Skip to main content

On night Ratner/Gilmartin get Onassis Medal, "appalled" Historic Districts Council plans showing of film, panel discussion (including me)

The news that the Municipal Art Society (MAS) is giving its highest honor, the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal, to Forest City Ratner's Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin does not sit well with the Historic Districts Council, a group that, unlike MAS, is focused specifically on preservation.

It announced that it's "appalled" and has scheduled a counter-event--a showing of the Atlantic Yards documentary Battle for Brooklyn and a panel discussion (including me)--on the same night, June 11. More details below.

Defense and criticism

From coverage in Capital New York:
Margaret Newman, M.A.S. executive director, defended the organization's honoring of Ratner and Gilmartin.
"M.A.S. is honoring Forest City Ratner Companies for their extensive body of work, their ongoing vision, as well as for their commitment to the future of New York," she said. "FCRC's focus on addressing our city’s lack of affordable housing through innovative investments in modular building techniques will have a positive and lasting impact, and serve as a model for the entire development sector. Forest City Ratner’s acute understanding of the ways that mixed-use development and urban revitalization projects contribute to the healthy and sustainable functioning of communities across the region and the country has benefited cities – and citizens – from coast to coast.
She also argued that "FCRC has led the revitalization of a key part of New York, Downtown Brooklyn, starting with MetroTech Center and culminating with our city's first 21st century arena, entertainment complex and neighborhood catalyst: Barclays Center."
Forest City Ratner had no comment.
But Ron Shiffman, a Pratt Institute professor, Atlantic Yards critic and a recipient of the Jane Jacobs Medal, which is administered by M.A.S., argued that the nonprofit's pursuit of money was clouding its judgment.
“It says that they needed money,” said Shiffman. “But there’s a point at which principle has to trump need when it comes to these kinds of things.”
Well, Forest City can be honored for its buildings, but, as I've previously explained, you have to ignore how they got there: the end justifies the means. 

Consider how Gilmartin claimed Atlantic Yards represented "massive blight," while the New York Court of Appeals dubbed it "relatively mild conditions of urban blight principally attributable to a large and, of course, uninhabited subgrade rail cut"--which, I might add, looks to be developed last in the construction sequence.

More reasons for skepticism

The modular citation is unfortunately timed: MAS made the decision to give the award before learning that the first tower would be delayed a year, until December 2015, and that Forest City Ratner's new joint venture partner/overseer, the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, would decide that the next three towers would be built through conventional construction.

Also, the salute to affordable housing must be contextualized by a recognition of how hard Forest City sold such benefits to the public but kept delaying it.

It's not committed to affordable housing. It's committed to making the profit it needs, and affordable housing happened to fit. If Forest City were truly committed to affordable housing, it would have lobbied for tax reform and other public policies.

The headline in the Capital New York article is Ratner award sparks intra-preservationist fight, but the MAS, which has a preservation component, is not as focused on preservation as the HDC.

As I wrote, Forest City's record doesn't necessarily fit with the Municipal Art Society's efforts to create a "more livable city by advocating for excellence in urban planning and design, a commitment to historic preservation and the arts, and the empowerment of local communities to affect change in their neighborhoods."

While the signature Forest City buildings honored in the invitation--the Barclays Center, the New York Times Tower, New York By Gehry--arguably represent excellent urban design (if not urban planning), it's hard to say they represent a commitment to historic preservation nor the empowerment of local communities.

The relevance of Battle for Brooklyn

The film, which ends as the arena is being constructed, can't tell the full or up-to-date story. But it's still valuable.

As I wrote in my review, "Having observed much of the story in real time, I found Battle most valuable in the camera’s witness to the palpable insincerity and cold-blooded indifference of the developer-government alliance."

That's still true. And I don't think Jackie Onassis would have liked it.

Thing is, Forest City has embraced historic preservation when it met their financial goals. In the case of Atlantic Yards, they ignored it. Originally, they didn't plan to build on the southeast block of the project site, a block that could have been restored. Then they decided it was financially necessary.

The announcement
Historic Districts Council is appalled that Forest City Ratner is being awarded the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal‏
New York- The Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York's historic neighborhoods, will present the film Battle for Brooklyn (2011) followed by a panel discussion with planning experts and community advocates on the ongoing community concerns related to the Atlantic Yards Project on June 11, 2014 at 6 PM at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 4th Avenue, Brooklyn. This event will take place on the same evening that Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin of Forest City Ratner, developers of Atlantic Yards, will be honored by the Municipal Art Society with the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal for their contributions to New York City.
As an organization devoted to preserving New York City’s physical character, HDC is appalled by the decision to honor what Forest City Ratner has done to our city. Conflating the company’s record of bulldozing neighborhoods with Mrs. Onassis’s pivotal role in preserving New York City’s Landmarks Law is something HDC feels should not go unnoticed. We thought about screening the film directly on to the side of the building where the award is being presented to demonstrate how FCR treats New York City’s neighborhoods, but decided instead to use this opportunity to host a conversation about communities, development and the future of the area in and around downtown Brooklyn.
The panel speakers include Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee; Daniel Goldstein, Co-founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn; Norman Oder, Journalist, Atlantic Yards Report and Ronald Shiffman, Pratt professor. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required and space is limited. For further information please contact bharmon@hdc.org or 212-614-9107.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…