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Thread: Atlantic Yards Development - Commercial, Residential, Retail, NBA Arena

  1. #61



    Nets' move would give Brooklyn a new arena and buildings complex

    By Justin Davidson
    December 18, 2003

    Art lured him to Bilbao, classical music to downtown Los Angeles, and basketball may bring Frank Gehry to Brooklyn.

    The architect, known for his sinuous forms and wavy metal rhapsodies, has come up with a master plan to redevelop a narrow X-Acto blade of land at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues into Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. A master plan is still a long way from an architectural design, but even in its rough, boxy form, it gives a powerful reason to root for developer Bruce Ratner's bid to buy the New Jersey Nets.

    If the deal doesn't happen, that strip of land might remain what it is now, a no- man's-land alongside the railroad tracks, a neglected wound at the join between four neighborhoods: Fort Greene, Park Slope, Boerum Hill and Prospect Heights. If it does, Ratner would move the Nets to Brooklyn, and the basketball arena would bring with it acres of housing, greenery and much-needed glamour.

    Whenever a mayor raises the possibility ofbuilding a stadium on Manhattan's West Side, residents and civic groups raise their timeless howls. But what West Siders scorn, Brooklynites would do well to welcome. Gehry, who hails from the coast where the Dodgers remain in exile, is proposing to do more than heal Brooklyn's sporting history: He is offering to knit the borough a new downtown.

    This is an enormous project by metropolitan standards: 21 acres (five more than the World Trade Center site), with a lot of moving parts, a projected budget of $2.5 billion and a 10-year timeline.

    Let's start with the arena, which is where the builders would begin, too. Forget about the traditional freestanding coliseum, rising amid arid plains of parking. Forget, too, about Madison Square Garden, a round, squat drum that barely registers from Seventh Avenue and, inside, provides all the romance of a slaughterhouse. Gehry's arena would be a glass palace pinched between two converging boulevards, encircled with medium-size office buildings and topped with an open garden, landscaped by Laurie Olin, the transformer of Bryant Park.

    This is an arena as public forum: While office workers and neighborhood residents picnic amid arbors and enjoy views that sweep from the Brooklyn Bridge to Prospect Park and from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty, restless types can take a spin around the running track. Even in winter, the roof will be peopled, since the track converts into a skating rink - not the postage-stamp kind, as at Rockefeller Center, but a quarter-mile loop.

    Gehry has never designed a sports arena before. His most recent success is Disney Hall, new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he managed to create a feeling of electric communion and egalitarian intimacy in a concert hall that seats 2,200 people. Infusing those qualities into a building meant to accommodate 10 times that number will be difficult. Clearly, Gehry is not interested in producing a standard- issue stadium, but the jokes that already have begun - that he will outfit his court with elliptical hoops and undulating backboards - gloss over his genius at adapting to necessity and convention.

    It is that sifting and arranging of needs - the astute assessment of the neighborhood - that makes Gehry's master plan so exciting. Forest City Ratner, Bruce Ratner's development company, already has had a hand in developing downtown Brooklyn, and the new bland, unassertive Metrotech Center, where the corporation has its offices, provides a good model for how not to go about it. Atlantic Yards, by contrast, promises a level of livability that is rare in New York City.

    Atlantic Avenue will get honest-to- goodness sidewalks planted with trees, instead of the crumbling strips now petering out into weed banks.

    Brooklyn will get a new skyline, not the usual clump of sun-blocking skyscrapers, but a slithery sequence of low-rises, towers and midsized apartment buildings. These new residences will mingle people of various income levels and link them along a six-block corridor of greenery. The retail spaces will be geared not to chain boutiques but to coffee shops, cleaners and grocery stores. An underground garage will accommodate 3,000 cars for those determined to drive into the heart of Brooklyn, but the beauty of the site is its neighboring knot of public transportation: Nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road converge at Atlantic Terminal across the street.

