Saturday, September 25, 2010

Times still not sure whether arena would be "near" Downtown Brooklyn or in it

From the today's New York Times, Nets Discuss 4-Team Deal to Acquire Anthony:
The Nets are scheduled to move to a new arena in downtown Brooklyn in two years, placing them squarely in competition with the Knicks. Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn, would provide instant star power and credibility and set up a rivalry with Stoudemire, his good friend.
From the Corrections box in the 4/27/06 New York Times:
Because of an editing error, an article in The Arts on Tuesday about Frank Gehry's design for the first phase of the Grand Avenue development project in Los Angeles misstated the location of the proposed Atlantic Yards project that Mr. Gehry is designing in Brooklyn. (The error also appeared in sports articles on Feb. 9 and April 11, in the City section on Jan. 15 and in several articles in 2003, 2004 and 2005.) It is on rail yards and other land in Prospect Heights and on a block in Park Slope; it is not in Downtown Brooklyn, although it is near that neighborhood.
A 9/12/10 Times Arts article said "near downtown Brooklyn."

A 6/30/10 Sports article said "in downtown Brooklyn."

A 6/26/10 Sports article said "in downtown Brooklyn."

A 5/20/10 Sports column said "near downtown Brooklyn."

C'mon, can't they get this straight?

The background

Forest City Ratner says the arena's "in" Downtown Brooklyn. The map says it isn't.

Maybe the arena would extend Downtown Brooklyn. But that hasn't happened yet.

As I wrote 6/2/08, Atlantic Yards would still be a dogleg extension of Downtown Brooklyn and thus does not deserve that moniker, despite Forest City Ratner's rhetoric.

After all, the map from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership can't even fit Atlantic Yards; the only building to appear is the tower planned (and delayed) for Site 5 at the far west of the footprint. Also, the city's rezoning for Downtown Brooklyn did not include the Atlantic Yards site. (Actually, one small parcel was initially included, then dropped.)

27 comments:

  1. PART ONE

    The issue of whether the Atlantic Yards Project is, or is not, in "downtown" Brooklyn, seems to me to be among the weakest issues (among a good many very strong ones) that have been raised regarding the Atlantic Yards project and the media's coverage of it.

    In my opinion, referring to the site of the Atlantic Yards area as "downtown" Brooklyn is not that big a deal -- although, personally speaking, it does seem to me that under certain "nitpicky" circumstances, it might be more precise to say that the arena is on the outskirts or at the edge of what is CURRENTLY downtown Brooklyn (see more about this, further below). But for most everyday common usage and even for most "practical" purposes with regard to a discussion of the AY project, "downtown" Brooklyn seems to me to be accurate and appropriate.

    I say this for the following reasons:

    1) It seems to me that most "neutral" observers (including urban geographers, political scientists, etc.) would consider the arena/project to be in (or at least on the outskirts of) the "downtown" part of Brooklyn (which was once, of course, an independent city and which still has the "form," or layout, of an independent city).

    The site is a stone's throw from Brooklyn's "Empire State Building" (i.e., Williamsburgh Bank Building), Brooklyn's "Grand Central Terminal" transit hub (i.e., the L.I.R.R.'s Atlantic Terminal), and Brooklyn's "Metropolitan Opera House / Carnegie Hall" (i.e., the Academy of Music). And it's an easy walk from Brooklyn's "34th Street," Brooklyn's "Times Square" (or where Brooklyn's big movie theaters were once located), and so on.

    (To be continued.)

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  2. PART TWO

    2) In terms of the way the parts of American cities are labeled in common language (where even residential brownstone neighborhoods are generally considered to be "downtown"), if the proposed arena/project is not "downtown," than where is it? It isn't, for instance, in the onetime "suburbs" of Brooklyn (e.g., Prospect Park South, Flatbush, etc.).

