Skip to main content

Block party is "fun," except for neighbors awakened at 5 am; map fosters corporate branding; colorful murals determinedly unmoored from project

Update: Facebook commenter Amy Greer called the event #artwashing, which is a periodic hashtag.

Well, it was fun--who doesn't like free popcorn, hot dogs, and ice cream?--but maybe not "Fun for All," as advertised.

The "10 Murals/1 Day" block party on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues yesterday, sponsored by Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park developer Greenland Forest City Partners, was supposed to last from 11 am to 4 pm. For neighbors on Dean Street, however, the event began shortly after 5 am, when they were woken up.

As one resident wrote, "they were going up and down on cherry pickers to put up the murals at 5:30 this am. They beep like a truck backing up."

No, neighbors were not told that noise would begin at 5 am. The Community Notice, as shown below right, simply said that Dean Street would be closed to vehicular traffic "all day."

Representatives of the developer happily tweeted progress on the murals, but ignored my questions about when and whether.

I was told secondhand by a resident that a police officer later said that the block party preparation was approved from 5 am on, but the police didn't know there would be noisy equipment. Either way, the neighbors weren't told.

The big picture: colorful, pleasant, inoffensive, unmoored murals

Given the #pacificparkarts tweets and Instagram photos posted by those associated with the developer, the artists, and visitors, the event surely produced the wanted good publicity for the controversial development and the huge green wall on Dean Street, which encroaches significantly into the street, leading to traffic jams and tree damage.

(The 16-foot wall is supposed to protect neighbors from construction noise. Had the project been built at a somewhat smaller scale, a regular 8-foot wall would suffice.)

Still, those who focused on the art yesterday, not so mindful of the project's controversial history, could claim, as one wrote on Twitter, "Art = activation. Such great neighborhood vibes." My response: "Art can also = co-optation. However sunny the images, vibes can get creepy for those who've followed this project."
Mural by Mike Perry
The murals, however colorful and bright, pleasant and diverting from the "Green Monster" wall that encroaches severely on the street, seem determinedly inoffensive, unmoored from Prospect Heights, much less the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, and its controversy.

In Coney, via Animal NY
Consider the above mural near Vanderbilt Avenue by "artist-in-chief" Mike Perry, which is surely fun--even "funzy"--but could be anywhere.  

Even other controversial examples of real estate developers working with street artists have led to edgier examples, like Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's portrait of Coney Island locals, which quotes them as saying "The day before Easter and the day after Labor Day, people still live here. People die here. People love here."

In Crown Heights, via Groundswell
Or what if the developers had involved a grassroots group like Groundswell, which puts artists together with local youths, and produces challenging work like "Piece Out, Peace In," a gun violence prevention mural in Crown Heights.

Here's my nomination, which would have fuzzed the "Brooklyn" neighborhood focus: How about "Investment from China In, Profits for Shanghai and Green Cards Out"? 

(To translate, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is now 70% owned by the Greenland Group, which is majority owned by the government of Shanghai. More than $500 million in cheap capital has come separately from Chinese millionaires by the sketchy EB-5 program, in which investors park $500,000 in a low-interest loan in exchange for green chards.")

Corporate branding, corporate caution

At least several hundred people--some of whom didn't even know the food was free--surely attended. (I visited for a couple of hours.) Numerous pink-shirted Forest City staffers served as volunteers. 

Local businesses--some with sponsors themselves--participated. (Ample Hills ice cream was provided by Terra CRG Realty, which now has offices on Dean Street and, synergistically, tweeted positive vibes.)

Overall, though, the block party showed the fine line between corporate branding and corporate caution.

Consider the determinedly casual, hand-drawn font for Perry's poster, as well as Perry's whimsical, distorted Brooklyn map (which vastly overemphasizes Pacific Park), which was provided to kids yesterday to color in.

Such styling suggest a local, neighborhood feel, though this block party was shaped by a corporation, separate from the local block association, which, among other neighbors, called for improving construction oversight.

The map, as well as Brooklyn Nets paraphernalia, were featured in a photo booth. The message was: be a part of this project, if only by association.

By contrast, the murals seemed dissociated from the project, even the neighborhood.

Another form of caution--except in terms of regard to neighbors--concerned the timing. The 5 am start seemed time to ensure that the stunt of getting ten murals done in one day would be achieved.

Indeed, when I walked by before 11:45 am and shot the video below, I was surprised how far they were along.



Finished murals at 6:45 pm

When I came back at 6:45 pm, two of the murals were still being finished. I took photos of several finished works.









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…

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 …

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…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …