Skip to main content

For public discussion of development, Brooklyn needs a venue

Why is it that some of the most important discussions about Brooklyn, notably Brooklyn developments, take place in Manhattan? Obviously, meetings of the City Council or the City Planning Commission are held in Manhattan, while official hearings in the land use review process are held reasonably near the place at issue, which means Brooklyn.

Leaders in Manhattan

Beyond that, however, there are several options for public discourse, and Manhattan-based institutions like the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) or the Municipal Art Society (MAS), are the leaders in helping further such discourse.

Notably, several MAS panels associated with the Jane Jacobs exhibit last year had a strong Brooklyn focus. Last month, I visited MCNY, way up at Fifth Avenue and 104th Street, to hear a stimulating panel discussion about the future of Coney Island.

A MAS Planning Center Forum titled "David vs. Goliath" on May 14 will include Marshall Brown, the architect behind the UNITY Plan for the Vanderbilt Yard and Candace Carponter of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a backer of the plan.

Where's Brooklyn?

Brooklyn institutions and Brooklyn venues should be hosting similar panels. Given the ferment about development--just yesterday the Gowanus Lounge reported on the founding of the South Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance--Brooklyn needs a place where controversial issues can be ventilated publicly. After all, the frequent discourse that has Brooklyn neighborhoods designated the nation's "bloggiest" deserves to surface in real time.

There are places for discourse, among them the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Center for the Study of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College (and other academic institutions), and events sponsored by community boards, the Borough President, civic groups, and neighborhood groups like the Fort Greene Association and the Park Slope Civic Council. And Brooklyn Community Access Television (BCAT) produces a good number of public affairs shows.

However, Brooklyn, given its population of more than 2.5 million, would be the country's fourth-largest city if independent. It deserves its own equivalent of MAS or MCNY, just as it deserves much more press coverage.

Who will step up?

Can any of the Brooklyn groups step up? Maybe a consortium of organizations could take a closer look at development, or join up with a Manhattan-based organization like MAS or MCNY. One good venue might be the library's new, centrally-located auditorium, the Dweck Center.

(See the comments for another good candidate: the new home of the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment, or BCUE.)


  1. Sadly, I'm going to have to go ahead and suggest that the Brooklyn Museum be ruled out as an arena for discourse on the future of Brooklyn development.

  2. Hello! Rebeccah here from the Center for the Urban Environment.

    A local non-profit, we’ve been around for nearly 30 years educating New Yorkers about the built and natural environments.

    But we just moved from the Tennis House in Prospect Park to our new green headquarters near the Gowanus Canal at 168 7th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. It is a state of the art, media ready space with multiple rooms, flexible use, and the ability to hold up to 300 people.

    As part of our expanded public programming, we welcome hosting events on community and economic development.

    Anyone interested should shoot a note to

    Thanks, Rebeccah

  3. I'm not sure if this is the right place for this question, but is there a community liasion for Atlantic Yards yet?

    I'm trying and trying to find out whether the street "infrastucture improvements" will stay at the corner of 6th and Dean or move up Dean St in front of my apartment, a few doors down, and I can't find out. It's so loud every day, and I really won't be able to deal if it's in front of my apartment and not just on the corner.
    Anyone know whom I should contact? I've tried 311 and ConEd, since I see DPW, Con Ed, and Keyspan trucks there all the time.

  4. You can send me an email rather than comment on an unrelated post, but try:
    the ombudsman
    (see contact info here:
    or the Community Liaison Office:


Post a Comment

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…

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…

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…