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"Sidewalk Sale": A critic's observant walk around the Atlantic Yards site

In a smartly observant essay headlined Sidewalk Sale, published initially in the New Museum's broadsheet New City Reader, critic Alexandra Lange (notable for her Design Observer takedown of Nicolai Ouroussoff this past winter), takes a walk around the Atlantic Yards site.

Among her observations:
  • "the sidewalks had in fact been sold, in the sense that they had disappeared"
  • the railyard, "properly called the Vanderbilt Yard, was always a psychological moat. Now it is a physical one too."
  • the name Atlantic Yards has "vanished," supplanted by Barclays Center, "a name designed for TV, for overhead blimp shots of the 'helmet,' (which the new arena design clearly resembles)."
(I'm pretty sure Atlantic Yards isn't completely gone, and that there are plans to play it up after the arena's established.)

"Downtown Brooklyn"


And Lange agrees that p.r. and uncritical press coverage located the buildings in "Downtown Brooklyn" in order to:
naturalize the height of Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn tower, and invoking the threat of eminent domain to argue that they would be saving a blighted area.

Everything possible was done to ignore the real context, the adjacent neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, which look better today than they did in 2003.
Art and its contradictions

And the new Urban Canvas program, turning a construction fence into art, presents its contradictions:
I love the Op-Art design, and Urban Canvas’s goal of beautifying construction sites, but it has double meaning deployed here. It is artsy, just like the original choice of Gehry, and has the latent suggestion that it is a gift to the neighborhood. But the graphic appeal shouldn’t distract us from the urban implications of a 228-foot, multi-year construction fence...
The entire issue

The entire issue (below) is worth a read, given its democratic take. From the intro:
Can we afford to leave the stewardship of public resources to backroom deals brokered with big private development interests? Or can we, through a more participatory process, merge our individual desires into a shared vision about a new “urban common,” one that enriches the lives of all New Yorkers...


New City Reader Real Estate Issue

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