Monday, May 11, 2009

Questions for the oversight hearing: Is Frank Gehry still on the project? What's he doing?

(This is one in an irregular series of articles about issues that a State Senate committee might address when it holds a hearing on Atlantic Yards.)

It's highly unlikely that architect Frank Gehry would be called to appear at the oversight hearing, but the public deserves some clarity about his role, so the Empire State Development Corporation and/or developer Forest City Ratner should be asked some questions.

If Gehry has laid off his staff, as has been reported, what does that mean:
• Is Gehry still working on the project? How actively?
• Will he rehire staff to work on the project?
• Have other architects taken Gehry's designs and reworked them to save money?
• Can the price tag, once $950 million, be cut in half?
• Why exactly did the price tag rocket from $435 million to $950 million?

Why it matters

Why does it matter? Because Forest City Ratner and Barclays, which bought arena naming rights, continue to tout Gehry's role.

That's understandable, because an arena designed by Gehry presumably would bring in more revenues from sponsors and those purchasing luxury suites and high-priced tickets. And, presumably, increased ticket sales would result in increased tax revenues for the city and state.

However, if the arena, once to be designed by Gehry, would instead be "inspired" by Gehry's design, then wouldn't revenues for the arena sponsor as well as the government be lower?

So the public has an interest in the issue.

After all, when the project was approved in December 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation, in the second sentence of a press release, trumpeted Gehry's role:
The almost $4 billion Atlantic Yards project designed by world-class architect Frank Gehry will transform an area that is currently blighted and largely underutilized into a vibrant mixed-use community.

Gehry in NYC tonight

Gehry's speaking tonight at the New York Public Library. I previously posed questions for him and here expand on that:
• Is he still working on the project? How actively?
• What does he think about New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's request that he "walk away" from the project?
• If he's so proud that he works "tight to the bone," what went wrong to cause AY costs to leap?

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