Monday, September 24, 2012

Markowitz has his (wrong) mantra: Atlantic Yards area "not a bedroom community" (and project will be a "masterpiece of urban planning")

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz sure has chutzpah. His latest mantra, repeated in at least three interviews, is that those living near the Barclays Center arena, or displaced, should not be complaining. In the 9/21/12 Crain's New York Business, he declared:
"Time will soothe ruffled feathers," he said. "I do not believe this is a bedroom community."
In the comments, Dean Street resident Tracy Collins replied, with links:
Literally right across Dean Street and 6th Avenue from the arena are many actual bedrooms.
What Markowitz ignores is that the state overrode city zoning barring sports facilities from wthin 200 feet of residential districts.

In New York magazine

A major feature on Brooklyn in this week's New York magazine reports:
If I were in any danger of forgetting this Big City koan, Marty Markowitz was there to remind me. “All this talk about ‘the neighborhood,’ ” Markowitz postured. “These people moved into brownstones on Dean Street because it was cheap. They thought they found paradise because they got out of Manhattan. What they’d really moved to was a business district, a place that had always been a business district, except they didn’t know with that hole in the ground at Atlantic Yards. But a business district is for business, and now, thank God, it is doing business. If these people wanted to move to a bedroom community, they should have gone to Mill Basin. Marine Park. Bay Ridge. Those are bedroom communities. Brooklyn has many wonderful bedroom communities! But the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue is not one of them.”
True enough. But the back and south side of the arena, and the area between the arena and its surface parking lot--those are bedroom communities. And there wasn’t a “hole in the ground at Atlantic Yards.”

On Channel 7

Markowitz appeared yesterday on Channel 7 with Diana Williams, Up Close: The Barclays Center, which began with this intro, "Many are confident that this project will change the face of Brooklyn, but there are still nonbelievers." (It also called the arena $450 million--more like $800 million or, if you count extras, the developer's nice $1 billion figure, and claimed--in a stretch--"more than $2 billion in taxpayer subsidies.")

"When I heard words like the soul of Brooklyn is over," Markowitz declared, "I don't know what they're talking about... give me a break. What's going on in Brooklyn now, the renaissance of the borough, is unbelievable and wonderful. You have to accept change, you don't want it to stay the same, year in and year out. This is a positive, wonderful development, and these folks, some of them are misguided, they have their own agenda, their own NIMBYism, because if it had been in some other area of Brooklyn, I would've heard from none of them. Listen, we live in a great country, America... but we're gonna prove them wrong."

In his statement about change, Markowitz sounded like he was channeling Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Would you say the courts delayed the project, he was asked.

"No question," he replied, "and that is the strategy of those that opposed that arena.. and that is their right... by the way, I respect those that disagree... but I'm looking ahead, and I'm thinking of all the positive benefits."

Markowitz as architecture critic

He was asked: what you think of the arena?

"The inside is stunning... The outside"--he paused--"is interesting. And I have to tell you: beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.. I'm still absorbing it. By the way, those that are architecture specialists love the look of the building.. what they try to get across... it's showing that Brooklyn is gritty and cutting-edge at the same time... I think they succeeded in relating the arena... getting a feeling of 1800s, early 1900s... Listen, like I said, it's really how you look at it." (Bruce Ratner has called it the city's first truly 21st-century building.)

"Most important is the project itself," Markowitz continued. "By the way the [presumably night] lighting, is stupendous, it's gorgeous."

The neighborhood

Host Williams asked Markowitz whether he'd seen change.

"That immediate area used to be an open pit," Markowitz said, glossing over the fact that a large majority of the "open pit," the working Vanderbilt Yard, not only remains, but has not been paid for by Forest City. "It was railroad yards for over a 100-odd years... it was an area at one time with prostitution, drugs, crime, you name it. It was a derelict place. then, over the last number of years, no question that the area showed significant improvement."

This was an implicit acknowledgment that eminent domain was not needed to remove blight.

"What this project has done is bring together the communities and create a masterpiece--it's going to be a masterpiece of urban planning," he said, ignoring the fact that no one--even people who like the arena--has dared called it an urban planning masterpiece... so what's happening is new businesses are opening up on Flatbush Avenue... many more visitors."

Housing and jobs

Williams asked if Markowitz would help Forest City get union approval to do modular construction, and he pretty much evaded the question.

"The first building, the groundbreaking will begin December. 18. Of that first building, 500 some odd apartments will be affordable," he said, inflating the number by nearly a factor of three. (It would be 181 units.)

Do you feel like this project has provided the number of jobs that were promised, he was asked.

Markowitz found his talking point: "You have to include the construction jobs, not only for the arena, but also for the buildout... we're not anywhere near that... you have to think about all the additional jobs, making the steel... and the rest of the project. There's approximately 2000 folks working full and part-time in the arena... and the jobs that are going to be created."

A lot of these jobs are part-time jobs, Williams pointed out.

"Indeed, some are," Markowitz responded. "Indeed some are, with benefits." That's not what Forest City Ratner said.

Broken promises?

Is it what people were promised?

"When these promises were made, it was a different era, it was a different economy... you can't look at it through the initial promises," Markowitz said, as if suggesting that all promises for projects that are expected to go through economic cycles should  be seen as provisional.

"Forest City Ratner wants to keep every single promise, fully," he said, disregarding that modular construction would cut significantly on compensation for construction workers and, likely, positions. "It's going to be a great project."

Williams pointed out it could take 25 years.

"If the economy gets stronger, it'll be a shorter period of time," Markowitz responded. "The only barometers I have is new businesses are opening up... home prices are up like this... people want to live in an area that's right next to Brooklyn Academy of Music... great culture."

His future

What next for him?

"I don't know," Markowitz responded. "For the first time in my life, I always had another election... and now I may not have the next election.. it's hard to explain... but I hope it will be something in public service."

4 comments:

  1. His next job will be to work as an impressario for Barclays Center.

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  2. Anonymous11:26 AM

    Markowitz is correct, at least on this point. The AY area is primarily commercial, or, at the least, can be characterized as mixed-use.

    It in no way resembles bedroom communities, which are communities that are overwhelemingly residential in nature, and where residents need to commute long distances for job opportunities. Most typical bedroom communities are exurban towns where homes have been built, but corresponding businesses have yet to sprout.

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  3. The point is: it's a neighborhood where people live. Sure, the convergence of Atlantic and Flatbush is commercial. But walk the entire footprint.

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  4. Anonymous1:25 PM

    I have been positive about the arena location because of the excellent public transportation which is similar to what exists for Madison Sq. Garden. The steel which rusts naturally was used years ago for the parking garage at LaGuardia airport but after many years was painted (I believe green.) I'm not sure why this was done but would be interested in knowing if the integrity of the steel itself was compromised with the rusting effect, therefore necessitating the paint job. Could the steel at this arena be a ticking time bomb?
    With regard to the rest of the Atlantic Yards project, it's a total government giveaway. Ratner won't build most of it without government subsidy in some form, so he waits yet for more benefits. Low and moderate income housing will simply not be built without 421a, bond financing or other benefits. Subsidized housing is not cheap and without more federal help, not likely, most of the site will remain undeveloped for years to come. The fact that he now seeks 25 years as a build out is proof in the pudding.
    Stadium projects with rare exception are too costly to taxpayers. Many new projects require sports franchises to provide their own financing.
    The public opposition here was strong but political leaders had no fear of losing their jobs and hence the project went ahead, all be it at
    great delay. The public's cynicism with elected officials only grows.
    Marion G

    ReplyDelete