    3) Cities are not, or at least haven't been (and shouldn't be, in my opinion) "static" entities. They continue to naturally grow (or shrink, as many have after WWII). So even if the site of the proposed Atlantic Yards isn't in "the heart" of downtown Brooklyn NOW, that doesn't mean that, in years to come, it might not be in the heart of an expanded "downtown" -- just the way Manhattan's Murray Hill, Turtle Bay, etc., eventually became parts of Manhattan's "downtown" -- or, rather, part of its "midtown," since NYC expanded so much it has two different terms to refer to its CBD).

    In my opinion, there are plenty of good reasons to oppose the Atlantic Yards Project (and to criticize the media's coverage of the project), but the "downtown" issue seems to me to misguided -- particularly since it seems to me to reflect a very static version of urbanism.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Sat., September 25, 2010, 2:24 p.m.

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  3. Precision matters. Forest City Ratner has long claimed that the 22-acre stretch of land is "a new vision for Downtown."
    http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2006/05/ep-on-times-loan-obligation-to-forest_31.html

    Except it ends at Vanderbilt Avenue, which, like the rest of the AY site (except for a small piece in northern Park Slope) is in Prospect Heights.

    Sure, most neutral observers would say it's "near Downtown," but not of Downtown.

    The *site* is not a stone's throw from the transit hub. The northern part of the arena portion of the site is. The southeast part of the arena portion was home to Freddy's Bar & Backroom, a fixture in Prospect Heights.

    Downtown Brooklyn was rezoned. The site wasn't.

    No, the AY site won't be in the heart of an expanded Downtown. It--more likely the arena block--might extend it.

    Take a look at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's map. It can't even fit the AY site in.
    http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2008/06/downtown-brooklyn-new-aerial-photos.html

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  4. PART ONE

    A) Norman wrote:

    Precision matters. Forest City Ratner has long claimed that the 22-acre stretch of land is "a new vision for Downtown." . . .

    Except it ends at Vanderbilt Avenue, which, like the rest of the AY site (except for a small piece in northern Park Slope) is in Prospect Heights.

    Benjamin writes:

    While precision can matter in certain circumstances, I disagree that it really matters -- or that it really "should" matter -- here. Sometimes precision can be specious precision.

    I think that it is a false understanding of healthy cities and healthy city dynamics to think of city districts as having set, fixed boundaries that somehow should be honored. The boundaries of city districts can change over time -- and should be able to change over time, in my opinion -- as a city itself changes over time.

    I suspect that part of the disagreement here may be an underlying philosophical one about cities -- which is what I was getting at when I said in my original comment in this thread that cities aren't or shouldn't be static entities. It seems to me that the "downtown" issue is only really relevant if one thinks that cities should remain static and that areas that are supposedly non-downtown areas are somehow "sacred" (and that downtowns are, in some way, “bad”). Without these beliefs, it seems to me that the issue loses importance.

    B) Norman wrote:

    Sure, most neutral observers would say it's "near Downtown," but not of Downtown.

    Benjamin writes:

    While from my perspective (see elsewhere in my comments in this thread, especially directly above) I don't think it really matters much -- or it really shouldn't matter much -- whether the site is "in," "on the leading edge of" or "near" downtown Brooklyn, nevertheless I still think that most neutral observers in most general conversations would say that the site is “in” downtown Brooklyn. In other words, I think most people discussing the site without regard to the proposed Atlantic Yards project would say in general conversations that the area is “in” downtown Brooklyn.

    Being a person who thinks of himself as an student of cities and as someone who is precise, I can see myself in certain specialized circumstances saying that the area is “on the edge” of downtown Brooklyn – but I can also see myself saying under other, more general, circumstances that the area is “in” downtown Brooklyn.

    So, in practical terms, it seems to me that reporters, etc. shouldn't be taken to task for referring to the area as downtown Brooklyn -- that's what most neutral observers would say in most general circumstances.

    (To be continued.)

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  5. Benjamin, do stand on the corner of Fifth and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn. Are you downtown? What if you're a half-block south?

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  6. PART TWO

    [Norman, sorry for the delay in posting Part Two. Will get to your additional post in a bit, but first would like to continue with the rest of my original response.]

