At one point during the meal, the Brooklyn faction decided the Australians needed to know the story of the Barclays Center’s contentious construction, and the whole sordid tale was trotted out: Bruce Ratner, eminent domain, the protest groups. “But those were fake Brooklyn people,” Mr. [Keith] Glazer said sociologically. “Real Brooklyn people love the place.”
Ron Shiffman, an Israeli-born, Bronx-raised urban planner and a Park Sloper long before the Slope was chic, has spent half a century trying to make New York a more livable city. The journalist Jack Newfield once wrote that Mr. Shiffman “has saved more New York neighborhoods than Robert Moses has destroyed.”Shiffman apparently wasn't asked about the arena, but his comments on density are instructive:
Many of Mr. Shiffman’s fellow New Yorkers would agree. He is a former member of the New York City Planning Commission and the recipient of the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership. A burly, voluble bear of a man, Mr. Shiffman is at 74 also deeply engaged in of-the-moment issues. His efforts to make New York’s residential neighborhoods more environmentally healthy have resonated throughout the city.
Another benefit for New York is its density, thanks largely to its mass transit system. The new bike routes also make a big difference. But there’s an optimal level of density. You don’t want to overburden the transit system or to build where a transit system doesn’t exist, as happened with some of the new development along the Brooklyn waterfront.
...You can have low-rise buildings that are environmentally sound — look at Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, with its interior courtyards. But although density is important, the solution isn’t just to create more density. Parts of New York are too dense. There has to be optimal density, and that depends on a proper infrastructure.
The density proposed by Forest City Ratner far exceeds the carrying capacity of the area’s physical, social, cultural, and educational infrastructure. The Atlantic Yards density is extreme and the heights of the proposed buildings totally unacceptable.
I had hoped that, in the past two-and-a-half years, the city, the developer, or the civic community would propose a viable alternative to the "Atlantic Yards" plan. The Municipal Art Society’s plan falls short because it avoids discussing the process issues and attempts to apply a design solution to a fundamentally flawed and ill-conceived plan. In the absence of a democratically accountable process and without any rational and acceptable alternative on the horizon, I believe that the FCR plan must be defeated and the process of revitalizing the rail yards completely rethought. I have chosen to support the efforts of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s and have joined the group’s advisory board.
During Ronald Shiffman's 50 years as a city planner, he has provided program and organizational development assistance to community-based groups in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. His development of the model for community development corporations is a direct result of this groundbreaking work in the 1960s to rebuild Bedford-Stuyvesant through economic development programs. Trained as an architect and urban planner, he is an expert in community-based planning, housing, and sustainable development. He has had extensive experience bringing together private and public sector sponsors of housing and related community development projects.
Shiffman co-founded one of the country's first university design centers — Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development; established one of the nation's first community development corporations in one of the nation's most distressed neighborhoods; pushed for New York City's first inclusionary zoning policy as a commissioner on the NYC Planning Commission; and pioneered the city's mixed-use zoning, which has preserved many of the city's most vital neighborhoods.