely was less stable than the rest of the building and demolished on Friday, the same day the scaffolding was installed. Update: the demolition was at the request of the Department of Buildings. (Photo above taken Saturday by Jonathan Barkey)

Today we may learn more from the Department of Buildings about its investigation into the incident and when and under what circumstances it may allow demolition to proceed on the proposed Atlantic Yards site. (Photos at right by Robert Guskind of the Gowanus Lounge. See NoLandGrab for the three photos combined.)

Clinton Hill the "bloggiest" neighborhood? Nah, it's Prospect Heights

[Note: This post has been updated.]

Outside.in, an innovative, venture capital-funded way to organize neighborhood information by collecting work by "placebloggers," has issued a press release claiming to identify America's Top 10 Bloggiest Neighborhoods.

The number one neighborhood: Clinton Hill.

Nah.

Here's Outside.in's methodology:
The results below are based on a number of variables: total number of posts, total number of local bloggers, number of comments and Technorati ranking for the bloggers.

That assumes that blogs are about one specific neighborhood and that the blog is included in Technorati. It also confuses the home of the blog with the subject of the blog.

Clinton Hill& AY

Here's what Outside.in says about its top-ranking nabe.

1. Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
The Neighborhood
The rapidly gentrifying tree-lined blocks of 19th-century townhouses are also home to the Pratt Institute of Art.

Local Blogger
Jonathan Butler, creator of Brownstoner, who quit his Wall…

The Atlantic Yards pause isn’t enough, groups say, seeking more oversight

City Council Member Letitia James may be the elected official most clearly opposed to Atlantic Yards, but her reaction to the incident Thursday at the Ward Bakery—calling for a suspension of demolition work—turned out to be exactly what the Empire State Development Corporation and developer Forest City Ratner agreed to late yesterday morning. That meant James was ahead of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who issued a more cautious statement Thursday, and other elected officials who were prepared to ask yesterday for such a suspension.
(Photo by Robert Guskind of the Gowanus Lounge.)

Still, the Atlantic Yards pause isn’t sufficient, said elected officials and representatives of community groups at two press conferences yesterday. They want a significant amount of oversight beyond what currently exists; an ESDC spokesman yesterday hinted that some increased oversight was coming, but wouldn't specify it.

It's an open question as to whether that oversight will come before the completion…

The Ward Bakery and a tangled tale of blight

After 200 feet of parapet fell Thursday from the Ward Bakery, there are understandable suspicions about the condition of the building. Had it deteriorated rapidly because of weather, as a fire chief speculated? Had any work on the building affected its integrity, as some in the neighborhood wondered?
(Photo by Tracy Collins.)

But another curious tale regards the Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards Blight Study. While the bakery was deemed blighted in part because of an open building code violation, rendering the building hazardous, that violation actually had been resolved well before the Blight Study was concluded.

On p. 182 of the study, it states, regarding the Ward Bakery:
Building Code Violations
Lot 25 has 5 open building code violations on file with DOB (see Appendix B). The most recent violation was issued in January 2005 for failure to maintain the exterior building wall. The violation indicates that the current conditionis hazardous.

(Emphasis added)

The bligh…

Department of Buildings statement

A statement from the Department of Buildings:
Buildings Department engineers are on the scene today, monitoring the building owner’s contractor, Gateway Demolition, as the remaining portion of the parapet walls on 800 Pacific Street are brought to a safe level.

A preliminary investigation is underway to determine the cause of yesterday’s parapet wall collapse.

In the coming days, the Buildings Department will be meeting with the developer’s engineers to review demolition plans for the Atlantic Yards sites to ensure safe means and methods are employed.

ESDC/Forest City suspend all demolitions; more oversight coming

All demolition activity has been halted on the Atlantic Yards site for a period of time until city officials provide a go-ahead.

A statement from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC):
The partial collapse Thursday at the Ward Bakery building created serious disruptions. We’re thankful that no one was hurt and we recognize the need for the Atlantic Yards project to continue to progress safely, without causing disorder in the lives of residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

To that end, the Empire State Development Corporation and developer Forest City Ratner have agreed that the developer will temporarily suspend all abatement and demolition activities until the City’s Department of Buildings concludes its preliminary investigation or the City directs us otherwise.

