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December 26, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Morning Trio

Atlantic Yards Report

Goldberger on Lopate: "Atlantic Yards was and is a mistake" (but might be re-thought over time)

Yesterday's Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC Radio, Why Architecture Matters, was a rebroadcast of an 11/17/09 interview with New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, keyed to his new book of the same name and his book titled Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture, an anthology of criticism, mostly from The New Yorker.

Goldberger, speaking before the eminent domain case had been decided in the Court of Appeals and before the bond sale--both of which have given AY significantly more momentum--said Atlantic Yards "was and is a mistake," given that megaprojects don't do much for street life, and suggested that the silver lining of the recession might give it time to be improved.

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At about 13:45, Lopate quoted Goldberger quoting celebrated critic Lewis Mumford: "The great function of the city is to permit, indeed, to encourage and incite, the greatest possible number of meetings, encounters, challenges between all people, classes, groups, providing a stage upon which the drama of life may be enacted."

"I wonder whether city planners think in that way, ever," Lopate continued. "For example, the city's still behind the Atlantic Yards project, isn't it? The Municipal Art Society has said it would be a total disaster because it would cut people and neighborhoods off from each other."

"I think city planners do think in terms of streets and neighborhoods perhaps more than they did in the 60s, when the World Trade Center was designed," Goldberger responded. "But we have begun, in the last few years, to almost come full circle, and again fall under the spell--or into the thrall--of gargantuan mega-projects, which generally are in fact destructive of that very street life that Lewis Mumford was talking about, and I think you and I both agree is essential to the city."

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"No, I think Atlantic Yards was and is a mistake and it's one of the reasons, I suppose--y'know, every silver lining has a cloud, every cloud has a silver lining--and the silver lining of the recession is that that is certainly not going to happen immediately and may give us some time to rethink some of the mistakes," he said.

Civic News coverage of BrooklynSpeaks lawsuit quotes a PSCC trustee: "All attempts at persuasion have failed"

Well, I'm getting to it a bit late, but coverage in the Park Slope Civic Council's (PSCC) Civic News of the BrooklynSpeaks lawsuit challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's approval of the revised Atlantic Yards plan is worth a read.

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Notably, it reminds us that those who tried to "mend-it-don't-end-it" finally hit the wall:

Assemblyman [Jim] Brennan, whose office attempted to facilitate communication between BrooklynSpeaks and the state, said he finally concluded that “there has never been any interest in any modification of the project or its governance. The state government, basically acting as the agent of Forest City Ratner, never had any interest in reforming or modifying the project to address any community or public concerns about balancing public good versus private interest.

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And this may have been the first lawsuit ever filed by the PSCC, one of the members of BrooklynSpeaks:

The same point [about BrooklynSpeaks being pushed into opposition] was made by several speakers at the Oct. 1 meeting where Civic Council trustees voted overwhelmingly--with no nays and three abstentions--to join the lawsuit, believed to be the first such step in the organization’s 113-year history. Trustee Michael Cairl captured the trustees’ sentiment: “A lawsuit is the last chance open to us to affect the outcome of this project. All attempts at persuasion have failed.”

Another plan for the old Times building is a reminder of the missing back story

In an December 23 article headlined Former Times Building to Be a Hotel and Condos, the New York Times's Charles Bagli reports:

Lev Leviev, the Israeli billionaire, made many New Yorkers sit up and take notice when he bought the former New York Times Building on West 43rd Street in 2007 for $525 million, three times what the seller paid for it 30 months earlier.

It was a bold declaration that Mr. Leviev, who planned to spend an additional $170 million transforming the landmark building into a first-class office building, wanted to be a real estate player in New York. It was also a deal emblematic of an era when buyers and bankers imagined that rents and values would soar forever.

Now Leviev wants to turn the building into a mix of luxury shops, a bowling alley, a high-end hotel, and 26 penthouse condominiums on top. And some of the lenders who lent Leviev $711 million have had to take a bath.

It's a prime example of real estate froth and well worthy of coverage.

But the Times, as I wrote four years ago still hasn't reported, as the Village Voice explained in an 11/20/04 article headlined The Times' Sweetheart Deal, that the Times Company had underestimated the profit on the sale of its long-term headquarters by some 50 percent, which might have eliminated the need to subsidize the new Times Tower built on 8th Avenue in partnership with Forest City Ratner.

Posted by steve at December 26, 2009 9:08 AM