Skip to main content

Capital New York's McGeveran: phase 1 of Ratner's rehabilitation is successful, but next phase will be harder; also, Hamill's "two-page gloat"

Updated with link to essay, which was not originally on the web.

Capital New York co-founder Tom McGeveran, who opposed the Atlantic Yards arena, writes in an email to subscribers, a thoughtful, more supportive-than-not essay, headlined "Bruce Ratner's apology to Brooklyn, Part One":
The builders of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will have much to celebrate at tomorrow's ribbon cutting, having made it through legal battles, financing troubles and architectural disputes to get to the opening of the giant arena.

The mood will be different outside, where some vocal Brooklynites who opposed the arena will gather. They're the ones who protested first the seizure of property to cobble the site together and then the effect the arena would have on the sensitive intersection of residential neighborhoods like Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope and Boerum Hill, at the crossroads of which Barclays sits.

As it turns out, the arena itself is a beautiful structure, in stark contrast to developer Bruce Ratner's previous building forays in the neighborhood. Both 1996's Atlantic Center mall and 2004's Atlantic Terminal Mall are blights, and did much to make the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues feel like some windswept highway off-ramp halfway through Connecticut, in some exurban nowhere.

I'm not totally shocked that this Ratner project came out so differently because Ratner went, in the end, with SHOP, a local architectural firm that's big on both ambition and humanness. Partner Gregg Pasquarelli has the kind of genuine excitement for this project that you just don't see with rabid capitalist-architects who want to build houses for banksters.
The arena is striking, sure, and memorable. Beauty, of course, will be in the eye of the beholder, and I've heard a real spectrum of opinions already.

Ratner making amends?

McGeveran continues:
Jay-Z will be there at the opening I'm sure, and Michael Bloomberg, and of course Ratner himself, who had so much to answer for and who by several accounts knew that what he was really battling Brownstone Brooklyn for was a last chance to make amends for what he'd done to the borough already.

Now, almost bizarrely, Ratner has a chance to go down in history as one of the great builders of Brooklyn.

I should say here that I was against the project from the start. I don't believe stadiums ever bring what builders say they will, and I don't understand putting them in locations like this. Recall Ebbetts [sic] Field as fondly as you like, but these stadiums aren't built the same way anymore, they don't create the kind of traffic patterns or local business they used to. In my mind, the word "stadium" is more likely to conjure the image of a mediocre-looking pillbox across an empty parking lot studded with broken glass and blowing discarded fast-food paper products.

But that's not what Barclays looks like right now. And I think as far as phase one of Ratner's Brooklyn rehabilitation is concerned, he's been successful. Phase two is longer, and harder, and not entirely in his control.
That's a little premature. McGeveran is saluting the arena as urban sculpture, which is his right. But the arena needs to be evaluated as a working organism, as well.

What next?

And McGeveran knows that, sort of. He continues:
Having built this thing, having paid lots of money, having extracted lots of suffering and sown lots of discord in Brooklyn, what remains is to see what the arena does to Brooklyn when it's a living, breathing urban organism, sucking people in and spitting them out like some kind of artificial heart.

Will it bring higher real estate values to local owners or will it lower them? If it brings higher ones, will Ratner's promise to put a cap on the dislocation of its longtime residents by building middle-income housing ever come to fruition?
That working organism means more than real estate values. It means the impact of daily operations.

The "right level of incredulity"?

He closes:
To ask is not to doubt Ratner's motive, but to have the right level of incredulity about any of these kinds of deals, as the economy cycles up and down and the city's government prepares for a new regime. Will local store owners get more business or get pushed out? Will all the little restaurants be replaced with bank branches, nail salons, Heartland Breweries and Hooters and Applebees, or will the distinct charms of Brooklyn actually appeal to the thousands of suburbanites who travel in to watch the Brooklyn Nets, or Jay-Z, or Lady Gaga at the arena?

Tomorrow will probably be the kindest day for Ratner. Whether that all falls away is largely up to forces beyond his, or our, control. But the arena is now a fact. The Brooklynites who picketed the project should allow themselves to start supporting a home team, and a stadium, that can shape the future of the borough. And they should also not let Ratner, or the city, off the hook when it comes to the concessions they offered, and the benefits they promised.
They should allow themselves to start supporting a home team? That's a lot easier in Green Bay, where the community essentially owns the team.

The right level of incredulity, I'd submit, involves recognizing the Culture of Cheating.

Taking on Hamill's "two-page gloat"

McGeveran also wrote today, in his tabloid round-up, about the Daily News front page and Atlantic Yards coverage:
Booster
Denis Hamill has been in favor of what is now called the Barclays Center since the site was little more than a patch of weeds, and the apartments and other buildings surrounding it were still fighting off an eminent domain claim that would result in their destruction in order to build Bruce Ratner's billion-dollar Nets arena. So it comes as little surprise that Hamill should wax poetic on the eve of its ribbon-cutting.

It's a little galling that a guy whose only real angle on this all along has been getting a professional home team to Brooklyn, and to whom no cost could seem high enough for the feat, gives us this two-page gloat; it's edifying that Daniel Goldstein gets a column along the left-hand side to announce protests against the arena, opponents of which, having lost the main struggle, remain an important corrective to Ratner's behavior after the arena opens.

Cheap apartments and job creation were part of the deal, and we've seen how, once the big deal is made, these little community details can fall out of the package. Goldstein's land battle is over, but Ratner and Jay-Z and the Nets have the opportunity to decide whether this is a forever-war with Brooklyn or the carefree, happy boon to all Brooklynites Hamill has convinced himself (from a safe distance in Bayside, Queens, where he now lives) that it will be.

Comments

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…

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 Matzav.com 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…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…