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

Video and presentation on Urban Design/Street Design posted by BrooklynSpeaks, with opportunity to comment. (My take: project completion and scale of Site 5 loom as issues.)

The BrooklynSpeaks coalition has posted video and the presentation board/slideshow from the Jan 12. Urban Design/Street Design Presentation, part of the four-week Crossroads discussion series.

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is at an inflection point, given expected changes requested by the developer, and a looming deadline for affordable housing.  I noted comments by Council Member Crystal Hudson about the developer paying fines for that unbuilt housing.

I've posted both the video and presention below, and will analyze a few aspects in future posts, notably plans for Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush Avenues and Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenues.

But those who wish to comment should go to BrooklynSpeaks, which is using the stakeholder collaboration tool Konveio to solicit feedback. (See screenshot at right.)

That allows people to weigh in, for example, on the design of Pacific Street near Site 5, currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard but slated for a proposed two-tower plan, assuming that Greenland Forest City Partners, the developers, can get the state to agree to the transfer of the bulk from the unbuilt "Miss Brooklyn" (B1) tower, once slated to loom over the arena, across Flatbush Avenue. (I'll discuss that in a future post.)


Big issue pending: finishing the project

To my mind, two big issues were hinted at but not yet addressed. The BrooklynSpeaks principle 1. Respect and integrate with surrounding neighborhoods in this case is focused on Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues, and Dean Street between Flatbush and Carlton avenues.

(While BrooklynSpeaks suggests that "Dean Street between Sixth Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue" should become "a slow street intended for local use," that's complicated by the presentation, as I'll discuss, since Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues will have a huge parking garage, a traffic magnet.)

Those foci are not unreasonable, since construction at Site 5 raises concerns about the impact on neighbors, and Dean Street will be further snagged once a middle-school opens in 2025.

However, the single most important way to "respect and integrate with surrounding neighborhoods" would be to ensure that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, in fact, gets completed, with construction over the Vanderbilt Yard, six towers built and the eight acres of open space completed.

That would fulfill the longstanding pledge/goal, expressed by the developers, supporters, and New York officials, to connect Prospect Heights closer to Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, and to create a place for people to live/gather/walk where currently there's a hole in the ground. 

The clearest example of "blight"--the questionable justification for eminent domain--was the lingering railyard, though that example of blight could be remedied not with condemnation but the marketing of developable air rights.

Platform required

Project completion requires construction of a platform over two blocks of the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard, used to store and service Long Island Rail Road Train. That platform was supposed to start in 2020, but has not.

BrooklynSpeaks, on a separate page regarding the principle 4. Be accountable to the public, does call for a requirement that, before proposing project changes, "the developers must present their strategy for fulfilling the project’s affordable housing obligations by the agreed-upon deadline of May 31, 2025."

It also says that project open space "should be designated Public Park, Public Playground, Private Park, or Private Court, and plans developed for each condition in consultation with the community, with a schedule of incremental completions." 

That implies completion of the project. But that page doesn't request a timetable for project completion. That said, the announcement of the Crossroads effort raised that issue:

“It would be unconscionable for the State to allow a tower the size of the Chrysler Building on that site when the developers have refused to explain how they plan to meet their existing commitments to complete the rail yard platforms necessary for the remainder of Atlantic Yards’ affordable housing,” said Howard Kolins, President of the Boerum Hill Association.

However, they could build the required 876 more units of affordable housing (and, possibly more) by using Site 5 and just the first of the two railyard blocks, between Sixth and Carlton avenues and Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. 

So that second, more expensive/complicated platform--crucial to the majority of the open space--would remain in question. The second of the two railyard blocks is between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. Each platform could take three years.

Big issue pending: scale of Site 5

The other big issue not yet addressed is the acceptable scale/bulk of the proposed tower at Site 5, which, according to proposals floated by the developer, could be 1.1 million square feet, more than 2.5 times the bulk and 3 times the height of the building already approved. That needs state approval.

As I wrote, I asked in the chat if BrooklynSpeaks was preparing to endorse the planned bulk transfer, “as long as various improvements arrive, like ‘slow streets’ and more affordable housing (with deeper affordability)?”

2016 proposal. No the arena plaza and Times Plaza aren't green. There's a garden on Site 5 too.

“We have not made such a commitment,” responded Gib Veconi of BrooklynSpeaks. Indeed, in the video/presentation, architect John Massengale said they were deliberately not trying to portray what the full tower might look like, just how it meets the street.

That said, the more "asks" from BrooklynSpeaks in terms of affordable housing commitments and city/state spending, the more likely the developers will seek more development rights to spin off revenue. (That said, the site seems valuable, especially since Greenland USA, the majority owner, bought into the project at a discount.)

There's a tension there and, from what I could tell from the presentation and comments, the nearest neighbors to Site 5 were not asked their take. Their questions about whether the bulk transfer could be fought didn't get an initial response.

Of course, the closer the neighbors, the more focused/parochial their interests, but there's a potential tension between the interests of a larger coalition and those absorbing the impact of construction and giant neighbor. 

As the Site 5 proposal emerges from the developer and the state, expect more discussion of various options.