    C) Norman wrote [the added numbering is mine – BH]:

    [1] The *site* is not a stone's throw from the transit hub. The northern part of the arena portion of the site is. [2] The southeast part of the arena portion was home to Freddy's Bar & Backroom, a fixture in Prospect Heights.

    Benjamin writes:

    With regard to [1], the entire site is a long narrow site, so obviously one part of the site is going to be closer to the transit hub than other parts of the site. But it seems to me that a long narrow site where a not insignificant portion of the site is close to a “city’s” Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal and Metropolitan Opera House / Carnegie Hall can be fairly considered to be “downtown.” The fact that the far ends of the site are, naturally, further away doesn't – and shouldn’t – really matter much in a discussion of the project (which, of course, has a lot of other more significant problems with it in my opinion).

    With regard to [2]: I think it’s important to remember also that buildings can be both in a named district and be “downtown” too. The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

    For instance, row houses on W. 11th Street are both in Greenwich Village and in downtown Manhattan too . And brownstones located on E. 37th Street, off Park Avenue, are both in Murray Hill and in “downtown” (or more precisely “midtown”) Manhattan too.

    In other words, “downtown,” can be both the name of a district (where the district has no other name) and a designation for a part of a city (where sections of a city’s downtown can also be part of other named districts too).

    (To be continued.)

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  7. PART THREE

    D) Norman wrote:

    No, the AY site won't be in the heart of an expanded Downtown. It -- more likely the arena block -- might extend it.

    Benjamin writes:

    Who really knows how large downtown Brooklyn may eventually become or what shape it will take or how many downtowns it will have? While I tend to doubt that Brooklyn will grow that much in terms of its downtown areas, I think one should leave open the possibility that Brooklyn could continue to grow economically in the future and grow its downtown as a result. And if that’s the case, the Atlantic Yards site could be in the heart of Brooklyn’s future downtown. At one point the theaters built on 42nd Street in Manhattan extended the edge of the theater district to 42nd St. A few years later these theaters were in the heart of the theater district and, not all that many years later, they were on the southern fringe of the theater district.

    Again, I think this whole downtown issue becomes significant only if one doesn’t believe in dynamic cities and believes there is something wrong in expanded downtowns.

    E) Norman wrote:

    [1] Downtown Brooklyn was rezoned. The site wasn’t.

    [2] Take a look at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's map. It can't even fit the AY site in.

    Benjamin writes:

    These observations don’t seem to me to be all that significant as they seem to reflect the parochial concerns of the individuals involved at a particular point in time. They don’t seem to be relevant to the real meat of the issue – whether or not most people would consider the area to be downtown and, more importantly, whether or not this is even really all that relevant to an evaluation of the project overall.

    Looking at the big picture, I think there are a lot of other more important things to criticize about the Atlantic Yards Project (much of it coming to light thanks to your excellent reporting) and a lot of other more important things to criticize about the media’s coverage of it (again much of it coming to light thanks to your excellent reporting). (Good luck on your book – I think it could be a really important contribution to the literature!) So the downtown issue seems to me to be trivial at best and, on a darker note, to perhaps reflect an underlying anti-city (i.e., anti-downtown) and anti-change mentality at worst.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Sun., September 26, 2010, 5:35 p.m.

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  8. Benjamin dismisses the rezoning issue and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's map as seeming "to reflect the parochial concerns of the individuals involved at a particular point in time. They don’t seem to be relevant to the real meat of the issue."

    I disagree strongly.

    I recognize that cities are dynamic. Maybe the arena block will end up extending Downtown Brooklyn.

    Forest City Ratner, all the while failing to show renderings of the project in neighborhood scale, insisted that the project would be located "downtown," thus associating the project site with an area rezoned for larger development and an area presumably more appropriate for eminent domain.

    Just today, at the Atlantic Antic, I picked up a Downtown Brooklyn Partnership brochure. It again excluded the Atlantic Yards site.

    As for the contention that Brooklyn's downtown might grow, sure. That's why it was rezoned. I'd point to CityPoint, and Schermerhorn Street as areas for future growth.

    Please take a walk around before issuing further comment.

