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Shadowy AY open space OK, says DEIS, because it's better than nothing

Yesterday I walked through Peter Cooper Village (PCV) in Manhattan in late afternoon, mindful of the warning by the Municipal Art Society that the open space at PCV's similar and co-managed neighbor, Stuyvesant Town, was more building backyard than true public park.

I was struck by how so much of the green space was in shadow--and from buildings only about 15 stories in height, less than half the height of most buildings proposed for the Atlantic Yards project. (And some AY buildings would be three times taller, at least.)

Would the seven acres of publicly-accessible open space proposed for Atlantic Yards be in late-afternoon shadow, when students return from school and adults from work?


The limits of the law

But that's not a problem, according to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Empire State Development Corporation, which measures environmental impact within some very specific legal boundaries.

The reason: this would be new open space, and something is better than nothing.

According to Chapter 9, on Shadows:
The proposed project’s publicly accessible open space is designed to take into account the location and heights of the proposed buildings and the shadows they would create. Major landscape elements, such as the oval lawn, primary pathways, and water features, would be located to receive the maximum exposure to midday sun throughout the year. The location of other landscape elements, such as the north-south pathways and smaller passive use areas, would be sited and oriented to receive sunlight when other areas of this open space are in shade so that sizable portions of the entire open space would have access to sunlight during the late morning through early afternoon hours.
The proposed project’s publicly accessible open space would receive shadow from Buildings 3 through 15 throughout the day in each analysis period. The incremental shadow would be greatest in the early mornings, when the shadows would stretch east and late afternoons, when the shadows would stretch west along the open space. During those times, most of the open space would be in shadow. Shadow is not generally expected to adversely affect active recreational uses such as volleyball, bocce, and the half basketball courts. The shadow would diminish the attractiveness of the passive recreation areas to their potential users. Were it not for the development of these buildings, this publicly accessible space would not be created. Therefore, the shadows on this public space would not be considered significant adverse impacts.
(Emphasis added)

The argument is similar to that made in Chapter 6 of the DEIS, Open Space, which acknowledges that the amount of open space provided for the new population (much less the surrounding population) would be far below city guidelines:
In sum, because the proposed project would provide more open space to users than is currently available, no significant adverse impact on open space and recreational resources would result.


  1. On I recently posted a drawing from the ESDC Environmental Study of the shadow sweep of the proposed Atlantic Yards Development - which I recolored in Photoshop to emphasize the trueenvironmental impact. recolored. The original illustration from the report showed the shadow sweep in a sunny yellow color. Many local parks, landmarked structures and districts will be in shadow, as well as parts of historic Fort Greene Park. If the development goes through as planned, some areas near the yards will never get any sun ever. Other drawings from the DEIS are also featured.

  2. On I recently posted a drawing from the ESDC Environmental Study of the shadow sweep of the proposed Atlantic Yards Development - which I recolored in Photoshop to emphasize the trueenvironmental impact. recolored. The original illustration from the report showed the shadow sweep in a sunny yellow color. Many local parks, landmarked structures and districts will be in shadow, as well as parts of historic Fort Greene Park. If the development goes through as planned, some areas near the yards will never get any sun ever. Other drawings from the DEIS are also featured on as well as links to express your opinion of the project.


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