Monday, March 10, 2008

Six months later, where's Phase One redesign

Delays on the Atlantic Yards project apparently flummoxed New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who last September anticipated a redesign of the arena block in the fall.

And delays in another Forest City Ratner project, Beekman Tower, led Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week to query the company about the timetable for a promised school, leading to a non-answer from the developer.

It's another reminder that, whatever the projected timetable, the developer--and parent Forest City Enterprises--works on its own schedule, dictated by its own sense of the market.

As RBC Capital Markets analyst Rich Moore told the New York Observer 9/10/06, “The quality that Forest City has is that they are very disciplined about moving forward in stages... They build one office tower and see if they are doing well, and if they are not, there is always the option of waiting until the market catches up to them or of altering their plans.”

Phase One confusion

Last September 9, in a "New Season" season preview in the New York Times's Arts and Leisure section, in an article headlined Architectural Shifts, Global and Local, Ouroussoff wrote:
New Yorkers will see several major nonmuseum projects getting under way this season...

Another huge project is the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, and Frank Gehry will soon unveil his redesign of its first phase, so it will soon become clear whether Brooklyn will receive a dazzling 21st-century version of Rockefeller Center or a conventional retail-entertainment-sports complex inside a pretty architectural wrapper.


It's been six months. How long until public officials start asking about the projected schedule for Atlantic Yards affordable housing, given the delays in construction and the overstuffed pipeline for affordable housing bonds?

The school in Lower Manhattan

Then again, they might not get many answers. As the Observer reported, Silver recently sent a letter to Forest City Ratner expressing concern "that construction has apparently slowed at your new Beekman Tower site since you generously agreed to incorporate a new K – 8th grade public school into the base of that new building. As you know, the school is scheduled to open in September 2009.... A number of constituents and community leaders have contacted my office in recent weeks with inquiries regarding the progress of the Beekman Tower building."

He asked the developer for its "most up to date schedule for construction of the Beekman Tower and when you anticipate that the new school will be able to open."

FCR spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt gave the Observer a response: "We are very sensitive to the school overcrowding issues currently facing Lower Manhattan as it was the Speaker who originally raised the issue and it was at his insistence that we included the school in our project. We are continuing to work very closely with the Speaker and appreciate all of his efforts in helping to move the project forward as quickly as possible."

Spinning the press

Silver asked for a schedule, but Riegelhaupt didn't answer the question. Rather, he asserted that the developer is "continuing to work very closely with the Speaker..."

Well, if they were working so closely together, Silver wouldn't be asking the question in the first place. That kind of obfuscation, along with pious assertions that the company is eager to share information, suggest that Riegelhaupt might compete with Joe DePlasco as a spinmeister.

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