Skip to main content

In Architectural Record, a reflection on a decade and an Atlantic Yards asterisk

Architectural Record last month produced a package of articles titled The Death and Life of a Great American City, echoing the title of Jane Jacobs's classic 1961 book and focusing on the rebuilding since the 9/11 attacks.

Editor in Chief Cathleen McGuigan's commentary is headlined The only constant is change:
The decade has been a golden age for the city, a renaissance in architecture and urban design. World-class architects have come to build in New York... High-profile local firms have landed big projects on their home turf, while emerging architects have had new opportunities in both private and civic design.
Most remarkable has been the huge investment in the public realm. The High Line, the park created on a derelict elevated rail bed, is the most famous new public space... Less publicized is the fact that since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in January 2002, the city has created more parkland — nearly 700 acres — than in any time since the era of Robert Moses in the 1930s...
The seeds for this burst of urban regeneration were planted in the 1990s, with the bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to New York....
But it was also the aftermath of 9/11 that catalyzed the public desire for superior design and planning, a shout from ordinary New Yorkers who crowded into community meetings and spoke powerfully about what should be built at Ground Zero....
Jane Jacobs, the late urbanist, whose famous book inspired the title of this issue, might not have been surprised that the rebuilding of Ground Zero has turned out to be a mixed success, with politics and real estate trumping the best intentions. And with a soaring economy and a big push for development under the Bloomberg administration, the decade brought aggressive change to many neighborhoods throughout the city — occasionally to the alarm of critics and communities, as in the case of the controversial Atlantic Yards arena project in Brooklyn.
Yet it’s mostly been a vibrant time for architecture and urban design.
There might be another way to look at it. New Yorkers got to speak about Ground Zero but had little influence. They had even less regarding Atlantic Yards.

And often there's no effective way to channel the concerns of local residents and balance them with borough-wide, city-wide, and regional interests--especially when, as with Atlantic Yards, the city agrees to let the state override the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Sorkin on public-private partnerships

Also see Michael Sorkin's commentary Smoke and Mirrors:
A controversy that broke out this summer concerns admission to the September 11 Museum, which may not be free and could be as much as 20 bucks. Here’s a small reprise of the crisis at the root of the entire redevelopment, one that garishly represents the nature of the split between public benefit and private aggrandizement. One of the hallmarks of American polity is the increasing pervasiveness of so-called “public-private partnerships” and with them the idea that public space must pay for itself directly, that a park must have a cafĂ© or a condo in it to cover its costs. At Ground Zero, the melding of memory and profit will, in fact, be the “theme” of the site. As the disproportion between the gigantic exclusionary skyscrapers, the hemmed-in memorial, the pay-to-enter museum, and the upmarket shops in Towers 2, 3, and 4 makes legible, it will be a record of much that is wrong, ungenerous, and crass about American culture today. And I keep wondering when the pious rage that thwarted the proposed Islamic center nearby will turn on the cadre of halal kebab carts that dot the periphery of the site.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…