Skip to main content

The video hype behind 550 Vanderbilt and Pacific Park

Let's take another look at these videos produced to promote Pacific Park and the 550 Vanderbilt condo tower. I'll put the narration in italics, then interpolate comments.

Consider the first video, which is about two years old.

"The New York we love is a place that largely happened by accident. But what if it happened on purpose?"

And what if it didn't? The Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project has gone through one name change, multiple schedule changes, and multiple changes in program, with more to come.

If you could build an ideal New York neighborhood from scratch, what would you do?

Remember how original architect Frank Gehry embraced the opportunity "to build a neighborhood practically from scratch" (misquoted in the Times without "practically"), and how that raised hackles.

You would build it in New York's best borough, commission a master plan by America's most celebrated living architect, place it next to Brooklyn's biggest transportation hub, surround it with Brooklyn's most dynamic and thriving neighborhoods. 

"Best borough" is boosterism. Gehry wasn't hired to do a master plan but to design buildings and, more importantly, to add a sheen to the project. The project's not by any means all "next" to that hub. Nor is it "surrounded" by neighborhoods but actually within Prospect Heights, pretty much. (One of 22 acres is technically at the edge of Park Slope.

Make it a place for all New Yorkers to live. Design buildings that celebrate the city's architectural esthetic. Include amenities and retail that New Yorkers demand, and Brooklyn deserves. 

A place for all New Yorkers? Well, definitely not the poorest. As to celebrating the city's architectural esthetic, some work far better than others in terms of material, while the scale is a significant shift. The developer--unmentioned: Greenland Forest City Partners--is seeking record rent levels for the retail.

And at the center of it all, you'd create a perfect little park, the most beautiful park for blocks around. You would build a neighborhood that looked like it was always there, and soon, it will be. 
Pacific Park: Brooklyn's Newest Neighborhood.

Even in the best scenario as of the creation of that video, that publicly accessible open space--not "the most beautiful park"--wouldn't be done until 2025. Now that's significantly delayed, likely into the 2030s. (The amount of open space per person will be well below city guidelines.) So a building like the 550 Vanderbilt will stand next to an un-built construction site (see photo) for a while, rather than a "park."

The architect speaks

The second video, which is about a year old, is specifically aimed at selling 550 Vanderbilt. In September 2015, I wrote about another version of it, but it deserves another look.

My name is Rick Cook, I'm an architect, and our studio, CookFox, had the opportunity to design 550 Vanderbilt. 

Designing this building in some ways, as a crafted whole of a series of homes, is entirely different from any of the other condo projects we've done. The difference for us in designing in Brooklyn is that more than half of our studio lives there. We're designing homes for us, and for our neighbors. 
We believe that we should design for a very wide audience. Diversity is a strength, and we have a very wide diversity of unit types that we hope will lead to a wide diversity of homeowners. 

Designing homes for us? I wonder if anyone in his office could pay, say, $540,000, the entry-level price for a studio--and which has since gone up. As to "wide diversity of unit types," again, only if you have the scratch.

It's uniquely crafted for this one site in the world, and this one remarkable neighborhood of Prospect Heights, and right on an eight-acre open space known as Pacific Park. 

Well, he apparently didn't get the memo that the project constitutes Brooklyn's "newest neighborhood." But that open space is way into the future.

From the minute you walk in the front door of 550, you look right through the lobby into Pacific Park, and then you get to your unit, and there's large windows protected by heavy masonry frames with views and light and air in your apartment. 

You can't look "into Pacific Park" if it doesn't exist yet, and the adjacent site (see photo) looks like this (from the side of 550 Vanderbilt).

Our greatest hope is that when people call 550 home, they'll be proud of its authenticity, of the quality of life that they have and the way this building fits into Prospect Heights and sets up the new condition of Pacific Park. 

OK, he's now onto the "authenticity" buzzword. Dangerous territory.

We're passionate about the idea that a healthy, resilient city depends on diversity and the highest quality housing, and we believe that we've made that the heart and soul of 550.

But with 550 Vanderbilt--as opposed to 535 Carlton, another CookFox building--they're building homes for millionaires.


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 …

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…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

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 …

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…