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

Toward the "Next Mayor's Next City," a recognition of interconnectness

The Next Mayor’s Next City, wrote New York magazine's Justin Davidson 10/15/20, with the subheading "Bill de Blasio’s successor can make life easier, nicer, and fairer — or just keep us going the way we were before." And it will also involve many new City Council members and Borough Presidents. He writes:
What kind of city materializes in the 2020s will depend in part on how those leaders balance the drive toward global-capital status with the need to care for those who are left out of that prosperity. For nearly seven years, we’ve had a mayor who campaigned on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and the outer-boroughs but presided over an ever-shinier city of manic wealth and grinding inequities. For all his rhetorical anti-capitalism, Bill de Blasio yoked his affordable-housing aspirations to real-estate-industry trickle-down... And his commitment to safer, greener, more flexible streets has been flickering at best. The history of those disappointments, and the dislocations of COVID, present de Blasio’s successor with a chance to ask some fundamental questions about New York’s moral future: Should the highest and best use of a patch of urban dirt always be reckoned in dollars per square foot, or can equity, empathy, and fairness figure into the formula too?
Instead of focusing on real-estate power brokers, he starts, at least, with an urbanist, Shaun Donovan, who formerly ran HPD for Mayor Mike Bloomber and headed the federal Housing and Urban Development departument--and seems to be running for mayor. And Donovan suggests that crises offer "are an opportunity to reimagine New York.”

“The pandemic has made us realize how interconnected we all really are,” adds Jessica Katz, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council. 

Indeed, budget cuts on the subway undermine workers and can fuel a lack of safety. And health care is obviously intertwined.

What about housing?

Davidson expresses skepticism toward an affordable housing strategy based on including them in market-rate towers. But while candidates target "luxury developers," Davidson argues the city must work with--not antagonize--the real-estate industry.

"Any new social housing has to be sustainable, durable, flexible, and quickly built," suggests Davidson--easier said than done. One solution would be to upzone low-density areas currently reserved for single-family homes. Another: revising property taxes.

Will the next mayor offer a nudge to help Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park lumber along? Unclear, but there are significant upfront costs to building a platform for six new residential towers. The appetite for high-rise living, in the short-term, must be down, but they could be building to the post-vaccine future.

The lessons of Amazon and Industry City

The failure of Amazon's HQ2, Davidson writes, suggests that pre-negotiation is necessary: "Build in a set of public benefits from the beginning, local and citywide, immediate and long-term."

That, of course, was not quite the experience of Atlantic Yards, with some of the important benefits--affordable housing and, especially, open space--long delayed.

He writes:
None of these strategies ensures success. Just weeks ago, the owners of Industry City were forced to abandon a sweeping expansion proposal that would have transformed that giant waterfront hunk of Brooklyn manufacturing into an even more hopping commercial hub. This was no stealth megaproject, like Amazon; discussions with the Sunset Park community had been going on for years. But in the end, the details mattered less than political winds and revulsion at the sweeping plan. Failures like the one at Industry City leave the next mayor and City Council with a daunting challenge: how to surf the anti-capitalist Zeitgeist and avoid turning the world capital of capital into an economic backwater.
Well, it's true that there was significant, albeit unresolved negotition, and yes, the details "mattered less than political winds." 

But this article backs the Industry City view by linking to another article, from New York magazine's Curbed, that accepted, without skepticism, that the rezoning would generate 20,000 jobs, which--as I've written--was a huge exaggeration.

Big projects, and the public realm

Davidson suggests "this is the moment to plan for more flush times," such as "a rail freight tunnel across the harbor... the Gateway Tunnel that would sustain service into Penn Station, and defenses against rising seas." That depends on Washington.

We also need a reengineering of the streets, and a spreading of fareness. Justin Garrett Moore, executive director of the Public Design Commission, suggestes that some fraction of of each new building should go "into a dedicated fund so rising prices in one area subsidize the public realm of another."

It's another recognition of interconnectedness. Such a philosophy, at least in retrospect, might have made a stronger argument for projects like Atlantic Yards, especially if those benefits were mandated by law, rather than promised in a flimsy Community Benefits Agreement.