    The apartment buildings will not all swoop and twist like Gehry's celebrated icons - even people who like spectacle architecture don't necessarily want to live in it. But the site, tapering to a prow at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic, offers a built-in opportunity to amaze. For the triangle of land between the arena and the street, Gehry has proposed an "urban room," a sunken plaza beneath an office tower raised on stilts, with a restaurant suspended overhead.

    The covered piazza is not a native New York form, much less a Brooklyn one, and the model as it stands does not guarantee that it will be more amicable than the Citicorp Plaza on Lexington Avenue, where a subway station and the office building spill into a soulless concourse. But Disney Hall, with its open lobbies and rooftop grounds, hints that besides being able to sculpt a postcard-worthy facade, Gehry also might be capable of crafting a great civic space.

    Last year, he opted out of the scrum to design the new World Trade Center, and the Guggenheim Museum branch he designed for an East River site was shelved. Now, New York has a chance to grab a Gehry extravaganza. Let's hope it doesn't slip away.

  2. #62

  3. #63
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Sep 2003
    Manhattan - UWS


    Good news for Brooklyn!!! I hope it gets built. Those train tracks are sure an eyesore....

  4. #64


    From New York Magazine

    Frank Gehry’s plan for Atlantic Avenue centers on a graceful raised arena for the Nets

    By Joseph Giovannini

    For decades, New York has been constrained like Gulliver in Lilliput, a world-class giant tied down by tiny regulatory ropes and vocal community boards, unable to stand up to its true height. Long gone are the glory days of great public and private works—from Central Park to the city’s bridges and tunnels. Today, forget about the Second Avenue subway in your lifetime, or a nonstop rail line out to the airport. When the Italians built cathedrals in Pisa and Milan, they aimed for maximum splendor; somehow we’ve developed an allergy to splendor. Maybe in Italy, but not on our own dime, and not in our backyard.

    That is, not until last week, when plans for the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards, a megaproject of office towers, housing, parks, and sports facilities, were unveiled. Now, right there at the improbable intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, across from where Walter O’Malley proposed a new Ebbets Field for the Dodgers about 50 years ago, Frank Gehry has designed a basketball arena for the Nets, at the head of a tree-lined boulevard of mixed-height structures that would tickle the heart of Robert Moses. After decades of urban-design near-paralysis, the city faces the equivalent of a Rockefeller Center in Brooklyn—a new skyline of building blocks set askew within six acres of parks that would stitch together a section of the city long scarred by a gash of railroad tracks.

    The New Jersey Nets are up for auction, and of the three remaining bidders, a group headed by developer Forest City Ratner proposes an 800,000-square-foot, 20,000-seat arena as the centerpiece of an ambitious mixed-use development, six city blocks long. Four office towers would cluster around the arena itself, with a running track that, in the winter, converts to an ice-skating rink. A long colonnade of towers would line Atlantic Avenue, terracing down to a landscaped park bounded by low-rise residential buildings, scaled to the existing brownstone neighborhood just to the south. The towers would straddle the rail yards, like Park Avenue over its rail lines. The phased project calls for 2.1 million square feet of offices, 310,000 square feet of retail, and as many as 4,500 apartments. Bruce Ratner, the primary developer of the MetroTech Center about a mile down Flatbush, has made building in Brooklyn a specialty.

    Sometimes, quantity can mean quality. The proposal represents a great affirmation of Brooklyn in the simple critical mass of a huge project at this location, Atlantic Avenue Terminal, where nine subway lines and the LIRR converge, at a cultural nexus that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But the real reason Brooklyn could challenge Manhattan (and New Jersey) is the nature of the Gehry design. Developers have long engaged major-league architects to promote their projects, but often with mediocre results. Not so with Gehry: Witness his latest triumph, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, an apparition of billowing stainless steel that has almost singlehandedly revived downtown L.A. Brooklyn has been coming back for years now, but the ensemble that Gehry and design associates Tensho Takemori and Anand DeVarajan have proposed promises a great synergistic leap forward. What Gehry unveiled last week is merely a sketch of the development that may come, but the design promises to be what urban planners call a “destination” project: the kind of place you’d want to see even if you’re not a basketball or hockey fan.

