Skip to main content

A bizarrely belated AY debate in the Brooklyn Eagle, plus Jane Jacobs's 2004 criticism of subsidizing stadiums

It was a bit of a surprise yesterday to see a piece in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle online, marked "Editorial viewpoint," headlined Some Critical Thoughts on Atlantic Yards, and attributed to "by Brooklyn Eagle."

That's because the Eagle decided to run my full post from June 11, with comments, critiquing an essay by the Eagle's Henrik Krogius. At the bottom of the piece (screenshot below), below a brief response by Krogius, was the notation "sent by Norman Oder."

I didn't send it and, given the two-month gap, whoever did send it must have used Snail Express. I captured the screenshots above and below. Then, after a couple of phone calls and emails, the Eagle agreed to excise the "sent by" and give me some kind of credit up top, so the piece now looks different. They did not, however, publish the clarification I requested. And the whole thing was in print, as well.

Ironically enough, the Eagle warns readers that "It’s not considered polite to paste the entire story on your blog." I decided not to push it because I borrowed liberally from the Eagle, albeit for a noncommercial site.  But the Eagle is a commercial enterprise.

Let's just say the Eagle doesn't quite get the "Internets." Might I add that my original post was full of hyperlinks, but of course, the version in print ignores them, as does the version online. (More incredulity from NLG.)

Krogius on Jacobs

And what of Krogius's conclusion:
These various observations are interesting, but they turn a blind eye to the brilliance and complexity of the Gehry plan. Was it just too unexpected, too different, too challenging for so many in Brooklyn? It had greater diversity than Rockefeller Center. I think friend Alex Garvin ( respected planner) would likely agree that a near-empty place at such a confluence of public transit warrants a very high density development — precisely AY. As to having moved more quickly if subjected to the city’s ULURP process rather than a state-initiated community board reviews and public hearings, that’s highly questionable. Note also that I wrote last week that Jane Jacobs might have been “sensible enough to recognize that Atlanic Yards represents a well-nigh unique situation for which a high-rise solution requires no destruction of a viable neighborhood.”

While the complexity of the Gehry plan--trying to nestle an arena in a larger development--does signal a solution to the standalone arena, I don't think the Gehry plan for AY had greater diversity than Rockefeller Center, which had multiple architects and an architectural competition. Garvin's been pretty tough on AY, implicitly.

It's conclusory to state that a site at--actually at and near--such a confluence of public transit warrants the density of "precisely AY." The ULURP process is hardly a panacea, but even former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said, in hindsight, the project should've gone through ULURP.

Would Jacobs have agreed that there would have been "no destruction of a viable neighborhood"? Yes, the site is on the northern fringe of Prospect Heights, with far fewer people and jobs to be displaced than in the time of Robert Moses, but the impact of the project on its neighbors likely would be profound.

Jacobs on stadiums

Most of the discussion of what Jacobs might say derives from our readings of her 1961 classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Lately, I've been reading her last book, Dark Age Ahead, published in 2004, but which provokes far less discussion.

On page 114, after criticizing leaders who scorn hospitals and transit systems as freeloaders if they can't directly pay their way, she wrote:
To be sure, neoconservative ideologues are selective in their social and economic choices for worthiness to survive and flourish. They subsidize professional sports stadiums, automotive assembly plants, roads, and other preferences, with tax breaks and other benefits.


So, whatever she thought of a mixed-use development by one developer and one architect emerging from an opaque planning process that closed streets--see Michael D. D. White's Jacobs scorecard--I think it's safe to say she would've looked askance at the city, state, and federal subsidies both granted and still pending for the arena.

Comments

  1. Regarding the various writings and statements of Jane Jacobs as they might relate to the Atlantic Yards development, here are some thoughts:

    a) Norman wrote:

    Would Jacobs have agreed that there would have been "no destruction of a viable neighborhood"?

    Benjamin writes:

    It seems to me that the issue of the so-called "destruction of a viable neighborhood" is a false Jane Jacobs issue. For instance, as far as I know, Jacobs never had any criticism for what was the near total destruction of three midtown blocks (approximately 12 acres) for what would ultimately become Rockefeller Center.

    It seems to me that Jacobs' objections regarding "project planning," in general, and Robert Moses' projects, in particular, were that they 1) displaced residents and businesses via an improper use of eminent domain; 2) they weren't even economically sensible in the first place -- as they received enormous government subsidies (both explicit and hidden); and 2) such developments were, in fact, not only not helpful but actually harmful, to the health of cities. (I think this can be seen, in particular, in a number of chapters in "Death and Life of Great American Cities" and "Systems of Survival.")

    b) On the other hand, in addition to the subsidies that you mention, I think one of the objections to the Atlantic Yards development that is most consistent with Jacobs' various writings and statements is its inappropriate use of the power of eminent domain.

    c) I also think another big "Jane Jacobs objection" is that the development's false claims of economic development -- in Jacobs' eyes the development's commercial space (be it one building or many buildings) is just not TRUE economic development. TRUE economic development is what was happening on the site before Ratner proposed Atlantic Yards. (I think this can be seen, in particular, in various chapters of "The Economy of Cities.")

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…