Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Ward Bakery demolition will finally begin soon

After weeks of pre-demolition asbestos abatement at the Ward Bakery on Pacific Street, and weeks of "mobilization for demolition," the Atlantic Yards Construction Update issued yesterday by the Empire State Development Corporation puts it plainly:
• Demolition will begin at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) within this two week period.


The process is expected to take several months. It wasn't inevitable, since Forest City Enterprises has a history of historic preservation--just not in Brooklyn.

Photo by Tracy Collins.

1 comment:

  1. If Bruce Ratner is allowed to destroy the Ward Building it will be high on the list of viciously, cynical and hostile acts toward the community, and it will have come about through the sloven irresponsibility of Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer.

    If the Ward Building is destroyed, then one of the penalties that should be assessed Mr. Ratner (and perhaps Mr. Bloomberg should be expected to kick in) is that he should supply sufficient funds to rebuild a replica of this beautiful building when his megadevelopment is not built. The Ward Building’s beautiful repeating graceful arches should be a focal point and defining feature running along side of a new Ward Park in a responsible neighborhood design for the area such as the Pacific Plan or the community Unity Plan.

    The idea that a building which is such a significant asset should be destroyed twenty years prior to the time that anything currently intended to replace it would be built is reprehensible. (Even though what is to replace is “supposed” to replace it in less than a decade, the reality is that it would almost certainly take far longer, twenty years being a better estimation.) Twenty years, perhaps more of parking-lot-barreness! Acting with his base, typical hostility to the community Ratner is consciously seeking to increase blight in the area in hopes that it will, by design, increase support for a project which is utterly indefensible, (more than 2000 people at the Markowitz’s State of the Borough including anyone who might support Markowitz and nobody would clap for Atlantic Yards though Marty mentioned it twice?- And if the project is going to absorbing over a billion dollars of misdirected funds- takes a moment to reflect and do some addition: the subsidies, tax breaks, $637.2+ million arena and other public costs add up to more than billion- why try and credit it as “worthwhile” with ONLY two quick mentions?- And on the horizon we have Bloomberg, Doctoroff and Quinn all with their glimmering disavowals of the megadevelopment and process?)

    Though this was announced a few months ago Ratner is in the scheme of things moving quickly to get rid himself of this building. Ratner is also trying to tear down the building quickly, not because it makes sense from the community standpoint, but because he fears that community will eventually rally to save the building as it should. It should not be out of site or out of mind just because it is currently shrouded or because of the odd parapet collapse that occurred before it was shrouded. Nor should it depart our consciousness because of Ratner’s “done deal” mantra. Even those in Albany who think that some first phase of this megadevelopment might ever get in the ground, sincerely doubt that all of the rest of it will built by Ratner as planned. That means there is a lot of conventional wisdom in Albany of which Spitzer is perfectly aware that Ratner will never build anything on the Ward Building site. How slovenly and cynical not to preserve the option of putting this landmark to good future use for the community!

    Ratner would like, especially, to tear down the Ward Building before Bloomberg leaves office because he fears that when mayoral control over the Landmarks Preservation Commission changes, the building will be landmarked. Landmarking is tool members of the community have looked into to save the building. I have been told that the commission’s chairman, Commissioner Tierney has indicated, off the record, that but for the politics of this affair which do not give him a free hand, the commission’s handling of the Ward Building would be different. Even if this had not been confided to me, I would suspect as much. We might expect that in a neutral environment the Ward Building would be preserved and utilized in a wonderful way as the extraordinary asset it is and as architect Doug Hamilton envisioned in his Pacific Plan. Why not let this building and these associated options persist for a while longer so that when the Ratner plan dies its deserved death the community will still have beauty and possibilities rather than blight?

    The State Historic Preservation Office’s failure to preserve this building under the guise that it would be work to do so is likewise politically suspect. Given that the building was functioning and in use well through the 90s, it is hard to think it would need an amount of restoration unusual for a landmark. Spitzer could change this. Does he care enough about the community to do so?

    The block on which the Ward Building is built is also a block which is NOT over the rail yards and is NOT where the planned arena is being located. It is also OUTSIDE the boundaries of the City’s 40-year-old urban renewal plan precisely because it was envisioned that keeping the Ward Building and its neighbors had value (In 1968 the bakery was functioning and the building was functioning well through the 90s- Apart from its functional value, its special value as a landmark may well have also been recognized as self evident)- There is no ostensible purpose for condemning this block that can be offered with a straight face, a fact which is more starkly evident by the way the site plan wrenches in peculiar and irregular fashion around the neighboring Boymelgreen block in order that condemnations may be effected. The reason for this abuse of eminent domain is that Ratner will make a greater profit on this block after the zoning override and below-market condemnation prices because he won’t have any platform building expenses. Were it not for the City paying to gift him 100% of the cost of the $637.2+ million arena, this might be the greatest windfall Ratner is trying to engineer.

    As I said, if the Ward Building is ever destroyed, a replica of it should be rebuilt and Ratner should be assessed the funds to do that. The rebuilt replica can stand as a monument to the community’s fight with Ratner’s vandalism.

    I am watching with interest what's going on in Yonkers with Forest City Ratner's "Ridge Hill" project where federal prosecutors have issued subpoenas to five Yonkers' City Council members asking for all records related to the controversial "Ridge Hill" plan. Perhaps just to calm me down I will entertain the fantasy that one thing will lead to another and prosecutors will flip RICO defendants domino fashion with other stories cascading out so that we learn more about what is happening in Brooklyn. Wouldn’t it be nice if Ratner had to fund the rebuilding of the Ward Building as part of RICO plea? On the other hand, maybe it is not such a total fantasy.

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