Skip to main content

Gehry's working on “Atlantic Center overbuild” (for 2000+ residents); ESDC punts

Though city officials haven't said so publicly, newly released documents show they’ve examined plans by Forest City Ratner for three new towers over the developer’s much-derided Atlantic Center mall--and Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry has it as part of his assignment.

(A photo of last year's model (right), published by the Courier-Life chain, showed three towers.)

Apparently the developer, Gehry, and the city see the "Atlantic Center overbuild" as intertwined with the neighboring Atlantic Yards project. However, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in its Atlantic Yards review, has shrugged off questions about Atlantic Center, which could add 2000+ new residents across the street.

A hint of the plan came in a public statement 1/7/06 from Gehry, who said "there are some 20 buildings to be built, and the client insisted that I do them all. When he came to me, he said, 'I know you're going to try and bring all your friends in to do all the buildings, 'cause that's a cop-out.'... And he didn't want me to do that, he wanted me to really solve the problem, and put me on the hot seat."

Given that Atlantic Yards would involve an arena and 16 towers, Gehry's statement raised a question: was he being vague, or was he referring to the Atlantic Center mall? The developer retains more than 1.2 million square feet of development rights, enough for three towers at least 300 feet tall. (That would represent a 15% increase on top of the AY project, which would be about 8 million square feet.)

The plot thickened in May, when Atlantic Center towers appeared in at least one model of the plan shown at a press conference featuring Gehry.
(Photo of this year's model from the New York Times shows two towers north of Atlantic Avenue behind the flagship "Miss Brooklyn.")

While the two projects would be technically separate, and FCR already has development rights for the Atlantic Center site, the incorporation of the Atlantic Center plans into the Atlantic Yards model suggests that it deserves more scrutiny.

City Planning, AC & AY

A document I acquired from the Department of City Planning (DCP) via a Freedom of Information Law request shows that the parties involved have considered the Atlantic Center project in tandem with Atlantic Yards. A 9/20/05 “DCP Checklist” that otherwise focused on AY stated:
Review of Atlantic Center (AC) overbuild. Want AC buildings at the same level of design detail as Atlantic Yards (AY).
(Click to enlarge)

The responsible parties: “GP,” or Gehry Partners, and “Jane,” or Forest City’s Jane Marshall, who sent the email to DCP to which the the checklist was attached.

Housing or office space?

Apparently the developer has already changed course and decided to emphasize housing over office space in the overbuild--and may continue to do so. (Mall photo by Daniel Goldstein for Slate.)

Initially, there was to be more office space. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Downtown Brooklyn Rezoning, completed 4/30/04, stated:,
While there are not yet any design plans, it is anticipated that Atlantic Center and the Shops at Atlantic Center will be developed to the maximum extent allowable under current zoning and the ATURP [Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Plan].

The plan was 711 units of housing (likely 711,000 square feet) and 875,000 square feet of office space; the project was expected to be complete in 2008.

That same configuration surfaced in a 2/18/05 Memorandum of Understanding the developer signed with government entities. FCR would develop up to 875,000 square feet of commercial space and up to 711,000 square feet of residential space on the Atlantic Center site, minus, if the Atlantic Yards project proceeds, 328,272 square feet.

Later in the year, with some subtractions, the 9/20/05 DCP memo sketched out reductions in both office space (to 711,000 square feet) and residential space (to 547,000 square feet).

Office space cut

Now plans have changed. There's a glut of Class A office space in nearby Downtown Brooklyn—some 800,000 square feet, or 10 percent of the total, according to Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, who spoke at a November 20 meeeting of the Fort Greene Association.

And FCR recently cut office space in the Atlantic Yards plan by 45 percent, to 336,000 square feet. So the developer must be rethinking the overbuild.

Indeed, according to the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement, Atlantic Center now would have more residential space than office space. According to the Land Use chapter, Atlantic Center would include 850,000 square feet of residential space and 550,000 square feet of commercial space, with the retail space remaining unchanged.

The project would be complete five years later than initially projected, by 2013, halfway between the end of the two phases (2010 and 2016) projected for the Atlantic Yards plan.

How many people?

That 850,000 square feet means about 20 percent more residential space than initially contemplated. At 1000 square feet a unit, that's 850 apartments. At 2.4 people per unit, that would mean 2040 new residents.

If the project were shifted to all residential space, it could add more than 1250 apartments and 3000 residents to the area, further straining infrastructure and services.

So it’s worth knowing Forest City Ratner’s plans--and how Atlantic Center fits into the environmental review for the Atlantic Yards project.

ESDC ignores impact

In the Response to Comments chapter of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the ESDC was told (p. 82):
The developer’s intention to further develop the Atlantic Center Mall site would increase the density in the immediate vicinity of the project site to extreme conditions.

The reponse is a generality:
As discussed in Chapter 3, “Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy,” the New York City Zoning Resolution reflects the City’s policy of encouraging high density development in areas with significant mass transit access, such as Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, Penn Station, the Fulton Street Transit Center, Long Island City, Downtown Brooklyn, and the proposed rezoning of Downtown Jamaica. All of these examples are similar to the Atlantic Terminal area because they represent places where a significant number of transit lines and modes are converging from different directions and proximate to central business districts. The density of the proposed project is consistent with, but generally less than, the densities employed throughout the city for areas surrounding concentrations of mass transit. Thus, the proposed project would further the City’s policy of promoting transit-oriented development by locating these high-density uses adjacent to the Atlantic Terminal transportation hub.

But those areas features much more commercial space than residential space. So the state seems to be discussing density simply in terms of building sizes rather than increased population.

Stuckey says it's old hat

FCR’s Jim Stuckey, on the Brian Lehrer Show on 5/15/06, said it was all old hat:
It’s an interesting thing, because those who oppose the project sort of bring things out and recreate them every six months or so. We’ve had the rights to build over the Atlantic Center mall going back for years. In fact, when we signed the Atlantic Yards Memorandum of Understanding, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build over the Atlantic Center mall as well. And in fact, if you were to go on some of their web sites, you would see that six months or eight months or a year ago, this was a new discovery that they made six months or eight months or a year ago. I guess what they’re doing, because there’s really not a lot we can talk about. They really don’t want to confront the issue of affordable housing, and the fact that we desperately need housing and creating jobs here, and creating housing here. So what they do is they dust off the year-old press release and they recirculate it again. The fact is that this was studied in the Downtown Brooklyn plan’s EIS. When the City Council voted for it, that Environmental Impact Statement with the overbuild for Atlantic Center was in that EIS, there was an MOU that was signed, it was signed in February of ‘05, so well over a year ago, that discussed what we were doing over the Atlantic Center as well, or what we could do.

It’s basically as of right square footage. It’s the air rights that have existed there for probably the last 40 years that’s being discussed. And in order to do a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement that doesn’t deceive anyone but shows everyone that we’re looking at it all in a transparent way, it will be studied in this EIS.


As noted above, it hasn't been fully "studied."

Not in the Times

The plans for the Atlantic Center mall didn't make a huge impression on the New York Times, which in a 5/26/04 article headlined Different by Design, Soon to Be Less So; Rethinking Atlantic Center With the Customer in Mind, focused on the mall's unwelcoming design.

The article did include developer Bruce Ratner’s infamous quote:
''It's a problem of malls in dense urban areas that kids hang out there, and it's not too positive for shopping,'' Mr. Ratner said. ''Look, here you're in an urban area, you're next to projects, you've got tough kids.''

Ratner did say the retail design would improve. He said nothing about how Gehry was working on the overbuild--and the Times didn't raise the question.

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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

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…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.


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 …