July 30, 2012

Green Roof Crowns Atlantic Avenue Subway Entrance


A reader sent in this shot of the green roof going up over the subway entrance at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues outside the Barclays Center Sunday morning. The roof is planted with sedum and will anchor a plaza that can be used for farmer’s markets and other community events.


Photo: Brownstoner

Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

April 6, 2012

Yankee Stadium controversy down the memory hole: prominent coverage of belated ballfields, no dissenters heard

Atlantic Yards Report

Beaten again by AYR (and FOS)! But we wondered too how The Times was incapable of finding anyone still upset by the Yankees park grab.

Perhaps what Mayor Mike Bloomberg once said about the Atlantic Yards arena--“Nobody's going to remember how long it took, they're only going to look and see that it was done” --applies to the promises regarding the Yankee Stadium.

I wasn't the only person to notice something odd about the prominent and uniformly positive New York Times coverage today of the ballfields finally built to replace those lost for Yankee Stadium, A Public Park to Rival the Yankees’ Playground, complete with a front-page photo in both local and national editions.

Neil deMause wrote on Field of Schemes, New Bronx ballfields open, six years after old ones razed by Yankees:

For those of you who've been wondering when the new public ballfields on the site of the original Yankee Stadium would finally be opening, well, here they are, only 16 months late, and nearly six years after the neighborhood's old ballfields were bulldozed to make way for the Yankees' new $2 billion stadium and parking garages. As the New York Daily News reports, "The new fields are open to local kids, but only when not under maintenance or being used by teams that buy permits."

Curious choices

de Mause pointed out that the Times never covered "the actual debates over whether [to] build the Yankees' new stadium" that prominently. Remember the Yankees' dubious claim that they would move to New Jersey--away from their historic home and the city's media market--without sufficient subsidies and government help?


Related content...

Field of Schemes, New Bronx ballfields open, six years after old ones razed by Yankees

What's this? A critic has come out of hiding?

Jordan Moss of Bronx Matters further notes that "in a story regarding a land use issue this big for the Bronx an interview or two with one of the prominent local activists or former community board members who opposed the stadium deal (they were ditched from CB4 by then-BP Adolfo Carrion, Jr.) would have been warranted..."

The New York Times, A Public Park to Rival the Yankees’ Playground

Even onetime opponents of the stadium deal are coming around. “I figured they were going to pull a fast one and give us a little corner somewhere,” said Jerry Figueroa, 43, as he watched his son play ball. “But they’ve made a believer out of me.”

Paul Bales, who exercises in the new parks, said he used to hear people carping about their lost parks at every turn, on trains and buses and in convenience stores.

“Now nobody’s complaining,” Mr. Bales, 40, said. “Everybody got what they wanted: the fans got their stadium, and the community got their parks back. Everything is better.”

NoLandGrab: Aw, everyone loves a happy ending.

Posted by eric at 10:04 PM

December 15, 2011

At Stuyvesant Town, new role for privately managed, publicly accessible open space causes consternation

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what happens when privately managed, publicly accessible open space is retooled to appeal more to upscale residents, or outside users?

The experience of Stuyvesant Town may not be directly on point regarding plans for Atlantic Yards, but given that Forest City Ratner has long promised (as in this October 2004 flier) "new open space for the entire Brooklyn community to enjoy," it's worth noting that making space accessible may come with tensions.

(Forest City originally promised six acres; now the promise is eight acres, but not until the entire project is completed, and that could take 25 years.)

The Stuy Town story

The New York Times reported 12/11/11, in Skating Rink Spurs Residents’ Latest Fight With Management:

In the eyes of some longtime residents of Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, the ruin of their apartment complex has come in stages. First, the development’s managers opened a green market last summer, which drew large crowds of nonresidents, and they scheduled noisy music concerts afterward. Then they allowed vendor carts onto the property: neon-colored trucks that sell tacos, Greek food and desserts on the tree-shaded paths.

...Now, a seasonal ice-skating rink that opened at the end of November has again put management and many residents on a collision course.


Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

December 6, 2011

We Need More Zoning

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

The Observer gives Bruce Ratner a semi-pass on Atlantic Yards's open space in a semi-paean to Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman.

Given the right constraints, however, the city’s developers can actually do good. Even if Atlantic Yards will be a public space disaster as Mr. Kimmelman seems to suggest, Bruce Ratner has pushed his architects at SHoP to create the best space around his arena possible, even if it is not nearly enough space.

Someone going by "normanoder" left the following comment:

Ratner has been pushing his architects "to create the best space around his arena possible"? How about "the best space, given that there's no office tower and Urban Room as promised"?


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

December 2, 2011

Treasuring Urban Oases

The New York Times
by Michael Kimmelman

The Times's recently appointed architecture critic continues to right the wrongs of his predecessors. Keep up the good work, Mr. Kimmelman.

What passes for public space in many crowded neighborhoods often means some token gesture by a developer, built in exchange for the right to erect a taller skyscraper. [Alexander] Garvin, an architect, urban planner and veteran of five city administrations, going back to the era of Mayor John V. Lindsay (1966-73), has spent the better part of the last half-century thinking about these spaces.

“The public realm is what we own and control,” he told me the other day when we met to look around Midtown. More than just common property, he added, “the streets, squares, parks, infrastructure and public buildings make up the fundamental element in any community — the framework around which everything else grows.”

Or should grow.

But what makes high-density neighborhoods pedestrian friendly?

Good public space for starters.

