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Showing posts from May, 2011

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs: writers suggest that planners have become disempowered; shouldn't fealty to developers be part of the equation?

The new book, Reconsidering Jane Jacobs (APA Planners Press), edited by Max Page and Timothy Mennel, serves as a bit of a bookend to Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, the 2007 book (Princeton Architectural Press) also co-edited by Mennel, and some of the essays--criticizing Jacobs or the impact of her followers--have already provoked spirited discussion.

Page's introduction sets out the challenge: Is there any other urbanist whose ideas more people profess to understand who is less understood? And is there another urbanist whose influence is so widely felt even where her name is not well known? We suggest in this volume that the answer is again “no”: Many who profess to understand Jacobs’s ideas don’t, and many more who profess not to know of her work have in fact been deeply influenced by it. Like Freud’s, her ideas are everywhere, named or unnamed.

...Jane Jacobs has had lasting power for many reasons, but one of them certainly is that she offers something f…

Goldman Sachs buys Google ads to promote its role in getting Louisville arena built; what about Brooklyn?

Attached to a 5/7/11 Boston Globe review of sportswriter Robert Lipsyte's new memoir was the advertisement at right, in which financial behemoth Goldman Sachs promotes its role in the new arena in Louisville, KY.

Presumably such Google ads are being bought wholesale, attached to other sports coverage.

"See how the construction of a new arena helps businesses downtown," states Goldman, pointing to a web page and film, with the summary:Now, new businesses are opening, new jobs have been created and downtown Louisville is more vibrant than ever, with new restaurants and services available to local residents and visitors.What about Brooklyn?

Will Goldman, which arranged the bond financing for the Atlantic Yards arena (aka Barclays Center), promote its role in the new facility? Likely.

But the promotion will have to be more subtle. New businesses? Sports bars, sure, but local residents surely have enough restaurants and services.

New jobs? Surely not nearly as many as promised dur…

On Lopate, critic Witold Rybczynski said Atlantic Yards shows "how the developers, in a sense, are taking the lead in being planners"

I missed this several months back, but author (Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities) and Slate architecture critic Witold Rybczynski, in an interview December 9 with WNYC's Leonard Lopate, offered some not atypical criticism about Atlantic Yards.

(Here's some previous coverage of Rybczynski.)


The Atlantic Yards discussion comes up at 12:36.
LL: Then there’s that whole matter of the Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn. What are your thoughts on that?
(Not quite Downtown Brooklyn.)

WR: I thought the Atlantic Yards was an example of how the developers, in a sense, are taking the lead in being planners. I thought there were two problems there. One was the density seemed awfully high. And putting it in the hands of one architect, in this case Frank Gehry, I don’t think is a good idea. I have great respect for him as an architect, but I don’t think one architect shouldn’t design blocks and blocks of a city. Again, it’s going back to that piecemeal idea.
(Now that Gehry's…

As his finishes his film Brooklyn Boheme, filmmaker and writer Nelson George will leave Fort Greene; one spur is the opening of the arena

Update 8/27/11: George says he is not, in fact, leaving.

A 4/28/11 Wall Street Journal profile of writer and filmmaker Nelson George, Artist Films a Farewell to His Home: Nelson George Looks Back to a Time When Fort Greene Spilled Over With Talent, describes George's work on a documentary on black creative folk titled Brooklyn Boheme:
Within a few years, Mr. George found himself surrounded by cutting-edge African-American artists and performers. He soon became an editor at Billboard magazine and a columnist for the Village Voice. In the years since, he has published 15 books and a number of screenplays, and directed several films. He cited Fort Greene's proximity to Manhattan as well as its superior architecture and, in the 1980s, affordable prices—the result of a once-affluent, culturally rich area having fallen on hard times in the 1970s—for the rapid evolution of the community. "[Author] Carl Hancock Rux moved into a duplex apartment for $350 and his landlord asked him …

Residents near AY construction site still air complaints about rats; ESDC says rodent burrows found and filled, but that's just within the site

Residents on blocks bordering the Atlantic Yards site are becoming frustrated by the increased presence of rats--not an uncommon feature of city life, but one they believe is created or at least exacerbated by nearby construction.

Larry Schwartz, a resident of Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues sent a letter yesterday to Council Member Letitia James, who had brought up rodent complaints at the Atlantic Yards District Cabinet meeting May 19 only to be reminded that Forest City Ratner is responsible only for on-site abatement and that making the developer responsible off-site would lead to a slippery slope of blame.

Rats infesting the garbage

Schwartz wrote: Yesterday as I came home around 8 pm, I observed at least 6 or 7 rats all scurrying in and out of a garbage bag in front of my building that had been placed there for pickup today. All these rats scurried into the garage that is next door to our building. This garage has become infested with rats. Obviously, there is noth…

At MetroTech, NYU-Poly takes some unused office space off Forest City Ratner's hands; move pitched as "owning the square"

When I first wrote about New York University's astonishing absorption of the Brooklyn-based engineering school Polytechnic University, I thought it merely an intriguing (and severely under-examined) real estate story involving a principal of the MetroTech complex developed by Forest City Ratner and Polytechnic.

Now there's a more explicit connection. As the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, in an article headlined NYU-Poly Expands at MetroTech Center: Will Allow School to ‘Own the Square’ and Enhance 24/7 Downtown Community:METROTECH — Going for a more dynamic, vibrant feel to its campus in Downtown Brooklyn, NYU-Poly, more formally known as the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has signed a lease with Forest City Ratner for academic space in two Ratner-owned buildings at MetroTech.

First reported in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday morning, the lease for 120,000 square feet of space on the ninth and 10th floors of 2 MetroTech and the sixth floor of 15 MetroTech was conf…

Forest City Enterprises gets one-third off loan due Cleveland; will subsidary FCR pursue similar discounts regarding Atlantic Yards?

Is a discount on a Forest City Enterprises loan from the city of Cleveland a harbinger of further requests to adjust Forest City Ratner's public obligations regarding Atlantic Yards?

Well, we can't be sure, but the Forest City modus operandi, it's clear, is to play hardball, taking advantage of what public agencies allow.

(FCR doesn't have any loans to pay back, but it is supposed to create new public infrastructure, and already renegotiated a discount on the development rights to the Vanderbilt Yard and got permission to build a replacement yard smaller than promised.)

The discount in Cleveland

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer's blog, a post headlined Forest City paying $10.3 million to close out $15 million in city loans:Forest City Enterprises will pay Cleveland $10.3 million of $15.4 million owed on three development loans, and the city will call it even.

About half the money will replenish a "rainy day" fund that is to run out this year, and $3.9 million w…

In NY, a "condemnor can condemn a Kasha Knish": more criticisms of eminent domain in New York and suggested reforms

The latest issue of the Albany Government Law Review, published by Albany Law School, concerns Eminent Domain: Public Use, Just Compensation, & "The Social Compact", with several articles that touch on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

And, as scholars indicated in a recent conference at Fordham Law School, few think that decision was wise, or that the legal regime in New York inspires confidence.

Probably the quote of the issue comes from attorney Michael Rikon, who represents condemnees (including Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein) and suggests:
It is an aphorism in criminal law that a good prosecutor could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” With regards to condemnations in New York, it can fairly be said that in New York, a condemnor can condemn a Kasha Knish.Commentators in the issue propose numerous reforms to right the balance in New York--reforms that likely would be opposed by supporters of the status quo.

One commentator suggests th…