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Downtown Brooklyn? New aerial photos show the context of the AY footprint

New aerial photos of the Atlantic Yards footprint and environs, taken by photographer Jonathan Barkey as part of the sequence used for the Municipal Art Society's Atlantic Lots presentation, shed additional light on the context for the planned project.

(Here's an interview with Barkey by Adrian Kinloch on his Brit in Brooklyn blog. Click on all graphics to enlarge.)

They show a much lower scale to the south in Prospect Heights and Park Slope. They show a good number of relatively smaller high-rise buildings in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. (Here's an overall Brooklyn list of finished and proposed towers from Emporis.)

They confirm that towers completed or planned in and around the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Cultural District would form something of a connecting skein of high-rise buildings to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower. However, Atlantic Yards would still be a dogleg extension of Downtown Brooklyn and thus does not deserve that moniker, despite Forest City Ratner's rhetoric.

After all, the map from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership can't even fit Atlantic Yards; the only building to appear (circled), is the tower planned (and delayed) for Site 5 at the far west of the footprint. Also, the city's rezoning for Downtown Brooklyn did not include the Atlantic Yards site. (Actually, one small parcel was initially included, then dropped.)

The context of no context

Recent renderings of the arena block released by Forest City Ratner provide no context for the surrounding neighborhoods. The above graphic shows the view looking north from Flatbush and Dean Street.

This rendering, among a group by the Environmental Simulation Center for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, is based on an earlier (and larger) iteration of the General Project Plan; while this view from the south shows the Newswalk building (highlighted by Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab), it could provide more surrounding context.

Two decades ago

The Atlantic Yards site can't be understood without a view of the enormous changes in the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA), which includes part of the footprint. This photo, taken (I believe) in the late 1980s, comes from a 5/26/05 Forest City Ratner presentation to City Council. It shows enormous empty lots, some of which became the developer's Atlantic Center (1996) and Atlantic Terminal (2004) malls; others became row housing built by the Partnership for New York City and mid-rise buildings such as a senior citizen home.

Looking east

Much of the project footprint is highlighted in the larger oval. The smaller ovals show towers up to 15 stories (plus one that's [corrected] 31 stories) near Atlantic Avenue, and up to 24 stories near the Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill.

Adding the bank tower

The above photo adds the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower to the mix. While the flagship tower at Atlantic Yards, Building 1 (once known as "Miss Brooklyn") now would be one foot shorter, at 511 feet, it would be nearly twice as bulky, at 650,000 square feet. Original plans were for square footage three times that of the bank building.

From the ground level

The photo above, which I took two years ago looking east from the Sixth Avenue bridge between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, shows the more recent lower-scale buildings contrasted with high-rise buildings constructed in the mid-1970s, including Mitchell-Lama towers up to 15 stories and the [corrected] 31-story Atlantic Terminal 4B public housing tower.

The last remaining plot of land on the north side of Atlantic Avenue would be the Fifth Avenue Committee's ten-story Atlantic Terrace project (which had to cut plans for solar panels because of expected shadows from AY buildings). There's an obvious argument for a certain amount of density at such a broad boulevard and a retrospective recognition that buildings like the row house-scale Atlantic Commons should have been bigger.

Looking northwest

This photo, looking mostly west but also north from the far eastern end of the footprint, shows both the Atlantic Terminal 4B tower, the Bank of New York tower over the Atlantic Terminal Mall, and the 28-story Forte Tower (at the top of the page, three-quarters of the way across to the right). Keep in mind that the Full Spectrum/Danspace project near Forte would be 40 stories, and, a bit further to the northwest, Forest City Ratner's planned tower at 80 DeKalb Avenue would be 34 stories.

Another view from the southeast

This photo, looking northwest from the southeast corner of the project footprint, shows the generally low scale of Prospect Heights, and provides some more context for Fort Greene and Clinton Hill north of Atlantic Avenue; the taller structures are complemented by a large collection of low-rise buildings.

From the direct south

This shows the footprint from the south, with Flatbush Avenue extending off near the bottom right of the screen. (Not pictured are 15- and 16-story towers at Grand Army Plaza.) By way of context, consider that the arena, itself 150 feet tall, would be nearly twice as tall as the light-colored building highlighted, which would be at approximately center court. The arena, at about 150 feet, would be about the same height as the Newswalk building--in the far right of the photo--and less than one-half and one-third the height of the towers surrounding it.

[Update: Newswalk is officially nine stories, but it's a former industrial building. My eyeball is that it's at least 130 feet, though I don't have exact dimensions.]

Downtown Brooklyn

Barkey's photo of the heart of Downtown Brooklyn, looking north, shows a much denser set of towers. On the left, Court Street is highlighted. In the center is the Marriott Hotel. Highlighted at right is Forest City Ratner's MetroTech. Several more towers are expected; Emporis has a list, though some of the information is understandably inexact. This is clearly a much denser downtown.


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