With the exception of the World Trade Center, there's probably no better place to call a press conference dealing with construction issues than Atlantic Yards. At the moment the controversial project practically guarantees a large press turnout. On Tuesday, the Department of Buildings used the site as a backdrop to launch a new safety campaign for the 7th Annual Workers Safety Week with a particular focus on getting workers to wear harnesses. Sixteen workers have fallen to their death since 2008, prompting the agency to call the campaign "Experience is Not Enough." In addition to covering the initiative, the press also got a chance to check out progress at the stadium site from "court level." But while DOB officials talked safety on the site, off site Dean Street Alliance president Peter Krashes complained that there were still problems for workers and neighbors. "If the community is affected, then the workers must be, too," he said of dust and noise. "The problem with Atlantic Yards is there are holes in oversight by the Empire State Development Corporation." Still, Krashes did not hold the DOB directly accountable. "This is not a criticism of DOB, in many respects they've been responsive to us." DOB's Acting First Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fariello said they chose the site for the safety-themed event because DOB wanted to highlight "the guys that are doing it right." He added they wanted to get the message out to some of the old timers who have been on the job for 20 to 30 years. "We're trying to report any incident that happens on a site," he said. "It doesn't matter if its union or non union." To that end, thousands of campaign posters will be distributed to sites throughout the city translated into Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and Polish. Also on hand was Linda Chiarelli, deputy director of construction for Forest City Ratner. She stopped by to check on progress and talked about the rusted steel curtain wall designed by SHoP Architects. Chiarelli was on her way to Indianapolis, where the steel panels are being produced, then shipped to New York as assembled units and fastened to the building frame. She said they hope to have a mock-up unit two blocks away within two months. She described the appearance of the wet and dry cycle machine being used to accelerate panel rust as looking like "a giant dry cleaning machine." With over 11,000 distinct panels to process, one hopes they don't lose any tickets.
Posts tagged with "Atlantic Yards":
Shigeru Ban's Tokyo office is developing temporary housing structures for those displaced by the natural disaster in Japan, reports Archinect; click here to help support the project. Stateside, AIA president Clark Manus issues a statement encouraging U.S. architects to do all they can to support Japanese recovery efforts. The New York Times covers Forest City Ratner's plan to use prefab building components for a 34-story apartment building at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Engineered by Arup and designed by SHoP, the units should be pretty high-end as far as modular housing goes, but construction workers argue that the prefab approach will mean less jobs. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy trumpets the news that twelve of the master's houses are currently on the market (starting at $800k for the Arnold and Lora Jackson House in Beaver Dam, WI), via Design Crave. Acorn Media announces that the acclaimed BBC "Genius of Design" series is available on DVD. The five part documentary focuses on the highlights of industrial design throughout the twentieth century and beyond.
Barrios with Altitude. A poetic study of the organically evolving perimeter of Bogotá, via Lebbeus Woods. Atlantic Aspirations. Forest City Ratner is still on the hunt for Atlantic Yards funding, but has sweetened the deal by tapping SHoP--who is already spiffing up the stadium and public plaza--to design B2, the first apartment building in the complex, says The Observer. Sterile Street. Blair Kamin calls out developer Joe Sitt for obliterating "bracing history" in exchange for "bland consistency" on State Street, in The Chicago Times. Impromptu Planning. In Egypt, protesters have organized a mini-city in Tahir Square, complete with urban planners. Listen to an NPR audio clip or read the related transcript.
It appears this is the end of one of the greatest real estate battles since Jane Jacobs took on Robert Moses. But just as Penn Station was demolished and replaced by Madison Square Garden, Daniel Goldstein's apartment building will soon go, replaced by the Barclays Center. We just received an unusual release from Forest City Ratner saying simply that the company "today reached an agreement with the remaining resident residing in the project’s footprint" and would not comment further. Goldstein's name was not even mentioned, and while we're waiting to hear back ourselves, the Times confirms it, along with the rather astounding fact that he was paid $3 million for his condo. The unit was originally bought in 2003 for $590,000, though the state notoriously offered only $510,000 last year, citing neighborhood blight. This comes on the heels of news yesterday that deals had been struck with the remaining 7 holdouts, including Freddy's Bar, which now hopes to move to somewhere near 4th and Union avenues, not too far from its current home.
The Brooklyn Paper bumped into David Childs last week, during the opening of his SOM colleague Roger Duffy's new Toren condo tower, and the BKP is reporting the surprising news that both could possibly be working on some of the 16 residential towers proposed for Bruce Ratner's nearby Atlantic Yards development.
