Skip to main content

Featured Post

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/what's coming/what's missing, who's responsible, + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2022: crunch time for affordable housing; platform & tower(s) closer?; Site 5 project to proceed (key to housing deal?); arena naming rights renegotiation?

Much of what I wrote in my 2020 preview and 2021 preview hold true today, albeit in somewhat different context, with major questions regarding the project's timetable, the 2025 affordable housing obligation (with penalties), and the still-pending two-block platform over the Vanderbilt Yard, key to six large towers.

Yes, there should be continued progress in construction. The B4 (18 Sixth Ave., aka Brooklyn Crossing) and B15 (662 Pacific St., aka Plank Road) towers will be leasing up, though the affordable housing lottery at the former hasn't begun yet, and the school at the latter tower has been delayed until September 2025, at least. 

Crucially, there should be new (and contested) plans for Site 5, longtime home to P.C. Richard and Modell's across Flatbush Avenue from the arena block, approved for a 250-foot building, but proposed for a much larger project, requiring a new public approval process. See updated infographic below. (Here's my 2021 retrospective.)

The B12/B13 (615 Dean & 595 Dean) towers have topped out, and are due to open in mid-2023. Though nothing has been announced regarding affordable housing, it's likely that, as with B4 and B15, the 30% affordability will be geared to middle-class households, further skewing the allotment from lower-income units.

One lesson from Atlantic Yards is everything takes longer than expected. Another is to expect limited transparency and accountability from the developers and Empire State Development, the state authority that oversees and shepherds the project.

Clouds and questions

Question marks persist about the project's overall contours and fate, given a delayed (but still percolating) plan to start the crucial platform over the first of two blocks of the Vanderbilt Yard, and to start the first of six towers, B5.

Even if that plan does start, it seems ever less likely to complete two towers (at least over a platform) by May 2025, thus approaching or completing the required 876 units of affordable housing, the absence of which is supposed to trigger $2,000/month fines for each missing unit.

It's unclear how much after-hours work will persist, which during COVID has disrupted people who work from home and have their kids attend school from home. If that 2025 housing deadline persists, surely the developers will want to work late.

2016 proposal to transfer bulk of unbuilt B1
But master developer Greenland Forest City Partners surely doesn't want to pay. 

So an effort to extend the deadline, though (we're told) not yet requested, isn't implausible, nor is a legislative "fix" of some sort, as floated by a former Empire State Development leader.

What about Site 5?

Expect some negotiation. As I've speculated, a key may be Site 5, longtime home to P.C. Richard and Modell's, which in 2021 lost the roadblocks it faced to development. 

Even so, the developer still needs new state approval to move the bulk of the unbuilt B1 ("Miss Brooklyn") tower, once slated to loom over the arena at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, across the street, enabling a much larger (two-tower) project than approved in 2006 and 2009--nearly 800 feet, perhaps, instead of the previous 250 feet, for a single tower. 

That Site 5 project has been promoted as mostly office space, but if it prioritizes housing, that would add to the total approved. (In 2016, plans were floated for a two-tower project, as shown above right.)

If Greenland Forest City proposed to meet the affordable housing obligation with the Site 5 building(s), they might argue for an extension if they promise more units than required, and/or commit to a more significant percentage of lower-cost units. 

(Of course, the "affordable" units are already been skewed toward middle-income households, as shown below, and the size of the tower was previously reduced by the City Planning Commission from 350 feet to 250 feet.)

Assuming a full buildout of the project, that could mean more than 2,250 total affordable units and/or more than 6,430 total apartments. If/when Site 5 does move forward, it should take at least a year for the state review, which is supposed to proceed with public hearings, before a revised Modified General Project Plan is approved by Empire State Development, the gubernatorially controlled state authority.

The platform, and three towers

As I wrote last year, this year may mark the start of the first phase of a two-phase buildout of the platform over the Vanderbilt Yard, for the somewhat smaller area--thanks to some terra firma south of Atlantic Avenue--between Sixth and Carlton avenues. 

(The two main phases are the western block and the eastern block, though some documents divide the western block into two phases, as seen below.)

That western block would support three towers, starting with B5, 700 Atlantic Avenue, a 682-unit building that, even if it were 100% affordable--and, likely, it won't be--could not fulfill the affordable housing obligation unto itself. 

(Surprisingly, as the New York Times just reported, market-rate New York City housing has rebounded, though a glut of housing in one area can complicate things.)

Even if that and adjacent buildings--B6 and B7 are under design, we've been told--we wouldn't see the second full phase of the platform, with the final three towers, B8/B9/B10, for a while.

So and that means the heart of the project's open space will remain unfinished. Each platform should take three years to build.

