Skip to main content

Orwellian, almost: Forest City/Greenland deceptively rebrand Atlantic Yards as Pacific Park. New York State does not. (It's a far cry from Battery Park City.)

The re-branding of "Atlantic Yards" (derived from Atlantic Avenue) as "Pacific Park" (derived from parallel, smaller Pacific Street) is "Orwellian, almost," to borrow a phrase from former Forest City Ratner exec Jim Stuckey.

Think about it. Most obviously, as I wrote yesterday, it's not a park. (Duh.) Nor will it contain a park, since privately managed, publicly accessible open space is not a park. Nor will the open space have anything to do with the four towers planned around the Barclays Center (or, for that matter, the additional tower at Site 5). That's not only misleading, it's weak.

Yet nearly every press outlet that regurgitated the press release from Greenland Forest City Partners--which hired Pentagram, a high-end design/branding firm--dutifully used the term "park." As I wrote on Twitter, the name, along with being deceptive, also serves as a distraction from, among other things:
  • the demapping of Pacific Street 
  • the actual size of  the towers 
  • the not-so-affordable subsidized housing
  • the deceptive marketing of EB-5 investments
  • the new majority ownership by the government of China
Nor did the partnership pay for the use of demapped Pacific Street for the project  (as far as I've been able to learn, though I've never gotten a definitive answer).

Also, the name Pacific Park, however  a swerve (didn't they jettison the name Pacific Street from the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway station?), serves as a definitive step away from a name steeped in controversy and, I would argue, irredeemably tainted by the Culture of Cheating.

You might even say the name was conjured up to game Google, so all the news reports, and blogs like mine (and projects like Atlantic Yards Watch), fall back in search results.

Battery Park City contrast

The name has echoes of another, less controversial development, Battery Park City, which at least does not try to leave the impression that it's more park than city. But not only does Battery Park City have a much higher ratio of open space to residents, the open space was built first.

Not here. Despite the name Pacific Park, the open space--surely to be used by residents more than anyone else--will be built along with each tower. That will take ten years, at best.

It's not Pacific Park. It's not even Pacific Park City. It's more like "Atlantic/Pacific Towers With Some Privately-Managed, Publicly-Accessible Open Space to Be Finished in a Decade."

State keeping Atlantic Yards

Adding to the confusion is that, at least for now, Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency that oversees/promotes Atlantic Yards, has no plans to change the name of the Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project. (I wonder if they were blindsided.)

Just yesterday they dutifully sent out the latest two-week "Atlantic Yards" construction alert. On June 27, as you may remember, they sent out a press release stating "GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO ACCELERATE THE DEVELOPMENT OF ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT AND ENSURE TIMELY DELIVERY OF PUBLIC BENEFITS" and "Governor Creates Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, Fourteen Member Board will Monitor and Oversee Atlantic Yards Project and Advise ESD Board."


I queried ESD yesterday:
Just checking to see if there are any plans at ESD to change name of project and/or oversight entity to "Pacific Park" or to incorporate "Pacific Park"?
More generally, can you ask around in-house regarding precedent for this: I know individual buildings in projects like Battery Park City and Queens West (which first come to mind) have names, but the project name remains the same.
Is there any history in which ESD has approved a project and the developer/sponsor changes the name of the project as a whole?
The response:
There are no plans to change the project name – and, yes, as you noted, there is historical precedent for building names differing from project names (e.g., Queens West).
That's not quite an answer. Yes, there are building names that differ--and the new Atlantic Yards (er, Pacific Park) towers now will be named for their addresses. 

But this is a whole new project name. That's awkward, and confusing.

(No, I'm not changing the name of this blog, though--who knows--I may tweak it at some later point. I have revised the description of the blog to incorporate the name Pacific Park.)