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  9. Responses to Additional Comments – Part One

    First, a brief recap of my comments above: It seems to me that the real issues here are [1] what is the meaning of the word “downtown” and [2] how / why is a “downtown” location for the Atlantic Yards Project supposedly relevant to an evaluation of the project and the media’s coverage of it (both of which can be better criticized for other reasons, in my opinion). It seems to me that for most people it’s not unfair to say that the Atlantic Yards site is in downtown Brooklyn, and whether the site is in downtown Brooklyn or not isn’t really all that relevant anyway (unless one believes, to some degree, that city districts should be relatively sharply defined and relatively fixed and that “downtowns” are, again to some degree, “bad”).

    Norman wrote:

    . . . stand on the corner of Fifth and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn. Are you downtown? What if you're a half-block south [Dean and Flatbush?]?

    Benjamin writes:

    The intersections in question remind me of intersections in the West Village, Chelsea, Tribeca, Hudson the Meat Packing District, etc., all of which I think of as being “downtown” – even before some of the recent dramatic changes in these areas.

    It seems to me that in common usage “downtown” means both a kind of place (i.e., a district having at least some commercial uses) and a location within a municipality (i.e., close to the municipality’s focal point). And using both of these definitions, it seems to me that it’s not “unfair” to say this is “downtown” Brooklyn (although there are, obviously, other areas that fit the bill even better).

    Also, it’s important to remember that not all downtowns are equal. Downtown Jamaica (which is near where I grew up) is not as intense as downtown Manhattan or even downtown Brooklyn. But it is still fair to say that the area is “downtown” Jamaica.

    (To be continued.)

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  10. Responses to Additional Comments – Part Two

    Norman wrote:

    [1] I disagree strongly [that rezoning issue and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's mapping reflects " the parochial concerns of the individuals involved at a particular point in time and that they don’t seem to be relevant to the real meat of the issue].

    [2] Forest City Ratner, all the while failing to show renderings of the project in neighborhood scale, insisted that the project would be located "downtown," thus associating the project site with an area rezoned for larger development and an area presumably more appropriate for eminent domain.

    [3] Just today, at the Atlantic Antic, I picked up a Downtown Brooklyn Partnership brochure. It again excluded the Atlantic Yards site.

    Benjamin writes:

    I don’t see the significance of paragraph [1] and paragraph [3] for the issues at hand (for what I see to be the issues at hand, see the brief recap above) – but I suspect that paragraph [2] more clearly states the concerns that are being raised in these other two paragraphs. And if I understand paragraph [2] correctly, the complaint is that placing the project area downtown helps justify zoning that is inappropriate for the surrounding areas and makes the project area a more “legitimate” target for the use of eminent domain.

    As mentioned previously (maybe indirectly in this thread and directly in other threads), I don’t think a project on the site should, necessarily, be at a neighborhood scale. Manhattan, for instance, has plenty of successful developments, including of course Rockefeller Center, that haven’t been built to the neighborhood scale of surrounding areas. And I’m not sure if a “downtown” location really is that important for eminent domain – look at the Willet’s Point controversy for example.

    HOWEVER, as pointed out elsewhere, if there was no government support for the Atlantic Yards development, I don’t think the location would, in fact, be able to financially support the various versions of the development that have been proposed. So the “real” issue, so it seems to me, should not be whether the site is “downtown” or not (which seems to me, at heart, to be an anti-city type viewpoint) – but whether government should be propping up a project that can’t make it on its own two feet.

    (To be continued.)

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  11. Responses to Additional Comments – Part Four

    Norman wrote:

    As for the contention that Brooklyn's downtown might grow, sure. That's why it was rezoned. I'd point to CityPoint, and Schermerhorn Street as areas for future growth.

    Benjamin writes:

    I can see these areas growing too – but no need to restrict to these areas. As mentioned above, I could see Flatbush and Fifth / Dean, under the right circumstances, following a an intensification scenario similar to that of the West Village, Chelsea, the Meat Packing district, etc.

