Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Times Magazine on architecture, Columbia, and (erroneously) AY

The New York Times Magazine today offers The Architecture Issue, under the cover line Building to a Fight: Why Architecture Is the Only Art Form We Still Battle Over. It's understandable that the Atlantic Yards project isn't a focus; Frank Gehry's revised designs were unveiled only ten days ago. The main article set in New York, headlined The Manhattanville Project, concerns tensions over Columbia University's plans to expand into West Harlem.

It seems like a well-reported article, with a thoughtful exposition of Columbia's challenges and also the community's concerns. Then again, a brief mention of the Atlantic Yards plan contains three errors:
Still, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has come out in strong support of eminent domain--which also figures in the developer Bruce Ratner's controversial efforts to construct a basketball stadium and condos in the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn.

First, it's an arena (indoor facility, with a floor or rink), not a stadium (usually outdoor, with a field). The Times Magazine made the same mistake on 6/26/05, when it published a Q&A with Ratner headlined, Stadium, Anyone?

Second, the plan currently would include 4500 rental units and 2360 condos. It would have been more precise to use the word "housing" (or "mostly housing," since there will be some office/retail/hotel space) rather than "condos."

Finally, there's no such thing as "the Atlantic Yards area." The name Atlantic Yards is Forest City Ratner's marketing term to describe a project that would include the railyards along Atlantic Avenue and nearly 14 additional acres.

The Columbia CBA

There's also a reference to an incipient Community Benefits Agreement:
Columbia has agreed to negotiate with a development corporation and the community board over providing a broad range of benefits. Across the country, such agreements are increasingly encouraging private designs to encompass the concerns of public planning. If successful, the Manhattanville project could become a model for responsible urban development--balancing the university's global ambitions with some of its neighbors' more immediate concerns.

Interestingly, there's no reference to what Forest City Ratner has been calling the "historic" CBA regarding Atlantic Yards, which bypassed the more representative community boards in Brooklyn to negotiate with eight entities, only two of which were incorporated at the time. (Remember, the New York Observer's blog The Real Estate 8/15/05 quoted Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, the chairman of Community Board 9:
"We are avoiding the Brooklyn model," he said. "We are wanting to do something else. We are wanting to develop a wide coalition of organizations and people that will be properly represented....


Finding Frank

Gehry does appear in the magazine, after all. Beginning on page 11, occupying prime space between the first and second Contents pages, there's a seven-page advertising spread from Tiffany, featuring The Frank Gehry Collection. The tag line: Beauty Without Rules.

Could that also be a tag line (well, some would dispute the "beauty" part) for the zoning override regarding the Atlantic Yards project?

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