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

The Amazon aftermath: the Atlantic Yards angle (and comparison)

Sure, there was some chatter yesterday about Atlantic Yards in the wake of Amazon's surprising decision--I and others would have bet on renegotiations--to pull out of plans to build a campus in Long Island City.
That was former Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, who's still working on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park government relations (I think) as an executive at L&L MAG.

Amazon had invested relatively little in Long Island City. Not only did it not have a team it had to move, it hadn't started buying land, sometimes at inflated prices and with money borrowed at high interest rates. So it had much less pressure to close the deal.

Thing is: had Amazon gone ahead with its campus, it likely could have--as shown by the Atlantic Yards example--revised the deal more than once. However, as indicated in some news coverage, it wasn't simply the backlash against subsidies and opacity--not atypical in New York City but exacerbated by the project's size--but also Amazon-specific criticisms such as its record on unions, its work with ICE, and its monopoly-approaching business practices.

Staying the course?
Rosen, of course, operates the major public relations shop BerlinRosen, which works on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park and also for Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Here's how BerlinRosen, seemingly acting on behalf of both clients, orchestrated a response to my January 2015 op-ed warning against holding the 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Barclays Center.)

He seems to be saying that Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York executives Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin--um, his clients--were superior to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in staying the course. As noted above, they had different incentives, and constraints.

Was Rosen indirectly signaling, not without reason, that Amazon should have been smarter about hiring local pros before the Long Island City rollout? Indeed, Amazon, without the local track record that Forest City had, needed local advice even more than Ratner did.

The impact

I didn't respond on Twitter, but, yes, the visual impact is significant, but that's not the most important metric, since the skyline not that far away has and will change more dramatically.

After all, if the project had been built as approved, there'd be a huge tower looming over the Barclays Center. Instead, that bulk is likely to shift to Site 5 across Flatbush Avenue.

The process
Indeed, the use of Empire State Development (ESD), formally known as the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), insulates the project from City Council review, under ULURP, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. That said, while ULURP does provide some more legitimacy, it is hardly a sober planning process and more typically leads to tweaks rather than changes.

It's notable that Veconi, recently named to the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, is criticizing ESD, which is the parent of the advisory board and the subject of its advice.

Blaming the gentrifiers?
Veconi's right that it's a distraction, but there's some anecdotal (and fuzzy statistical) backup. That said, polls depend very much on the exact phrasing of the questions.

For example, tenant leaders of public housing complexes in Western Queens came out in favor of the project, while activists canvassing within those complexes colleged many signatures in opposition. Is either example dispositive? No.

Similarly, civic groups in Long Island City were opposed, while business leaders in favor. Also not dispositive.

Update: this morning's discussion

And more