Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cognitive dissonance: Bruce Ratner, he of the ever-shifting Atlantic Yards vision, salutes DUMBO developer Jed Walentas because he "holds firm to the vision"

In a front-page Real Estate section article tomorrow, headlined DUMBO on His Mind, the New York Times profiles Jed Walentas, son and successor to David Walentas, the wily and wise developer who bought up defunct manufacturing structures for a song and, over decades, alchemized them into residential gold.

And who does the Times find to salute Walentas?
Bruce Ratner, the president of the Forest City Ratner Companies, which is developing the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, said he had watched Mr. Walentas grow more confident as he took control of the company.

“What is really interesting about David and Jed is that they both have a vision for what they want,” he said. He pointed to other large-scale development projects across the city, saying the extent of their success had been dependent on the developer’s vision.

“Battery Park City is a great place,” Mr. Ratner said, “but it does not have the same sense of character” as Dumbo. Rockefeller Center, on the other hand, has a definitive sense of character, because “the Rockefellers had some idea of what they wanted that place to be.”

In Dumbo, he said, the guiding vision was to retain the area’s industrial flavor (without the industry), while providing a street-level experience both diverse and interesting — even if it means subsidizing rents for small-business owners and declining the high rents offered by big-box stores, or selling off properties and cashing out.

“Jed holds firm to the vision,” Mr. Ratner said. “And that is not a minor comment.”
The Atlantic Yards vision

Pause for just a moment of cognitive dissonance.

The guiding vision for Atlantic Yards has been... to make it work.

Architect Frank Gehry? Gone.

Four office towers around the arena? Gone (though one may come someday).

Running track and bird sanctuary above the arena? Gone.

A ten-year timetable? Never really believed it, Ratner admitted last year.

Affordable housing buildable as planned? Never really believed it, Ratner admitted this year.

Unionized on-site construction jobs? Far fewer than promised.

Independent Compliance Monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement? Promised, but never delivered.

Ratner's definition of vision

Let's remember Bruce Ratner at the 12/10/03 press conference announcing Atlantic Yards.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz saluted Ratner (video) for having "believed in Brooklyn's future" and invited him "to share with you his vision."

Ratner, putting a damper on Markowitz's "tears of joy," responded, "That was all very kind remarks... First of all, let me tell you, people often say, Developer, you have a vision. In developer language, you have a vision if you're successful. That's the first thing you have to understand. If you don't, you're considered a failure. But we're going to be successful at this."

By his measure, he has been successful. But that's not quite the vision he described for Walentas. 

Also, it's a bit odd for Ratner to be dissing Battery Park City, for, however flawed, at least it delivered park space before it delivered profits to building owners.

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