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Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards

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The Atlantic Yards is a mixed-use commercial and residential development project of 16 high-rise buildings, under construction in Prospect Heights
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Prospect Heights is a neighborhood in the northwest of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The traditional boundaries are Flatbush Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the north, Eastern Parkway to the south, and Washington Avenue to the east...

, adjacent to Downtown Brooklyn
Downtown Brooklyn
Downtown Brooklyn is the third largest central business district in New York City , and is located in the northwestern section of the borough of Brooklyn...

 and Fort Greene
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Fort Greene is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Part of Brooklyn Community Board 2, Fort Greene is listed on the New York State Registry and on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a New York City-designated Historic District...

 in Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. A portion of the project is part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area
Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area
The Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area is a section of New York City in the downtown area of the borough of Brooklyn, adjacent to the Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Fort Greene neighborhoods, near the Atlantic Terminal train station...

 (abbreviated as ATURA), and the rest is located in a low-rise and mid-rise brownstone neighborhood.

The centerpiece of the development, according to the developers, would be the Barclays Center, which would serve as the new home of the team now known as the New Jersey Nets
New Jersey Nets
The New Jersey Nets are a professional basketball team based in Newark, New Jersey. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference in the National Basketball Association...

. Of the 22 acres (89,030.9 m²) project, 8.4 acres (33,993.6 m²) would be built over a train yard that is utilized by the Long Island Rail Road
Long Island Rail Road
The Long Island Rail Road or LIRR is a commuter rail system serving the length of Long Island, New York. It is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, serving about 81.5 million passengers each year. Established in 1834 and having operated continuously since then, it is the oldest US...

.

History


The project's name, devised by developer Forest City Ratner, relates to the rail yard
Rail yard
A rail yard, or railroad yard, is a complex series of railroad tracks for storing, sorting, or loading/unloading, railroad cars and/or locomotives. Railroad yards have many tracks in parallel for keeping rolling stock stored off the mainline, so that they do not obstruct the flow of traffic....

 located between Atlantic Avenue
Atlantic Avenue (New York City)
Atlantic Avenue is an important street in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. It stretches from the Brooklyn waterfront on the East River all the way to Jamaica, Queens...

 and Pacific Street. Officially, the Long Island Rail Road yard is called the "Vanderbilt Yard" by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (named for Vanderbilt Avenue
Vanderbilt Avenue (Brooklyn)
Vanderbilt Avenue is a short street in Brooklyn, New York. Its south terminus is located at Grand Army Plaza. The avenue carries traffic north and south between Grand Army Plaza and The Brooklyn Navy Yard, its northern terminus....

 that crosses over on its way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Brooklyn Navy Yard
The United States Navy Yard, New York–better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard or the New York Naval Shipyard –was an American shipyard located in Brooklyn, northeast of the Battery on the East River in Wallabout Basin, a semicircular bend of the river across from Corlear's Hook in Manhattan...

) The specific stop for the LIRR is the Atlantic Terminal, the westernmost stop of the Atlantic Branch of the LIRR. Easy access by rapid transit and suburban rail, and the desirable brownstone housing stock nearby made it a target for speculative development.

Fierce opposition to the project's scale, environmental impact, and approval has spawned several legal battles; the credit crisis and the weakening housing market have delayed the project, making it questionable that the promised ten-year buildout can be accomplished.

The Atlantic Yards project is being developed and overseen by Forest City Ratner, an arm of Forest City Enterprises, of Cleveland, Ohio and the original master plan and some individual buildings were by architect Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry
Frank Owen Gehry, is a Canadian American Pritzker Prize-winning architect based in Los Angeles, California.His buildings, including his private residence, have become tourist attractions...

