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October 2, 2006

Densest "census tract" in the nation?

Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey has publicly addressed the extreme density of the project by complaining that critics are incorrectly stating that Atlantic Yards would become the densest census tract in the nation.

censustracts.gifStuckey is technically correct, since the project falls in the boundaries of four census tracts, therefore critics would be more correct to say that if built to its current proposed scale, Atlantic Yards would be denser than any census tract in the nation.

We've been browsing comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and have come across this mistake more than once. This has prompted us to go back to the sources which initially made the claim about extreme density of the Atlantic Yards project.

In July, 2006 NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman wrote:

If Forest City Ratner’s proposal proceeds at the current scale, it would constitute the densest residential community in the United States and, perhaps, Europe, with the exception of some of the suburbs of Paris.

The article uses analysis of census tract data in comparison to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

The densest census tract in the country is located in West Harlem, where a 1,190-unit former Mitchell-Lama building stands surrounded by numerous tenements. The two-block area has, according to the 2000 Census, a density equivalent to 229,713 inhabitants per square mile.

Sounds positively suburban next to the density envisioned by Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn : between 436,363 and 523,636 inhabitants per square mile (based on estimated population of between 15,000 and 18,000 residents over 22 acres). That is the density for the whole footprint, including the open space, the arena, and the office towers.

Former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman phrases the comparison similarly:

If Forest City Ratner’s proposal proceeds at the current scale, it would constitute the densest residential community in the United States...

The Atlantic Yards footprint is so big that it falls into four different census tracts, much in the same way that it crosses the boundaries of three different Community Boards. However, the footprint is not in fact its own census tract.

So we have to admit, Stuckey has a point. It's a point that he will likely hold dear because any calculation of density based on existing census tracts will disperse the effect across the four different census tracts containing the project.

This leads us to the original point, Bruce Ratner's proposal is denser than any census tract in the nation.

For more information on census tracts, check out www.census.gov.

Posted by lumi at October 2, 2006 10:03 AM