Tuesday, August 05, 2014

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."

Oh.

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 NorthJersey.com'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."

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