Saturday, February 20, 2010

Atlantic Yards gets a misguided cameo in Times article, book on gentrification

A cover story in the Metropolitan section of the New York Times tomorrow is headlined A Contrarian’s Lament in a Blitz of Gentrification, focusing on sociologist and author Sharon Zukin, who's written a new book titled Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, published last November.

The article and book raise some interesting issues about Jane Jacobs and gentrification, which I'll address at a later date. From the blurb:
Indeed, Naked City is a sobering update of Jacobs' legendary 1962 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities . Like Jacobs, Zukin looks at what gives neighborhoods a sense of place, but argues that over time, the emphasis on neighborhood distinctiveness has become a tool of economic elites to drive up real estate values and effectively force out the neighborhood "characters" that Jacobs so evocatively idealized.
Getting AY wrong

First, however, they should get the Atlantic Yards references clear--and they don't.

From the article:
The pattern in places like Williamsburg and Atlantic Yards, Ms. Zukin said, is dreary and inexorable: Middle-class “pioneers” buy brownstones and row houses. City officials rezone to allow luxury towers, which swell the value of the brownstones. And banks and real estate companies unleash a river of capital, flushing out the people who gave the neighborhoods character.
They should've checked the crib sheet. For the umpteenth time, Atlantic Yards is a project, not a place. It wasn't rezoned via a public process, but, rather, the state would override city zoning to allow much more density than allowed. And the value of the brownstones already went up.

"It's a great piece of real estate," to quote Chuck Ratner, CEO of Forest City Enterprises.

If the Times had posted a correction on the "rezoning" mistake rather than merely practicing "rowback" in 2006, maybe they would've gotten it right.

From the book

There are only a couple of references to AY in the book, but they're sloppy. Here's one:
The largest contemporary redevelopment project in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards, on a site Robert Moses picked for urban renewal many years earlier, stirred a lot of public protest but was derailed only by the collapse of financial markets in the subprime mortgage crisis.
No, it wasn't derailed, just delayed. And the site wasn't one Moses picked for urban renewal.

Here's another:
The new development planned for Atlantic Yards has been halted by the economic crisis.
Again, it couldn't be planned for Atlantic Yards, because AY isn’t a place. And it wasn't "halted by the economic crisis."

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