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August 12, 2007

Why the rush to Manhattanize L.A.?

LA Times
Joel Kotkin

Why is this happening? One reason for the city's apparent lock-step march to Manhattanization is that big developers are increasingly dominating and politicizing land-use decisions, much as they do in New York City. The $4-billion "Atlantic Yards" project in New York is an example. The proposal would add about 6,500 mixed-income residential units to the generally low- and mid-rise environment of downtown Brooklyn, making population density in the area among the nation's highest. Despite intense grass-roots opposition, developer Bruce Ratner and his ally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have won at least $500 million in subsidies for the project.

"You can't stop [big developer] interests unless you have equally powerful interests on your side," said urban historian Fred Siegel.

Atlantic Yards Report agrees with Siegel, but not with some of the article's descriptions:

Siegel's observation is appropriate; note that the West Side Stadium was opposed by both grassroots activists and the very self-interested Cablevision, owner of Madison Square Garden.

As for "the generally low- and mid-rise environment of downtown Brooklyn," that would be a better description of Prospect Heights, where most of Atlantic Yards would be located, and nearby Fort Greene. Downtown Brooklyn, especially given the recent rezoning, is a more mixed environment, with an increasing number of high rises.

As for the subsidies, the direct subsidies, as of now, would be $305 million from the city and state, plus a significant number of indirect subsidies and public costs. To reach $500 million, perhaps Kotkin was counting the estimated $200 million in subsidies from the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" in the 421-a revision.

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Posted by amy at August 12, 2007 8:02 AM