. Gehry was removed from the project in June 2009. Since September 2009, the new arena design has been a collaboration between Ellerbe Becket
Ellerbe Becket
Ellerbe Becket, an AECOM Company, is a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based architectural, engineering, interior design and construction firm – ranked as one of the world's largest architectural firms – and with offices in Dallas, TX, Kansas City, MO, San Francisco, CA, Washington, DC, Dubai,...

 and the Manhattan architectural firm SHoP
Shop
Shop may refer to:*A retail shop or store*An online shop*A workshop*A machine shop* Adobe Photoshop* Corel Paint Shop Pro* To shop - to go to a shop or store to buy goods*"Shop class", an industrial arts educational program...

. No other building designs have emerged as of July 2010; while Atlantic Yards, overseen by the Empire State Development Corporation, is supposed to be a public-private project, Bruce Ratner told Crain's New York Business in November 2009, “Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project. We will follow the guidelines.”

In March 2008, principal developer Bruce Ratner
Bruce Ratner
Bruce Ratner is an American real estate developer and is a current minority owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets...

 acknowledged that the slowing economy may delay construction of both the office and residential components of the project for several years. The uncertain economy and vagueness of the developer's statements led then-NY City Comptroller Bill Thompson to state in May 2008 "I’m not sure what that project is any longer."

A significant hurdle was passed on June 23, 2008, when the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 refused to hear an appeal of the federal eminent domain case. The case was refiled in state court, with slightly different arguments; in November 2009, the project cleared what the New York Times called the "final major obstacle" when the New York Court of Appeals dismissed the final challenge to the legality of eminent domain
Eminent domain
Eminent domain , compulsory purchase , resumption/compulsory acquisition , or expropriation is an action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent...

. Further challenges to the implementation of eminent domain ensued, and were dismissed in March 2010. The most prominent member of the neighborhood opposition, Daniel Goldstein, agreed under pressure to a settlement in April 2010, allowing for vacant possession, the sale of the Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov, and the release of arena construction bonds from escrow.

When the project was announced at the end of 2003, the basketball arena was scheduled to open in the fall of 2006. The current opening date is now projected to be the fall of 2012.


Barclays Center


The Barclays Center
Brooklyn Nets Arena
The Barclays Center is a sports arena currently under construction in Brooklyn, New York City. The arena is being built partly on a platform over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority-owned Vanderbilt Yards at Atlantic Avenue. It is part of a proposed $4.9 billion sports arena, business and...

 will serve as the new home of the National Basketball Association
National Basketball Association
The National Basketball Association is the pre-eminent men's professional basketball league in North America. It consists of thirty franchised member clubs, of which twenty-nine are located in the United States and one in Canada...

's New Jersey Nets
New Jersey Nets
The New Jersey Nets are a professional basketball team based in Newark, New Jersey. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference in the National Basketball Association...

, which was purchased by a group led by principal developer Bruce Ratner
Bruce Ratner
Bruce Ratner is an American real estate developer and is a current minority owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets...

 with the intention of making it and the arena the centerpiece of the whole project. This will bring major league professional sports to Brooklyn for the first time since the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 after the 1957 season. The arena’s design once included an ice skating rink and a green roof.

The Nets, an NBA basketball team now owned primarily by Russia's second richest man Mikhail Prokhorov
Mikhail Prokhorov
Mikhail Dmitrievitch Prokhorov is a Russian billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the American basketball team, the New Jersey Nets. After graduating from the Moscow Finance Institute he made his name in the financial sector and went on to become one of Russia's leading industrialists in the...

, are expected to move into the Barclays Center arena once construction is completed in 2012. Prokhorov is an avid basketball fan, and, with 80 percent ownership in the Nets, he has become the first Russian owner of a major U.S. professional sports franchise. The deal was necessary for Ratner, who was risking losing tax-exempt financing and the Barclays naming-rights deal if he did not break ground within three months' time.

Housing


The largest portion of the project would be high-rise apartment buildings. Of the 6,430 units, 1,930 would be condominiums, with 200 of them subsidized. The remaining 4,500 would be rental units, half of which would be subsidized, aimed at moderate, middle, and low-income households. Throughout the public controversy over the project, it has continuously received strong support from fair-housing advocates.

