[Council Member Brad] Lander believes the city should not only rezone Gowanus but should make it a priority to upzone other more affluent neighborhoods throughout the city. According to Lander, loosening zoning restrictions and building affordable housing in traditionally tightly-zoned, affluent neighborhoods can help desegregate New York.And Moses Gates of the Regional Planning Association points out that other middle-class neighborhood with transit access--he suggests Forest Hills--could support density.
“I think it is our responsibility to affirmatively focus on upper-income neighborhoods and white neighborhoods [for upzonings],” he said. “We’ve started to have a conversation about Fair Housing and about what we do to combat residential segregation, and build a more integrated city.”
“One central way of doing that,” he explained, “is by rezoning wealthier neighborhoods.”
So this touches on why some urban planners, however uneasy about the heavy-handed process behind Atlantic Yards, were reluctant to condemn a project that would add significant density near transit: even though it was a state override of zoning, it was, at least partly, in an area that could accept it. (Others, of course, said it was way too big.)
It should be noted that Atlantic Yards was announced in December 2003, before the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning and the rest of the Bloomberg-era rezonings. That was a different time.
The march of towers down Flatbush Avenue hadn't begun, and the requirement of affordable units in an upzoning hadn't been instituted. (Under Mayor Bloomberg, unlike Mayor de Blasio, the policy was optional.) So Atlantic Yards was embraced by many advocates.
Hindsight suggests, however, that a process that made a case for density, and recognized the transition into an adjacent neighborhood, might have produced a smaller, albeit faster and more successful project. That is, might have: the arena was the extra piece, and the most controversial one.