Skip to main content

Transit-oriented development, the lagging MTA, and the AY example

Maybe the issue is regional, and the outsize scale of the Atlantic Yards project relates partly because of the failure to develop housing at sufficient density and affordability in the car-dependent suburbs.

Indeed, there’s a lot of transit-oriented development (TOD) taking place—in New Jersey, at least. “New York State is more than 15 years behind New Jersey in its smart growth and TOD policies,” declared Ellyn Shannon, a transportation planner for the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC) to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

She spoke at a symposium Wednesday on Transit Oriented Development in the New York Metropolitan Region. The PCAC two weeks ago released a report, Where is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Transit Oriented Development, calling on the MTA and its operating agencies to work in partnership with State and local governments, community organizations, and private developers to encourage TOD, which it defines as "a pedestrian-friendly, compact, mixed-use development pattern that lies within walking distance of a transit station and contains or adjoins a core commercial area."

For New York, the issue is the suburbs more than the city--after all, as one panelist pointed out, most development in the city could be considered TOD. Or, perhaps not. Though the symposium conspicuously avoided controversial developments like Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, Jon Orcutt, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign
offered a caution in the Q&A period. “There’s a lot of bad car development going on,” he said, citing big box stores on Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx or in Red Hook.

Even projects near transportation hubs, he added, citing Atlantic Yards, show “it’s possible to do design that isn’t the best transit-oriented development.” TSTC has issued some tough criticism of the transit plan for Atlantic Yards and contributed to the criticisms voiced by BrooklynSpeaks.


Larry Gould of NYC Transit said some posit TOD as “strong medicine. The fact is, TOD creates wonderful places to live.” Still, he lamented that in many suburban communities the zoning code doesn’t allow mixed-use facilities.

Indeed, the PCAC recommends "coordinating State policy and providing State resources to assist local governments in planning for transit-friendly development, linking land use and transportation in the regional transportation planning process," seeking increased resources for TOD, and working closely with local governments.

Community must be heard

But how get there? "It is a community engagement process,” said Vivian Baker of NJ Transit, which has been planning developments at land and parking lots near train stations statewide.

Long Island, reported Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island, progressive planners are fighting a legacy of single-use zoning for single-family residences that have left isolated car-dependent neighborhoods. There are numerous TOD projects in the works, including on around Nassau Coliseum.

“We need 50,000 units of affordable housing,” he said. One small but important change: a willingness to embrace something common in the city, apartments above stores. In the village of Farmingdale will move from one-story retail to two-story retail-plus-housing. “We don’t have to freak people out with seven-, eight-, ten-, 15-story plans,” he said.

What a difference a suburb makes. In Brooklyn, of course, Forest City Ratner offered fictional 15-story buildings at Atlantic Yards to distract people from the real heights.

“We have to engage the citizenry,” Alexander added. “It’s sometimes ornery, difficult, challenging, [but] they have to own these and say, ‘Hey, this is my plan.’”

To move forward, he said, planners must “educate the community on density,” must have incentives for development (such as credits to clean up brownfields), and must engage the community.

The recommendations sounded more like an endorsement of ULURP, the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, rather than the fast-track process used by the Empire State Development Corporation for Atlantic Yards.

Schematics necessary

Robert Lane of the Regional Plan Association advised that, besides town hall meetings, charettes, and other public meetings, planners must offer photo simulations of projects so the public can evaluate what’s on the table. It was a reminder to me that most press outlets have ignored simulations of the scale of Atlantic Yards, such as this from the Environmental Simulation Center for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

He encouraged planners to find the intersection of transit-agency priorities, community-based goals and objectives, and technical constraints. (For AY, add to that political influences, such as the desire for a sports team, or a developer's history in the borough.) “If you’re honest with people, they will help you get there.”

“Only time is the true indicator” of whether TOD works, said Joseph Chan of the MTA.

Queens coming?

Elisa Picca of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) observed that LIRR access to Grand Central, by 2013, could have an enormous influence, cutting commuter time to the East Side of Manhattan and also leading to further development along the line. (Does that boost Sunnyside Yards as an option for the Nets?)

NYC Transit's Gould had no slideshow--he gestured out the window at the SoHo neighborhood. “You’re looking at a landscape that’s TOD,” he said, citing contiguous neighborhoods, narrow streets to slow traffic, high transit use, and a walkable design with “zero setback on buildings” away from the sidewalk.

He cited some promising TODs in New York: the Arverne development in Far Rockaway; the new Stillwell Avenue terminal, “designed in part to jump-start redevelopment in Coney Island”--a location, of course, that some have pushed for a Brooklyn arena--and the extension of the 7 subway line, “which makes it possible to develop the West Side.”

The assumption, Gould said, is “that you must provide capacity.” That raises questions in the Atlantic Yards context, as experts examining the issue for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods have challenged the state's assumption that there is sufficient capacity for the planning project.

“We should keep an eye on each development and try to bring it to the highest quality of transit-oriented standards,” Gould concluded. And that’s what stimulated Orcutt’s comment about Atlantic Yards.

Gould responded that the MTA had the technical chops to analyze the use of platforms and stairs, and to run trains to deal with crowd surges. In the larger picture, he acknowledged, “virtually all these developments go through the policy and political structure. We technicians participate in that structure.”


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 …

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

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won't be so cheap.


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 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…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2017: no new towers, unfilled affordable units, Islanders prepare to leave, project timetable fuzzy

My 2018 preview.

It was another wait-and-see year for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, with one big twist--the beginning of a slow goodbye for the New York Islanders--but continued delays for towers, a lost (mostly) 421-a subsidy for condos, and new skepticism about unfilled not-so-affordable housing units.

So ongoing questions linger regarding the project's pace, affordability, and even future ownership.

In my 2017 preview, I predicted--not exactly going out on a limb--that two and likely three more towers would open, though it would be unclear how fast they'd lease up and sell.

Indeed, we've learned that the middle-income below-market units at 461 Dean (which opened in 2016) and 535 Carlton have leased very slowly, while it's too soon to assess progress for commensurate units at 38 Sixth. (At 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth, middle-income units make up half the "100% affordable" buildings.) Meanwhile, many apartments are up for rent at the 550 Vanderbilt condo buildin…