The Dutch today put together what they call “structure plans” when they undertake big new public projects, like their high-speed rail station in Rotterdam: before celebrity architects show up, urban designers are called in to work out how best to organize the sites for the public good. It’s a formalized, fine-grained approach to the public realm. By contrast big urban projects on the drawing board in New York still tend to be the products of negotiations between government agencies anxious for economic improvement and private developers angling for zoning exemptions. As with the ill-conceived Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the streets, subway entrances and plazas around Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, where millions of New Yorkers will actually feel the development’s effects, seem like they’ve hardly been taken into account.


NoLandGrab: Better click through to the article fast before Mr. Kimmelman's editors realize that he didn't hew to the paper's usual fawning treatment of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

October 23, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and the Banks- Messages From Bonnie & Clyde, “They’ve Got Too Much Money”: Ownership of the Public Forum by the Wealthy?

Noticing New York

There is an example within this blog post of what happens when even streets are changed from public to private space.

How large does this problem of private ownership of the public realm loom in New York City? Consider what is happening to traditional Brooklyn with the 50+ concentrated acres (above) supposed to be owned by Forest City Ratner in the key central, dense areas atop the main public subway lines (see below). Those fifty acres include the 30 contiguous acres of the proposed Atlantic Yards where, at significant financial loss to the public, the Ratner/Prokhorov (“Barclays”) basketball arena is now being built. This 50+ acre mega-monopoly was brought about with government subsidies and the intervention of eminent domain abuse to concentrate this land ownership in the politically connected Ratner organization. In a significant government-assisted privatization of public space it incorporates streets, avenues and sidewalks previously belonging to the public, together with park, plaza and "public square" space that would otherwise likely have been publicly owned as well.

To understand in foreboding miniature what this mega-monopoly’s privatization of public space might portend for free speech it is worth remembering back to the public protest of the arena’s groundbreaking ceremonies (not attended by local politicians except for Borough President Marty Markowitz). The police hemmed in the demonstrating crowds with orange netting and reflexively told us to return “to the sidewalks.” In other words the sidewalks were our permitted space to publicly demonstrate and express our opposition to the shameless boondoggle. The problem was that there were no longer any sidewalks to return to. They had been privatized by Ratner. My chant, as the police hemmed us in and told us to return to the sidewalk was, “Give us back our sidewalks!”


Posted by steve at 10:44 PM

April 21, 2011

Flashback, 2009: landscape architect Olin observes, "We need to be at the table when people start planning" (Was this influenced by AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 1/30/09 interview with with the American Society of Landscape Architects, distinguished landscape architect Laurie Olin talked about projects he'd worked on, including Canary Wharf in London, Columbus Circle in New York, and the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.

He didn't talk of his work on the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which he had recently left. But an exchange regarding sustainability leaves a hint Olin was influenced by the controversy.

Click through to hear what Olin had to say, which sounds, to us, like some Atlantic Yards regrets.


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

December 2, 2010

Gentrification, race/class, the Atlantic Yards play, and just one half-basketball court for a 16-tower project

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes an interesting look at race, class and open space (or the lack of it).

One of the sub-themes in The Civilians' new play with music, IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, is gentrification and the politics of public space.

But the issue is likely more class than race. In Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City, Northwestern University professor of sociology and African-American Studies Mary Pattillo describes the same kind of tensions between newcomer homeowners and longstanding renters, including those in much-maligned public housing.

They're all black, in Chicago's North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood, and while there is some racial solidarity, and likely fewer of the hair-trigger tensions that accompany cross-racial gentrification, the transition is by no means easy, as Pattillo describes in great detail.

The Atlantic Yards open space: not a park

What does this have to do with Atlantic Yards? Well, consider how Forest City Ratner promised "new open space for the entire Brooklyn community to enjoy."

The eight acres of open space would be managed by a conservancy or nonprofit agency, but would not be city park space. And it's likely that at least some of the draconian restrictions imposed at the developer's MetroTech Commons (accompanying the MetroTech office complex) would be enacted.

Forest City's Atlantic Yards open-space plan includes two bocce courts and a volleyball court, but only a single half basketball court. What, no putting green?

A half-basketball court for a 16-tower project slated to include 6430 apartments, perhaps some 15,000 people?

That definitely did not "used to be so Brooklyn."

Rather, it's a subtle way to ensure that "certain people" do not do too much "congregating."

In other words, Forest City Ratner, ready to welcome thousands of gentrifiers--4180 market-rate apartments, plus another 900-plus subsidized units likely to track the market--has thought very carefully about the use of public space.


Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

November 16, 2010

With delay in project timetable, "temporary significant open space impact" could last twice as long as the period studied in the Final EIS

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember all those promises of Atlantic Yards open space, as demonstrated in a flier sent to Brooklynites in 2004?

Even though the amount of planned open space was increased from six acres to eight acres, there's long been reason to doubt promises that the open space--not a park but privately managed--would be delivered in a decade.

And a state Supreme Court decision last week regarding the project timetable casts doubts on the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which concluded that the "temporary significant open space impact" upon completion of Phase I "would be eliminated by the open space provided in Phase II."

An extended "temporary" situation

After all, the "temporary" situation, as studied, was to last only six years, given that Phase 1 was supposed to be finished in 2010 and Phase 2 by 2016. (The timetable change approved last year simply nudged everything back three years.)

However, the Development Agreement imposes penalties on the project as a whole only after 25 years, so it's not unlikely that the entire project would take 25 years to finally deliver the promised open space. (It's also possible that the entire project won't be built, thus eliminating some of the promised open space.)

Even if Phase 1 takes ten or 12 years, that could mean 13 to 15 years of the "temporary significant open space impact."

Shouldn't the potential doubling of the "temporary significant open space impact" have been studied?


Posted by eric at 9:07 AM