    Office and apartment towers are among the most intractable building types, a product of multiplication tables. Design freedoms are limited to the lobby and façade. Gehry’s misaligned stacks, however, generate energy and defy the overcontrolled geometries that usually stifle buildings and neighborhoods; the upper reaches of his buildings suggest the haphazard quality of medieval towns. There may be a tree-lined civic promenade—Ã la Park Avenue—but mid-block, the project gives way to paths of discovery in a sequence of interlocking parks designed by Philadelphia landscape architect Laurie Olin. Uniquely angled façades face episodic enclaves of green.

    At the entrance to the project—the arena—Gehry lifts the mass on columns, as though the buildings were on pointe, to create a generous urban space. He elaborates the façades here with flowing curvilinear shapes that wrap the volumes like an Issey Miyake cape.

    Of course, Gehry’s sketch represents only an embryonic stage, and anything could happen to its good design intentions. But the DNA is in place, and if built as proposed, the ensemble could add a provocative, unexpected edge to Brooklyn’s skyline and huge momentum to the borough’s ongoing roll.

  5. #65
    Forum Veteran
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    Nov 2002
    New York City


    Oh, may this come to pass.

  6. #66
    Banned Member
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    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    I love this development design and feel that it has all the inspiration lacking at the WTC. However, I have to admit that some of the more level-headed, articulate and eloquent community activists are making strong and persuasive arguments as to why the designated site for this project is inappropriate. I read a series of lengthy "letters to the editor" in this week's edition of Brooklyn Papers and, I must say, the arguments against this are compelling.

  7. #67


    You're not going to leave us hanging, are you?

  8. #68
    Banned Member
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    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    Heres the link to the PDF. It is under the title "RESIDENTS SLAM NETS PLAN" on page 8. Just magnify the page using Adobe Acrobat.

    I find the last letter particularly compelling with the exception of the demands for employment guarantees based on skin color.

  9. #69


    Thanks Brooklyn Rider. The effort is appreciated.

  10. #70


    Letter to the editor published in Brooklyn Papers

    Prove arena will work

    To the editor:

    Let me state initially that I am a lifelong Prospect Heights/Crown Heights resident with strong ties to Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene — all of which surround the proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. I am also the father of two young boys, one of whom attends public school in the vicinity of the proposed arena.

    I have been a community activist for many years, including six years of service on the school board of former Community School District 13 — whose catchment area includes the proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards.

    Since the arena concept was first aired, I have been opposed to it for a number of reasons. Before setting these reasons forth, however, I must specifically note that Borough President Marty Markowitz consistently told those of us who expressed concerns to him that we should “wait and see” if we get a team and then there would be time to discuss any plans. He said this directly to me on multiple occasions.

    The fact that this grand plan has now been presented to the world without any community discussion or input is an outrage and, furthermore, does nothing to convince the arena’s opponents that there is good faith at work
    here. It would, however, be even worse to find out that some people
    actually WERE “in the room” regarding this proposal and behaved as surrogates for grassroots input.

    I greatly admire Mr. Markowitz in many ways and I have personally dealt with him for about 15 years. In my capacity as president of the Weeksville Society’s Board of Trustees, I have been and remain grateful for his heartfelt support of one of Brooklyn’s jewels. So, in that context, I am particularly disappointed in his approach to this project. I don’t know Mr. Ratner, so I won’t comment on his ways of doing business at this time.

    But allow me to present my concerns.

