Skip to main content

Chabuduo: will Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park be "close enough"? (And will Forest City have to rein in Greenland?)

OK, it's not fair to tag all Chinese companies, including the Greenland Group, with the term chabuduo and, indeed, Greenland couldn't become a major world company without delivering significant projects.

But I think the term, as described in the digital magazine Aeon by James Palmer, deserves reflection. His 10/14/16 essay, headlined Chabuduo! Close enough ..., is subtitled "Your balcony fell off? Chabuduo. Vaccines are overheated? Chabuduo. How China became the land of disastrous corner-cutting."

Palmer describes all sorts of things that went wrong in his apartment, writing:
My time in China has taught me the pleasure and value of craftsmanship, simply because it’s so rare.... But such scenes are an unusual treat... Instead, the prevailing attitude is chabuduo, or ‘close enough’. It’s a phrase you’ll hear with grating regularity, one that speaks to a job 70 per cent done, a plan sketched out but never completed, a gauge unchecked or a socket put in the wrong size.
Chabuduo, suggests Palmer, has inspired some brilliant improvisation, but also can provoke "the casual dismissal of problems." And that leads to industrial disasters and construction deaths and food poisoning. (It's also part of a culture of cheating and corruption.)

The Brooklyn angle

So, what does that have to do with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park? The joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners has to meet city and state standards. And various government agencies are supposed to keep an eye on things. 

So I'm not expecting balconies to fall off. But, I can't help wondering whether "close enough" can be a watchword, since Forest City itself has a murky track record.

Close enough on Carlton
Could Forest City open the Barclays Center it built with defective bolts? Sure did. Close enough.

Is the mold all gone from 461 Dean, aka B2? We don't really know, but maybe it's close enough. (It's a Forest City building, not part of the joint venture.)

Was the passage wide enough on Carlton Avenue, caused by the ginormous construction fence outside the joint venture's 535 Carlton tower, for vehicles to get through without damaging trees? Not really, but close enough.

Will towers open with a succession of Temporary Certificates of Occupancy? Of course, that's typical: close enough.

And what next?

One question is whether Forest City, itself known for aggressive tactics, will rein in Greenland.

Forest City, CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin once said, is “in some ways government's worst nightmare, because we push, but without it, you do not get things done.”

But Greenland brings another dimension. "China definitely has a different way of working," Forest City executive Susi Yu recently said, "so I think there’s definitely a little bit of an educational process in learning that in New York you can’t just do everything because you say so."

I wonder what that really means.

Comments