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Showing posts from May, 2007

If NJ's proposed eminent domain reform passed in NY, it might stymie AY

If a project like Atlantic Yards had been proposed in New Jersey, there's a good bet a top statewide official would be criticizing it.

New York State has no Public Advocate (though the city has one, and we know what she thinks about eminent domain and AY), but New Jersey has a statewide position. Public Advocate Ron Chen has been fighting hard against eminent domain abuse, issuing reports, press releases, and filing amicus briefs in court cases.

The latest report (right), which got a lot of press yesterday, argues for the State Legislature to change the state’s redevelopment law to achieve a balance between protecting people’s rights and ensuring that sound redevelopment projects move ahead.

Because Chen’s findings and recommendations are based on state law and the state constitution, they’re not applicable to New York. Still, it's worth reading the report via an Atlantic Yards lens. If enacted here, the reforms might stymie the designation by the Empire State Development Corpora…

In Coney Island, sidewalk blight and an evasive administration

So, who's responsible for the blight on city sidewalks? Last year, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) punted flagrantly on the question, when queried by Brooklynites regarding the condition of sidewalks bordering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Vanderbilt Yard.

Regarding Coney Island, a similar city evasiveness is evident, according to an op-ed yesterday in the New York Sun, headlined Sidewalks of Brooklyn. Coney Island resident Gabriel Schoenfeld recounts his frustration in requesting that the city do something about "the frightful conditions of the sidewalks here."

Though Schoenfeld sent copies to several people in the administration, he didn't get a response for 13 months. Joseph Palmieri, the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, didn't explain the delay but recounted bureaucratically:
Please be advised that by law, the owner of the property adjacent to the sidewalk is responsible for …

Judge agrees FCR contractor pursued unsafe demolition, levies fines

Forest City Ratner's promises of safe practices at the Atlantic Yards site have suffered a setback. A contractor working for FCR has been assessed two $2000 fines for unsafe demolition of two Pacific Street buildings last June, as an administrative law judge (ALJ) has agreed that a backhoe, rather than hand demolition as promised, was deployed to demolish a wall adjacent to a residential structure.
(Photo copyright David Gochfeld)

For the demolition of 620 Pacific Street and 622 Pacific Street, the contractor had not applied for a mechanical demolition permit,which would not have been issued for 622 Pacific.

At a hard-fought hearing on 3/12/07, a lawyer representing Forest City Ratner acknowledged that the backhoe was used on 620 Pacific, which was adjacent to unoccupied buildings, but said there was no proof the backhoe was used to demolish 622 Pacific, adjacent to the occupied apartment building at 624 Pacific.

That lawyer, Jeffrey Braun, elicited testimony from a representative of …

An agent, criticizing the NBA, says we're not in Dodger-land any more

Professional basketball in 2007 is nothing like professional baseball in 1957, an obvious observation that nonetheless deserves repeating in light of continued claims that the arrival of the basketball Nets could "heal the wound" left by the departure of the baseball Dodgers.

As I pointed out last December after attending a Nets game at Continental Airlines Arena in the Meadolands, like most professional sports events, it featured gimmicky lameness (or perpetual energy), with an unwillingness to allow dead air. And hoops stars have their own parking lots, rather than take the subway to work.

Scott Turner of Fans for Fair Plan elaborated in November 2005 on "Why The Nets Could Never Be The Dodgers;" among the reasons are the relative cost of tickets and longevity of the players. (On the other hand, a snazzy new arena might go along way to making Nets fans forget the Meadowlands. Such a new arena will come first in Newark.)

An agent laments

In his recent book, Taking Sho…

Rhetoric check: AY "same site" as proposed Dodgers stadium? Nah

Journalists, politicians, and other commentators have readily--though incorrectly--repeated a central fudge in the Atlantic Yards saga, that the site would be the same as that proposed by Brooklyn Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley before he moved the beloved Dodgers to Los Angeles.

Rather, the site would have been north of Atlantic Avenue, replacing the Long Island Rail Road terminal and the adjacent Fort Greene Meat Market, roughly the site that now includes the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls.

Another potential site was below Flatbush Avenue, between Fourth Avenue and Warren Streets, thus taking out rows of now-valuable row houses. (Were these "downtown "sites? Then, perhaps. Now, the southern site, at least, would be Park Slope.)

(Graphic from Henry Fetter's book Taking on the Yankees: Winning and Losing in the Business of Baseball, which was issued before the Atlantic Yards plan was officially announced. Click to enlarge. More from Fetter below.)