“First, he brought me in to look at the arena design, which I think is very good now,” Childs said, referring to the current design collaboration between Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects. “And then we talked about working together on the residential buildings,” added Childs.A Ratner spokesperson acknowledged Childs' discussions with Ratner to the Paper but called speculation on their future together "premature." While critics still question whether those towers will ever get off the ground, the project, or at least the arena, is closer than ever to reality. A groundbreaking is scheduled for tomorrow, following a court ruling last Monday affirming the state's right to seize land from the project's remaining holdouts, most notably Dan Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and Freddie's bar. The groundbreaking is to be attended by the likes of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz—both long-time supporters of the project—as well as Governor David Paterson and rapper and Nets-part-owner Jay-Z. Goldstein and Freddie's are holding a counter-groundbreaking, where they say they will bury the soul of Brooklyn, along with 3-foot-tall bobbleheads of the aforementioned public figures. Whether this will finally manage to stop the contentious project remains to be seen, but it's bound to make for good street theater. UPDATE 3/11: The Brooklyn Paper is also reporting that the final lawsuit pending against the project, over the state's revisions to the scope of the project, came down in Ratner's favor yesterday. And so the fait accompli has been accomplished.
Almost exactly a month ago, the Bloomberg administration released a study called the "New York City Community Air Survey." Years in the making, it was heralded as the first comprehensive study of the city's air quality ever undertaken, with results that are shocking if not obvious. As the map of particulate matter above shows—and as many of us already knew—the city can be a pretty gross place to live and breathe. There are plenty more maps like this, but they all basically come to two conclusions: Where there are cars and oil boilers, there is pollution. However, the wonk in us saw something particularly interesting: Outside of Manhattan—where congestion is a whole other animal (hence hope for congestion pricing)—the pollution tracks pretty heavily along the expressways built by none other than the Power Broker himself. We even built a handy GIF (after the jump!) to illustrate this. There is one notable exception, that big brown spot in the middle of Brooklyn, which is why we're bringing this up now. Earlier this week, the Atlantic Yards Report reported that street closures are imminent around the Atlantic Yards site, which would presumably exacerbate traffic in the area. This has long been a concern surrounding the project, back when the EIS was just an EIS and not the basis for a Supreme Court lawsuit. But as the map and GIF above illustrate, congestion—both vehicular and nasal—were a problem at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues long before Bruce Ratner, and probably even Robert Moses, showed up. Now, as more streets are closed and the traffic only gets worse, the pollution is likely to follow. Just imagine how bad it will be on game nights?
There may be a few hoops left to jump through before Bruce Ratner can begin construction of his SHoP- and Ellerbe Becket-designed arena for the Brooklyn, né New Jersey, Nets, such as completing a partial sale of the team to a Russian oligarch, prevailing in some outstanding lawsuits, and going ahead with eminent domain against the area's remaining holdouts. But the developer appears to have cleared the final major hurdle standing in his way with the successful sale of $511 million in tax-exempt bonds today for his $900 million arena. (There are still taxed bonds and an equity stake to be taken care of, but they lacked the December 31 deadline.) Yes, those hoops may still present challenges, but none had the same drop-dead, end-of-the-year deadline the bonds did, and they seemed the likeliest chance for the project's opponents to succeed. Instead, they sold briskly in a matter of hours, or, as Ratner put it in a release, "The interest in the arena bond offering was beyond our expectations," expectations that have always been highly optimistic, though also always on the money. Perhaps this is why they are already preparing to divert traffic starting next Monday to make way for construction.
It appears the city's plan to trifurcate development out at Willets Point has been a smashing success, as the Economic Development Corporation announced on Friday that 29 developers from across the country have expressed interest in the first phase of the project, an 18-acre swath of land on the western section of the 62-acre Iron Triangle that contains the densest mix of uses. “The quantity and quality of these responses are strong indicators that the development community has confidence in the successful redevelopment of Willets Point despite current economic conditions,” Seth Pinsky, president of EDC, said in a release. An RFP is expected sometime in 2010 for a selection of those 29 respondents. After that, the next hurdle is finishing land acquisition, which stands at 75 percent of the phase one area controlled by the city. If need be, the city has not ruled out acquiring what's left through eminent domain, a specter that has cast a long shadow over the area's redevelopment, though one that could be sunsetting. Following a court ruling that the state could not seize land in the Manhattanville section of Harlem so that Columbia could build a new campus there, Atlantic Yards opponents are hustling to have their ultimately unsuccessful case reheard, a last-ditch effort to impede the sale of Forest City Ratner's bonds. Whether or not they succeed, all this eminent domain tumult—combined with the recent collapse of plans for the Mother of Them All in New London, Connecticut—could nudge New York over the edge, taking it off the list of a handful of states that have yet to enact eminent domain reform since the Kelo decision four years ago. State Senator Bill Perkins certainly thinks so, calling for the governor to live up to his previous promises of a moratorium on eminent domain in the state. How could this all pay out in Flushing, Queens? David Lombino, a spokesperson for EDC, emphasized the agency's strong track record on reaching deals with business owners in the area, despite the continued intransigence of some. "The response from the private sector is encouraging," he said. Should it come down to eminent domain, but eminent domain is no longer there? EDC, while proffering hypothetical projects, does not respond to hypothetical questions.
