Thursday, September 07, 2006

Atlantic Yards: When is a Reduction Not a Reduction?

After yesterday's headline about a possible shrinkage of 6-8 percent in the massive Atlantic Yards project, coverage has gotten around to noting that the reduction would still leave the development at about the same size at which it originally stood.

To paraphrase your Brooklyn grandmother: That's a reduction?

Well, one can argue that it is, but only in the sense that one embarks on a pasta and pizza eat-a-thon, balloons from 175 to 275 pounds, then eats salad for a month to drop back to 255 lbs. and calls it "a reduction." In the most technical of senses, yes, it's a reduction. In a real sense, you still weigh 80 pounds more than before your carb-a-thon.

The reality is that Atlantic Yard was originally supposed to be about 8 million square feet, before it increased to 9.1 million square feet last September. In March it was "cut" five percent to weigh in at 8.65 million square feet. Now, the words is that Forest City Ratner is talking about cutting 500,000 to 700,000 square feet from the project, bringing it back to slightly over or under the original square footage.

Never mind the alleged 60+ percent "support" for Atlantic Yards in that recent Crain's poll, every public official in New York that backs the project must have breathed a deep sigh of relief when they saw the poll that found that 78 percent of people aren't paying attention to the project or to the controversy. The 20 percent that are following its trials and tribulations are the ones jumping up and down because of smoke and mirrors games like this latest "reduction."

Not to mention the fact that reducing the size of Miss Brooklyn is a purely symbolic move that has nothing to do with the very real impacts of the project.

The New York Times' followup story to Tuesday's article trumpeting the "reduction" said, in part:

The pattern of changes so far has fueled speculation in some circles that Forest City is merely following the tried and true developers’ tactic of building a cushion against inevitable calls for downsizing from planners, politicians and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods.

“With practically every large development project, people ask for far more than they need,’’ said Ron Shiffman, a former member of the New York City Planning Commission, who recently joined the advisory board of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an umbrella organization for groups opposed to the project. “The city is never really very good at setting their own standards and criteria for scale.”
Of course, with an almost unaccountable state entity like the Empire State Development Corporation in control of the process and overriding all local control, those standards don't matter anyway.

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