    Despite the praise of some architects, the big picture of New York’s future — not simply Brooklyn’s — has been overlooked. Brooklyn is attractive because it provides accessible relief from Manhattan — the city’s
    core. We have smaller buildings, different types of beautiful buildings
    (and some ugly ones), smaller businesses and large hospitals, open space (even a beach), cultural diversity, family entertainment and a sense of history. There is an intangible value to this urban phenomenon that should not be lost, lest the sense of the “modern city” go with it.

    In sum, Brooklyn is a collection of “neighborhoods” and, frankly, a huge part of the American Dream is to live within a thriving neighborhood. We understand the barren nature of suburbia; that’s why we are here and
    not there. We appreciate Manhattan as a center of finance, industry, real estate and technology, but we want to live an equally rich life on the periphery of that center. A project like Brooklyn Atlantic Yards starts to change the essence of what Brooklyn is and must be pursued very carefully, if at all.

    The borough president says that the proposed arena will eliminate all reasons for anyone to leave Brooklyn. Not so. Great public schools — including world-class school buildings and sports facilities — will do more for Brooklyn than any arena can ever do, and do it in every eighborhood. Brooklyn needs a lot of work.

    Real access to affordable, quality health care will do more for Brooklyn than a more congestion-laden and air pollutiongenerating intersection of the borough’s two major thoroughfares could ever do.

    Quality, affordable housing throughout the borough will do more for Brooklyn than any single mixed-income housing development located next to an arena can ever do.

    If the borough president’s predictions come true, my neighborhood and the others surrounding this project will become even less affordable for most of us than it is now — particularly for people of color. And for some of those who are displaced, financial compensation cannot fully address what has been lost.

    How will all of this really be handled?

    Business regulations that support small businesses rather than stifle them will do far more for Brooklyn than a chain-dominated arena and mini-malls can ever do. What is in this package that really benefits small business owners?

    The architect relishes the idea of building a neighborhood “from scratch.” That’s part of the problem. We are IMPOSING a distinct social phenomenon, not developing one. One small example, more classroom space will be needed to accommodate school children. Where will it come from? Where would a new elementary school go? Where would a new middle school be placed?

    Tourism will not necessarily be helped by this move. Make sure it is. Visitation to Brooklyn’s many cultural institutions (combined) will probably exceed the census of arena attendees from the start. But each of these institutions could do even better with real support from the city — and these institutions are truly world-class. (Every big city has some kind of
    arena; it’s not special.)

    We will also need a more vibrant bed and breakfast industry and possibly more hotels located in Brooklyn itself. How is this addressed?

    Municipal services — particularly police and sanitation — will become even more downtownloaded, creating additional competition with other neighborhoods. Does Harlem feel that it is serviced the same way as midtown Manhattan? I don’t THINK so!

    So with all of these concerns, how can Borough President Markowitz “buy me off”? (After all, that is the name of the game here and will be for many of the players.)

    •Address the concerns outlined above.

    •Prove with numbers that this project is different from the economic
    and cultural disasters that have taken place in other cities ...and there HAVE been disasters.

    •Create a Community Development Corporation with a representative,
    volunteer Board of Directors responsible for the operations of the project and the fulfillment of all obligations — including community input and
    involvement with meaningful planning and project performance

    •Make all of this happen with NO public money AND with New York State getting the full value for the land it surrenders. Put those land transfer proceeds in a trust governed by the CDC and the communities impacted
    by this project.

    •Provide a community usage plan for the arena. In fact, this proposal should be considered only in the context of a greater articulated vision for all of Brooklyn. Even with all of the rhetoric, a more specific vision for the borough and this city has yet to emerge.

    •Present a ticket-pricing plan for Nets games that is affordable and sustainable for all residents of Brooklyn — including for the playoffs and championship series.

    •Present a plan for ensuring that at least 80 percent of all employees
    (principals, contractor and subcontractor for construction and for operations) related to this project will be residents of Brooklyn, no less than 80 percent of the employed Brooklyn residents are people of color and that no less than 60 percent of those people of color are of African descent. No excuses.

    •Mr. Ratner and his firm receive no compensation for their involvement with this project. (After all, this is about Brooklyn, right?)

