Friday, June 05, 2009

Gehry's design was impossible, so dropping him wasn't just cost; what do MAS and RPA say now?

None of the news coverage this morning notices that, as I pointed out last night, the rendering omits the much-touted Urban Room, a large, glass-enclosed public space.

Given the hold-up in constructing the flagship Building 1 (formerly Miss Brooklyn), the Urban Room became an impossibility and, I'd contend, so became Gehry's design. His arena, as the New York Times's architecture critics rhapsodically reminded us, was to be different.
  • Herbert Muschamp: Instead of sitting isolated in a parking lot, the stadium will be tucked into the urban fabric, just as buildings surround a Baroque square. The arena becomes a stage, with the towers around extending the bleachers to the sky.
  • Nicolai Ouroussoff: If a new model is ever going to emerge, it may well be in Brooklyn, where Frank Gehry is designing a stadium for the Nets that will be embedded in layers upon layers of housing.
Not anymore. And even though the Ellerbe Becket arena would be more expensive, at $800 million, than the $637.2 million Gehry arena approved in 2006, at least it doesn't have Building 1. Given that Forest City has been working with Ellerbe Becket for three years, did the developer--when the plan was approved in 2006--really intend to build the Gehry design?

MAS, RPA flashback

The final version of the Times article, headlined Developer Drops Gehry’s Design for Brooklyn Arena, quotes one mend-it-don't-end-it critic, now looking increasingly tepid:
“The current Atlantic Yards plan bears increasingly less resemblance to the project that was approved in 2006,” said Vin Cipolla, the president of the Municipal Art Society [MAS]. “The replacement of Gehry further reduces the public benefits of the project, which urgently needs re-evaluation and oversight.”

The public benefits, actually, were reduced as of September 2007, when the city and state signed funding agreements giving Forest City Ratner 12 years to build Phase 1, with a minimum of only 300 affordable housing units, and no timetable for Phase 2, which would have all the open space and most of the affordable housing. (Those agreements surfaced last spring.)

The MAS, in its testimony on the project, said it couldn't support it without major changes, though it praised Gehry's design. In fact, the MAS suggested that, with a north-south re-orientation of the arena, Fifth Avenue could be kept open.

The arena has, in fact, been reoriented, as the graphic at top suggests, but there's been no evidence that the Empire State Development Corporation is reconsidering the closure of Fifth Avenue.

So, will the MAS remind people about Fifth Avenue?

Meanwhile, the Regional Plan Association (RPA), which has been increasingly critical of the project, must now realize how it was played, given its testimony at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
Regional Plan Association supports construction of the signature western block of the project largely as proposed. This block, featuring the basketball arena and four towers, is an excellent example of city-making that will bring tremendous benefits to the area. These initial towers have been designed by the expert hand of Frank Gehry and, along with the arena, will become iconic images representing the borough soon after their construction.


Hockey and timing

The Times article in print includes two points made in my response to the earlier article:
If the arena is built, however, it will most likely take more than two years to complete. Unlike the Gehry design, the new arena would not accommodate a professional hockey team.

The Times, however, doesn't go further and point out that a 2011 arena opening is impossible.

Other coverage

The New York Post article [corrected 7:40 pm] appears in print, on page 26, in much truncated form, right. The Daily News article appears on page 4, though at one-quarter of the size of the piece above it, which was headlined, in print, Here's evil teen who tossed cat in the oven.

As noted on NLG, Tracy Collins has [corrected 6/6] photoshopped a revision of the anti-eminent domain mural (above) created by Patti and Schellie Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, adapted for the new architect, Ellerbe Becket.

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