Monday, May 05, 2008

In Post, visions of blight at arena block, rest of AY footprint

It's a tabloid war today, apparently; just as the New York Daily News publishes new renderings of two Atlantic Yards buildings, the New York Post publishes renderings, provided by the Municipal Art Society, of a blighted arena block with empty lots surrounding the arena and the first building planned.

Given the lack of precise dimensions, I'm not clear on the accuracy of the renderings. However, if the arena's supposed to be 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, the image at right strikes me as somewhat exaggerated. The main point, though, is that there would be many empty lots, and no plans have been announced for them.

(Note: rendering updated to feature Building 2, the first building Forest City Ratner plans, rather than Building 4. First versions of renderings at bottom.)

Atlantic Lots?

The article (p. 15) is headlined, in low-key Post style, THE FUTURE'S 'BLIGHT': NIGHTMARE VISION OF B'KLYN ARENA. It leads off:
Forget Atlantic Yards - try "Atlantic Lots."

Renderings commissioned by the Municipal Art Society and obtained by The Post reveal for the first time how Bruce Ratner's controversial project in Brooklyn could look - and remain for many years - should the developer continue facing massive delays.

And this vision of the state-approved project isn't attractive - unless parking spaces turn you on.

...Instead of Gehry's bold new Brooklyn skyline, the independent renderings portray a vision of urban blight: only the planned arena near Atlantic and Flatbush avenues and a lone adjacent residential/office tower remain, surrounded by a series of large "temporary" surface parking and other empty space.

The Municipal Art Society says it commissioned a prominent architecture team - that wished to remain anonymous - to dramatize the impact of the project on surrounding neighborhoods and to get the state to rethink its approval of Atlantic Yards
.

(The photographs upon which the renderings are based were taken by Jonathan Barkey.)

MAS President Kent Barwick, who said "Atlantic Yards is looking more like Atlantic Lots," wants the state to rethink its approval of the project. What exactly that means is unclear--project opponents have fought Ratner fiercely, while MAS has tried a "mend it, don't end it" approach.

Ratner's response

The Post got a response from the developer:
"If MAS thinks that this resembles our project in any way, they are not only greatly mistaken they're doing themselves and the public a great disservice," said Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt. "Frankly, this is so far from anything even remotely resembling what we are building that it's not worth commenting on further."


Today the developer released new renderings of the arena block, indicating that the first tower, Building 2, would be built at the corner of Flatbush and Dean Streets, at the southwest of the arena block. Those renderings, of course, depict the arena block as whole and complete, though the towers would be built in stages.

First tower where?

The initial MAS renderings--quickly updated and thus corrected--speculated that the first tower would instead be built at the northeast corner of the arena block, at Atlantic and Sixth avenues. That was a reasonable speculation--it's the farthest away from from low-rise Prospect Heights on the arena block--but it apparently was incorrect, since the developer today announced the first tower would be Building 2, at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street. (That tower would be smaller than the one at Atlantic Avenue and thus would be easier to finance.)

The MAS renderings, as the Post reports, suggest land surrounding the arena as paved with asphalt, but Riegelhaupt suggested that it would more likely be "tree-lined open public space." Come to think of it, that recalls the park space suggested in the revised UNITY plan.

Note that the announcement of such "tree-lined open public space" was made only in response to an inquiry by the Post; the developer had not previously described just what might appear in the empty lots around the arena block.

Ratner's timetable

The Post notes that Ratner Sunday announced that the project would be finished by 2018. However, the Post adds some skepticism (albeit without credit to AYR):

But he failed to mention a little-known state funding agreement that gives him a generous amount of time to complete Atlantic Yards.

Under the agreement, Ratner has up to six years to build the arena, up to 12 years to complete five towers slated for phase one and no timeline to complete the remaining 11 towers in phase two.

"New York's experience with other large-scale projects suggests it could be much longer and that Brooklyn will be burdened with temporary lots for 15 to 20 years," Barwick said.


Arena redesign

The Post article states:
The arena's original vision – with its expanses-of-glass façade – has been modified in the MAS renderings so parts of the façade slated to eventually connect to towers substitute glass for a less attractive, temporary concrete finish.


Today's new renderings suggest not concrete but metal substituting for glass, which I speculate may be a response to security concerns.

(At right, the arena block in the MAS renderings. The Urban Room seems very different.)

Interim surface parking

The MAS more preciselydepicts Block 1129, current home of the Ward Bakery and other buildings in the southeast segment of the project footprint, as the home of interim surface parking. It's between Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues.

(The rendering has been updated.)

The Post reports:
The MAS says the decision to show the land east of the arena and lone tower with temporary surface parking lots is based on the project plan on file with the state. In it, the company Forest City Ratner indicates it will clear all of this land needed to build 11 towers and use it for parking until construction begins.


To be clear, interim surface parking was never planned on the arena block. It was, however, planned on the 100-foot wide rectangle of land east of Sixth Avenue, between Pacific and Dean streets, currently occupied by five low-rise houses. That plot of land is also needed by the developer for staging to build the arena.

Remember, a 12/10/03 Forest City Ratner press release announcing the Atlantic Yards project claimed:
The complex has been planned to look whole and complete during each phase of construction.

(At right, Jonathan Barkey's original aerial photo including the current southeastern block of the project footprint, showing several lots already cleared by demolition.)

Original renderings below

Below and right, these were the renderings by the Municipal Art Society with Building 4, rather than Building 2.



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