Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Forest City land-use lawyer on Atlantic Yards: "It’s another one of those projects that’s going to last forever"

The New York Times's real estate page yesterday published a 30-minute interview with Melanie Meyers:
Ms. Meyers, 53, is a partner at the law firm Fried Frank, specializing in land use. She represents several large developers, including the Related Companies, Forest City Ratner and the Rudin Management Company.
Before joining Fried Frank in 2003, Ms. Meyers served as general counsel for the New York City Planning Department.
After talking about the zoning for Hudson Yards, she was asked about Atlantic Yards:
A. It was actually a state project that wasn’t subject to zoning, but because it wasn’t subject to zoning we actually had to create a different design framework — so effectively creating design guidelines for the overall build-out of the project, and continuing to work with them on the implementation of the project. It’s another one of those projects that’s going to last forever.
They’re working on the first residential building, and that’s actually under construction. They’re doing it as a modular building, so they’re potentially transforming the way that buildings are built in the city.
(Emphasis added)

Now Meyers was speaking colloquially, but her casual candor was consonant with a long string of predictions from project supporters that Atlantic Yards would take a very long while, including the Partnership for NYC's Kathryn Wylde (15-20 years), original landscape architect Laurie Olin ("probably 20 years"), and Empire State Development Corporation then-CEO Marisa Lago ("decades").

All those statements were made before the official ten-year timetable was revised in the Development Agreement, signed in late 2009, to allow 25 years for the project buildout.

Update: a reader suggests that "last forever" might be interpreted as the longevity of the project, rather than the buildout. That's possible, but I don't see any residential building project as "lasting forever" more than another, and arenas, by their nature, have a useful life of 20-30 years before they need a significant revamp.

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