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

Flashback: the 2016 argument for trading the (unbuilt) Urban Room for (branded) arena plaza: "maximizes usable public space." (And who does that help?)

Back in January 2016--as I wrote in July 2016 for City Limits--developer Greenland Forest City Partners was floating plans to shift most of the bulk of the unbuilt "Miss Brooklyn" tower--B1, once planned for Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, now site of the arena plaza--across Flatbush to Site 5, long home to the big-box stores Modell's (closed) and P.C. Richard.

I've mainly focused on the astounding bulk of the proposal: it would super-size the tower already approved there--to a potential Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 23.5, nearly double that of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning.

But let's focus for a moment on the Urban Room, the publicly accessible enclosed space planned as the gateway for both the arena and B1. 

Because B1 was never built, the arena opened with a temporary plaza--one that surely the arena operator wants to keep permanent, as construction of a building would interfere with arena operations and the privately controlled space serves large crowds as a place for gathering and mareketing.

However, an apparently forgotten 5/12/22 deadline required the developer to build the Urban Room or pay a potential $10 million penalty for delay--unless it's waved away by a renegotiation and amendment.

Making the trade

Surely Greenland Forest City Partners was counting on not facing that deadline. More than six years earlier, as of January 2016, as indicated in the slide below (from the presentation at bottom), the developer listed the proposed actions necessary to implement its plan. 

Crucial was elimination of the Urban Room and creation of permanent open space. That requires approval from the gubernatorially controlled Empire State Development (ESD), which has not yet begun the process to modify the guiding Modified General Project Plan. 
Making the argument

Back in 2016, the developer's best argument, apparently, was that the existing plaza maximized "usable public space," given that iot provided 31,857 gross square feet, while the Urban Room would provide barely two-thirds of that, 21,318.

That of course ignores the significant advantage to the arena operator as well as--duh--an enclosed public space allows for gatherings or passageway in cold or inclement weather.
New justification pending

As I wrote last month, ESD's Tobi Jaiyesimi offered an updated justification to directors of the (purportedly advisory) Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation.

"And so there is interest of course in taking away the requirement for the Urban Room, right, and instead memorializing the Barclays Center plaza for what it is, especially given its prominence in the community since the summer of 2020, and the civil protests and actions that we've seen there."

Of course, that's an ex post facto justification for a plan formulated in 2015.

As I noted, it somewhat accidentally served as a place for spontaneous public gatherings--"totally appropriated," as an organizer of 2020 protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder, put it.

Note that she did not call it by its official name, SeatGeek Plaza, which honors the commercial sponsor of the privately-controlled space crucial to arena operations.

A trustworthy developer?

As I wrote in June 2019,  the February 2016 presentation, in the slide below, appended the more optimistic headline "Significant Progress at Pacific Park," counting B15 (664 Pacific) and B12 (615) as under construction. 

Actually, they had been designed but never launched. B15 (662 Pacific St., aka Plank Road) is now open. B12 and B13 should be finished in mid-2023. The revamped LIRR railyard wasn't done by Q4 2017, either.


So maybe we should look at all proposals, and justifications for them, with a little skepticism.