    - - - - -

    To sum up, I suspect that the differences here are more philosophical than factual.

    But thanks again, Norman, for bringing up the issues (and digging up the facts, too!) and providing a forum where a diversity of viewpoints can be presented (the essence of Jane Jacobs!).

    Benjamin Hemric
    Sun., Sept. 26, 2010, 8:05 p.m.

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  12. My point was that Fifth Avenue as it approaches Flatbush is very much Park Slope. The block on Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton is very much Prospect Heights.

    If Benjamin wants to argue that these are "downtown" neighborhoods because they are in the general orbit of downtown, fine.

    But Downtown Brooklyn has been defined officially, for the time being at least, in maps and rezoning by both the Department of City Planning and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

    And that's why Benjamin's dismissal of [1] is mystifying.

    (I'm not saying that all development on the Atlantic Yards site has to be at neighborhood scale. I am saying that the process for getting there bypassed the typical city process.)

    That's also why I suggested taking a walk around.

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  13. As previously mentioned, I think some of the disagreements here are philosophical – and have already been addressed, directly or indirectly, above. Thus I’ll confine my comments to what I see as new issues /angles.

    Norman wrote:

    [1] But Downtown Brooklyn has been defined officially, for the time being at least, in maps and rezoning by both the Department of City Planning and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

    [2] (I'm not saying that all development on the Atlantic Yards site has to be at neighborhood scale. I am saying that the process for getting there bypassed the typical city process.)

    Benjamin writes:

    With regard to [1]: Perhaps my skepticism of the utility of “city planning” / zoning hasn’t come across as clearly as I thought it has in my previous comments here, but I don’t think that these “downtown” designations really mean much – or really should mean much – in terms of an evaluation of the Atlantic Yards project.

    I think it’s important to remember that in terms of the history of cities, zoning is a relatively new phenomenon and that cities seemed to do pretty well for themselves, so it seems to me, before modern day zoning and downtown designations came along. And when modern day zoning did come along, in 1916 for NYC (including, of course, Brooklyn), it appears to have been much looser and less controlling (and in some ways better, in my opinion) than the 1961 zoning ordinance is. (Witness, perhaps, the wonderful Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building?)

    So it seems to me that the fact that a site may be outside an area that is currently designated as being downtown, doesn’t mean that a site shouldn’t “really” have been included in a downtown designation in the first place, or that it shouldn’t be included in a downtown designation in the future or that a downtown designation may even be pretty much irrelevant to a city’s long term health and well being.

    With regard to [2]: While I think zoning should be looser and more like the 1916 zoning ordinance, bypassing the city’s zoning process in order to favor one particular developer doesn’t really accomplish that. So I do disagree with such an action as being yet another instance of objectionable government support for this project.

    But this doesn’t seem to me to be really relevant to whether the project site, is or is not, located in downtown Brooklyn. One can upzone to unfairly benefit a favored developer/project anywhere, so it seems to me.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Sun., 9/26/10, 11:05 p.m.

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  14. I think this dispute went off track with comment #2, when Benjamin asked, "if the proposed arena/project is not 'downtown,' than where is it" without coming up with Prospect Heights as a rejoinder.

    In other words, looked through a Jacobsian lens, Benjamin in this case is playing more the role of the theorist, rather than testing the claims and assumptions at street level, walking the site and environs.

    Thus, when I urged taking a walk around before commenting further, I wasn't trying to be dismissive so much as asking for some local knowledge.

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  15. [Please forgive using all caps for emphasis, but I find all caps to be more reliable than underlining, boldface, etc.]

    Benjamin wrote (additional emphasis and numbering is added – BH):

    [a] IN TERMS OF THE WAY THE PARTS OF AMERICAN CITIES ARE LABELED IN COMMON LANGUAGE ([b] where even residential brownstone neighborhoods are generally considered to be "downtown"), if the proposed arena/project is not "downtown," than where is it? It isn't, for instance, in the onetime "suburbs" of Brooklyn (e.g., Prospect Park South, Flatbush, etc.)

