Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Gilmartin's Pacific Park dodge: "There will no longer be a dearth of green space in the heart of Brooklyn" (exactly wrong)

“There will no longer be a dearth of green space in the heart of Brooklyn," Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin said more than once last year regarding the planned 8 acres of publicly accessible open space--not an actual park--as part of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

Actually it's the opposite. Rather than having Pacific Park supply additional open space to serve Brooklyn by 2025--when it might be done--residents of the complex likely will have to rely on existing large parks like Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park. (Sorry, Hadley-the-pooch.)

I didn't say that. It's in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) from 2014, produced by Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project.

As I wrote in June 2015, this is a net gain of open space, sure. However, it surely will serve the residents of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park far more than anyone else. It's barely a gain in open space per person, in an area already starved for nearby open space.

Looking at the numbers

Remember, the city sets a goal of 2.5 acres for every 1,000 people and, recognizing that's unattainable in many places, reports an average of 1.5 acres for every 1,000 people.

Given that the 6,430 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park apartments should hold some 14,000 people, that would require a whopping 35 acres to meet the goal and 21 acres to meet the average. So 8 acres doesn't cut it.

The open space plan, threaded between buildings (via landscape architect Thomas Balsley)

From the Final SEIS

The Final SEIS explains how the project would increase the total open space ratio by 17.5 percent--which sounds good, except the reality is the base is tiny: the increase, per 1,000 residents, would be from .31 acres to .362 acres. That's way below the guideline of 2.5 acres and the average of 1.5 acres.

The document states:
In addition, numerous open space resources that have not been included in the quantitative analysis would be expected to provide additional opportunities for active and passive recreation in the Future With Phase II. Such resources include community gardens, school yards that are not consistently open to the public, resources associated with private developments that could offset demand on public open space resources, and Prospect and Fort Greene Parks (totaling over 615 acres of active and passive open space), which are located just outside the open space study area boundary. Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park are flagship resources that draw residents from the study area, despite being located outside of the census tracts study area. Residents and workers would continue to take advantage of the recreational opportunities that these additional resources have to offer, and these amenities would continue to substantially enhance open space conditions. 
(Emphases added)

It's fine to use those parks.

But that completely contradicts Gilmartin's line. Pacific Park is not reducing the burdens on open space in this part of central Brooklyn. It's adding them.

Another reason to be skeptical

It's even more troubling, upon closer analysis.

Remember, as Brooklyn Views blogger Jonathan Cohn wrote in 2005, those open space ratios were "relative to the city's existing pattern of streets and blocks, where the streets provide additional open space that is not counted in the ratio. If we didn't have streets, the requirement for open space would be much greater." 

In fact, some 3 acres of the open space in this project comes from former Pacific Street.

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