Given the uncertainty of the financial markets, it is unclear when these units would be completed, what the amount of taxpayer subsidies per unit would be, or if there will be enough tax-exempt bond financing available. The development agreement signed in December 2009 allows for delays for subsidy unavailability.

In March 2011, The New York Times revealed that Forest City Ratner is considering building a 34-story apartment building out of prefabricated units. If constructed, it will be the largest prefabricated structure in the world. As such, it is likely to face new engineering challenges, and it is not yet certain whether it can be constructed economically. However, if construction turns out to be feasible, the move is likely to save considerable building costs, because construction in a factory is cheaper than at the field site. While satisfying affordable housing advocates, it is likely to anger construction unions, who have been major supporters of the project.

The construction of a 34-story prefabricated building could revolutionize New York City real estate. While it will not be the first prefab high-rise in the city, it would be by far the largest, and many other developers may follow suit.

The housing component of the project has been criticized for its density, which is high even by Manhattan standards.

Commercial space


One or two buildings in the Atlantic Yards project would be used for office space, though as of 2010 there is little office market. Retail space would be built at the ground level of buildings.

Transportation



The project is sited above the train yards belonging to the adjacent Atlantic Terminal, from which it gets its name. Atlantic Terminal which serves the Atlantic Branch  of the Long Island Rail Road
Long Island Rail Road
The Long Island Rail Road or LIRR is a commuter rail system serving the length of Long Island, New York. It is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, serving about 81.5 million passengers each year. Established in 1834 and having operated continuously since then, it is the oldest US...

. Formerly called Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Terminal is the westernmost stop on the Long Island Rail Road's (LIRR) Atlantic Branch. It is the primary terminal for the Far Rockaway, Hempstead, and, on weekdays, West Hempstead Branches. By transferring at Jamaica, access is available to all other LIRR branches except the Port Washington Branch. The location is also served by a number of bus lines.

The development sits near the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue. It is one of the biggest, and the most congested, intersections in Brooklyn. The increase of car traffic to the area caused by extra housing and the construction of an arena has been frequently cited by critics as a major reason for their opposition to the project. According to the Environmental Impact Statement
Environmental impact statement
An environmental impact statement , under United States environmental law, is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act for certain actions "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment". An EIS is a tool for decision making...

, the addition of more than 15,000 new residents would not significantly impact vehicular traffic, a claim contested by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

The Atlantic Yards project, at its western end, would be adjacent to the Atlantic Avenue – Pacific Street subway station, the largest train station in Brooklyn and the third largest transit hub in New York City, serving nine different New York City Subway
New York City Subway
The New York City Subway is a rapid transit system owned by the City of New York and leased to the New York City Transit Authority, a subsidiary agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and also known as MTA New York City Transit...

 trains. The project will feature a new $50 million subway entrance, slated to open near the front of the arena in 2012

Land to be used


The proposed development is sited in an increasingly desirable neighborhood in New York City. Prospect Heights
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Prospect Heights is a neighborhood in the northwest of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The traditional boundaries are Flatbush Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the north, Eastern Parkway to the south, and Washington Avenue to the east...

 has seen remarkable explosion of real estate values, pushing out many of the less affluent residents.

However, the justification for eminent domain was blight, with building deterioration, sidewalk cracks, and graffiti cited as examples, but no market study was conducted. Critics charge that the site was a victim of "developer's blight"--buildings bought by Forest City Ratner and then left vacant.

The bulk of the 22 acres (89,030.9 m²) project site was a mixture of public streets, private homes and small businesses. Forest City Ratner bought much of this private property, under the threat of eminent domain, and has benefited from the state's use of eminent domain to acquire and close the streets.

The Public Authorities Control Board, which effectively ended the West Side Stadium plan, approved the stgate financing of the Atlantic Yards plan in December 2006.

