Skip to main content

The New York Nobody Knows doesn't know Atlantic Yards

The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6000 Miles in the City, by sociologist William Helmreich, has received lots of enthusiastic reviews since it was published in 2013. (The paperback just came out.)

I'll write elsewhere about the book as a whole--it's a great conceit, but mixed in execution--but here want to address the significant sloppiness regarding Atlantic Yards.

The AY mention

Atlantic Yards gets a few mentions, but the main passage is below right, from Chapter Six.

It could have used some fact-checking. Some of these errors may be small, but it shows how easy it is to get wrong, fueling future errors from those relying on this source.

No, the Atlantic Yards development project is not "designed by famed architect Frank Gehry." (He was the original designer, and credited master planner, but he was long gone by the time of this book's completion.)

Nor is it "in downtown Brooklyn." (Try Prospect Heights.)

Nor was it approved by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. (Bloomberg delivered subsidies, but the project was approved by the Empire State Development Corporation, a state authority.)

No, it's not quite accurate to say the "yards are owned by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority." (The "yards"--actually the Vanderbilt Yards, an 8.5-acre piece of a 22-acre project--were owned by the MTA, a state agency, but at the time of this book's completion, development rights to one parcel had already been purchased. Also, it's not made clear that the "yards" ≠ Atlantic Yards.)

No, the developer can't "take" properties by eminent domain. (Rather, the developer can get properties conveyed that the government has taken by eminent domain.)

No there are no plans to develop 4.5 million square feet of office space. (Actually, about the space would be about one-tenth of that total, and even those plans are on hold.)

Yes, Ratner did pursue tactics to overcome community opposition, but not via a Community Benefit Agreement. (It was, rather, a Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA.)

Ratner did not quite agree to "give the community various housing benefits." (Rather, they require a commitment from the developer but also public subsidies. Also, the CBA was supposed to go well beyond housing benefits to include things like job training and free tickets to arena events.)

Was there a "flood of boutiques, upscale eateries, and the like, opening at the rate of one a week on Flatbush Avenue"? (Maybe briefly, but that's a overbroad summary.)

Going back to the first sentence, it's not wrong to say that Atlantic Yards exemplifies how "government programs are intertwined with gentrification," but it's a missed opportunity to explain that Atlantic Yards, by offering "affordable housing," was supposed to stem gentrification.

Comments

  1. Yes to a "mixed in execution" book. How about this bus-riding observation?
    "To enter a world of a Bronx or Brooklyn bus - it's fair to call them spaces - is to join a world populated in large measure by the poor, the black & the Hispanic, with an occasional Asian and an even rarer elderly white person who was apparently left behind in the various eras of white flight. Except for teenagers, nearly everyone looks tired, bored, and in many cases, worn out and defeated by life's hardships. Their clothes tend to be shabby, and children tug impatiently on their mothers' dresses, pants, or arms and legs. There are people with canes, others in wheelchairs. A few read books in Spanish. Some talk listlessly, or listen to music, but most just stare out into the distance."

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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…

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…

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…