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September 16, 2009

PAUL GOLDBERGER: FRANK GEHRY’S REPLACEMENT

NewYorker.com

Either New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger really likes the new SHoP design for Bruce Ratner's basketball arena, or he's just hungry for a grilled cheese.

The results are good enough to take the architectural argument against the project off the table. Maybe it’s as good as Gehry’s building. The new one certainly seems to try less hard; it’s more relaxed than Gehry’s project. It has a lot of rust-colored metal making swoops and curves, but there is also a lot of glass, opening the arena up to the outside. This arena is going to be every bit as connected to the street life of downtown Brooklyn as Gehry’s would have been. It’s not the box everyone feared.

But then again, so what? The rest of Atlantic Yards still remains—too big, and too indifferent to the fabric of residential Brooklyn, which it abuts. This is a mega-project that looks less and less convincing as the months go on. The arena was predicated on the presence of blocks and blocks and blocks of apartment towers, but the city would be better off if Ratner could simply build the arena and leave it at that.

Atlantic Yards Report, New Yorker architecture critic Goldberger: just keep the arena; AYR: what about the parking?

Norman Oder raises a very good point.

Better off, of course, can be calculated in different ways. One commenter already pointed out that the NYC Independent Budget Office calls the arena a net loss for the city, while toting up huge subsidies for the developer.

Beyond the vacuum

And the the building can't be considered in a vacuum. For example, the arena requires some 1000 spaces of "interim" surface parking on a block in Prospect Heights bookended by the new Prospect Heights Historic District. (There would be a lot of "street life" on the residential block between the parking and the arena.)

That block, which already lost the Ward Bakery, retains several buildings, one of which is a handsome factory retooled into office space.

Beyond the potential loss to the city, keep in mind that the Empire State Development Corporation's override of zoning and use of eminent domain was predicated on several public purposes, including affordable housing and transit improvements; the former, at least, would be precluded. And the "blight" of the open rail yards would continue, with no incentive to deck them over.

Posted by eric at September 16, 2009 8:31 PM