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April 17, 2012

Times focuses on retail changes near arena site, suggests blight of "dreary" rail yards transformed & "die-hard opponents" worried about liquor license (nah)

An article in today's New York Times about the Atlantic Yards project illustrates, yet again, how the Times neglects covering Brooklyn and is out of touch. Fortunately, Norman Oder points out what the Times seems unable to understand.

Atlantic Yards Report

I can't say I didn't predict that the New York Times would cover last week's appellate court ruling parenthetically, essentially dismissing an important rebuke to the state agency that has championed Atlantic Yards.

Instead, the Times's Impact of Atlantic Yards, for Good or Ill, Is Already Felt, complete with several photos, focuses on retail changes near Flatbush Avenue, some accelerated by the arena, some already in process, and pretty much ignores issues of accountability:

the reality is that the Atlantic Yards project has already done the very thing that critics feared and supporters promoted: transform surrounding neighborhoods prized for their streets of tree-lined brownstones and low-key living.

Was an arena really needed to accelerate retail along Flatbush Avenue? How about a rezoning of the few blocks zoned industrial and an effort to market the Vanderbilt Yard?

...

Here's the most deceptive passage:

For Forest City Ratner, the developer of the project, which was strongly backed by many city leaders, the changes are evidence that the arena has already met its goal of transforming a dreary section of Brooklyn — the Long Island Rail Road’s rail yards and surrounding industrial buildings, which the company’s spokesman described as “ a scar that divided the neighborhood.”
“That’s a sign of economic vitality, something that’s good for the borough,” said Joe DePlasco, the Ratner spokesman.

In other words, the project has successfully removed the blight that was the justification for eminent domain.

It hasn't.

Forest City Ratner hasn't even paid the MTA for the development rights to most of the railyard. It renegotiated a 22-year schedule to pay. As for the "surrounding industrial buildings," the largest (the Ward Bakery) was torn down for the interim surface parking lot (bookended by a historic district), and other large ones were condo conversions torn down for the arena (Spalding, Atlantic Arts).

Rather, the combination of the arena, and dense nearby residential populations, has driven up rents. And, as Chuck Ratner, then CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, once said, "it's a great piece of real estate" (not a "dreary section of Brooklyn"). Map from NY Times, annotations in blue

link

Related coverage...

New York Times, Impact of Atlantic Yards, for Good or Ill, Is Already Felt

The battle over Atlantic Yards has already raged longer than the Civil War, with eight years of protests, petitions and lawsuits seeking to halt a project that promised to reshape the heart of Brooklyn.

Even now, as the oyster-shaped basketball arena that will anchor a 22-acre housing and office complex rises against the low-slung Brooklyn skyline, die-hard opponents are still resisting. Last week they packed a hearing held by two community boards to block the arena from speedily receiving a liquor license.

But almost six months before the Barclays Center opens its doors to the Nets, Brooklyn’s first major professional sports team since the lamented Dodgers, the reality is that the Atlantic Yards project has already done the very thing that critics feared and supporters promoted: transform surrounding neighborhoods prized for their streets of tree-lined brownstones and low-key living.

Posted by steve at April 17, 2012 9:14 AM