Skip to main content

B4 tower also would have office space; no new info about Site 5, but project is moving (condos at top? tallest building in Brooklyn?)

The bulk from B1 would move across the street
No, there were no renderings of the "Brooklyn Behemoth"--the potential 1.5-million square foot tower-at last night's Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting, which generated both muttered ("terrible") and muted criticism about its preposterous scale.

Nor was there a timetable, concrete information, or chagrin at the notion of moving the entire 1.1 million square footage approved for the 511-foot B1 tower over the arena--thus preserving the plaza crucial to arena activities and appreciated by neighbors compared to the alternative--and adding it to the already substantial 439,050 square feet approved for Site 5.

Mock-up of potential 1.5M square foot tower, approx. 900 ft,
though tapered building could be much taller
That's currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell's--a site the New York City Planning Commission called for reduced height to 250 feet, given its adjacency to low-rise neighborhood.

And while the CEO of Forest City Realty Trust claimed yesterday it's "very early" in the process, its Brooklyn subsidiary Forest City Ratner, part of Greenland Forest City Partners, wants to move quickly, having already set up meetings with elected officials (who are, so far, notably silent) and hoping that the environmental review begins this spring.

Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton last night revealed another twist: the B4 tower at the northeast corner of the arena block, which at 511 feet and 824,629 square feet was to be the second-largest tower in the project, would be switched from residential to exclusively office space.

"We think we accomplish three important things," she said. "Deliver on [office] jobs... Keep the [arena] plaza permanently open space... Activate the Atlantic Avenue corridor."

The latter sounds like a stretch, because the Atlantic Avenue sidewalk outside the arena is pretty narrow for workers. And while they might redistribute the affordable housing planned for that building to other towers, it's likely they'd move the condos to Site 5 and/or find a way to retain some condos.

About 60 people attended the meeting, held at 55 Hanson Place.

The strategy

Here We Come:
A Skyscraper Specialist from China
The "preserve the plaza" and "add jobs" mantra--space for many thousands of jobs (6000? 10,000?)--is surely meant to inoculate this gambit from criticism.

Still, the move of square footage to Site 5 surely saves Greenland Forest City from construction headaches next to an active arena, likely fulfills a pledge to Mikhail Prokhorov not to disturb arena operations, and (I'd bet) aims to be a signature building for Greenland USA, subsidiary of a Shanghai state-owned enterprise, as well as contain spectacularly expensive condos at the top.

Consider: my rough estimate is that, without significant setbacks, the Site 5 building might be a bulky 900 feet tall--some 80% taller than any building previously approved for the project. With setbacks, it could be much taller; after all, it's nearly three times the bulk of the new 1,066-foot "supertall" planned next to the Dime Savings Bank.

And while Forest City is talking up office jobs, CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin has said office buildings may work only with condos at the top, and--of course--the higher up, the more lucrative. It's also supposed to contain high-end retail, likened to the Time Warner Center.

In other words, though "jobs" would be the justification for this building to be perhaps Brooklyn's tallest, bulkiest tower, the scale would also be driven by condos and retail space.

It also would be a signature building for Greenland, which in December 2013, not long after it announced major projects in New York and Los Angeles, part of a huge worldwide push, put up a billboard in Times Square stating, "Here We Come! A Skyscraper Specialist from China" (see above). Greenland owns 70% of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, excepting the Barclays Center and the B2 modular tower.

Perhaps there's already a plan for an anchor tenant, or naming rights.
Mock-up of potential 1.5 million square-foot bulk; a tapered building would be much taller, likely well over 1000 feet
The process

"Today I can confirm we are requesting the ability to transfer development rights from B1 to Site 5," Cotton said last night.

They won't ask for extra square footage or change the affordable housing plan, she said, and any proposal will go through a public review by Empire State Development (ESD), including a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and new Design Guidelines. (The process of eminent domain to acquire the site continues, as well as a lawsuit.)

It will require public hearings, and input from the City Planning Commission, though no vote from the CPC, because this is a state project.

Though ESD in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan described Site 5 as "a transition in scale from the neighborhoods to the west and south of the Project Site," surely this gubernatorially-approved body will do the governor's bidding.

Cotton noted that B2, now being built as residential, was once permitted as commercial space. Now they would shift B4 to residential, so that  B4 and Site 5 "will act as bookends." That's questionable, given that the book within them is an active arena on a large plot.