    Norman wrote:

    I think this dispute went off track with comment #2 [quoted above], when Benjamin asked, "if the proposed arena/project is not 'downtown,' than where is it" without coming up with Prospect Heights as a rejoinder.

    Benjamin writes:

    I’m not sure if I understand this most recent comment, but perhaps I should try to explain my original comment further. What I was trying to get at in my original comment, quoted above, is the fact that, as we all know, words are often used differently in different contexts. One common “geographical” example of this is when residents of an outer borough – like those in the Queens neighborhoods I grew up in – say that they are “going into the ‘city’,” even though, technically speaking, they are already “in” the “city.”

    It seems to me that in common usage (and also in the quasi-technical lingo of geographers too), the word “downtown” is often used with a broad brush meaning to mean close to the focal point of a city. When used this way, not only would the Atlantic Yards site be “downtown” but so would a number of Brooklyn’s “downtown” brownstone neighborhoods. An example of this would be a newspaper or news magazine casually referring to a revival of downtown brownstone neighborhoods.

    So it seems to me that newspaper reporters, urban geographers, every day people, etc. might likely as not refer to Atlantic Yards site as being “downtown.” even absent a controversy surrounding the Atlantic Yards site. Now in precise technical terms the Atlantic Yards site might not be downtown (but more accurately on the edge of downtown), just like in precise technical terms a resident of Jamaica, Queens is not really going “into” the city. But that’s the way, so it seems to me, people in general talk/write anyway. So, in other words, saying that the Atlantic Yards site is “downtown” is not necessarily, so it seems to me, negligent reporting or an example of a newspaper’s collusion with Forest City Ratner, but just the way people talk/write.

    Norman wrote:

    In other words, looked through a Jacobsian lens, Benjamin in this case is playing more the role of the theorist, rather than testing the claims and assumptions at street level, walking the site and environs.

    Benjamin writes:

    While it’s true that looking at a city in terms of its various parts is looking at a city “from above,” I also think, as mentioned above, that the site could be considered “downtown” even from street level (although there are, obviously, other areas that fit the bill even better).

    Benjamin Hemric
    Mon. 9/27/10, 11:59 p.m.

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  16. "While precision can matter in certain circumstances, I disagree that it really matters -- or that it really "should" matter -- here. Sometimes precision can be specious precision."

    Benjamin, you are just wrong on this one. If AY were truly in a downtown, small d, or in Downtown Brooklyn, then its scale, density and girth would arguably be appropriate or at least more appropriate. Heck, thats what you get downtown, very tall buildings and places where large crowds gather, right. That is why FCR very consciously went about calling the site "downtown."

    And that is how the Times and other imprecise reporting furthered the idea that this scale, density and girth was appropriate.

    Trouble is, the project is not proposed for Downtown or downtown.

    though it may sound needlessly nitpicky to you, it is actually the crux of the issue, or at least one of the cruxes.

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  17. I didn't call the Times's lapses an example of collusion, but they represent lazy reporting--in other words, taking the developer's definition of the area without testing it against other indicia, such as the Department of City Planning's rezoning.

    I don't disagree with the general point that "downtown" can change. I disagree with an analysis that ignores the context of this dispute.

    The key historic quote comes from a New York Times Real Estate section article on Prospect Heights, from 1999:
    http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2006/10/21-years-of-prospect-heights-blight.html

    "Speaking of the industrial buildings in the border area on Dean and Pacific Streets Mr. McLaren said: 'It's the last large concentrated amount of square footage in brownstone Brooklyn. These are no handyman specials. You need to have sophistication in navigating city bureaucracy to make them work.'"

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  18. PART ONE

    First, two general comments:

    1) Hi, Daniel! Although I suspect we will continue to disagree on this particular issue, I'd also like to use this opportunity to express my great admiration for your efforts in this fight – especially since eminent domain abuse is one of my main objections to the Atlantic Yards Project. (I also have great admiration for Norman's efforts too -- but I've already expressed them, I hope, in previous posts.)

    2) As mentioned earlier in this thread (at that time with regard to Norman’s comments, but I think it applies here as well), it seems to me that at least some of the disagreements here are philosophical ones over, for instance, what constitutes “good” urbanism and whether cities should be planned or whether they should be allowed to grow organically via the marketplace. Hopefully I can make this clearer here than I have in my previous comments. (I certainly don’t expect people who hold a different philosophical view of cities and “planning” to agree with me on the basis of my brief comments here – but I do think it’s important to be aware of the differences.)

    (To be continued.)

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  19. PART TWO

    Daniel wrote in part (the numbering, added emphasis and added text in brackets is mine -- BH):

    [1] If [Atlantic Yards] were truly in a downtown, small d, or in Downtown Brooklyn, then its scale, density and girth would arguably be appropriate or at least MORE APPROPRIATE. Heck, that’s what you get downtown, very tall buildings and places where large crowds gather, right [?]. [2] That is why FCR very consciously went about calling the site "downtown."

    [3] And that is how the “Times” and other imprecise reporting furthered the idea that this scale, density and girth was APPROPRIATE.

    [4] Though it may sound needlessly nitpicky to you, it is actually the crux of the issue, or at least one of the cruxes.

    Benjamin writes:

    With regard to [1] and [4]: As mentioned above (but perhaps not as clearly as I’d hoped), I don’t think the size of a project should depend upon whether it’s “downtown” or not. That’s not the way the cities that we know and love were actually built, AND, in my opinion, if we’d be doing things that way all along we wouldn’t have much of a NYC or Brooklyn to know and love. So although people may not mean it this way, there seems to me to be a dangerous Lewis Mumfordian anti-city tinge to this argument. (And this is one of the reasons I commented in this thread in the first place.)

    A more important consideration than whether a project site is “downtown” or not, so it seems to me, is whether it’s a good project or not and whether it’s a project that “works” at that location (e.g., is genuinely profitable, etc.). I don’t think Atlantic Yards meets this test and I believe it is only financially “feasible” due to heavy government support. For me, that’s the real problem with the Atlantic Yards project – not whether the site is or is not downtown, or whether the size of AY reflects its surroundings, etc.

    With regard [2] and [3]: As also mentioned above, I think lots of people with no connection to either Forrest City Ratner or the “Times” would refer to the site as being, loosely speaking, “downtown.” The issue is only “important,” so it seems to me, if one believes (as both Daniel and Norman seem to do, at least to some degree) that very large projects “belong” only in established “downtowns,” that cities should be “planned,” etc. For those, like myself, who don’t think it really matters whether the site is or is not downtown anyway, the motivations of FCR and the “Times” don’t really matter much, especially since others unconnected to them might also likely say, at least in an off hand way, that the site is “downtown.”

    (To be continued.)

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  20. PART THREE

    Norman wrote:

    I didn't call the Times's lapses an example of collusion, but they represent lazy reporting . . .

    Benjamin writes:

    “Collusion” probably wasn’t the right word for me to use. But my larger point is that many people unrelated to Forrest City Ratner would also likely say, at least in an off hand way, that the site is downtown, and it doesn’t seem to matter anyway unless one believes in “planning,” etc.

    So for those who believe in “planning,” etc., it’s a genuine issue that should be reported. But for those who don’t believe in “planning,” etc., it’s a non-issue at best, and it appears somewhat anti-city and NIMBY-ish, at worst.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Thurs., 9/30/10, 12:50 a.m.

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  21. If everyone thought like Benjamin, in which there were more liberal attitudes toward zoning and planning, he'd have more of a point.

    But the fact is, Downtown was and is being used in a specific way and for very specific advantage.

    As for whether "lots of people with no connection" to the developer or the Times would refer to the site as being "loosely speaking, 'downtown,'” the Times previously referred to the blocks as "Brownstone Brooklyn" and "Prospect Heights."

    Is it in the orbit of Downtown? That we can agree on.

    Has it been attached, dogleg style, to Downtown? That's very much what the map shows.

    As I said, Benjamin, you should have taken a walk around.