This incident requires a reassurance to the community of the buildings’ soundness before work can proceed at the site. We are in frequent contact with the developer and various city agencies to make sure that we …

Details, comments, questions emerge about the falling parapet at the Ward Bakery

The city's Department of Buildings has issued a violation to Forest City Ratner for failing to maintain the exterior wall of the Ward Bakery, though no shed was required. Meanwhile, more than 300 people from the adjacent homeless shelter had to evacuate, and questions remain about how and why the 200-foot stretch of the parapet fell yesterday, and what oversight agencies will do.

According to NY1:
"Parapet walls exposed on both side over many years, and we had heavy rains, so it very well could be a residual effect of the heavy rains that we had,” said FDNY Assistant Chief James Nichols.
In response to the incident, Forest City Ratner vice president Bruce Bender said:
“At the time of the purchase, (in March 2006) the building was already in a state of disrepair. We will of course work very closely with the Buildings Department and other agencies to determine the cause of the collapse and to ensure public safety."


[Update: The purchase was in March 2005.]

There's a differen…

Doctoroff (sort of) says city didn't "reach out" regarding Atlantic Yards

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff continues his semi-apologies for the lack of community outreach regarding Atlantic Yards. On Monday, he told radio host Brian Lehrer that Atlantic Yards was an "extreme case," given the heated controversy. He continued, "So we don’t do anything, any more, really, without consulting the community. I think we’ve gotten a lot better at that over the course of the past five years."

Yesterday, answering questions during a forum on community development at the New School, Doctoroff returned to the same theme. A questioner asked Doctoroff about the proposal in PlaNYC 2030 to deck over railyards for housing.

While the questioner did not point out that the document issued Sunday points to a community planning process for railyards vastly different than that for Atlantic Yards, he did pose two important questions: “Do the economics of that require very high density? And so, what have you learned from Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards about navigating …

In Ward Bakery incident, was a sidewalk shed required?

[Udpate: No shed was required.]

The sidewalk shed outside the Ward Bakery has been gone for weeks, though one existed for years. When local residents protesting Forest City Ratner's demolition plan walked on Pacific Street Monday, they passed right by the bakery, which lacked such a shed. Had today's incident--200 feet of the parapet wall falling, according to the Times--occurred three days earlier, those walking by could have been very unlucky. (Photo taken Monday by Jonathan Barkey)

When Forest City Ratner applied for a demolition permit in early March, it was approved on the basis that a sidewalk shed was required. The permit (below) also said that a shed had been erected.

That shed apparently was the one that had existed for years, and apparently was removed at some point after March 3. On March 21, the developer filed for a permit to build a new shed. Apparently a shed is not required while workers do pre-demolition work, such as asbestos removal. Among the lingering questio…

A plethora of photos from the Ward Bakery (partial) collapse and response

Credit Tracy Collins, who's posted dozens.

ESDC statement on Ward Bakery

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has issued a statement:

“When the Empire State Development Corporation learned about the incident, the agency sent representatives to the scene to assess the situation.
Safety is our utmost concern and we’re very thankful no one was injured. Our team is conferring with the developer, the City, and various government agencies to find out exactly what happened and to help coordinate a thorough response.
We’re also awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the city’s Department of Buildings so we can take any necessary action.”

Note that a "thorough response" does not, as of yet, go as far as the request by Council Member Letitia James that work on the site should be halted immediately

Jeffries calls for investigation; James calls for stopping all work

The partial collapses of the Ward Bakery has led to evacuation of the neighboring homeless shelter and significant concern around the Pacific Street site. Investigations are ongoing, and elected officials are speaking up.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries issued this statement:
Complete Investigation Demanded
“The partial collapse of the Ward Bakery has caused great concern in the community. I am thankful that no one was injured, as this accident could have had tragic consequences. The Fire Department must conduct a thorough investigation of the cause of this collapse and I expect the developer to fully participate. This incident further highlights the need to proceed with extreme caution as the developer moves forward the Atlantic Yards project.”


Council Member Letitia James issued this statement:
Work in "Atlantic Yards" Site Should Be Halted Immediately

"I am relieved no one was hurt in the partial "collapse" of part of the historic Ward's Bakery building this mor…

Pollster, trolling for development business, claims AY "possible blueprint"

In an op-ed in today's New York Post, headlined A BLUEPRINT GROWS IN B'KLYN, pollster Craig Charney, who conducted the deceptive poll on Atlantic Yards last September for Crain's New York Business, claims:
DEMOLITION began this week to clear ground for New York's biggest urban redevelopment project in decades, Atlantic Yards. That marked not just a crucial defeat for New York's militant anti-developers - the dreaded "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) lobby - but also the emergence of a possible blueprint for future victories.

