Skip to main content

Another gentrification discussion, the hard to find "sweet spot," and the "public realm"

It's getting a little frustrating to hear, as on yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show, yet another lament/debate about gentrification without any discussion of policy responses and solutions like investing in the "public realm"--transportation, parks, etc, as detailed by planner Alexander Garvin--to share the benefits of growth.

Yesterday's episode featured Fort Greene/Clinton Hill residents Rosie Perez (actress, etc.) and Nelson George (author, etc.), in a preview of a live program slated for Thursday at 10 am at The Greene Space called The Places that Bind: Examining Preservation and Culture in a Changing City.



Brownstoner, which hosted a lot of comments on the show, found George's "nostalgic but realistic take" interesting, while calling Perez on her lack of nuance in lamenting how few people she knows today.

After all, if people fight over access to tennis courts in Fort Greene Park, how much worse is that than, as a one-time transplant to Brooklyn recalled, having a brick thrown at you.

Where to go now?

George, recalling the heyday of black artists in Fort Greene in the 1980s and 1990s, expressed "nostalgia for this period where emerging talent could find a home and find a community."

A caller named Manny, who grew up in the Lower East Side and Washington Heights, expressed understandably mixed feelings.

"Is the city safer, yes, but at what cost?" he asked rhetorically. "To have $90-a-plate food [at restaurants] on Avenue B is crazy... It's good, but it's also bad, because the poor people at the end have to pay."

Well, that's only if the city allows developers and homeowners to share the benefits of rising property values without any sharing the wealth--redistributing tax money in the form of "public realm" investment, requiring subsidized housing as a tradeoff for increased density, and making non-gentrified neighborhoods more attractive thanks to better transit and parks.

(Oh yeah, what's the connection to Atlantic Yards? Had the city been doing this all along, a project like AY--essentially a private rezoning--wouldn't have been seen as a savior by some and wouldn't have been so polarizing.)

An aside: on Avenue A

"My city used to be beautiful too at one time," booms East Village rocker Handsome Dick Manitoba, frontman of punk pioneers The Dictators, in the 2008 video below. "Had a lot of character. A lot of fun things to do. But sad to say: all that's gone way downhill... The whole neighborhood's gone way downhill. But especially a place called Avenue A."

(The song "Avenue A" is from an album released in 2001 and, as Manny's report from the front hinted, it's already out of date. The lyrics: "taking the edge off a beautiful day/with a Frappuccino and a crème brûlée.")



The program Thursday

The program Thursday will be broadcast on WNYC, which is a good alternative for those of us not able to make it to The Greene Space that morning or to shell out the gentrification-level admission fee of $25.)

The blurb requests listeners to "[c]ome shape the agenda by joining the audience and talking about your favorite places you want preserved during these turbulent times... Rosie Perez will moderate an audience driven discussion on how to preserve (and when not to preserve) the socially and culturally important places in our lives."

On the radio yesterday, Perez reminded listeners that it would be a discussion, not a chorus. Most of the speakers lean toward the preservation line. Speakers include Nelson George; preservationists Vicki Weiner of the Pratt Center and Marci Reaven of Place Matters/City Lore, and community organizer Damaris Reyes of Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES).

Also present will be Bob Tierney, Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, who, as a member of the Bloomberg administration, is by no means a reflexive preservationist, and real estate consultant John Alschuler of HRA Advisors, who, Perez said on the radio yesterday, "believes people like me are wrong."

Alschuler is no theorist; his firm has its hand in an enormous array of major projects in the New York City metro area, and nationally, including PlaNYC, the Brooklyn Academy of Music Local Development Corporation, the HighLine, and affordable housing and development in Newark.

NY's disappearing face

The live show Thursday also will offer a version of Jim and Karla Murray's hyper-realist photo slide show on city store fronts from their book "The Disappearing Face of New York."

The best quote is "I speak 3 languages. English. Spanish. And Motherfucker," from the owner of a now-closed candy store owner from Bedford-Stuyvesant in the book and in their terrific Counter/Culture – The Disappearing Face of Brooklyn’s Storefronts (now closed) exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Finding the sweet spot

In the February 26 New York Times, an article on the reversal of "bohemian sprawl" in Los Angeles, headlined When the Next Wave Wipes Out, offered this observation:
It is hard to think of many on-the-verge neighborhoods that, historically, have been able to stay on the edge. In New York, SoHo and Greenwich Village aren’t the artistic havens they once were. And other neighborhoods, promising to be the next best thing — well, the “next” never arrived.

“Neighborhoods go through what you call a sweet spot,” said Joel Kotkin, author of “The City: A Global History,” who is a critic of some forms of gentrification. “It’s safe, it’s a nice place to live, it still has unique shops and hangouts.”

But this mix rarely lasts forever. “The ecosystems of these neighborhoods are very fragile,” Mr. Kotkin said. “Over-stimulation, and, in a recession, under-stimulation, and you have dangers.”


Finding the sweet spot

Kotkin was focusing on retail, as does the article, but the issue is broader.

As I wrote in October 2007, responding to the book New York Calling, "Perhaps we’re remembering some kind of 1980s-1990s interregnum, when neighborhoods got ‘nicer’ but not overpriced, safer but not sanitized, and it was easier for some New Yorkers to live a bohemian life. And we don’t quite know how to get that back, or what comes next."

(That probably should've been late 1980s.)

Maybe, as retail and residential rates recede, we'll get closer to that sweet spot.

The New Jersey solution?

Or maybe it requires some policy. Here's one not-so-joking solution to the gentrification laments: connect the PATH system, at least the subway-like trains in urban New Jersey, to the New York City subway.

That would make it much easier for people to live in Newark and Jersey City and work (and play) in New York City. It would stimulate construction in places that are far less ambivalent about gentrification than Fort Greene.

And given the large pieces of empty land, a city like Newark could absorb new middle- and upper-class residents with far less jolt to the system--and much less of a zero-sum game-- than Brooklyn.

"Avenue A," in Cleveland

Below is another Dictators performance of "Avenue A," in which Manitoba disses Avenue B (home of his bar Manitoba's) as "Avenue Bistro," laments seeing a New York University dorm go up where AC/DC opened up for the Dictators, and snarls, "Give me back my fuckin' neighborhood."

But the irony is that he has to ask, "Is that happening here in Cleveland?" Because Cleveland, in a zone of foreclosures and blight, might not mind having more people who could afford Frappuccinos--at least as long as there were some "public realm" investment.

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…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…