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  22. I’d just like to address the one new issue that I see being raised. (I think the other issues have already been addressed, directly or indirectly, in previous comments in the thread, and I’ll let those who are interested, read those comments and make up their own minds.)

    (Again, please excuse the capitalization for emphasis.)

    Norman wrote:

    If everyone thought like Benjamin, in which there were more liberal attitudes toward zoning and planning, he'd have more of a point.

    Benjamin writes:

    In terms of MY points, the number of people having “more liberal” attitudes towards zoning is not really relevant, so it seems to me. What is relevant (to focus, as an example, on just one of my points) is whether THE PERSON READING THESE VARIOUS COMMENTS is someone who is, roughly speaking, pro-community planning or anti-community planning (or open to being skeptical about the supposed benefits of community planning).

    If the person reading these comments is skeptical about community planning, I’m pointing out to that person the irrelevancy of the “downtown” argument to someone sharing an anti-community planning point of view.

    If the person reading these comments is a “true believer” in community planning, he or she will probably not agree with the unimportance of the “downtown” argument (nor should that person, as it could be important from THAT point of view), but they will at least be alerted, I hope, to why some people see the anti-Atlantic Yards fight as being somewhat of an anti-urban, NIMBY-ish one (at least when an argument like the “downtown” one is being invoked).

    So, although, people will agree to disagree, at least there will be a better understanding, I hope, of where the parties are in disagreement.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Thurs., September 30, 2010, 11:50 p.m.

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  23. Benjamin, this really has much less to do with "community planning" than the way the city and favored developers do business. As I said, this disagreement went off track a while ago, for reasons previously expressed.

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  24. Norman wrote [paraphrased editing is mine -- BH]:

    . . . this really [is about] the way the city and favored developers do business . . .

    Benjamin originally wrote [additional emphasis added -- BH]:

    The issue of whether the Atlantic Yards Project is, or is not, in "downtown" Brooklyn, seems to me to be among the weakest issues (AMONG A GOOD MANY VERY STRONG ONES) that have been raised regarding the Atlantic Yards project and the media's coverage of it.

    In my opinion, there are plenty of good reasons to oppose the Atlantic Yards Project (and to criticize the media's coverage of the project), but the "downtown" issue seems to me to misguided -- particularly since it seems to me to reflect a very static version of urbanism.

    Looking at the big picture, I think there are a lot of other more important things to criticize about the Atlantic Yards Project (much of it coming to light thanks to your excellent reporting) . . .

    . . . especially since eminent domain abuse is one of my main objections to the Atlantic Yards Project . . .

    . . . I don’t think Atlantic Yards meets this [honestly profitable] test and I believe it is only financially “feasible” due to heavy government support. For me, THAT'S THE REAL PROBLEM with the Atlantic Yards project – not whether the site is or is not downtown . . .

    Benjamin currently writes:

    It seems to me that, given my comments in this thread (see above), there isn't disagreement about the main issues in the controversy, but rather about how the "downtown" issue relates to the main issues.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Sat., Oct. 2, 2010, 11:05 p.m.

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  25. I say the issues connect. You don't.

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  26. Norman wrote [with the paraphrased editing being mine -- BH]:

    I say [that] the [the "main"] issues (e.g., the way the City and favored developers do business, etc.) and the "downtown" issue] connect [with each other]. You [say that they] don't [connect with each other].

    Benjamin writes:

    To be more precise about the arguments, I would say the following:

    It seems to me that the "main issues" (e.g., the way the City and favored developers do business, etc.), and the "downtown" issue "connect" with each other -- but not to the same degree, and not necessarily in the same way, as those who are most concerned about the "downtown" issue assert.

    In other words, the "downtown" issue is not nearly as strong or clear, in my opinion, as many of the other issues that have been raised here on the Atlantic Yards Report. It trails behind, at some distance so it seems to me, from the otherwise extremely well done (and important) work that's being done on this site!

    Benjamin Hemric
    Tues., Oct. 5, 2010, 10:25 p.m.

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  27. And it seems to me that you might understand this in a more nuanced way if you took a walk around.

    ReplyDelete