|Noticing New York photo looking, like the the Times photo below, down Park Slope's Fifth Avenue toward arena|
One of those paragraphs was where Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz propounded the idea that the arena has not been plunked down and shoehorned into a residential brownstone neighborhood, that it was instead in a “business district”:
“All this talk about ‘the neighborhood,’ ” Markowitz postured. “These people moved into brownstones on Dean Street because it was cheap. They thought they found paradise because they got out of Manhattan. What they’d really moved to was a business district, a place that had always been a business district, except they didn’t know with that hole in the ground at Atlantic Yards. But a business district is for business, and now, thank God, it is doing business. If these people wanted to move to a bedroom community, they should have gone to Mill Basin. Marine Park. Bay Ridge. Those are bedroom communities. Brooklyn has many wonderful bedroom communities! But the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue is not one of them.”Is it true that the arena, sited on a new superblock combining what was previously three smaller individual blocks, was put into a “business district,” not into a neighborhood of residential brownstones? I went out and traveled the outer circumference of the arena taking pictures,* set forth here, to reflect on this proposition. Looking at these picture, the answer, I think, is mostly not true. This article is partly to invite you to form your own judgments. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)
|Picture in the Times looking down Park Slope's Fifth Avenue at arena|
|Looking down Park Slope's Fifth Avenue again|
It Matters . . . Like Maybe "1000 Percent"?
Does it matter if the borough president’s assertion that the arena was put into a “business district,” not into a brownstone neighborhood, is false? Well, as with most things that people say publicly and emphatically when they know what they are saying is false, it probably does matter. The more emphatically something false is publicly said, the more it probably matters. In this, borough president Markowitz’s statement about what kind of neighborhood the arena was shoehorned into has much in common with his strenuous efforts to sell the Atlantic Yards mega-project to Chinese investors, saying “Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards” when he certainly knew and believed that as he stated later in a subsequent interview:
It will certainly be written, in the days to come, as among the most contentious developments in America's history--there's no question. . . It's not just New York history, it would be in the nation.The Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly is of course the larger envisioned land grab of which the arena, spearheading it, though itself gargantuan, is a just fractional part.
|Dean Street looking east, the around-the-corner arena visible|
|Dean Street looking east, just before arena intersection|
I know Brooklyn as good as anyone, better than most.Why does it matter that the arena was squeezed tightly in amongst a neighborhood of residential brownstones? Is it because of the multiple inconveniences and negative side-effects residential neighbors are now experiencing that they would not have experienced but for the arena? The throbbing bass music emanating from the arena that can be heard pounding its way into neighboring apartments? The disconcertingly abrupt corporatizing takeover and transformation of the neighborhood once famous for the local flavor of its businesses? What about the shutting down of the residential streets behind the arena to accommodate crowds of tweens roiling with such Beatlemaniac enthusiasm to glimpse Justin Bieber that their screams can be heard through the closed double-paned windows of the surrounding residences? (See the picture from Atlantic Yards Report below.)
|From Atlantic Yards Report|
|Flatbush Avenue looking north, Park Slope on left, Prospect Heights on right, arena in background|
|Looking north on Flatbush again from farther away|
|Looking north on Prospect Heighs' 6th Avenue, arena just around corner on left|
|Closer to arena on 6th Avenue, arena now visible|
More Condemnation (When There Has Been So Much Already!)
|Looking west on Dean Street where arena replaced residential buildings and others were knocked down by Ratner, leaving vacant property to forestall reasons for community resistance|
|Looking west on Dean Street from farther away|
The arena and its owners are much analogous to the railway companies of the days of yore.
