info 07.10.06

The Atlantic Yards Digest

The story, simplified, so far.

Development plans for the Atlantic Terminal area have been surfacing periodically for over 50 years — they have included a Dodgers stadium, a new campus for Baruch College, and the Ft. Greene meat market was designated as an Urban Renewal Area in the early 60s. You can watch the animated timeline of development proposals courtesy of The Center of Urban Pedagogy.

In late 2003 and throughout 2004, Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner did several things: he acquired the New Jersey Nets and vowed to recast them as the Brooklyn Nets; he announced plans for one of the largest developments in the city's history, including an arena for the Nets; and he hired Frank Gehry to create not only the master plan, but to design all the buildings for this site. Ratner won support from many city and state politicians, but also the opprobrium of a significant number of Brooklyn residents. The arguments for and against.

Area Redevelopment:
The plan consists of seventeen buildings including an 850,000-square-foot arena for the Brooklyn Nets. The arena would have 18,000 seats for basketball, 20,500 seats for entertainment events. There is 606,000 square feet of office space, 247,000 square feet of retail space, and a 165,000-square-foot hotel. The Atlantic Yards, according to the developer, will generate $6 billion in tax revenues over 30 years.

The Atlantic Yards development will consist of 6,860 housing units. Number of market-rate condos: 2,360.
Total number of rental units: 4,500.
Number of rental units set aside for middle- and low-income residents: 2,250.

Forest City Ratner projects the creation of 15,000 union construction jobs, including 35% minority, and 10% women
Permanent jobs: 2,500 office, 400 arena, 770 retail, 70 hotel

Parks and Open Space:
The plan includes seven acres of parks and open space designed by landscape architect Laurie Olin, whose credits include the redesign of Bryant Park.

Notable Supporters:
Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Edolphus Towns, Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, Congressman Anthony Weiner, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz

Atlantic Yards
Forest City Ratner

The developer is hosting a Housing Information Session tomorrow, 6:30pm, at the Brooklyn Marriott for people to learn more about the affordable housing options of the new development.

There is a long list of substantive issues that has fomented opposition to this plan. But perhaps the most deeply felt (along with the eminent domain issue) is the issue of scale. Architect Jonathan Cohn created a startling 'before and after' view of Fifth Avenue at his website Brooklyn Views and author Jonathan Lethem writes about the plan's scale in his open letter to Frank Gehry published on Slate.

Community Input:
Too little, too late is the view of opponents for what would be the biggest development ever in Brooklyn, detailed here.

Prior History:
Ratner's track record with the borough has been dismal: two of the city's least loved projects, MetroTech and the Atlantic Center mall, are his.

Critics of the project detail how the public costs of this private development will tally $1.5 billion (total costs: $3.5 billion).

The Atlantic Yards Report, among others, disputes the $6 billion of tax revenues in 30 years asserted by Forest City Ratner. The website claims that such a projection represents "manipulated statistics, an enormous (and methodologically flawed) overestimate of revenues, and an omission (and then an underestimate) of costs."

Opponents say that the number of construction jobs is more accurately 1,500 over a period of 10 years, rather than 15,000. The original Ratner proposal claimed the development would create 10,000 permanent jobs. The actual number, according to the NYC Economic Development Corp. would be 2,500. The developer has since revised estimates accordingly.

Eminent Domain Abuse:
The Prospect Heights Action Coalition identified nearly 864 people who would lose their homes and 237 who would lose their job. Eminent domain has traditionally been used as mechanism to clear land for 'public use,' though in recent years, public use has been expanded to 'public good,' which can include private developments.

Environmental Impact:
Most projects of the kind in question begin with a plan commissioned by government, followed by an environmental impact study, followed by the bidding process. As the Gotham Gazette chronicles the timeline, the Atlantic Yards process has been entirely backwards.

Brooklyn residents see no credible plan in place to address the congestion that will result from Atlantic Yards: 23,000 more cars every day, 15,000 new residents, 18,000 additional people in the neighborhood at 250 events in the arena each year.

Privatizing Public Space:
The six acres of open space that is part of the project is not public space, but rather private space that the developer opens to the public.

Notable Opponents:
Over 50 community groups, Councilwoman Letitia James, Councilman Charles Barron, Steve Buscemi, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nelson George, Jhumpa Lahiri, Heath Ledger, Jonathan Lethem, Rosie Perez, Michelle Williams, Dan Zanes

Atlantic Yards Report
Brooklyn Papers
Brooklyn Views
Develop — Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Fans for Fair Play
No Land Grab
On NY Turf

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Rally Against Ratner's Skyscraper City and Arena Over-Development takes place next Sunday, 7/16 at 2pm at Grand Army Plaza.

What's Eating Stephen Holden?
We like reading Mr. Holden's reviews in the arts section of the Times…generally speaking. But holy moly, he's been pissy lately. Today, he unloads on cabaret performer Brandon Cutrell, finishing him off with a John-Simon-like assessment:

"Sad to say, but Mr. Cutrell, whose show at the Duplex Cabaret Theater two years ago showed considerably more discipline and attention to detail, is typical of the dozens of second-tier cabaret performers who, misled by fawning trade reviews and awards from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets, toil year after year, imagining they are on the verge of a breakthrough into the big-time that 99 times out of 100 will never come."

It's worth pointing out that the history of criticism is strewn with reckless and erroneous predictions about artists' future prospects. Mr. Holden should know better.

chrystie street

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