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August 1, 2012
Flatbush Start to Finish
by Gabrielle Esperdy
Public thoroughfares often endure longer than the private property alongside them, and sometimes outlive even the cities and towns that they service. But the history of roads — the infrastructural priorities, demographic realities, technological possibilities and urban development choices that they reveal — gets less air time than other elements of city form, like civic buildings, public monuments or private houses. But for Gabrielle Esperdy — an architectural historian whose work examines the intersection of American architecture, consumerism and modernism in 20th and 21st century urban and suburban landscapes — certain streets offer an opportunity to summon a variety of historically distinct architectural and planning philosophies and to discuss them in a single setting. Flatbush Avenue, one of the oldest and longest streets in Brooklyn, is such a street. Just as the line of Broadway attests to pathways through Manhattan traversed long before Europeans arrived, Flatbush bears the marks of the Revolutionary War, Beaux Arts planning, and, of course, Robert Moses. Below, Esperdy recounts a journey from the Manhattan Bridge to Jamaica Bay.
The entire article is well worth reading, but we're just excerpting the
high lowlight Esperdy's note that the arena is at least good for hiding Ratner buildings even uglier.
Notable, and most recent, in this regard is the Barclays Center, soon to be completed at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic. Now, say what you will about Atlantic Yards as a whole, there is no denying that SHoP’s Corten steel snake will go a long way to relieving the sordid dullness of the Atlantic Terminal Mall, which has been sitting woefully at this major intersection (where the extension officially ends and Flatbush proper begins) since 2004. Best to move by quickly and set sights further down road where there’s reliable City Beautiful planning to anchor Grand Army Plaza, especially with John Hemingway Duncan’s triumphal Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch standing symbolically, if not literally, astride the avenue as the gateway to Prospect Park. The stretch through the park is as verdant as Flatbush ever gets, giving it, I suppose, a certain kind of grandeur.
Posted by eric at August 1, 2012 8:09 PM