The Seamless Web of Expectations
|Looking west on now partially demapped Pacific Street toward where Daniel Goldstein's building used to stand. Newswalk, with its expensive new residential condos, stands in foreground|
Zoning Out On The Issue of Expectation Management
|An impossible shot to take this time of year: Looking west on Atlantic Avenue - When lush tree leaves fall you will see arena and residential Atlantic Commons|
A Sleeping Falsehood
|Again lush leaves around Atlantic Commons obscure arena|
|Atlantic Commons on Cumberland Street just to the north- New townhouses from the 90's built by Ratner, subscribing to the Brownstone Brooklyn model|
|Looking from Cumberland Street, the Atlantic Commons complex of homes with the arena looming over them in the back|
Maybe Scarlett O’Hara’s dad thought he was in control of Tara’s perimeter, but down here on the street we know better. We know that vacant lot next door that has been letting in the breeze and sun for twenty years could be sold tomorrow, turning your view into a sheer wall.That’s not true. Certainly one can often find oneself surprised by development in New York and expectations that turn out not to be true but the arena could be placed where it was only because of what nobody should ever have expected: Government officials chose to supersede zoning and those officials also chose to abuse eminent domain in unforeseeable ways.
|Atlantic Commons townhouse built by Ratner with subsidies and sold to an owner who likely didn't suspect there'd one day be that arena there in the background|
|Looking south on S. Portland Avenue- Residential buildings on both sides of the street- Arena not visible in background, but Ratner mall across the street from it is|
|Townhouse on S. Portland that looks out at arena|
|Arena visible on left|
|The brand-new Atlantic Terrace rental building built by the Fifth Avenue Committee with subsidies, while Ratner fought to ensure he had a mega-monopoly on the neighboring 30+ acres|
Finger To The Wind Predicts a Residential Neighborhood. . . Successfully!
|Another view of Atlantic Terrance on Atlantic Avenue (Atlantic Commons in near foreground)|
|View south on Fort Greene Place, arena in background just beyond Ratner's two malls linked by skywalk. An office tower is atop mall on the right|
|Looking south on Flatbush Avenue, Ratner mall and the arena on left|
|Again, looking south on Flatbush|
Ironically, some of those making this otherwise correct guess about the future residential character of the surrounding area may have been homeowners purchasing new, recently built (in the 90's) brownstone-style townhouses in the Atlantic Commons development directly from Forest City Ratner. The Ratner firm received heavy public subsidies to build that complex of homes, which is another story worthy of revisiting.
Expectations of the Great
|Looking west on Atlantic toward arena; sometimes the oculus, visible here, is quite bright even from this distance|
|Again looking west on Atlantic Avenue, new residential building with arena in background|
|Again, view west on Atlantic Avenue|
. . Was it presumptuous for him to do so? The congregation, to which I belong, has not yet formally joined the many Brooklyn churches who with their clergy have joined together to decry the many injustices of the arena and its creation. Surely though, Mr. Markowitz must sense the truth, that even absent any formal declaration by the congregation in joining these other churches (something the congregation may yet do), there is a strong sense on the part of many of its congregants respecting the injustices behind the creation of the arena and Atlantic Yards.
|Again looking west on Atlantic Avenue along the block that precedes Markowitz's idealized commercial intersection two images above|
I, for one, when invited by Mr. Markowotz to cheer, could think there was only one appropriate response: I hissed.
The pictures in this article are only the pictures of the parts of the neighborhood surrounding the arena itself. As I said, you can decide for yourself how much they mostly reflect a fair amount of residential character. Also again, to see the residential character of what was removed to make way for the arena, what people in the neighborhood previously lived next to, go to Noticing New York’s earlier article: “Barclays”? Atlantic Yards? On Lopate, NY Mag Architectural Critic Justin Davidson Disses Brooklyn Neighborhoods With Manhattancentric Illiteracy.
. . That still leaves the issue of the character of the neighborhood that surrounds the nearby superblock of parking that was newly created to support the arena. What kind of properties surround and are being subjected to having the superblock of parking as a new neighbor? Suffice it to say it is more property of a residential character, much of it again part of brownstone Brooklyn, but my pictures demonstrating that will have to await a soon forthcoming follow-up Noticing New York article.
|Again, same block looking west on Atlantic|
|The other side of the street|
|Same Atlantic Avenue block|
|Local flower shop on same block|
|Looking west on Pacific Street at residential buildings that might consider that they are blighted only because of the way the Ratner PC Richards building turns its cinder block back on them. Lit-up arena terminates the street it closed.|
|Looking west on Pacific Street at arena again- Despite camouflage of trees it's very close|
|Pacific Street, a composited view of both sides of the street, again looking west at the arena|