Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NY Mag: "Because Sometimes Immense, Gratuitous, Noncontextual Acts of Real-estate Ego Don’t Pan Out…"

While acknowledging that developer Forest City Ratner still has some momentum, New York Magazine writer Robert Kolker concludes that "At the moment, the old neighborhood is winning."

The occasion: the magazine's Reasons To Love New York 2008 package, in a short article headlined Because Sometimes Immense, Gratuitous, Noncontextual Acts of Real-estate Ego Don’t Pan Out….

Perhaps the neighborhood is winning in that Ratner has been thwarted somewhat, but a neighborhood doesn't win when demolition of viable structures creates indefinite empty lots.

Civic impact?

Kolker observes:
Some neighbors resisted right away, at first with little apparent effect. Ratner dialed down the size of his plan slightly, but more than a half-dozen lawsuits never seemed to get real traction.

In the end, though, all the project’s opponents may have had to do was delay the game until the market changed.


I'll agree that the market is probably the biggest factor, but I don't think the resistance had "little apparent effect." If nothing else, the enormous volume of comments filed in response to the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) Draft Environmental Impact Statement created a paper trail that could be--as in the claim that there would be no redevelopment without AY-- brutally weird.

And the lawsuits, though not leading to decisions against the project, have had the salutary effect of forcing the ESDC to defend its dubious blight claims in court, and to provoke at least one state appellate court justice to express major skepticism.

The Times's deception persists

As for the claim that "Ratner dialed down the size of his plan slightly," well, that came only after dialing up. The scaleback returned the project to approximately the square footage as proposed.

Blame the New York Times for perpetuating that myth with a front-page lead story--probably the single worst piece of Atlantic Yards coverage in the newspaper.

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