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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)

Time for an open space master plan update? New B12/13 configuration, dog runs. Future "Pacific Street terminus"? Biggest Q is whether platform gets built.

I recently took a look at landscape designer swa/Balsley's page with the firm's master plan design for Pacific Park Brooklyn, first unveiled in June 2015 (to the New York Daily News), and soon presented at a neighborhood meeting. The 2015 slide presentation is at bottom.

That was more than seven years ago, not long after Greenland USA had bought 70% of the project going forward, from original developer Forest City Ratner. Back then, the developers were surely more optimistic about the timing of the project buildout. 

That was before changes in (and then the non-renewal of) the 421-a state tax break, the glut in competing apartment units in nearby Downtown Brooklyn, the sale by Forest City of all but 5% of its share, the corporate absorpotion of parent Forest City Realty Trust by Brookfield, and the financial struggles of Greenland USA's Shanghai-based parent, Greenland Holding Corp.

Development without open space

The first thing to recognize is that the open space plan does not cover the entire project footprint and, as it happens, much of the project already built is separate from the open space.

As seen below, Balsley's outline omits the arena block (with three towers) west of Sixth Avenue, Site 5 (across Flatbush Avenue), and also 662 Pacific St. (B15, aka Plank Road), east of Sixth Avenue and between Pacific and Dean Streets. No wonder the new owners of 461 Dean (B2), flanking the arena, eschew any association with the larger Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project.

Rather, Balsley's outline covers the sites for B5 through B14: six towers over the railyard, yet unbuilt, and four towers on the southeast block, two completed (B11, 550 Vanderbilt; B14, 535 Carlton) and two under completion (B12-13; 595 Dean). 

via swa/Balsley
As stated by the designer, "Much of the open space will be on top of a 'platform' that will cover the rail yard below or on top of below-grade spaces of the buildings."

Indeed, that makes it's ever more important to know whether the platform will get started, as promised last year. Instead, public meetings about the project have been, inexplicably, canceled without a new schedule.

Time for some updates

At Pacific St./6th Ave., a future landscaped plaza?
(Photo/Norman Oder)
It's unclear how much swa/Balsley is currently involved, but the master plan, which I've annotated below, deserves some updates. 

Is there really, as the designer states, "a vision for the Pacific Street Terminus – the plaza between buildings B3 and B4"?

As shown in the photo at right, currently the vision for Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street is for equipment storage (and, previously, staging for the B4 tower).

For example, while the only two dog runs (annotated in yellow below) announced in 2015 were to be located next to B6 and B7 towers, those depend on that platform. 

Wisely, a dog run has been incorporated in the open space outside the B12 and B13 towers, which should open in the next months. That open space has been revised from the Balsley design, in part because the towers were realigned. That's described further below.

2015 plan from Thomas Balsley; annodations added

Note that water gardens, annotated in purple, were planned for the B11 (550 Vanderbilt) and B14 (535 Carlton) towers, though as far as I know not provided.

Also curious is the designation of that "Pacific Street terminus," annotated in black. There's nothing to stop the developers from building a nice green plaza there--except that the area may be needed for staging of some sort for construction of the B5 tower and the platform over the railyard. So that could take a while.

B12/B13, from TF Cornerstone
Realignment at B12/B13

TF Cornerstone, the builder of B12/B13--now known collectively as 595 Dean--reoriented the buildings so, rather than B12 facing B11 and B13 facing B14, as in Balsley's outline, they now both resemble a modified L shape, allowing for more direct corridors for walking, as shown in the image at right.

That also allowed for the realignment of open space, designed not by master planner Balsley but by by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, as I wrote in November 2019. Slide presentation at bottom.

Their site plan allowed for the shift of the lawn from between B14 and B13 to between B13 and B12. While that was explained, not without logic, as making it more central to the block, it also helps TF Cornerstone rent the 560 or so market-rate units in the two 595 Dean towers.

After all, the "100% affordable" B14 to the west is already mostly leased, so the addition of open space doesn't help their bottom line. (Plus, of course, it's operated by a different owner than B12/B13.)

Changes at B12/B13

Expected are a Large Dog Run and Small Dog Run--not sure if that refers to the size of the space or the size of the dogs (or both) between B13 and B14. Dog runs are surely needed.

Does that mean there'd be one less dog run in the project, or has there been a reassessment that too few were planned? Again, an open space update might help answer this.

Also note the bike racks planned near the Dean Street entrance between B13 and B14, and the bike shelter planned near the Dean Street entrance between B12 and B11.

No bike racks were cited in Balsley's master plan. Presumably more are planned, so that too deserves an update.

From Balsley's web site

The text:
Description: Pacific Park is a major mixed-use development in the Atlantic Terminal area of Brooklyn, New York. When complete, it will occupy approximately 22 acres, including the air rights above the approximately nine-acre, below-grade Long Island Rail Road Storage Yard.

The open space, with an area of about eight acres at grade, is being designed by Thomas Balsley Associates and will be bounded by the residential buildings along the perimeter. Much of the open space will be on top of a “platform” that will cover the rail yard below or on top of below-grade spaces of the buildings.

The landscape will be a cohesive, continuous, and inviting open space with a range of uses and activities, with links from north to south connecting the new development and the surrounding neighborhoods by continuing the existing street system as pedestrian corridors into the open space. The open space will be sheltered from Atlantic Avenue traffic while promoting public access and use. The landscape design will take into account the costs of both construction and future maintenance, a phased implementation strategy with temporary conditions, and a vision for the Pacific Street Terminus – the plaza between buildings B3 and B4.
2019 B12/B13 and 2015 master plan presentations