Saturday, December 31, 2011

AY down the memory hole: Times says arena will "undoubtedly transform Downtown Brooklyn"

In a year-ahead front-page article in tomorrow's Metropolitan section, the New York Times offers a three-paragraph summary for Brooklyn, mostly about Atlantic Yards:
When the sports arena that anchors the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project finally opens in September, after more than eight years of lawsuits and construction delays, it will undoubtedly transform Downtown Brooklyn. 
Downtown Brooklyn? Didn't the Times more than five years ago acknowledge in a mega-correction that Downtown Brooklyn was an inaccurate designation for the project?

In a 4/17/11 article about living in Prospect Heights, the Times included Atlantic Yards and the arena site within the bounds of the neighborhood. See graphic at right.

(Arguably, the northern and western edges of the arena site, which border wide avenues, might extend Downtown Brooklyn. But walk down Dean Street from the surface parking lot on the southeast block of the site, and enter from Dean Street? That's not Downtown.)

Also, was it merely "more than eight years of lawsuits and construction delays"? What about Forest City Ratner's desperate search for new capital, from a Russian oligarch seeking to burnish his image to Chinese investors seeking green cards?

Pitting "most officials" vs. "some residents"

The initial paragraph continues:
But will the 19,000-seat Barclays Center, soon to be home to the Nets and host to Jay-Z, the circus and 200 other events a year, help its neighborhood become an epicenter of entertainment and commerce, as most officials predict? Or will it be a vortex of traffic, trash and other civic headaches, as some residents fear? 
So it's "most officials" vs. "some residents"? What if it's both?

After all, what "most officials" predict is not exactly a stretch, since an arena, by definition, attracts certain kind of entertainment and commerce.

And won't it create a vortex of traffic, as the Times itself has warned, as well as other untoward local effects, as Atlantic Yards Watch regularly documents?

Groundbreaking this spring

The second paragraph:
Wedged into the triangle between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, on top of a rebuilt transit hub, the arena has already closed streets, bred rats and infuriated neighbors during its construction. And the ribbon-cutting will not be the end. Forest City Ratner intends to break ground this spring on the first of 16 more buildings planned for the area around the stadium: a 32-story residential tower that could make pioneering use of lower-cost modular construction. 
Well, to be precise, it's actually a triangle plus rectangle, since three of the four streets around the arena meet at right angles. And it's adjacent to a transit hub, but on top of one new staircase.

As for Forest City Ratner's intentions to break ground "this spring," keep in mind that the developer's been moving the timetable back steadily.

(I do think they must break ground before the arena opens, for reasons I will explain next week. But I think there's a good chance the modular announcement was used to pressure construction unions.)

The flourishing of Brooklyn?

The final paragraph:
The ambition of Atlantic Yards speaks to the flourishing of Brooklyn development in general: from rental high-rises downtown to boutique hotels in Williamsburg to big-box stores in East New York. Walmart is hoping to muscle its way there this year, having already made donations to the community and the charity of Marty Markowitz, the borough president. 
Actually, Brooklyn's been doing pretty well--except in office space--all these years. The ambition of Atlantic Yards speaks to Forest City Ratner's creative effort to raise capital and cut costs, often with the help of the city and state.

The Times's orbit

It's worth noting that the overview article breaks down predicts by journalistic beats--courts, the economy, immigration, etc.--and, among the outer boroughs, only Brooklyn gets its own section.

So, even though Brooklyn gets far less attention than it deserves--how many reporters does the Times have assigned to the borough of 2.4 million? one, maybe two--it's better off than the Bronx. Many fewer readers, advertisers, and indie creatives up there.

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