Skip to main content

Regarding Hudson Yards plans, a Community Advisory Committee offers pointed criticism

If there was a Community Advisory Committee involved in the Atlantic Yards planning, it certainly wasn't heard from. But there is a Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee (HYCAC), set up by the mayoral administration and City Council, and it has issued a forceful open letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority regarding the plans for new development at the West Side yards.

The committee offers praise for the public presentations and models provided by five development teams: This amount of public disclosure with little formal public process is an important contribution to open government and better planning.

However, much is missing, and some of the criticism, as I'll explain below, echoes criticism of the Atlantic Yards plan.

Summary of criticism

The points, as summarized by the Rail Yards Blog:
1. There is too much density for a successful environment.
2. There is no public infrastructure and no commitment to build it.
3. There is no plan for affordable housing.
4. Allowing changes in the ERY zoning and WRY design guidelines will create a better plan.
5. Make real New York City blocks.
6. Big open space may not be best.
7. The entire High Line can and must be preserved.
8. Require a genuine commitment to sustainability.
9. Strong labor provisions and opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses must be provided.
10. Put the school in a good location.
11. Modify the cultural facility zoning on the ERY, since there is no committed not-for-profit user.
12. Make good connections to Hudson River Park.
13. The financial aspects of the proposals must be made public.


Fudging superblock density

Remember how architect Jonathan Cohn, in his BrooklynViews blog, began pointing out how Atlantic Yards density was actually much higher if city streets were excluded, as they should be in calculating Floor Area Ratio (FAR)?

(In a 4/16/06 article about Atlantic Yards bloggers, the New York Times rather condescendingly treated Cohn's analysis as something "quickly added to opponents' talking points" rather than a piece of public education.)

Well, the HYCAC makes a similar argument:
The base floor area ratios (FARs) of 11 on the Eastern Rail Yard (”ERY”) and 10 on the Western Rail Yard (”WRY”) seem reasonable until you realize that they are calculated across the entire sites, including open space and streets. Excluding open space and streets (as parks and streets are excluded elsewhere in the City), the effective density of these proposals is in the neighborhood of 25 FAR. That is, to our knowledge, an unprecedented density over such a large area anywhere in the City, and far exceeds what can be considered good planning for the future of the City or the local community.

More blocks, better open space

There are some other parallels to the Atlantic Yards debate. Echoing criticism of Atlantic Yards put forward by BrooklynSpeaks and the UNITY plan, the HYCAC calls for additional streets to create "real New York City blocks," not superblocks.

Moreover, the HYCAC suggests that smaller open spaces rather than larger plots offer the best option to create inviting space for the public. Several entities, including those behind the UNITY plan, make that point regarding AY.

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.