Thursday, February 10, 2011

New, simplified Atlantic Yards web site emerges: no renderings beyond arena and no timetable, but still many of the same dubious promises

Well, it's a little late, but Forest City Ratner has relaunched the Atlantic Yards.com web site, far more streamlined than the previous version, and without such things as:
  • renderings of any building beyond the arena
  • image galleries
  • a timeline
  • reference to landscape architect Laurie Olin.
The fundamental text, as noted at right:
Atlantic Yards will combine a new arena, the Barclays Center, designed by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects, a public plaza, eight acres of landscaped open space, more than 6,400 units of affordable, middle-income and market-rate housing, ground-floor retail space for local businesses and office space that will create a vibrant addition to a thriving borough. In 2005, Atlantic Yards’s developer signed the first-ever Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in New York City to accompany a major development project.
Once upon a time Forest City Ratner promised that the project would be built in a decade, but even Bruce Ratner has abandoned that timetable.

The website offers a signup for the mailing list and a feedback form ("We want to hear from you, especially if you’re in the neighborhood"), as well as links to a summary of the Community Benefits Agreement (the signatories of which are not named), Forest City Ratner, the Barclays Center, and the Nets.

The FAQ

The other major page is an FAQ, which continues some boilerplate projections that deserve skepticism.

It begins:
What is Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards is the redevelopment of 22 acres in downtown Brooklyn by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) that will include approximately 6 million square feet of residential space (6,430 units of affordable and market-rate housing), a state of the art sports and entertainment arena, 247,000 square feet of retail use, approximately 336,000 square feet of office space and 8 acres of publicly accessible open space. The project also includes major transportation improvements, including a new storage and maintenance facility for the LIRR and a new subway entrance to the Atlantic Terminal Transit Hub, the third largest hub in the City. The project’s Master Plan was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.

The first phase of the project includes the arena and five other buildings, most of which will be residential with market-rate and affordable housing. The second phase includes 11 residential buildings, 8 acres of open space and neighborhood retail.
Unexplained is how long it might take (the state allows 25 years), when and whether office space might be built (there's no market for now), and whether a full buildout is expected (it's not required).

Primarily over the railyards?

It continues:
Where is Atlantic Yards

The development will be located at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, bounded by 4th Avenue, Pacific and Dean Streets and Vanderbilt Avenue, primarily situated over the MTA/LIRR’s Vanderbilt Yards. Atlantic Yards will be adjacent to New York’s third largest subway hub with 9 subway lines and the LIRR, providing easy access from all five boroughs and Long Island.
Primarily means "chiefly" or "mainly," but the railyard, at 8.5 acres, would be less than 40 percent of the site.

Moreover, other than the railyard segment designated for the arena block, the railyard likely would be last to be developed.

The Barclays billboard

It continues:
What will take place at the arena?

The Barclays Center, designed by the award winning architectural firms Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects, will seat 18,000 for basketball and 19,000 for concerts. The formal Groundbreaking on the Barclays Center took place on March 11, 2010. In addition to providing a home for the Nets basketball team, the arena will serve as a venue for over 200 events a year, including tennis, the circus, boxing, concerts and other sports and entertainment events.
The arena, nominally publicly owned, will serve as a giant billboard for Barclays. The state gave away naming rights to Forest City Ratner.

Jobs and housing?

It continues:
What are the benefits of Atlantic Yards:

Atlantic Yards will be an economic engine for Brooklyn, New York City and the State generating more than $5 billion in new tax revenues over the next 30 years. In addition to tax benefits, the project will also create thousands of new jobs: upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs and up to 8,000 permanent jobs.

Of the 6,430 units of housing, 4,500 are anticipated to be rental apartments (of which 2,250 will be set aside for a combination of low-, moderate- and middle-income families) and the rest are expected be market rate condos.

In addition, FCRC entered into a historic and unprecedented Community Benefits Agreement, the first of its kind in New York, on June 27, 2005. This voluntary and legally binding agreement with the community focuses on delivering job training, jobs, affordable housing, small business and MWBE development and other community amenities and facilities for community residents.
The $5 billion number is ridiculous, and even relatively more responsible estimates depend on a full buildout over ten years, which won't happen.

As of today, there are 150 workers on the site; the job numbers are also ridiculous.

As for the CBA, which was signed by organizations that already supported the project (in contrast with CBAs around the country), it might have some more credibility if FCR hired an Independent Compliance Monitor, as the CBA required.

Environmental review

It continues:
What is being done to handle the potential environmental impacts of the project?

The Atlantic Yards project was subject to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) as part its public approvals and a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was completed as part of that approval process. A comprehensive environmental mitigation program has been developed by ESDC and the relevant City agencies to address potential impacts, both during construction and when the project is built and occupied, covering areas such as noise, air quality, traffic, community facilities, etc. The details of this program can be found in the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC) on the ESDC website.

Now that construction has begun, environmental quality-of-life measures are in place, including use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel, diesel particulate filters installed on on-site equipment with 50 hp or greater, best available and most efficient equipment, a dust suppression program, and restrictions on idle time for construction vehicles. Minimizing demolition and construction waste is another priority. We are meeting our goal of recycling at least 75% of the materials (with a building high of 97%).

Atlantic Yards is committed to achieving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for all 16 buildings and the Arena. The completed project will promote the use of bicycles by providing a 400 bicycle storage station for use by residents, local commuters and arena patrons. Storm-water management is also addressed in the project’s design; once completed, the rainwater detention and reuse programs at Atlantic Yards will reduce the volume of combined sewage overflow that currently flows into the Gowanus Canal by more than 2 million gallons per year.
Unmentioned: they never studied the impact of a 25-year buildout, though the ESDC claims, when forced to go back, that it would add no significant impacts.

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