Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Waiting for the "September surprise"? That's when Forest City Ratner will unveil new arena designs

Someone called me yesterday about scheduling an Atlantic Yards-related event in September.

I pointed out that any AY event that month has to be scheduled around the "September surprise," when Forest City Ratner, with fanfare, unveils the next design of the Atlantic Yards arena, wins back certain members of the chattering class, and allows Mayor Mike Bloomberg to look City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden in the eye.

Sure, I speculate, but look at the evidence. Yesterday CEO Bruce Ratner told the New York Times:
[CEO] Mr. [Bruce] Ratner said he expected to release new images of the arena before Labor Day. “I think the final architecture will be really beautiful,” he said.

Labor Day is Monday, September 7. The final day for people to submit comments to the Empire State Development Corporation on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan is August 31.

When will it be?

Presumably the designs will be finished before August 31--but there's no need to flummox the public by releasing them during the comment period, right? Will they be released Friday, September 4?

Friday is traditionally the day people expect extended arts coverage in the Times, so it could be a good way to win back architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who dissed the latest arena design, by arena specialists Ellerbe Becket, as a "monstrosity."

Ouroussoff, I suspect, could come around if some newfangled design team--say a counterpart to Field Operations, the well-respected firm working on the interim open space--joins the project. Ouroussoff prizes architecture above all; he's much less concerned about issues like subsidies and process.

So, Forest City Ratner may have to spend a bit more money to get a better design, but it just saved $100 million on a new railyard.
(Update: A couple of people, including one known for his nastiness, have commented that the Friday before Labor Day is an unwise time to get the story out. So maybe it'll be a day earlier, or a week later.)

Was it just a placeholder?

Remember, the hangar-like images that emerged in the Times were apparently leaked, allegedly (according to Crain's) by the Burden's office.

Forest City Ratner had said the images were placeholders, but they don't look very placeholder-y. After all, they were also released by the ESDC. They look like the Conseco Fieldhouse transplanted from Indianapolis to Brooklyn, with some Barclays Center signage carefully applied.

FCR apparently recognized that New York demanded more. So elected officials like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, forced into awkward statements of approval after original architect Frank Gehry was dropped for the Ellerbe Becket design, will be able to salute something snazzier.

In September.

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