Skip to main content

PlaNYC 2030, the questionable estimate of 1M more people, Morrone's history of erroneous NYC predictions, and the preservation movement

Will New York grow by a million people by 2030, the premise of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 sustainability effort? The latest statistics, growth of 2.1% over the past decade, suggest it's increasingly unlikely, though Bloomberg and others contest the numbers.

Still, the PlaNYC update should at least acknowledge the new numbers--but it hasn't, as Michael D. D. White points out in his Noticing New York blog:
Not only have the population projections not been changed in the plan... the old numbers remain firmly anchored in the plan.
A history of misplaced predictions

That got me thinking about the insightful keynote address given March 5 by historian, critic, and much-lauded guide Francis Morrone at the annual conference of the Historic Districts Council (HDC).

One theme of his address: over the past 40 years, the span of HDC's existence, many predictions have been way off. And though Morrone didn't mention PlaNYC, anyone listening would have another reason for skepticism.

Similarly, though Atlantic Yards is tangential to this discourse--the project has been justified, in part, because of the need to add density in light of population growth--we should be reminded (yet again) to take Atlantic Yards predictions with a grain of salt.

From the 1950s to the 1970s

Morrone reminded his audience that, in the 1950s, New York City was the pre-eminent world city by "every conceivable measurable criterion," including manufacturing, corporate headquarters, wholesale/retail sales, seaport activity, and cultural capital.

Predictions that the city would suffer a shortage of factory workers were way off. And, he noted:
New York City lost nearly a million people in the 1970s.

Today we are supposed to be planning for a city that will grow by more than a million by 2030. Yet 20 years before people started talking about "planned shrinkage," when New York had a preeminence among the cities of the world that no city in the history of the world had ever had, not a single expert, not one, predicted, or could have, the scale of the population loss. Something for us all to keep in mind when we hear expert projections.
Planned shrinkage

In 1976, the writer and housing expert Roger Starr promoted his theory of "planned shrinkage," in which the city would withdraw services to prepare for "doomsday," when the city went bankrupt.

And, during the 1977 World Series, broadcaster Howard Cosell famously told the TV audience, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning," the consequence--in Brooklyn, as well--of not only arson but also a fire department decimated by drastic cutbacks.

Morrone calls that de facto "planned shrinkage."

Gentrification, with crime

In the 1980s, "a paradoxical decade in New York," the Wall Street boom--and strategic investment by the mayor's office in both office districts and neighborhoods fueled gentrification in both Manhattan and the outer boroughs. Actually, crime continued to rise.

Observed Morrone:
Nothing amuses me more than when young commenters on the Brownstoner or Curbed blogs just presume that gentrification followed from the fall in crime. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pace of 1980s gentrification was torrid.
Misreading gentrification

City newcomers embraced urban life and, in doing so, fueled more wrong predictions, as Morrone recalled:
I remember that as these new residents began to buy up brownstones and co-ops in Park Slope, where I live, in the early 1980s, older residents of the neighborhood complained that the newcomers were all Double-Income-No-Kids, or DINK, families, and the neighborhood's traditional orientation toward families with children was disappearing. Once again, predictions proved preposterously false. The thing was, though, that neighborhoods like Park Slope--where by the early 1980s so much of the work of physical rehabilitation had already been carried out by the preceding generation of brownstone "pioneers"--emerged as the preferred bedroom communities for the workers--the "symbolic analysts" as Robert Reich called them--in the new economy. And that is where the preservation and--dare I say it--"rebranding" of the old neighborhoods seemed an integral part of the city's new economic direction.
The role of immigrants

He also pointed out that the city's revival since the 1970s depended significantly on "the third great immigrant wave," repopulating and reviving non-gentrified (at least then) neighborhoods like Jackson Heights in Queens and Sunset Park in Brooklyn,

A dismaying paradox remains today, as Morrone put it:
We have witnessed something of a return to the conditions of widespread substandard housing that prevailed in the city in the early 20th century. This time, though, for most affluent city residents, the problems of immigrant housing are even more off the radar than they were then.
And New York no longer provides sufficient housing options for the middle class:
This radical escalation of housing prices--outpacing the general inflation rate by many times--began in the 1980s, with a significant moderation between 1987 and 1992, only to begin anew and even exceed 1987 levels by the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. Remarkably, for all the talk of the housing bust since 2007 or 2008, the fall in property values has thus far not matched--in some places, such as Park Slope, not come close to matching--the previous fall.
That's a vexing question.

The Bloomberg impact

Morrone summarized the impact of the Bloomberg administration:
For all his power, he has not always had his way: New York failed to attract the Olympics, the mayor did not get congestion pricing, and so on. But his rezonings, his reorganization of the school system, and many of his other initiatives have been historic. Not least, he has continued the Giuliani administration's emphasis on livability issues, as the "rebranding"... of the city as the capital of finance and international business services continues. From the High Line to Brooklyn Bridge Park, from the painted malls of Broadway to the new bike lanes, to the scads of new luxury high-rise apartments, to the unprecedented activity in New York of the chicest of world architects, the New York of today--the present Great Recession notwithstanding--has become what the historian Fred Siegel dismissively calls "Luxury City."
(Here's the derivation of "luxury city.")

Preservation, decline, and development

Morrone pointed out that, even as poet Marianne Moore left Fort Greene in 1966, citing crime, people were moving into the neighborhood, and would launch efforts to preserve it, getting landmark designation.

Even then such efforts were misconstrued, as Morrone noted:
In the 1960s, as the preservation movement gained some momentum, Roger Starr, who served on the editorial board of the New York Times, wrote that in a city beset by such major problems as was New York, the preservation of old neighborhoods was at best quixotic, at worst dangerously irrelevant. Forty years later other commentators, such as the Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, would argue that preservation had succeeded to the point where it threatened to erode the dynamism of a great world city. The preservationists got it coming, and they got it going.
In conclusion

Morrone concluded thusly, with a nod to his hosts:
One lesson to be drawn from our recent history is that predictions and projections, when they are made about something as complex as New York City, are more often wrong than right. One final example: The Times article on planned shrinkage from which I quoted specifically mentions Bushwick. Right now, on March 5, 2011, I guarantee that there is a senior at Oberlin, in his or her dorm, listening to Arcade Fire and dreaming of the day they can live in Bushwick.

But the most vital lesson is that we'd never have got here at all had not a hardy band of New Yorkers thought, in the city's bleakest moments, that the place was worth preserving.


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 + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, 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--but not yet approved--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…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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…