New Designs for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards Project Revealed Amid Controversy

Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of the $4 billion mixed-use Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, just unveiled the most recent renderings of the development. The presentation of the new renderings by celebrated architect Frank Gehry were accompanied by Forest City’s reiteration that it will build the project in its entirety with over 2,250 affordable housing units, despite claims from angry groups that the project is detrimental to the city and will not produce the benefits promised.The new group of designs, in the planning phase since December 2006, includes the first three buildings that will grace the 22-acre Downtown Brooklyn project. The 34-story Building One, or B1, will feature 650,000 square feet of premier office space, while the 850,000-square-foot Barclays Center will encompass an 18,000-seat arena and six restaurants and clubs. The third facility, the 325,000-square-foot Building Two, will be a 350-unit apartment structure with 50 percent of the units reserved as low-income housing for low- and middle-income residents. All building will be designed to meet LEED certification standards.As Forest City presented Gehry’s updated work, company chairman & CEO Bruce Ratner restated that contrary to doubts expressed by various local organizations, Atlantic Yards would be developed as originally outlined to include over 2,250 affordable housing units among the total 6,400 residences at full build-out. Forest City also reaffirmed its construction schedule, which will kick off with the ground breaking on the Barclays Center this year. Work on B2 is on target to commence next year, while ground is scheduled to break on B3 and residential tower B4 in 2010 and 2011, respectively.Despite Forest City’s promises, numerous groups are crying foul, and they made their stance known just prior to CEO Ratner’s public confirmation of the company’s plans and development timeline. Last Saturday, hundreds gathered at the Atlantic Yards site to protest the development and to call for the Governor to halt the project until issues are addressed, with community input. Among the protestors’ issues is the fear that, given the credit crunch, increased construction costs and the downturn in the real estate market, Forest City will not retain certain key aspects of the project it has promised to deliver. In response to the rally, Bruce Bender, Forest City executive vice president for government and public affairs, issued a statement noting that continuing site work for the planned groundbreaking is essential to keeping the project’s delivery on schedule and making available affordable housing residences as soon as possible. Additional concerns about Atlantic Yards abound. Additionally, the Municipal Art Society of New York recently revealed architectural renderings that demonstrate the negative impact the developer’s planned temporary parking lots will have on the area. The organization claims that what Forest City deems temporary parking will likely exist for over 10 years and add to the blight the project is designed to replace.