Didn't we dispose of the Times's "modern blueprint" formulation a while back?

Charney's misleading analysis starts in the very first paragraph. First, demolition actually began in February; Charney's referring to demolitions challenged in court and last week permitted to proceed.

Second, the opponents are not NIMBYs--why would they be organizing the UNITY 2007 charette this weekend?--but critics of this specific plan,…

At Glazer talk on modernism, AY is poster child for too much density

Nathan Glazer, the eminent Harvard sociologist and social critic, came to New York on April 17 to speak about his new collection of essays, From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture’s Encounter with the American City--and Atlantic Yards came in for some criticism..

Protest, he said at one point, “is one form of discovering when density is too much,” and that certainly points to Brooklyn. (He spoke at the Yale Club, sponsored by the Manhattan Institute.)

But he began with modernism, the 20th-century stripping of ornament and history in the interest of efficiency and currency, failing to match the “complex urbanity” of the past, that failed. In the United States and Britain, it was applied to public housing, and was denounced. The 1972 destruction of the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St. Louis marked the “end of modernism as a social cause.”

Architects, Glazer said, “are really more interested in form than social reform, though they often speak about it.” (Remember Atlantic Yards ar…

New sidewalk sheds suggest demolitions in progress

When the demonstration against demolitions was held Monday morning, Forest City Ratner had decided--whether for logistical or strategic reasons--to hold off on demolition of three buildings at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Pacific. However, the sidewalk sheds set up yesterday and today (below) are signs that the demolitions are proceeding. Meanwhile, a hole (bottom) at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street kept city workers busy today. (Photos courtesy of a reader)

Ratner's Brooklyn Tech plan was hot air; school won't move

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle this week had a scoop, shooting down the vague plans for a new "21st century" Brooklyn Tech and the rumors that Forest City Ratner wanted the eight-story building--the largest high school built in the country--at the edge of Fort Greene Park.

In the article, headlined Brooklyn Tech Won’t Move, Dept. of Ed Assures Alumni, the Eagle notes that the building, which has a 3012-seat theater and basement swimming pool, has gone through several recent upgrades to its labs, library, wireless and fiberoptic network, and athletic facilities.

Valuable real estate

The Eagle reports:
The thought of moving Tech is “unconscionable,” says alumnus Melvin Band, who confronted Schools Chancellor Joel Klein at the January 22 Educational Panel meeting about the Daily News article. “Tech will get a much smaller school made with spit in a less safe neighborhood. On the other hand, you’ll get the goose that lays the golden eggs — Tech’s cash cow,” Band said he told the chancell…

Doctoroff's discomfort: Atlantic Yards is an "extreme case"

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who in February told the New York Observer that there had been an "enormous level of community input" regarding Atlantic Yards, seems a little less comfortable these days.

Listen to his appearance yesterday on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, where he discussed Mayor Mike Bloomberg's sustainability initiatives. Doctoroff was generally unruffled, layering a slightly folky, almost professorial air over his investment banker's confidence, as he discussed Mayor Mike Bloomberg's sustainability plan. However, when pressed on Atlantic Yards, he quickly moved on to less controversial issues.

And, just as Atlantic Yards serves as an example counter to those practices cited in PlaNYC2030, so yesterday did Doctoroff's examples contrast with the story of Atlantic Yards.

Either developer Forest City Ratner is thankful that Atlantic Yards moved forward before the city promoted more transparent development procedures, or the city's new push will h…

Protest against demolitions finds backhoe at opposite end of Atlantic Yards site

Just because Forest City Ratner had the go-ahead from a judge to demolish at least eight buildings in the Atlantic Yards site before a May 3 hearing on a preliminary injunction didn't mean that the developer would actually start the demolition work at 8 a.m. yesterday.

So when several dozen people--at least 80, at the peak--gathered at Flatbush Avenue near Pacific Street, in front of three row-house structures the developer owns and plans to demolish, they faced nothing more than a few television cameras with their signs, saying things like "These demolitions are premature" and "Gov. Spitzer: Albany Reform begins with Atlantic Yards."

"Fight the blight; it's not a done deal," they chanted, mindful that the project can't proceed until and unless cases filed in state and federal courts are resolved.
(Photos by Jonathan Barkey; full portfolio here.)

City Council Member Letitia James (right) arrived a bit late, and quickly stepped up to the cameras. &…