Skip to main content

During a short walk from Fort Greene to Prospect Heights, the contrasts and contradictions of Brooklyn

It was just a short walk, less than a third of a mile. But Brooklyn's contrasts and contradictions were manifest during a walk I took on November 24, a few hours after we learned that the state Court of Appeals had green-lighted the state's use of eminent domain, justified in part by removing "blight" in Prospect Heights, to build the Atlantic Yards project.

There, at the corner of Fulton Street and South Portland Avenue, a major shopping corridor in the gentrified section of Fort Greene, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz hosted a press conference outside the new Greenlight Bookstore, a most-local independent bookstore started with the help of a prize in a small business plan contest sponsored by the Brooklyn Public Library.

The new novel by Brooklyn author Jonathan Lethem, a member of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board and noted critic of the Atlantic Yards plan, was in the window.

Markowitz and other were boasting "Shop Brooklyn" buttons, announcing a seasonal initiative. Markowitz's press people--the only ones looking wary at the cheery event--had sent out a notice that Markowitz would address the Atlantic Yards eminent domain decision at the event, but first there was some promotion to do, and Markowitz managed his usual enthusiasm.

After ten minutes of boosterish speeches by Markowitz and Wellington Sharpe of the Fulton Area Business Alliance, however, I couldn't stick around.

(Photo by Kathryn Kirk)

There was a Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn press conference just a few blocks away, a straight shot down South Portland Avenue, then across broad Atlantic Avenue, past the Vanderbilt Yard and then buildings within the Atlantic Yards footprint that, as of that day, were more likely than ever to be demolished.

The march of towers

First, though, I looked west, with three new residential towers the horizon; in the foreground was the oldest, the Forte Tower in Fort Greene, where poor sales led the lender to take over the building.

Behind it were two rental buildings, the Brooklyner in Downtown Brooklyn, on blocks so nondescript the marketing plan sinks to generic banality ("designed for the people who make Brooklyn an interesting place to live") and Forest City Ratner's architecturally more interesting 80 DeKalb, which also has the advantage of bordering Fort Greene Park.

(Photo by Tracy Collins)

The upshot: the march of new towers is continuing, with 80 DeKalb and the Forte threading Downtown Brooklyn through Fort Greene, and then to the Atlantic Terminal area, site of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower and the Bank of New York tower.

And that march would continue to the Atlantic Yards site should residential buildings be built. While AY opponents say the project would damage the residential feel of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, it's more a question of degree. After all, most of them support the dense--but not as dense--UNITY plan, which would be limited to the Vanderbilt Yard (and wouldn't require a massive parking lot).

At Hanson Place

I walked down South Portland at Hanson Place, noticing the landscape change from row houses to mid-rise buildings, with the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls to the west, and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts , in a building renamed for the (tragically killed) Council Member James E. Davis. The current exhibition offered an apt parallel to the eminent domain fight. The title: "They Won't Budge: Africans in Europe."

Toward urban renewal

There are row houses on South Portland below Hanson, but the block is more clearly a product of urban renewal. On the west side I saw the first of two Mitchell-Lama towers, home to Delia Hunley-Adossa, who was trounced by City Council Member Letitia James in the recent Democratic primary, but may be back for the 2013 race.

Just to the south came Forest City Ratner's "blighted" Atlantic Center Mall, posing blank walls to the streets, and to the east, the modern row houses of Atlantic Commons, meant to invoke the older neighborhood nearby.

Below Atlantic Commons, the ten-story mixed-income Atlantic Terrace project, begun by the Fifth Avenue Committee long after Atlantic Yards was announced, was nearing completion. It's all part of ATURA, the longstanding Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area.


Then came wide Atlantic Avenue, the official border between Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, with the eastern edge of the Atlantic Center mall--the beneficiary of a superblock--at the corner.

When I crossed Atlantic, approaching the Vanderbilt Yard, a barrier bore some gnomic posters, "Atlantic Yards is___", leaving observers to fill in the blank.

(Photos--above, below--by Tracy Collins)

Down Sixth Avenue

The street below Atlantic became Sixth Avenue, with the former Spalding factory turned condos, now owned by Forest City Ratner and housing the Community Liaison Office, at the corner. As I've written, the demolition of this staunch building, already renovated, would be a final sign there's no turning back.

To the right, looking west on Pacific Street, I could see several empty lots, signs of demolition, and the most prominent building, the former warehouse turned the 31-unit Atlantic Art building, with just one apartment occupied, that of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein and his family.

Then, at the next block, a crowd of neighborhood residents, associated activists, and journalists, had gathered outside Freddy's Bar & Backroom, the spiritual home of the AY opposition and in more danger than ever of closing via eminent domain. (Now they're gearing up with chains.)

Some two-and-a-half years earlier, at the 5/24/07 Ratnerville Singout held at Freddy's, one song was titled "Freddy's is an Escalator Now," a suggestion ofthe fate of the space should the arena be built.

Actually, a tower--once office, now residential--was once planned for that corner. But an arena would be coming first, plus perhaps a tower to the west, at the corner of Dean and Flatbush. So the Freddy's corner more likely would be left as interim open space or, rather, an "Urban Experience."

In Prospect Heights

On the south side of Dean Street, as shown in the photo, I saw some Prospect Heights row houses. The residents can't be thrilled about throngs of arena-goers on their block.

Maybe that's why there's a city zoning regulation requiring arenas to be at least 200 feet from residential districts. And why the state, in the interest of furthering Atlantic Yards, would override that regulation.


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…