The area around the Atlantic Terminal has been slated for redevelopment in the past, but plans for the area emerged only piecemeal. In the mid-1950s, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley
Walter O'Malley
Walter Francis O'Malley was an American sports executive who owned the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers team in Major League Baseball from to . He served as Brooklyn Dodgers chief legal counsel when Jackie Robinson broke the racial color barrier in...

 wanted to use the city to condemn a nearby site, allowing him to build a new stadium
Brooklyn Dodgers proposed domed stadium
The Brooklyn Dodgers proposed domed stadium was to replace Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers to allow them to stay in New York City. The Dodgers instead moved to Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, California...

 for the ballclub to replace Ebbets Field
Ebbets Field
Ebbets Field was a Major League Baseball park located in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, USA, on a city block which is now considered to be part of the Crown Heights neighborhood. It was the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League. It was also a venue for professional football...

. City developer Robert Moses
Robert Moses
Robert Moses was the "master builder" of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester County, New York. As the shaper of a modern city, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of...

 refused to consider an eminent domain taking for a private use in that instance, and the plan was shelved. Although O'Malley had several local options, he relocated the Dodgers to Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 instead. Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 offered him free land and a free hand in developing it including mineral rights, incurring the long-term hatred of Brooklynites.

Controversy


In a Huffington Post blog, Daniel Goldstein called Atlantic Yards "a corrupt land grab," "a taxpayer ripoff," "a bait and switch of epic proportions," and "a complete failure of democracy."

The MTA appraisal valued the railyard at $214 million in 2005; Forest City Ratner offered $50 million in cash, while another bidder offered $150 million. FCR eventually boosted its bid to $100 million, and said the overall value of its bid was higher than the appraised value, which was validated by the courts.

Forest City Ratner offered the condo owners in 636 Pacific St. $850/sq. foot, the condo owners at 24 Sixth Ave (Spalding Buildings) $650/sq. foot and undisclosed amounts to renters. Sellers of condos signed a nondisclosure agreement, termed a "gag order" by opponents.

Supporters


The project has been endorsed by three Governors during its pendency since 2003 (George Pataki
George Pataki
George Elmer Pataki is an American politician who was the 53rd Governor of New York. A member of the Republican Party, Pataki served three consecutive four-year terms from January 1, 1995 until December 31, 2006.- Early life :...

, Eliot Spitzer
Eliot Spitzer
Eliot Laurence Spitzer is an American lawyer, former Democratic Party politician, and political commentator. He was the co-host of In the Arena, a talk-show and punditry forum broadcast on CNN until CNN cancelled his show in July of 2011...

, and David Paterson
David Paterson
David Alexander Paterson is an American politician who served as the 55th Governor of New York, from 2008 to 2010. During his tenure he was the first governor of New York of African American heritage and also the second legally blind governor of any U.S. state after Bob C. Riley, who was Acting...

), and Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg
Michael Rubens Bloomberg is the current Mayor of New York City. With a net worth of $19.5 billion in 2011, he is also the 12th-richest person in the United States...

, who control the state agencies—Empire State Development Corporation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority—that are key to the project. The most fervent public support has come from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz
Marty Markowitz
Marty Markowitz is the Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City, the most populous borough in New York City with nearly 2.6 million residents. Markowitz was first elected borough president in 2001 after serving 23 years as a New York State Senator...

, who sees this project as the opportunity to bring professional sports back to Brooklyn. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
Charles Schumer
Charles Ellis "Chuck" Schumer is the senior United States Senator from New York and a member of the Democratic Party. First elected in 1998, he defeated three-term Republican incumbent Al D'Amato by a margin of 55%–44%. He was easily re-elected in 2004 by a margin of 71%–24% and in 2010 by a...

, Congressman Edolphus Towns, Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, Congressman Anthony Weiner, and former Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. have also supported the project.

The project received crucial support from affordable-housing advocates, because at least 30% of the project's units would be reserved for tenants that are low-, moderate- or middle-income. One of the more prominent members of this group has been ACORN
Acorn
The acorn, or oak nut, is the nut of the oaks and their close relatives . It usually contains a single seed , enclosed in a tough, leathery shell, and borne in a cup-shaped cupule. Acorns vary from 1–6 cm long and 0.8–4 cm broad...

