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The site for first Atlantic Yards tower: from an FAR of .1 to 29+ (and have blighted sidewalks been eliminated?)

So, how exactly does that first Atlantic Yards tower, at the corner of Flatbush and Dean Streets, providing a "new context", in the words of a lawyer asking for four stories across Dean Street?

Dramatically so. The 32-story building would fill up most of the lot. And that means Floor Area Ratio (FAR) would skyrocket.

FAR is commonly used by developers, urban planner, and architects to describe lot coverage: an FAR of 2 means that a lot could be covered by a two-story building that fills the site, or a four-story building that fills half the site.

At Flatbush and Dean, the change looks like this:
  • the gas station on the lot had an FAR of .1
  • the allowable FAR was 4
  • the current FAR, given an empty lot next to the arena, is 0
  • the new FAR, at least in one report, would be 29.27
  • the Final Environment Impact Statement said the FAR on the arena block and associated Site 5 would be 8.6 (or 10.3 FAR if streetbeds weren't included)
  • that FAR depends on the arena being lower to the ground than the towers
  • the allowable FAR is what the developer sought, since the state overrides zoning
From the DOB

The statistics in the below screenshot are from a 8/16/11 document on the Department of Buildings web site, and details likely will have evolved. Still, the FAR of 29.27 is likely in the ballpark.

From the Atlantic Yards Blight Study, July 2006:

Remember what was there?
Note that the lot for the gas station is somewhat larger than the site for the new tower.

Wondering about those "unsanitary and unsafe conditions" found in the Blight Study? Photos C and D, right, indicate potholes and cracks in the sidewalks. Egads!

That would never happen outside the Barclays Center, would it?

What's appropriate FAR?

Architect Jonathan Cohn, writing in his Brooklyn Views blog in January 2006, suggested an FAR of 6.0 for the Atlantic Yards site:
However, because the proposed project includes an arena on the site, the air rights for density will be transferred to the rest of the site, making the non-arena components much denser than they would be without the arena. This in itself is a reason to limit the averaged FAR on the site, as a whole, to something reasonable, since the non-arena areas will be much denser than the average.
Cohn later cautioned against the developer's statements regarding FAR, urging that the loss of streetbeds also be calculated, since otherwise public streets would broaden the plots of land allotted to the site and lower the FAR. (Typically, developers don't get streets demapped for their projects and thus can't distribute their density over a larger footprint that includes public streets.)

The state ultimately provided both ratios:

A rendering from street level (without arena crowds)


  1. Anonymous8:42 AM

    can you explain - in simple language - what this means for the site? What it will look like....what the experience of walking by it would be in various scenarios? Thanks.

    1. We don't know yet what it will look like during construction (12-20 months), but surely there will be equipment on the small footprint and almost certainly extending to the sidewalk.

      When finished, the building's ground floor will meet the sidewalk and there will be retail. See the graphic I added at bottom of post. What we don't know is how the arena will affect the tower--potential noise (as with the Jay-Z concerts affecting the neighborhood) and, understandably, crowds gathering before and exiting from the arena on Dean Street.


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