Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Looking back at New York magazine's 2006 predictions for 2016 (and what the Real Deal gets wrong)

The Real Deal assesses a June 2006 New York magazine cover story, Tomorrowland, under the headline NYC in 2016 — as seen from 2006: What did New York magazine get right, and where were they way off?

Here's part of the assessment:
Downtown Brooklyn
Prediction: Atlantic Yards shifts Downtown Brooklyn to the east, altering the borough’s skyline
Accurate? With the exception of an unexpected name change, spot on
“What’s in a name?” the magazine asked. “In projecting the future of the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth Avenues, what you call the area means a lot. Call it Atlantic Yards, as developer Forest City Ratner does, and you see a march—or perhaps a fashion show—of sixteen towers in glass, metal, and brick marching down Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, supplanting Grand Army Plaza’s arch as the gateway to the 21st-century borough.”
“This name pulls Downtown Brooklyn to the heart of the brownstone belt, attracting tenants who want to look at, but not necessarily touch, the old Brooklyn at their feet.”
Forest City Ratner is finishing up work on B2, the first residential tower at the renamed Pacific Park, and the project has already had a transformative effect downtown. In the past seven years the area has been overrun with glassy new towers.
I beg to disagree, even before taking a look at Alexandra Lange's original set of predictions. 

First, and obviously, the project, once expected to be completed by 2016, now has a target date of 2025, itself a revision of a former "outside date" of 2035.

Most importantly, while three Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park towers are rising vertically, and another couple in preparation, the "transformative effect" in Downtown Brooklyn was accomplished not by Atlantic Yards but by the rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn.

Numerous large residential towers moving south and east to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project in some ways seems an extension of that, but the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning proceeded on a different track.

Looking back at 2006

There are other notable dissonances with Lange's section titled Downtown Brooklyn in 2016: Brooklyn (like it or not) will get a shimmering Frank Gehry Crown, the first, of which, obviously, is that starchitect Frank Gehry is off the project.

(I recognize that prognostication is always a risk, especially given that Atlantic Yards, as I like to say, is a "never say never" project, so I don't fault Lange.)

She also suggested that the name "Atlantic Yards" "pulls Downtown Brooklyn to the heart of the brownstone belt, attracting tenants who want to look at, but not necessarily touch, the old Brooklyn at their feet." Now, of course, the name "Pacific Park Brooklyn" is being pitched as a new neighborhood, fitting in with the old Brooklyn.

In the original article, Forest City executive Jim Stuckey (gone by 2007) suggested that the flagship Miss Brooklyn office tower would "frame the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower” nearby.

Instead, there's no Miss Brooklyn but a plaza that has proven very valuable safety valve for arena operations, even praised by architect/developer Vishaan Chakrabarti as an exemplar of the "high-low" city.

Lange also wrote, summarily:
The good things about the Atlantic Yards are the Nets and the promise of 15,000 union construction jobs, contracts for minority and women-owned businesses, 2,250 affordable rentals, and a day-care and senior center. The bad thing is the shocking size. “The challenge will be traffic management,” says Alper. “There’s already not great traffic in downtown Brooklyn.” Possible solutions focus on incentivizing use of the area’s abundant public transportation to get to games: congestion pricing on streets and in parking garages, ticket prices linked to transport mode, and residential-parking permits for adjacent areas.
Ah, all that needs unpacking. The "15,000 union jobs" meant job-years, and we have no reporting on exact numbers. There have been fewer contracts than the goal for MWBEs, at least the last time an official report was issued, and anyhow many classified as minority- or women-owned businesses are already significant players.

The 2,250 "affordable rentals" may be below market, but will be less affordable than promised. As for the combined day-care and senior center--"intergenerational center"--well, that's coming late in the project and will serve a relative fraction of people.

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