, which signed the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding with developer Forest City Ratner in 2005. In 2008, ACORN was revealed to have received a $1.5 million loan from the developer.

Construction workers have been another group of strong supporters for the project. During community meetings, they have repeatedly drowned out the project's opponents with chants of "Jobs, jobs, jobs."

Opponents


The most vocal opposition group is a nonprofit named Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is a volunteer-run and community-funded 5013 non-profit organization founded in February 2004 to oppose Forest City Ratner's 8 million square foot "Atlantic Yards" development proposal for an arena and 16 high-rises in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, Brooklyn...

, which has been joined by several neighborhood and civic groups in lawsuits challenging the environmental review. Two of the four elected representatives whose districts include in the project site oppose the project, notably New York City Council
New York City Council
The New York City Council is the lawmaking body of the City of New York. It has 51 members from 51 council districts throughout the five boroughs. The Council serves as a check against the mayor in a "strong" mayor-council government model. The council monitors performance of city agencies and...

 member Letitia James
Letitia James
Letitia A. "Tish" James is an American lawyer, activist and politician in the Working Families Party. She is the current New York City Council member for Brooklyn's 35th Council District. Elected in November 2003, she represents the neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, parts of Crown...

 and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. (Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries has been closer to the fence, while U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke is a supporter.)

Other neighborhood organizations that are critical of the project are gathered under the banner of BrooklynSpeaks, which initially eschewed a litigation strategy but in 2009 finally went to court, in a case combined with one filed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn charging that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) failed to consider the impact of an additional fifteen years of construction on the surrounding neighborhood when it approved a renegotiated project plan in September 2009. In November 2010, New York State Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman ruled in favor of the petitioners, ordering the ESDC to either provide a justification for its continued use of the original ten-year construction schedule, or otherwise conduct a supplemental environmental impact study. BrooklynSpeaks and DDDB subsequently sought a stay of construction in advance of ESDC's response to the Court order.

Newark
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

 mayor Cory Booker
Cory Booker
Cory Anthony Booker is the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Booker is a former Newark City Councilman...

 campaigned for the New Jersey Nets
New Jersey Nets
The New Jersey Nets are a professional basketball team based in Newark, New Jersey. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference in the National Basketball Association...

 to abandon plans to play at Atlantic Yards, and instead relocate permanently to the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, already home to the New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils are a professional ice hockey team based in Newark, New Jersey, United States. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League...

 and Seton Hall Pirates; however, he has since embraced the team's interim move—for at least two years—to Newark, beginning in the fall of 2010.

See also

  • Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area
    Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area
    The Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area is a section of New York City in the downtown area of the borough of Brooklyn, adjacent to the Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Fort Greene neighborhoods, near the Atlantic Terminal train station...

  • Atlantic Terminal Mall
    Atlantic Terminal Mall
    Atlantic Terminal is a shopping mall located on Atlantic Avenue surrounded by Hanson Place, Fort Greene Place and Flatbush Avenue in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, New York....

  • Downtown Brooklyn
    Downtown Brooklyn
    Downtown Brooklyn is the third largest central business district in New York City , and is located in the northwestern section of the borough of Brooklyn...

  • Fort Greene, Brooklyn
    Fort Greene, Brooklyn
    Fort Greene is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Part of Brooklyn Community Board 2, Fort Greene is listed on the New York State Registry and on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a New York City-designated Historic District...

  • Forest City Enterprises
    Forest City Enterprises
    Forest City Enterprises is a $9-billion diversified real estate management and development company based in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. Its portfolio includes interests in retail centers, apartment communities, office buildings and mixed-use projects in the U.S...

  • Urban renewal
    Urban renewal
    Urban renewal is a program of land redevelopment in areas of moderate to high density urban land use. Renewal has had both successes and failures. Its modern incarnation began in the late 19th century in developed nations and experienced an intense phase in the late 1940s – under the rubric of...


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