Retail at project/arena

The retail picture changed somewhat in 2021, with two new tenants, at 38 Sixth (B3) and 535 Carlton (B14), though both still have vacancies. Astoundingly, no retail has been filled at 461 Dean, the first tower to open, at the arena's southeast flank.

Perhaps we'll learn of retail tenants for Brooklyn Crossing (B4) and Plank Road (B15). Walgreen's should move into a major site it's leased on Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street across from the Barclays Center.

The retail picture at the arena has changed, with the new team store, now Brooklyn Fanatics, occupying most of the Flatbush Avenue flank. Given arena operators' aggressive use of available space for advertising and promotion, there doesn't seem to be much more opportunity, but never say never.

Arena activities

The Barclays Center has reopened, but the Omicron variant of COVID-19 scotched some concerts, so the arena's event calendar remains variable.

With the unvaxxed star Kyrie Irving--welcomed back after the Nets "caved"--unable to play home games, the Nets would be at some disadvantage in the playoffs, unless city policies, under new Mayor Eric Adams, change (or Irving gets vaccinated).

That said, the Nets, assuming an otherwise healthy roster, look to go deep into the playoffs and remain contenders for a championship. And that may attract new sponsors.
The Tsai strategy

Team owner Joe Tsai, who also owns the New York Liberty and the Barclays Center operating company, gained publicity for strategic spending by his Social Justice Fund, notably the neon art installation that I think doubles as advertising, as well as low- or no-interest loans to BIPOC businesses.

Expect more of those grants rolled out, building local support, and further distracting from the public benefits for the arena, as well as Tsai's support for authoritarian China.

While the arena plaza can accommodate more protests, expect the arena to corral public space when a ticketed event takes priorities.

The next surprise

What's the 2022 surprise? 

Perhaps radical new plans for Site 5. Perhaps the first phase of the platform, and that first tower over the platform (B5), will start.

Perhaps a new timetable, given pandemic-related delays, coupled with an announcement regarding the platform--and an effort to extend/waive the fines for missing "affordable" units.

Perhaps this might come with new pledges/commitments from the administrations of new Mayor Eric Adams and new Gov. Kathy Hochul. (Adams's new Chief of Staff, Frank Carone, has worked for the project developers.)

Perhaps Greenland USA, after leasing sites to TF Cornerstone and The Brodsky Organization, will find other companies to make deals with.

Perhaps it will be the end--or at least the renegotiation--of the Barclays Center naming rights, given that the current payment is well below market.

Who's watching (and advocating)?

As I've written, the perpetual question regarding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park involves oversight, and the opportunity for government entities to look hard at the project.

That chance seems ever diminished, especially since the move of the bi-monthly Quality of Life meetings and the (purportedly) quarterly Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meetings to virtual formats, which tamp down follow-up questions.

The press is less attentive than ever; one local publication I contributed to, Bklyner, closed last year. (Stay tuned for strategic announcements from the developer channeled through a friendly journalistic stenographer, perhaps Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post.)

The emergence of new 35th District Council Member Crystal Hudson, a project neighbor, raises the possibility of increased scrutiny of the arena, as well as pending plans for new development along Atlantic Avenue.

Also, given that Site 5 is located at the northern tip of District 39, represented by new Council Member Shahana Hanif, and is across the street from District 33, represented by new Council Member Lincoln Restler, they should pay attention. It's also across the street from the 35th District, which contains the rest of the project site.

What about project allies? Expect business/real estate groups, unions and (some?) housing advocates and arena allies, like the still-active Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, to support the developer's proposed changes in the project plan. (The DBNA is led by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, who's close to Adams, and is pretty much the long active signatory in the long-dormant Community Benefits Agreement.)

What about civic groups? The sporadically active BrooklynSpeaks coalition, involving neighborhood associations near the project, may revive, while the project's nearest neighbors, such as in the North Prospect Heights Association and the East Pacific Street Block Association, may have their own concerns. 

But if Hudson fulfills her campaign promise to listen to more stakeholders regarding development issues--including pending projects on Atlantic Avenue east of the project site--perhaps there will be a broader effort at discussion and oversight.

That said, Atlantic Yards is a state project, so Gov. Hochul, facing an election year and wanting wins, is the key player, and local state elected officials, including state Sen. Jabari Brisport (district) and Assemblymembers Jo Anne Simon (whose district includes Site 5, and has been active in BrooklynSpeaks) and Phara Souffrant Forrest (district), have more of a role to play. So does new Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.

Some lingering questions: should the developers get what they want? what's the "community" interest? what's "affordable housing"? should the state, and the developers, be trusted?