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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Answers About Brooklyn Architecture, criticism of AY

From the New York Times's CityRoom blog, under the rubric Answers About Brooklyn Architectureg, the first set of answers from Diana Lind, the author of “Brooklyn Modern: Architecture, Interiors & Design,” who is taking questions from readers.

A reader named Matt asked:
Speaking of Atlantic Yards, what does Ms. Lind think of this mega-development, and its potential effects on Brooklyn life?

Lind responded:
Living in Ft. Greene half a block from Atlantic Avenue, I’ve thought a lot about the Atlantic Yards project and its potential impact on life in Brooklyn. Certainly the site merits some kind of development, but I’m opposed to the Ratner plan as it stands now for a few key reasons. I take umbrage at the project’s vast, uninterrupted scale; its street closures; its miserable sense of public space (when was the last time you threw a frisbee on a private building’s lawn?); and most recently, revelations of its more than 2 billion dollars worth of tax write offs and subsidies from the government (according to the NY Post). Though the project has touted the fact that it’s going to create jobs and housing, the scheme of using public money to finance this endeavor sounds like robbing Peter and Paul to pay Mary (sorry, the Pope’s in town).

But I also have aesthetic qualms with the project. I don’t think any one architect should be in charge of designing 22 acres of any city. In a March 21st piece by New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, the project’s uncertain status is lamented. Ourousoff points to the importance of great planning projects such as Rockefeller Center (roughly the same size as Atlantic Yards). But Rockefeller Center was developed by a team of architects; Atlantic Yards will not be. Gehry is good at what he does, and as others have noted his voluptuous style would nicely contrast with the phallic bank building, but more than 7 million square feet of his outlandish style (of any architect’s style) starts to look pretty tacky and boring, no matter the context.

So, if the project goes ahead as it’s planned now, how this will affect life in Brooklyn? A lot. Irreversibly. It will complete Brooklyn’s transformation from a post-industrial residential borough to a city unto itself and will extend Downtown Brooklyn to Ft. Greene, Prospect Heights, and Boerum Hill.

Spending time in Brooklyn now, one senses the borough’s promise and mutability. When and if Atlantic Yards is completed, I think many people will feel an enormous opportunity was lost on a not particularly innovative project. If I were in charge of the development site, I’d scrap the plan, build a platform over the railyards, and auction off small parcels of the site to varied developers, cultural organizations, and schools. The diversity of approaches to the parcels would mimic the city’s naturally haphazard development process and allow for more community involvement.

That sounds like an endorsement of something like the UNITY plan. Also, implicitly, Lind doesn't believe in an arena.


  1. Along with the offered observation of "I don’t think any one architect should be in charge of designing 22 acres of any city" goes this: Who thinks that one developer/landowner/subsidy-collector should own about 30 contiguous acres of Brooklyn or the City? Or that such should come about on a no-bid basis fostered by no-bid government subsidies?


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