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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Post columnist: arena built "over the train yard" has led to "malls, businesses, restaurants and people living more interesting lives"

New York Post columnist John Crudele's 2/18/19 column, Why New York City shouldn’t give up on Amazon just yet, suggests that the company should try again:
Was the Queens headquarters for Amazon a good idea? You are damned right it was.
This situation reminds me of when developers wanted to build a basketball arena in Brooklyn. The builders were proposing that they put a platform over a big open space where commuter trains were parked when they weren’t needed during the day.
They’d build the arena — now called Barclays Center — over the train yard, and the whole neighborhood, they suggested, would come alive.
Ah, this is another version of "Atlantic Yards down the memory hole."

The arena was not to be built "over the train yard." No platform had to be built.

Rather, the arena was built partly in the bed of the railyard, below grade, with the other railyard functions moved to the remaining two blocks of the yard. The other half, more or less, of the arena block consists of formerly private and public property, originally at grade.

Six future towers require the construction of a costly platform. They are years away.

More misreadings

Crudele writes:
There was opposition to that project as well. And a small handful of loudmouths with legal experience tied the arena up in court for years.
Wow, "a small handful of loudmouths with legal experience." Not sure how many of the people fighting the project had legal experience, but they raised a considerable amount of money to hire lawyers to challenge such questionable things as the use of eminent domain and the project's environmental review. Also, the recession.
“They’ll ruin the neighborhood. They’ll cause prices to rise. People will get driven from their homes,” were their arguments.
Well, some people were driven away, because of secondary displacement, while others were compensated or expect to be compensated. The neighborhood? Depends where you look, since different blocks have different impacts. But no, it hasn't been ruined.

That said, the larger critique was that it was an unwise, wired deal that ignored the public interest. But Crudele remembers his private tour:
I walked the site of that proposed Brooklyn arena in 2003 with the guy who was trying to bring basketball to the borough.
Sure, he was likely to make a lot of money in the process.
But that didn’t mean the deal wouldn’t have been good for the people of the borough.
Turns out Ratner didn't make a lot of money. Crudele's memory is a bit fuzzy:
At that time, this particular section of downtown Brooklyn was dull and dreary. I couldn’t understand why anyone would oppose a proposal that would bring jobs and life to an area that you couldn’t even say had seen better days.
Um, that's because there was a railyard that had remained undeveloped, with no effort to market it. Or the use of bogus blight. By the way, the site's in Prospect Heights, near Downtown Brooklyn.

Today's conclusion?

Crudele observes:
Now the area around the Barclays Center is bustling with malls, businesses, restaurants and people living more interesting lives.
Bustling? Heck, the retail in the arena exterior is mostly empty, with empty retail spaces in the first tower completed, 461 Dean.

Um, the malls were already there, built by Forest City Ratner. Sure, there are more businesses on adjacent Flatbush and Fifth avenues, especially since the population in the general area has grown and arena crowds are tempting targets.

Maybe "people living more interesting lives" is his metric, if "interesting" means access to better food and snacks, but the promised creation of a mixed-income community with lots of affordable housing has not significantly come to fruition.

He does get something partly right:
The big difference between the Barclays Center project in Brooklyn and the Amazon one is that the former was being done by New Yorkers. And the people putting up Barclays didn’t flinch just because a few bullies shouted more vigorously than the proponents of the project.
Well, the former was being done--at least then, before the Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov and the Shanghai-based Greenland Group came on the scene--by a New York-based subsidiary of a Cleveland company with, yes, with lots of experience navigating the political scene, and the prospect of a scarce commodity--an NBA franchise.

And in 2003

That sent me back to Crudele's 12/30/03 column, SALES TAX WOULD FUND RATNER’S BROOKLYN HOOP DREAMS, which begins:
I‘VE lived in New Jersey for over 20 years and I can’t recall ever meeting anyone who has actually attended a Nets game.
While the team is secretive about the attendance, some have put the number at about 15,000 a game. That would be the 23rd worst in a 29-team league.
Current attendance averages 14,514, last in the league, and that's after an uptick credited to the Nets' solid play. Yes, it's a smaller arena and yes, there are more suites and premium seats, so they help balance the financial scales.

Financial changes

Crudele met with Ratner:
Ratner claims the only thing he wants is for New York to kick back some of the sales tax that comes from the new arena – which, he correctly argues, wouldn’t be generated in the first place if the basketball palace isn’t built.
“Another goal from Day 1 is to only use sales tax and income tax that comes from the arena,” Ratner tells me while we are looking over a model of the 20,000 seat, Frank Gehry-designed arena in his office at 1 MetroTech Plaza in Brooklyn.
Ah, "projects change, markets change," as a former Forest City executive once said.

That goal, to use a version of tax-increment financing (TIF)--and a second-cousin to the Amazon plan--was quickly abandoned. The 20,000-seat Gehry arena became too costly to finance, and so Gehry was jettisoned from the project, and the arena was downsized, to hold 17.732 for basketball.

From the column:
Ratner claims to have a lot more community support in Brooklyn, where he has built other projects, than at the Times’ site. “We know most of the community leaders and elected officials” in Brooklyn, he says.
That's true. Ratner's track record in Brooklyn meant that he had most of the connections lined up.

From the column:
What does the proposed arena site look like today? I asked Ratner to show me around.
The arena will be located mostly on a storage yard now used by the Long Island Railroad, one of seven train and subway routes that go into the area.
Mostly on a storage yard? Maybe half in the bed of the railyard.

The closing:
But what happens if Ratner ends up acquiring the Nets but then can’t make good on his vow to acquire the Brooklyn site and build a new arena?
That’s the best insurance New Yorkers would seem to have that Ratner is serious about a new arena. If his group gets the team and nothing else, he’ll be stuck at the Meadowlands with all those empty seats.
That's true, and why Ratner had to persevere. He had a money losing team he had to move to Brooklyn (and had begun buying property). Amazon hadn't put any money into capital acquisitions.