Press coverage

From the Daily News, Atlantic Yards developer renames controversial project ‘Pacific Park’:
The developer of Atlantic Yards is rebranding the controversial project as “Pacific Park” as it gears up to begin construction on the next apartment building.
The space surrounding the 285,000-square-foot building and six adjacent structures will be converted into an 8-acre park.
“Right now, it’s a gash in middle of Brooklyn,” said Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton. “It will become a place people want to move, live and visit.”
The developer hired an award-winning branding agency, Pentagram, to help rename the new buildings.
But one industry expert was not impressed with the new moniker.
“It’s not really rebranding; it’s just giving it a new name,” said branding guru Rob Frankel.
From's John Brennan, Atlantic Yards is dead – long live Pacific Park, the new name for the Brooklyn project:
I covered the Meadowlands Xanadu saga from 2002 until it got a new name – American Dream Meadowlands in 2011.
I covered the Atlantic Yards saga from 2003 until the Barclays Center opened in Brooklyn in 2012.
Well, guess what, Atlantic Yards’ name is now going the way of Xanadu.
Interesting, too, that after all these years, American Dream is at least two years from opening – and Atlantic Yards – oops, “Pacific Park” has opened only the Brooklyn Nets’ basketball arena.
From amNY, Atlantic Yards developers revamp project with new name, park, towers:
Forest City Ratner Companies said it will team up with Chinese-based developer Greenland USA and chose a new architect, COOKFOX, to design and build two new towers at the site, which will now be called Pacific Park. In addition to the residential buildings, one of which will be 100% affordable housing units, the developers announced the creation of an 8-acre park.
Gib Veconi, the treasurer of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, which was part of the negotiations to get affordable housing, said he liked the preliminary designs of the space.
"If you add people and don't have open space, the quality of life goes down," he said.
...Donald O'Finn, one of the co-owners of Freddy's Bar, which was forced to move from its Prospect Heights location in 2010 and reopen in South Park Slope a year later, said the park is too small to do the community any good.
"It looks like a suburban mall or southern California," he said of the renderings of the green space.
That Veconi quote, at least as reported, goes in the "duh" category. There has always been open space planned, and without further designs, it's still tough to judge. Remember that his organization is part of BrooklynSpeaks, which once offered a far more extensive critique regarding the open space:
The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors have called for the scale of the project to be reduced, to keep Pacific Street and Fifth Avenue open and to create new streets connecting Prospect Heights with Fort Greene, and to create real public parks bordered by streets.
Needless to say, there's no plan to create new streets or real public parks.

The Observer produced ‘Pacific Park': FCR and Greenland Reveal the Softer Side of Atlantic Yards:
And this morning, it became clear that changes to the project would not only be of a financial nature. Curbed revealed that the developers were taking a different tack with the remaining buildings, making a sharp turn away from the tower-in-the-park-style, urban look that had defined the project up until now. 
Um, not sure about that, as noted above.

The Observer did make this point:
The language of eminent domain, which had long painted the rail yards and surrounding streets as a blighted area in need of rejuvenating development, has also vanished. Now, the developers boast of the site’s proximity to some of the most desirable neighborhoods in Brooklyn—”situated in the intersection of the thriving Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Park Slope and Prospect Heights neighborhoods.”
Except that's still misleading. The site is still Prospect Heights.

DNAinfo reported Don't Call It Atlantic Yards: Ratner Team Renames Project 'Pacific Park'
The public park, touted as “the borough’s newest open space,” will be located on the block bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street and Carlton Avenue and will be designed by Thomas Balsley Associates, the landscape architecture firm behind the Heritage Field at Yankee Stadium and Chelsea Waterside Park.
No, not a public park. Not really serving the borough. And taking ten years.

"It's classic rebranding," said one person in the area. "They got a bad reputation. They got to get rid of the old name."
..."This is an incredibly important name to signify there'll be eight acres of publicly accessible open space, and it connotates Pacific Street, which is a beautiful street that runs from either side of the project up into Prospect Heights, down to Boerum Hill and all the way down to the water," said Ashley Cotton of Forest City Ratner Companies.
Pacific Street, which was demapped in two places for the project.

Crain's New York Business offered Atlantic Yards' new name is an ocean away:
The partnership between Forest City Ratner and a Chinese development firm has rebranded the long-running, slow-moving Atlantic Yards residential development as Pacific Park Brooklyn.
It's interesting that Curbed, which broke the story yesterday after getting the exclusive, was one of the few news outlets to offer a significant concession to reality, noting, "Probably doesn't hurt that a new name also sloughs off associations with past lawsuits, controversies over eminent domain, and visceral community opposition."


Popular posts from this blog

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…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…