As we reported back in June, the activists fighting the Atlantic Yards project did not expect any of the various government agencies with oversight of the project to oppose it when they had the opportunity this summer—the MTA revised its sale of the yards, the ESDC approved a modified General Project Plan. What the critics were more excited about was the possibility of additional lawsuits, which, while generally unsuccessful, have helped stall the project nonetheless and paint it in an increasingly negative light. Today, a day before a major showdown over eminent domain in the state's highest court, Develop Don't Destroy filed a new lawsuit, this one challenging the MTA's sale, and it has an important distinction from the others. When we saw the filing, the first thing that struck us was the petitioners. In the past, only Develop Don't Destroy or local residents and businesses had been signed on to the suits. Now, a number of local politicians and a major transit advocacy group have signed on to this latest case. Maybe that's immaterial in the eyes of the courts, a case is a case, petitioners are petitioners, but it certainly underscores the growing opposition to the project. This is not to say prior petitions were invalid, but they did have the patina of NIMBYism. Now, this is much less the case. Again, we're not sure this matters, legally speaking, but given that Yards watchdog Norman Oder points it out in his typically no-stone-unturned analysis of the new suit, it obviously bears mentioning. As for the suit itself, Oder agrees with us that, like its predecessors, even if it doesn't technically succeed, it could still make progress on the Yards all the more difficult:
Even a successful lawsuit might not formally stop the project, but it could throw a wrench into Forest City Ratner's plan to have the state sell tax-exempt bonds and for arena construction to begin this year. As Neil deMause observes on his Field of Schemes blog: "The real question now is whether another lawsuit will make it too expensive for Ratner to get bond insurance so he can start selling arena bonds this month as planned."The MTA has so far declined to comment. UPDATE: Dan Goldstein of DDDB wrote us last night to point out that the Straphangers, as well as the Sierra Club, had been involved in one of the two prior suits, though no politicians. Also, we forgot to mention that this is probably only the first of what could be many more suits now that the MTA and ESDC have officially taken action. In fact, our June story emphasized the latter more than the former, which suggests that one is on the way, though Goldstein made no mention of it. And he's not the only one filing suit. Last week, as the Park Slope Courier reported, neighborhood groups have filed a suit against the state and Ratner for not doing a thorough enough traffic study. The groups are not trying to stop the project, however, but simply get Ratner to make changes to address the problems.
SHoP's new designs for the Barclay's Center at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards site has probably gotten the firm more attention than any of its previous ones, including its rather controversial plans for Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. Today, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn penned an open-letter to the firm, calling out "Mr. Sharples, Mr. Sharples, Ms. Sharples, Ms. Holden, and Mr. Pasquarelli" for signing on to "a very contentious and troubled project that faces widespread resistance from the communities it would impact—and well beyond." Meanwhile, "Mr. Pasquarelli" sat down with the Observer to, uh, talk shop on the project and defend his firm's involvement in the project: "We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building." SHoP and Barclay's collaborator Ellerbe Becket will be discussing their new designs at a special hearing in Brooklyn tonight at 6 o'clock, as will DDDB, no doubt—and us. If you can't make it for the fireworks, we'll recount them here for you tomorrow. Or follow us on Twitter, where we'll be live-blogging the main event.
When Forest City Ratner released new designs by SHoP Architects of the Barclays Center yesterday, it was seen as an effort to right a listing ship. But no sooner had those copper-hewed renderings hit the presses than the city's Independent Budget Office released a report [PDF] today noting that the arena will cost the city $40 million in revenues over the next 30 years as a result of financial incentives granted to the developer. Furthermore, the city lost a potential $181 million in lost opportunities through tax breaks and incentives provided to the developer, which cost the state $16 million and the MTA $25 million, though the report also notes both will release a net gain of $25 million and $6 million, respectively, if the deal goes through.
Last week, Prospect Height's became the city's newest landmark district. At 850-odd buildings, it is the largest district to be created since the Upper West Side Historic District was created in 1990. Clearly, a lot of work went into the three-year effort championed by locals and the Municipal Art Society and driven largely by the nearby Atlantic Yards project and the undue development it spurred on one of Brooklyn's last unprotected brownstone neighborhoods. To highlight just how hard it is, but also what a triumph, MAS put together this thoughtful little video. Hopefully it will inspire you to do something civic minded as well on this patriotic weekend or beyond.