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May 3, 2007

UNITY 2007 plan for railyards gets started

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on the UNITY 2007 community planning workshop.

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Some 70 people gathered on Saturday for UNITY 2007, the start of an effort to craft a community plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard, should Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project fail, stall, or be partly built.

“It’s not about ‘no’ or NIMBY,” said architect Marshall Brown, lead designer of the original UNITY (UNderstanding Imagining and Transforming the Yards) plan in 2004, which included mid-rise rather than high-rise buildings, was limited to the 8.5-acre railyards, and, rather than demapping streets, extended the street grid from Fort Greene to Prospect Heights. “It’s about saying yes to responsible development.”

Planners aim to draw on Saturday’s work over the next six week to draft a plan to take to community-based organizations and local elected officials, explained Tom Angotti of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development, which convened the session with the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN). “It’s not a done deal,” he insisted. (At right, Angotti is at center, flanked by Ron Shiffman (left) and Brown. Photos by Jonathan Barkey.)

Rather than directly build on the 2004 version of UNITY, the participants, working at Hanson Place United Methodist Church in Fort Greene, started from more of a tabula rasa. That offered the advantage of fresh thinking, based on updated context, and the disadvantage of revisiting some topics already treated in details. Such charrettes often take days, and this one lasted only five hours, with about half of that time for intensive topic analysis.

By the end of the day, the group had made some progress, but also had left some key questions open. Notably, planners were not yet ready to estimate the size and scale of a potential development—a crucial factor given the cost of decking over the railyard.

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Posted by lumi at May 3, 2007 8:38 AM