Skip to main content

The Times Real Estate section tackles "Living In Prospect Heights," soft-pedals Pacific Park's impact (updated)

Updated with comments from and responses to Gib Veconi.

So this Sunday (and already online) we get the latest iteration of the New York Times Real Estate section's periodic "Living In" feature, in Prospect Heights, Where Historic Meets Brand New. (Here's the 2011 iteration, which links to previous ones.)

The article is, not unexpectedly, unskeptical about Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, but at least it doesn't buy the developer's claim that Pacific Park is "Brooklyn's newest neighborhood," and the map belies that.

The article begins:
Rebecca Saltman, 41, an instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and her husband, Benjamin, 39, a doctor, were enthusiastic about the sense of community and the cultural amenities of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, when they bought their townhouse there in 2010 for just over $1 million, with help from Ms. Saltman’s parents, who live in the garden apartment.
“I can walk down the street and see my neighbors every time I go to the grocery store...
But the Saltmans knew that a big change awaited them: the controversial $4.9 billion, 22-acre development then called Atlantic Yards and since renamed Pacific Park Brooklyn. It was about three-quarters of a mile from their home, and “we were very unsure of the impact it would have,” she said.
The Barclays Center, the development’s centerpiece, opened in 2012, and arena-related traffic has added about 20 minutes to Dr. Saltman’s commute home from Long Island. On the plus side, however, the couple have gone to two Nets games at the center, and when Ms. Saltman took her mother to a Barbra Streisand concert there, “my mom was beyond thrilled.”
So that’s it? It’s only added some commute time? How about ten more years of construction, workers sitting on people’s stoops, regular street closures, noise, rowdy arenagoers, a huge fence encroaching on Dean Street and on Carlton Avenue delaying traffic.

The role of neighbors

The article continues:
With more than 6,000 rental apartments and condominiums to be built as part of Pacific Park by Greenland Forest City Partners, as well as other new construction, the population is expected to grow to almost 34,000 in 2025, from around 19,600 in the Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey, according to Gib Veconi, the chairman of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, an organization founded in 2004 that has advocated for historic preservation and traffic calming, among other issues. Pacific Park is scheduled for completion in 2025.
Well, that downplays the impact on the buildout. Do note that the PHNDC, as part of BrooklynSpeaks, was a lead proponent of the settlement that led to the new timetable for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, pledging to get the affordable housing built by 2025.

As part of that settlement, however, the “community” negotiators got a weak, gubernatorially-controlled advisory body to help oversee the project, the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation. It has done almost nothing to improve oversight and transparency, despite the efforts of a few members.

Update: Veconi writes to remind me that any Local Development Corporation with decision-making power that would have been formed also would have been gubernatorially-controlled. That's correct. However, the LDC model would also have had, as BrooklynSpeaks (the coalition involving PHNDC) along with the Municipal Art Society advocated, "a formal advisory board made up of representatives from civic associations, community-based organizations and Community Boards from affected neighborhoods." That hasn't happened, which weakens the AY CDC. The fact that it hasn't met for some four months, and was not consulted regarding the plans for the tower at Site 5 further points to its weak position.

The Times should have talked to other members of the community who are a wee more skeptical of and frustrated by the construction and operations of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park development.

Gentrification and history

From the article:
Based on the census bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey, Mr. Veconi said 58 percent of the area’s residents were white, 29 percent were black and 8 percent were Asian.
That's a rather curious way to back into the fierce gentrification that Atlantic Yards was supposed to fight, but didn't, and won't.

From the article:
Depending on the particular street, a stroll through Prospect Heights might offer a view of 19th-century brownstones; luxury prewar apartment houses; or ultramodern buildings. Part of the neighborhood belongs to the Prospect Heights Historic District.
Note that the historic district was formed in [added: in part in] reaction to the Atlantic Yards project, and actually bookends it. Which makes the finding of “blight”–to further eminent domain–in Prospect Heights completely bogus.

Update: Veconi writes regarding the formation of the historic district:
That’s only partly true. PHNDC sponsored historic designation of Prospect Heights primarily because unused FAR throughout the neighborhood was resulting in out-of-character additions and extensions to existing buildings, and even in some cases, wholesale demolition of historic buildings in favor of new residential projects that maxed available density. We felt that Atlantic Yards would add to development pressure in the future, but we would have pursued designation anyway given the patterns that existed at the time. I might speculate that the district moved through the designation process quickly because of Atlantic Yards, but I have no direct knowledge that was the case.
He is obviously more of an authority on that process, but I can say that the historic designation was significantly pitched as a response to Atlantic Yards, hence this Municipal Art Society Action Alert on 4/5/07: "With the Atlantic Yards proposal moving ahead, it is crucial that Prospect Heights gain protection through historic district designation before development pressures resulting from the project permanently alter the its intact historic character."

Update: Veconi writes regarding my comment on blight: 
I am not a defender of the Atlantic Yards blight study, but based on the definition of the Prospect Heights Historic District, no buildings within the Atlantic Yards footprint would have qualified for inclusion. The existence of a 19th century rowhouse neighborhood next to the Atlantic Yards site doesn’t in itself say anything about the conditions that existed there.
Well, there were 19th century rowhouses within the Atlantic Yards site, but, rather than rely on New York State's immensely vague and malleable definition of blight, I'd refer to planning professor Lynne Sagalyn's definition: "when the fabric of a neighborhood is shot to hell." In other words, eminent domain is needed because there's no market trend to lift the neighborhood up. That's why it's bizarre and, yes, bogus to see blight next to a historic district. People want to live there.

About the school

The article states:
The lack of a large neighborhood middle school has been a touchy point since Middle School 571 was closed in 2013, according to Mr. Veconi of the neighborhood council. The Department of Education last month announced that a middle school with room for about 600 students will be established in a residential tower under construction as part of the Pacific Park development.
The only other local options for that age group, according to Mr. Veconi and to data from the city’s Department of Education, are small or specialized ones, such as Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School andIntermediate School 340 North Star Academy, which is for gifted students.
The new dedicated middle school is planned for B15, the 27-story Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park tower just east of the arena and Sixth Avenue, between Dean and Pacific streets. Problem is: no curb cuts or other planning for buses, crowds, etc. 

It’s across the street from the arena and very near both police and fire stations. The nearest neighbors, in the Dean Street Block Association, thought the site was a bad idea. Others in Prospect Heights wanted a dedicated middle school so bad they were willing to sacrifice location.

Update: Veconi writes:
Did you in fact talk to people in Prospect Heights who made statements about being “willing to sacrifice location?” Even if you had heard such things, you are certainly informed enough to know that there was absolutely no certainly a middle school would be programmed at the B15 location simply because locals did not challenge siting the facility there. Your statement implies a quid pro quo which is unsupported by facts.
The phrase "willing to sacrifice location" is my observational summary of testimony at public hearings and public events. I agree that there was "no certainly a middle school would be programmed at the B15 location simply because locals did not challenge siting the facility there."

While I understand why my phrasing may sound like a quid pro quo, it doesn't have to. I simply meant that their advocacy stressed getting a middle school while downplaying the diceyness of the location. Here's a quote from Maggie Spillane: “Maybe we wouldn't pick it [the location] as a first pick, but we don't have a middle school."


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…