Brooklyn's biggest building?

Cotton was asked about the pledge, made at the last minute when Atlantic Yards was first approved in 2006, to reduce the B1 tower from 620 feet to 511 feet (without a cut in bulk), thus preserving the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower as the tallest building in Brooklyn, though it would still--contra Borough President Marty Markowitz's request--block the bank's clock.

"I think Brooklyn's changed so much since then," Cotton said with a knowing expression. "Hate it or love it... a lot of things have passed the Williamsburg Savings Bank [in size]."

She's right, though the Atlantic Yards site, even the buildings closest to the transit hub, remains a tight fit adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

Really a transfer of rights?

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, a persistent questioner at these meetings, called "time out" on some of the rhetoric regarding the project. The developer should not say it would “transfer” development rights, he said, because the project plan was developed "based on planning principles," and the decision not to build on B1 could have other business reasons.

"So my question is: who is the planner?" he asked. "Site 5 was supposed to step down the project into the community.... My concern is this may be generated by nonplanning decisions."

(Well, duh. Forest City and Greenland aim to maximize returns to shareholders. That's their job.)

Cotton said they had planners on staff. And surely planners at AKRF, the ubiquitous consultant used by the state to massage environmental reviews, will weigh in. But Krashes's statement suggested that community critics of the plan will have to produce their own experts to explain why this makes little sense.

He also asked why the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), the advisory body set up last year, hasn't been brought into the loop. Presumably they'll be informed at the meeting March 15.

Of course, Greenland Forest City likely has a "compromise"--still huge, just not as huge--in its back pocket. Perhaps it's moving "just" 650,000 square feet, which would still make a building over 1 million square feet.

Moving the housing

The B4 tower was supposed to contain 213 condos and 551 rentals, with half of the latter affordable. Where, asked Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and BrooklynSpeaks (which in 2014 negotiated a new, 10-year timetable for the affordable housing, as well as the advisory AY CDC), would the affordable housing units go?

"We think those units can be accommodated in the project," Cotton said. So 275 or so units would have to be spread among other buildings.

Would it have any impact on unit sizes, Veconi asked.

(The first tower with affordable units, B2, has only 20% two-bedroom units, and no three-bedroom apartments, despite Forest City’s promise, in the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding, that 50 percent of the affordable units, in floor area, would be family-sized units. The next two "100% affordable" towers will have 35% two- and three-bedroom units, which may meet the goal.)

No, said Cotton, though that sounds fuzzy. After all, every building, as Gilmartin has said, is "a conversation with the city," and unit size also depends on subsidies.

She wasn't asked about the condos, but I have to bet many would move to Site 5.

Asked about the long promoted Urban Room, the atrium in the entrance to B1, Cotton said it was a project requirement and would have to be eliminated in the revised project plan.

What's next

"You're presenting this as something that's being explored," Veconi asked. He asked if there was ongoing work, or a contract, regarding the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and was told no.

Still, Cotton said they wanted to move quickly. She couldn't offer any timetable.

Pacific Street resident Mae Taliaferrow was skeptical. "My house is right there [next to the building]," she said. "That massive building is going to appear without a plan." She said she couldn't believe that Forest City had no plan.

"That's our rough plan," Cotton said, summarizing what's been described. She said she'd be speaking to local organizations and there also would be formal meetings.

She shrugged off a question about moving air rights to the Atlantic Center mall, though I wouldn't be surprised if that comes up as a compromise.

The Brooklyn Bear's Garden, adjacent to Site 5 and never part of the Atlantic Yards plan, would remain, she said. [Though, I'd observe, surely it would be severely impacted by construction and operation of the building and, who knows, might get offered money to move.]

Noting that the developers would potentially save money, Krashes asked "is there any thought of any extra giveback" to the public?

"What do you have in mind?" Cotton asked.

"I think everybody would have different ideas," Krashes said, and the audience cracked a few jokes.


  1. Anonymous12:45 PM

    How much office space would B4 have? You didn't clarify B4 situation.

    1. I added--though I thought it was implied--that it would be exclusively office.

  2. Did they even think of people whose views of all Manhattan north of Midtown will be blocked by these buildings?


Post a Comment

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…