Atlantic Yards......a bad idea
A groundbreaking coalition
When it comes to adding jobs & housing,
majority rules with a winning plan
The most interesting and least-reported story behind the final state approval of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project this week is the emergence in Brooklyn of a pro-development coalition of private-sector builders and black working-class residents who are leading a tenacious fight to bring jobs and housing to the borough.
Standing in the path of progress are middle-class civic groups whose mostly white leaders profess concern for low-income New Yorkers - and even claim to speak for them - but shed the illusion of liberal compassion the minute the poor folk get uppity and start negotiating their own deals for the future of their families and communities.
Recognizing this dynamic is the only way to understand several high-profile development battles going on in Brooklyn.
The recent opening of a Fairway supermarket in Red Hook and the scheduled opening of an Ikea superstore were both made possible because of a link between low-income public housing residents and developers.
After years of playing a relatively passive role in neighborhood affairs, public housing leaders broke with local civic groups and began negotiating directly for jobs and other benefits.
This led to friction between leaders from the Red Hook Houses, the public housing development whose residents make up about 70% of the neighborhood's population, and the Red Hook Civic Association, which fought tooth and nail against the creation of a Fairway in Red Hook and resumed the fight with a lawsuit when Ikea came knocking.
A similar dynamic is at work in the case of Atlantic Yards, which will consist of an 18,000-seat arena, retail space, a hotel and 16 glass towers with office space and 6,430 housing units.
This year, when I asked the project's sponsor, Forest City, for the names of the community groups backing the project, I was sent a list of more than 200 block associations and other organizations. These are mostly the kinds of groups that don't have the money to create fancy Web sites, daily blogs or press conferences to push their views, but their support for the project has been rock-solid.
Every reasonably objective indicator of neighborhood sentiment demonstrated local approval. Opinion polls sponsored by the New York Observer and Crain's showed local residents favoring the project, and candidates for local offices who ran on a platform of halting or slowing the project this year went down in flames at the polls.
And the race baiting in this article is fundamentally dishonest. Forest City Ratner basically told working class black people that they would get jobs and shiny new homes. Which is probably not going to happen.
Atlantic Yards is overscale, ugly and will destroy the character of the neighborhood. But more importantly, those jobs will not materialize, because they never do. Unless there are firm committments, nothing happens.
The "white" people opposing this could have been rich in supporting this plan. They could have been bought off. They own homes. Why doesn't Louis mention that Charles Barron, who is as black as you can get, opposes this plan, as does Yvette Clark.
What Ratner did was buy support. What they did not do, is project what will happen in the years ahead.
You see the scale of those red buildings? Notice everything around them. How long you think that lasts? The people who approve this project today will be driven out by rising prices and gentrification. The surrounding blocks will see their value climb, but for small business owners, the character of the neighborhood will shift. They're being told that they will benefit. Please. Compare Hoboken 1985 to 2006. If you didn't own a home, you live somewhere else. The character of the businesses will change. As will the color of the owners.
As for jobs: construction? How binding are any training and apprentice agreements? If they aren't enacted. what happens? My guess, nothing.
Lets understand something. Most of the people Ratner bougtht off want jobs and have ZERO power to enforce any deal. The people who are opposing this have a very good idea of what comes next. They aren't seeing the follow on of having those large, ungainly buildings in their midst. Which is a very different, very white neighborhood, the new Hoboken.
Why? Because prices will rise, it's close to the city, and the sea of young white professionals which changed Hoboken will fill those buildings.
Why did the locals want a Fairway and Ikea? Besides the jobs, they don't drive. They need the jobs and don't care about the traffic. The new homeowners know what a parking lot jam is like.
The residents of Red Hook houses will learn the hard way.
Now, about the stadium: what an insane idea.
No one in New York cares about the Nets. Their fan base is in Jersey. Their fans will drive in.
Atlantic Avenue with massive traffic jams three nights a week. Drunk Nets fans roaming the streets, filling bars. Remember, unlike Knick fans, Nets fans drive. They aren't going to stop.
A limited use building, for a team most Brooklynites will root against, filling the streets with traffic.
The Jets made the same promise, but the insanity of their plan was obvious. Here, Ratner went to people without the resources to check his promises and offered them money and support. The people who had the resources opposed the plan or it's scale.
Why do you need this monstrosity in downtown Brooklyn? Who does it serve? The five Nets fans in Brooklyn? Or rich developers, gullible "community activists" and even more gullible newspaper columnists.
posted by Steve @ 6:17:00 AM