Revised Atlantic Yards Plan Offers a Dramatic Vision for Brooklyn

July 15, 2005

In the controversy and excitement surrounding Bruce Ratner's proposed Nets Arena [RECORD, January, 2004, p. 26] in Downtown Brooklyn, less attention has paid to the other elements of the plan, which include residential and office buildings.

Frank Gehry, FAIA's updated renderings, revealed in June, show an enormous 21-acre zone of commercial and residential development with a scale that will easily shock, impress, or bewilder.

The still-preliminary designs for the $3.5 billion project include: the 19,000-seat basketball arena, with 12 high-rise residential buildings, 7.4 acres of open space, and four office towers of 35 to 60 stories abutting the arena. The boxy skyscrapers feature a definite Gehry flair for the twisted and askew, and the tallest among them-the 620-foot "Miss Brooklyn"-would surpass the Williamsburgh Savings Bank as Brooklyn's highest.

The eastern edge of the site, which creeps into the more residential and low-density neighborhood of Prospect Heights, would form a superblock, with seven residential buildings of 20 to 40 stories, and a large courtyard of gardens, pathways, with reflecting pool and ice-skaing rink. Gehry's design includes 4,500 rental units (half for lower and middle incomes) and 1,500 market-rate condos.

The project's developers were quick to respond to the complaints of several local groups, who bemoaned the project's disruptive effect on their neighborhood. "This country's growing, this city's growing," noted Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) Executive Vice-President Jim Stuckey. "If all you do is replace in kind, you're a net loser."

"Planners have always believed you should have density where you have mass transportation," continued Stuckey. "This is a sound planning proposal." But "the real issue," adds Stuckey, is the creation of jobs and affordable housing.

Revised Atlantic Yards Plan Offers a Dramatic Vision for Brooklyn

Image Courtesy Forest City Ratner Companies

All told, the site would contain some 5.5 million square feet of residential space, 1.9 million square feet of office space, 227,000 square feet of retail, and 850,000 square feet for the arena.

Meanwhile, on July 6, FCRC submitted its formal bid for the MTA-owned portion of the site. To everyone's surprise, a competing plan from Extell Development Company for a significantly smaller project and no arena, was also submitted. While Ratner's project already has substantial political support, many local people opposed to the arena back the Extell plan.

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