Skip to main content

Arena subway access without the Urban Room? ESDC says it's OK

I suggested yesterday that, unless certain parts of the flagship tower Miss Brooklyn (aka Building 1) are completed, the Atlantic Yards arena would open without the Urban Room, the glass-clad atrium that would serve as a combination building lobby, arena entrance, subway entrance, retail/restaurant space, and public gathering space, not to mention surfaces for signage and lighting.

On second thought, it looks impossible that the Urban Room could be completed separately from Miss Brooklyn. And the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), while touting the Urban Room as "a significant public amenity" in the General Project Plan it approved 12/8/06, some ten months later, in the State Funding Agreement that recently surfaced, changed its tune.

The agreement requires developer Forest City Ratner only to provide "subway station access" to the arena, not the Urban Room "destination" (a term from the Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS) that wowed some architecture critics.

The ESDC states, in the Project Description chapter of the FEIS: The glass-enclosed Urban Room would be located at the base of [Miss Brooklyn].

New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, in his 12/11/03 rave review, embraced the concept:
There is also an "urban room," a soaring Piranesian space, which provides access to the stadium and a grand lobby for the tallest of the office towers.


(Images from Atlantic Yards web site.)

Arena without Urban Room

Developer Forest City Ratner now intends to open a residential building along with the arena, as reported yesterday. A look at the renderings confirms that it would be very difficult to build just the Urban Room. New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, in his 3/21/08 lament about changes in the project, leaving just the arena as a priority, observed:
The atrium, once a vital public space, will be reduced to a barren strip of pavement.

In this week's Brooklyn Paper, project critic (especially on security issues) Alan Rosner points out in a letter that if the Urban Room is to be built without Miss Brooklyn, "Bruce Ratner will have some major redesign costs." It would be less costly, Rosner writes--and far more likely, I conclude--to wait until the tower is built.

However, Rosner suggests that, in the absence of the Urban Room, there won't be a place for crowds of pedestrians exiting from the new subway station: "The silence suggests that neither the ESDC nor Ratner are concerned." Why the ESDC agreed to this might be aired at an upcoming hearing of an Assembly oversight committee. (The rest of Phase I is supposed to be built within dozen years, which means that the Urban Room should ultimately be built.)

Initial promise

An initial fact sheet about the project promised both that Miss Brooklyn would not block the Williamsburgh Savings Bank--not true, it turned out--and that the Urban Room would be the entrance to the transit hub:
The northernmost building on the site, an office building, will be set back slightly from the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, to maintain the view corridor to the Williamsburg Bank building. The point of this triangle will become part of an “urban room,” a new exterior space formed by raising the office building on pilotis (a term coined by famed architect Le Corbusier, pilotis are columnar structures designed to raise the mass of a building off the ground).
Travelers will enter or exit the transportation hub as well as the Arena and the northernmost office building through the urban room, which will also contain retail shops.


Design Guidelines

Part 1 of the Design Guidelines, part of the ESDC's General Project Plan (GPP), indicates that one of the principal entrances to Building 1, including the office component and hotel component would be via the Urban Room. (The hotel component appears to be shelved for now.)

Part 3 of the guidelines provides an architectural drawing (right), which shows the Urban Room integrally connected to Building 1.

Much praise

The ESDC, in its Final Scope of Analysis, a prelude to the environmental review, called it a "grand civic space."

The ESDC's FEIS, in the Project Description chapter, offers an impressive portrait:
A prominent feature of the pedestrian experience on the arena block is the “Urban Room,” which would be located at the southeast corner of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue at the base of Building 1 (see Figure 1-6). The “Urban Room,” would consist of a large, at least 10,000-sf publicly accessible atrium that would serve as a dramatic gateway to the arena and provide a place for people to congregate. The Urban Room would serve multiple purposes depending on the time of day and the activities taking place. On weekday mornings, the Urban Room would serve as the principal access to mass transit for the neighborhoods to the south, east, and west of Atlantic Avenue. On evenings and weekends (and when there are no arena events), the Urban Room would be activated by the restaurant on the second level mezzanine and the hotel uses. Thus, this glass-enclosed space is expected to serve as an entrance to the office space and hotel in Building 1, the restaurant and cafe, the arena (its ticket booths would be located here), and a new access point to the subway via an underground connection. There would be approximately 10,000 square feet of space that would be available for the public. The Urban Room would serve as its own destination when programmed with small concerts, cultural events, art shows, and readings that would be open to the public. Within the Urban Room, a cafĂ© would be centrally located on the street level for ease of access for pedestrians going to and from the subway and the street during both event and non-event periods. The second level mezzanine of the Urban Room would be accessed externally by a grand stoop at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues or internally by a stair and an elevator.

(Figure 1-6 is the second rendering above)

State Funding Agreement

Part 33 of the State Funding Agreement (right) simply states: Developer shall be required to provide reasonable assurances... that the new subway station access that will adjoin the Arena will be completed an operational at the time the Arena is opened for operation.

That says nothing about the Urban Room. So, for the first year(s) of arena operations, maybe there would be a temporary above-ground facility--an Urban Shed?--linking to subway access.

That's not ideal for Forest City Ratner; the Urban Room would be a billboard for advertising, as well. However, the sponsorship deals for the Barclays Center, coupled with the current major losses at the Izod Center in New Jersey, make a Nets move to Brooklyn far more fiscally important to the developer than the presence or absence of the Urban Room.

GPP on subway connection

The ESDC's GPP states that the project would include a "subway connection on the south side of Atlantic Avenue... with sufficient capacity to accommodate fans entering or leaving and event at the Arena."


The GPP also praises the Urban Room, calling it
a significant public amenity comprised of a large, glass-enclosed public space, providing access to the subway station, the Arena and Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. This space would accommodate the major flows of people to and from the subway system during the day and night, serve as a direct subway entrance to the Arena and allow for a variety of public uses and programmed events throughout the year.... Building 1 would provide a significant new subway entrance from the Urban Room and the street that would directly serve the Arena, commercial office space, hotel, and new residential uses.

But without Miss Brooklyn, it looks like there's no room for the Urban Room.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

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…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…