Skip to main content

New visuals of AY density; when does it become congestion?

Last month, when I wrote about the very high density of the Atlantic Yards plan, with several of the 16 towers over 400 feet (and one 620 feet), I included Jon Keegan's Google Earth rendering of the proposed building heights in neighborhood context. Now OnNYTurf ("Political and Community Coverage of NYC's 5 Boroughs") has devised a Google map with new portrayals of the footprint. (This is a view from Bergen Street and Carlton Avenue in Prospect Heights.)

The Gehry plan in the Times

This example, along with Keegan's, marks an important citizen effort to provide context that the press has so far failed to provide. Remember, we've had the latest set of plans from Frank Gehry since 7/5/05, but the renderings, as published in the New York Times that day, are just a decontextualized splash of skyscrapers.

Note that the Brooklyn Papers on 2/18/06 did follow up on Keegan's map and Jonathan Cohn's analysis of the project's scale. Also note criticism of Keegan's post that inclusion of other planned buildings would add some increased scale nearby on Fourth Avenue and in Downtown Brooklyn. (Pictured: the Williamsburg bank tower, and the Bank of New York, both north of Atlantic Avenue near the western border of the Atlantic Yards footprint.)

Density downtown?

Forest City Ratner VP Jim Stuckey, in a panel discussion 11/22/05 for the American Institute of Architects NY Chapter, defended the density: "Many have tried to talk about the scale and the density of this project, the density of this project is really not all that different than what recently went through the public approval process." As I pointed out, Forest City Ratner likes to conflate the Prospect Heights site of the Atlantic Yards footprint with the rezoning in Downtown Brooklyn, but the neighborhoods are not the same.

As noted by the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development in its March 2005 preliminary planning analysis of Atlantic Yards, Slam Dunk or Airball, "When the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] for the Downtown Brooklyn Plan was completed, it was expected that the new construction for that area would be substantially taller and more modern than what exists. The same is true – and in a substantially greater discontinuity with the majority of surrounding buildings – for the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards area."

Stuckey made a reasonable point, that density should be near a transit hub: "In fact, I think that the scale of this project needs to be what it needs to be... The city has an incredible housing shortage, a tremendous housing shortage, by all estimates, 65-70,000 housing units, at all income levels...If you can’t put density in at major mass transportation, where would you put it?"

Density vs. congestion

But how dense is too dense? There must be a limit. Urbanist Roberta Brandes Gratz, in her book The Living City, writes (p. 25): "Planners, for example, once declared density bad and the thinning out of cities good. Now density is in and thinness out, although a distinction between density and congestion is seldom made. Density comes when many people are in the same place doing things that gain strength from their interaction; congestion results when there are so many of them that interaction becomes difficult, access in and out unpleasant, and frustration high."

(This is a view looking south from Fulton and South Oxford Streets in Fort Greene.)

A crazy quilt of density

Along with the current zoning that has been bypassed--and would dictate much less density--there are some cues for appropriate density for the Atlantic Yards site. Across Atlantic Avenue, for example, the density is a crazy quilt: a 31-story public housing tower, five subsidized co-ops that are 12 to 15 stories, a seven-story building for seniors, and numerous subsidized rowhouses in the Atlantic Commons development. The latter were built in the 1990s; the taller buildings were built in the 1970s. The last building planned for empty land across Atlantic Avenue, to be built by the Fifth Avenue Committee, will be ten stories. The community-developed UNITY plan for the railyards proposed buildings eight to 12 stories. The proposed Extell plan was for buildings four to 28 stories.

The density of the Atlantic Yards plan is driven, at least in part, by the developer's need to build enough market-rate housing to ensure desired profits as well as affordable housing to maintain political and community support. Gratz, speaking at a conference Saturday sponsored by the Historic Districts Council, observed. “I’m a little tired of hearing the preservation movement blamed for gentrification. We’ve seen a lot of housing development at suburban density.”

[Addendum: Gratz, in her book Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown, criticizes the Nehemiah project in East New York for "destroy[ing] the remnants of an authentic urban neighborhood where resources remain to build on... In place of his traditional urban neighborhood, 650 units of only single-family homes with carports were built, a horizontal housing project for homeowners. A low-density suburban housing project on a high-density urban infrastructure, a short walk froim a subway. No traditional neighborhood shopping streets were left within walking distance."]

Now, she said generally of the city's current predicament, “we are paying a severe price” for having built on vacant land at low density. Does that mean that Atlantic Commons was an inefficient way to provide affordable housing? There are likely much less dense developments in the city [see Nehemiah, above], but her point does resonate. (Note that City Council Member Letitia James, among others, has proposed an expansion of Atlantic Commons on the Atlantic Yards site.) The UNITY plan proposed taller buildings, and the Fifth Avenue Committee's building (right) will be similarly mid-sized. But a decade ago, when Atlantic Commons opened, it "replaced rat-infested lots," as New York Magazine explained. The fact of development apparently trumped any density debate.

Comments

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…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

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…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …