Saturday, December 13, 2014

Announcing groundbreaking for next tower, Greenland Forest City declares Pacific Park "Brooklyn's newest neighborhood"

Also note analysis regarding the delay in the promised Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, the lack of real affordability in the next two towers, and the efforts to market unbuilt condos to Chinese buyers.

It's "Orwellian, almost," to quote former Forest City executive Jim Stuckey.

Just as the name Pacific Park attempts to erase the name, history, and taint of Atlantic Yards, the new joint venture, Greenland Forest City Partners, now claims that the project--all 22 acres, with a long-established arena block--will be "Brooklyn's newest neighborhood."

That promise comes in an invitation (right) to the Monday groundbreaking for 535 Carlton, the first tower built by the joint venture, and the second to start, after the ill-fated B2 modular tower, now stalled at ten stories at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

This will be the (presumably well-orchestrated, and carefully managed) coming-out pep rally for Greenland, which has avoided public appearances in Brooklyn. Set up for the event is occurring throughout the weekend and on Monday will begin at around 4:30 am.

Greenland Group Chairman and President Zhang Yuliang will be there along with Bruce Ratner and various elected and community officials. (Will any express chagrin about the delayed Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation?)

A building and a neighborhood?

The rendering in the invite misleadingly portrays the tower as fading into the sky, gently transitioning from the row-house block and crowned with a leafy halo.

How can a 22-acre site be a neighborhood? There's no natural configuration, especially since a huge chunk of the block between Dean and Pacific streets and Sixth and Carlton avenues is not part of the site.

How can part of the "neighborhood," Site 5 (currently occupied by Modell's and P.C. Richard), be across a major artery, Flatbush Avenue, at the far west end of the site?

model shown to potential immigrant investors in China,
though not shown publicly in Brooklyn. A neighborhood? 
Heck, the much larger Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan isn't even a neighborhood, but more of a development or a district.

A "neighborhood" from scratch

The hubris in the name recalls that of original project architect Frank Gehry.

After the project announcement, the 12/11/03 New York Times erroneously quoted Gehry as saying he'd never had an opportunity "to build a neighborhood from scratch in an urban setting."

Actually, he said the opportunity was to "build a whole neighborhood practically from scratch and fit it into an existing fabric and make something special out of it."

So Gehry acknowledged it wasn't from scratch but he did think it was a neighborhood.

But it wasn't, and it isn't. The Park Slope Civic Council testified in 2006:
The development plan will not create a neighborhood, but rather a high-density enclave between several neighborhoods which will in fact be a new urban form, however, more likely analogous to a spaceship landing in a field than a unifying element in the community.... It may work in concert with itself but not with the surrounding neighborhoods.
"Impeccable" affordability

The not-bashful text in the invite declares all-affordable 535 Carlton to include an "impeccable variety of rental apartments affordable to low, moderate and middle-income New Yorkers."

Shouldn't a developer responsible for the not-impeccable modular tower be a little more careful?

Moreover, that fudges the reality that the affordability is skewed significantly to middle-income households, with half the units going to those who'd pay some $3,000 for a two-bedroom, and commensurately for other apartments.

The configuration diverges significantly from that promised in the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding and the Community Benefits Agreement, which said the highest-income affordable cohort should get 20%, not 50% of the affordable units.

Yes, this is 100% affordable, or income-linked, while the rental buildings were supposed to be 50% market, 30% moderate- and middle-income, and 20% low-income. But it's being matched by a 100% unaffordable condo building launching Tuesday.

And while, as noted in Crain's, a third all-affordable building will start in June, they don't mention that the next three towers after that likely will be all market-rate.

Given the imbalance in the next two all-affordable buildings, that means the overall Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park package would be less affordable to average Brooklynites than ever before.

From Downtown Brooklyn to a new neighborhood

Once they called it "A Vision For Downtown Brooklyn," as in the flyer at right, which avoided the project's scale and depicted the towers as smudges as viewed on high.

Now it's a neighborhood.

As I've said before, Atlantic Yards is a never-say-never project. It's not even Atlantic Yards any more. But it's not a neighborhood either.

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