Indeed, just when Atlantic Yards -- the 22-acre combination housing development/basketball stadium -- seemed dead, developer Bruce Ratner got the project back on track, partly by dropping starchitect Frank Gehry's pricey design for a more prosaic one from SHoP Architects. Ratner, who runs Forest City Ratner Enterprises, also eliminated much of the previously planned housing from the site, won some key lawsuits and even paid his chief antagonist, Daniel Goldstein, founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, $3 million to relocate.Probably the most interesting statement here is DePlasco's claim that construction on one of the buildings will begin this year, especially since Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams said September 26 that groundbreaking will be in the first quarter of 2012.
Much of the opposition was directed at plans to use eminent domain to remove homes and businesses that stood in the way of the project.
Critics might not be mollified by the changes at the project, which broke ground last year. To wit: The arena, promised as a model of urban integration, will be flanked by several parking lots, and might not look that much different from any suburban basketball arena. Still, it will have at least three apartment buildings, according to Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco. He said construction on one of those building will begin this year. And, he said, the arena is on track to open in time for the 2012 NBA season.
Compressing the story, and getting it wrong
But it's also interesting to see how the story gets compressed.
Yes, Bruce Ratner got the project back on track, partly by dropping Frank Gehry's design, but not for "a more prosaic one" from SHoP. He dropped it for one from Ellerbe Becket, then hired SHoP to make it less prosaic.
But just as important was Ratner's ability to renegotiate settled deals with the Empire State Development Corporation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority, saving hundreds of millions of dollars, and raising a $249 million low-interest loan from Chinese investors seeking green cards.
Ratner paid lots of property owners money for their properties, before they (like Goldstein) lost title via eminent domain and were forced to leave, and some speculators got $3 million to gush about Ratner.
While much of the legal opposition was directed toward eminent domain, the opposition relates to larger issues, including the project's environmental impact and the crony capitalism practiced by the developer and his allies.
The arena will not be "flanked by several parking lots," but there will be a large surface parking lot one block away. Nor will the arena "not look that much different from any suburban basketball arena," since it will have that weathered steel facade that "celebrates Brooklyn's industrial heritage."