An impo…

St. Mary's Hospital is off the AY affordable housing block

It was never a given, and the news is late, but it's worth noting that St. Mary's Hospital in Crown Heights no longer seems the likely home of affordable for-sale apartments connected to the Atlantic Yards project.

The 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units are promised in the Memorandum of Understanding regarding housing signed in May 2005 by Forest City Ratner and the housing advocacy group ACORN. Unlike with the 2250 affordable rentals planned at the Atlantic Yards site, the plan has not been memorialized in any Empire State Development Corporation documents.

There's no timetable for the entire complement for-sale units, though 200 are now planned to be built at the AY site, according to an FCR announcement made the day the Public Authorities Control Board approved the project, 12/20/06.

The idea rises, recedes

The Brooklyn Paper reported 10/29/05 that Forest City Ratner was considering the acquision of the just-closed hospital site. That article, as well some follow-ups els…

Forest City, Marty try to tweak the record, but it doesn't work

After a Forest City Enterprises executive, in a presentation, identified a rendering for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site as "Atlantic Yards Tomorrow," I pointed out the weirdness last week, and it got some notice elsewhere.

Did the developer correct the file? No. Rather, it vanished from the AtlantaDowntown.com web site. Fortunately, NoLandGrab has mounted a copy.

Markowitz: BP the "ultimate job"?

Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz, for nearly five years--the entirety of his first term, beginning in 2002, and through the beginning of his second term--suggested on the BP web site that he had no intention of pursuing higher office.

His web site (courtesy of the Internet Archive) stated:
While some people want to grow up to be mayor, governor, or President of the United States, my dream in life has always been to lead Brooklyn as borough president. To me, this is the ultimate job.

Then came news last July that the term-limited BP was raising money for a ye…

Fact-checking Brooklyn Brewery's Hindy on Ratner's jobs

In a New York Observer article this week headlined Unlikely Power Broker Bullish on Brooklyn, Brooklyn Brewery CEO Steve Hindy opines on the future of Brooklyn, disses development on Fourth Avenue, and offers much praise for Forest City Ratner, expected to be serving his beer at the planned Brooklyn Arena.

Except his numbers are off.

Jobs at MetroTech

The article states:
“I think he’s done a lot of good things,” Mr. Hindy said of Mr. Ratner. “I thought MetroTech was fantastic for Brooklyn. It brought a lot of jobs here.”

However, a January/February 2005 City Limits article by Matthew Schuerman, headlined THE RETURN OF METROTECH, stated:
MetroTech boosters, back in 1987, suggested that at least some of the dishes would make their way around. "Proponents maintained that there will be a total of 14,000 jobs, of which 5,800 will be retained and 8,200 will be newly created," according to the minutes of a Planning Commission public hearing. "Many of these jobs will be entry-level p…

At CB 6, new appointee claims AY ignorance; another has been an AY critic

From this week's Courier-Life chain, an article (not yet online), headlined AXE FALLS ON YARDS FOES, advances the story about the Community Board 6 purge by including some tough quotes from departing members and showing one new appointee to be profoundly ignorant about Atlantic Yards.

Marilyn Oliva, who was reappointed, said she thought Markowitz was "trying to shut people up.... Initially, I thought Marty would be really good for the borough, but then he began to sell us out to the highest bidder."

Another exiting member, Pauline Blake, said, "If you are going to appoint people to the community board who just regurgitate what you want, then you don't have a community board, you have a string of puppets."

Markowitz issued a bland statement explaining that "I just consider the benefits of continuity over time and the need for fresh perspectives to be heard."

AY ignorance

Maybe Markowitz was looking for fresh perspectives, but with one new appointee, he&…

Critic Goldberger: post-Moses era represents failure to plan

The failure of government to plan, to imagine, instead choosing to subcontract planning to the private sector, is the hallmark of our post-Robert Moses era--even more so than the difficulty in reconciling public participation and major projects, according to Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic of The New Yorker.

He spoke at another panel discussion on Moses's legacy, held Wednesday night at the Museum of the City of New York. In an article for the New York Times's Empire Zone blog titled What Would Moses Do?, Sewell Chan offers a good summary (which saved me some transcription of quotes); I'll focus more on Goldberger's comments, which also included a salute to Atlantic Yards bloggers.

"There is no promised land of easy planning," noted Goldberger, also former architecture critic for the Times. "First, it wasn't really as simple back then as it looks now... There is a tendency to think Moses snapped his fingers and everything happened."