    If Borough President Markowitz, Mayor Bloomberg and Bruce Ratner can create this covenant with us, then I’m willing to talk about an arena.

    — Chris Owens, Prospect Heights
    Chris Owens, the son of Rep. Major Owens, has been active in local politics and school board affairs.


    On page one, the first paragraphs of the article "Bulldozed."

    Developer Bruce Ratner’s grand plan for a Downtown Brooklyn basketball arena will not have to pass through the city’s rigorous land use review
    process, which provides the public with opportunities to weigh in on a project before the community board, borough president, City Planning Commission and City Council.

    Instead, most of the public review will be conducted at the state level, according to Ratner spokeswoman Joyce Baumgarten.

    The Brooklyn Atlantic Yards would be developed as a project of the Empire State Development Corporation and would therefore be subject only to environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), a much less involved process than the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

  11. #71
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    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    Some good points, but it's missing the point and it's NIMBYism glares.

    What amazes me the most is that people really seem to think that b/c they live in an area and have a certain viewpoint, that that view can be imposed on others and that they have the right to have final say on things that they, other than living in the area, have nothing to do with.


  12. #72
    Forum Veteran
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    Jan 2002
    West Harlem


    I don't understand why 80 percent of the workers need to be black, and 80 percent of those of African descent. There's absolutely no point to that. We do support equal opportunity, no?

  13. #73


    Yeah, he went off the deep end with that one.

  14. #74
    Banned Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    Quote Originally Posted by billyblancoNYC
    Some good points, but it's missing the point and it's NIMBYism glares.

    What amazes me the most is that people really seem to think that b/c they live in an area and have a certain viewpoint, that that view can be imposed on others and that they have the right to have final say on things that they, other than living in the area, have nothing to do with.

    I think it takes on the oft stated reasoning that it is somehow "good" for us. It makes one pause and wonder: who is the "us" they are referring to. I won't reiterate what was said, but I think the questions are relavant. Personally, the project seems to be to be an insulated creation. It eats up parts of neighborhoods without a nod to them. There's no integration. They are proposing to just plop a huge mega-development into an area that has been bereft of substantial development for decades. I love the design - I object to the process and the insinuation that, ifthe sale goes through, this is development is going to be steam rolled.

    Keep in mind, the two renovations that created new "luxury" loft buildings in the proposed location of this project were, until this proposal, considered great signs that Brooklyn was rebounding. Now they want to condemn them? It sends mixed messages and, if this project stalls, can negatively impact the willingness of people to invest in these communities.

    The rail yards themselves are huge. Alter the proposal to contain it within the parameters of the open site. As with the New York Times Tower - I am opposed to the use of eminent domain for the benefit of developers who should be paying market price (through the nose if necessary) to assemble sites in "prime" locations. This is Ratner's second project that as part of its strategy calls upon the use of eminent domain to avoid paying market rates. It's a bad trend.

    This project is not in my neighborhood, but I want to be protected when the march of "progress" ends up on my doorstep. Stealing property MUST STOP!

  15. #75


    The other published letters were anecdotal, and while I am sympathetic to people being displaced from their homes, it is inevitable that this will occur from time to time.

    I hope that those displaced are treated fairly, but what is important is that the larger surrounding area is not ruined in the process. The problem with the Cross Bronx Expressway was not only that it displaced people, but also that it left the area shattered.

    Curiously, the letter seems to have two tones. At first it exhibits a provincial character – this is Brooklyn, and we don’t need any Manhattan type development.

    Further down, the author’s bullet-points could have been prefaced with…I accept the arena on these conditions. I agree that his point about the percentage of minority workers lessens the credibility of his argument, but other than that, it is reasonable.

    In my opinion, the importance of this project for the city is not the acquisition of the Nets, but the creation of office space, an alternative for businesses leaving Manhattan. However, this should not happen while destroying the neighborhood.

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