He sug…

An amputation at 80 DeKalb makes way for a Forest City Ratner tower

Forest City Ratner's general plan for housing at 80 DeKalb Avenue between Hudson Avenue and Rockwell Place opposite Long Island University (LIU), also known as 625 Fulton Street or Ten MetroTech, has been no secret.

After all, the Final Scope for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, issued 3/31/06, mentioned plans for 430,000 square feet of residential at the site, due in 2009. The developer's own press releases have alluded to the project. (Above, the south--intact--view from Fulton Street, via General Services Administration, or GSA.)

Unclear, however, was how the project would be accomplished. Would Forest City Ratner convert the entire building--a former chocolate factory itself converted in 1985 into office space--into loftlike housing?

Few clues

Even Joe Chan of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) had no information about it when asked at a recent community meeting, it's not on the DBP list of residential projects, and a seemingly comprehensive DBP map issued in A…

Con Ed cites AY as boosting electricity cost, but Final EIS passed

NY1 reported yesterday that Con Edison, in requesting the largest rate hike in its history, blamed, among other things, Atlantic Yards:
Con Ed came before a State Assembly committee to explain the rate hike. Officials argued Wednesday the system is strapped and that massive projects like the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn will burden the system even more.
They say the rate hike would cover improvements to handle energy needs, some of which have already been made, but have not been fully paid for by customers.

AM NY added more context:
Con Ed officials say increased development will push energy usage in most of New York City beyond capacity by 2011, unless certain infrastructure projects such as five new substations are completed.

Now that doesn't mean that the utility wouldn't have the capacity to handle Atlantic Yards; it just means that the project is cited as a justification for increased expenditures and costs.

Adverse impact?

However, the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact S…

Tonight, a panel on the legacy of Moses and development today

The Museum of the City of New York has been holding a fascinating series of panel discussions on the legacy of Robert Moses. Tonight's program (6:30 pm), the last one currently scheduled at the museum, covers the relevant topic "New York Neighborhoods and the Impact of Development."

The description:
Since Robert Moses’ time, there has been a paradigm shift in the way development takes place in New York City. This panel will address that shift and discuss how present-day developers and public agencies approach such key issues as the design and scale of projects, local participation in decision making, and the role of historic preservation in the future of our communities.

The ironies of the CB 6 purge: Jerry Armer, flamethrower?

Borough President Marty Markowitz has the right to not reappoint community board members. Still, his decision, along with City Council Members Bill de Blasio and David Yassky, to remove nine volunteer members of Brooklyn Community Board 6, apparently because of their posture toward Atlantic Yards, can't turn the board from its criticism of the project.

The board voted overwhelmingly not to support Atlantic Yards as currently planned, as the votes detailed below show, citing unmitigable impacts like traffic, poor process that didn't accommodate local input, and a host of requested specific changes, including a reduction in scale.

Armer gets the boot

One of those Markowitz removed was Jerry Armer, the board's chairman when it developed its Atlantic Yards response and a veteran of more than 20 years. Armer told the New York Observer that he was disappointed: “What we were doing was giving the community a voice and reflecting the community.” (CB 6 covers Park Slope, Boerum Hill, …

"Whole and complete"? A jaw-dropping AY fib from 2003

From a 12/10/03 Forest City Ratner press release announcing the Atlantic Yards project:
The complex has been planned to look whole and complete during each phase of construction.
(Emphasis added)

As noted, buildings would slowly replace parking as the project proceeds. The construction schedule indicates much incompleteness, as does the map of buildings that would be finished year after year.

WTF? AY presentation borrows WTC rendering

Forest City Ratner has not released the "Atlantic Yards" image below to the public in New York, or via the AtlanticYards.com image gallery, because, well, it's not part of Frank Gehry's design.

However, a representative of parent company Forest City Enterprises apparently did label the image "Atlantic Yards" in a presentation (p. 48) to governmental and business leaders during a 4/18/07 forum in Atlanta on redeveloping an underutilized corridor.

(Update 5/25/07: The presentation has been removed, but NoLandGrab has a copy.)Except it's the World Trade Center site. Compared to AY, the WTC has had more--if contested --public process, with architects competing for the design rather than anointed from the start, and a greater public discussion of security concerns.

More contrasts

Notable, the rendering above emphasizes scale, while the depictions in the Atlantic Yards image gallery tend to cut off the buildings or frame them in ways that minimize them. Remember,…