Friday, February 1, 2013

City Strategy Of Withholding Basic City Services To Blackmail Public Into Accepting Bigger Development

On right, Pacific branch library proposed to be closed to for the sake of real estate deals.  This photo is from:  Reflecting Pictorially, And Otherwise, On The Un-Truth And Consequence Of BP Markowitz’s Assertion Arena Is In Business District, Not Brownstone Neighborhood 
Should the Bloomberg administration be allowed to pursue strategies of withholding basic services from city communities in order to blackmail the public into accepting bigger development projects the administration wants but the public doesn’t?

To understand exactly what we are talking about here it is worthwhile to go back to the Walentas Two Trees development of the Dock Street Project, opposed by people like Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning, historian David McCullough because, given its huge size and location, it will blot out historic vistas of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

Here is how things went:
    •    A version of the enormous project was proposed and the public rejected it and the special permissions needed to make it possible.

    •    The community wanted and felt it needed a new school.  The Bloomberg administration told the community it could not have a new school.

    •    Then the Bloomberg administration said that the community would be given the new school it desired, provided that the new school was put in the Walentas Dock Street project (making it even bigger) and that project was approved.  This was notwithstanding that the Walentas project was not of an optimal design to house such a school.

    •    Later, internal administration e-mails surfaced that showed that the city administration was green lighting the community school only for the purpose of getting the Walentas project approved and that it would not consider furnishing the school in another or more optimal location if one could be found.  Because those administration officials knew this couldn’t be their position publicly they decided to just pretend to consider alternative sites for a school.

    •    The approve-the-project-for-a-school plan garnered an increased level of public support for the Dock Street project but, in the end, the special approvals needed for it to proceed were granted only when they were pushed through the City Council by Speaker Christine Quinn over the objections of the community and the local elected city council member representing the area.
That’s one clear cut example.

I have just been writing about another similar Bloomberg administration strategy: The Bloomberg administration’s defunding of the city library system in order to create a (“demolition by neglect”) financial crisis and holding out the carrot that it will restore funding to the library system only if the public goes along with the selling off of library sites for the sake of real estate deals around the city and, in the process significantly shrinking library services for our growing, wealthier city.  See: Thursday, January 31, 2013, New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose.

There are other examples of the manipulative creation of such Faustian bargains:
    •    Across the river on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, you have Forest City Ratner's extra-tall Gehry-designed building on Spruce Street.  That building towers over everything else in the vicinity and Ratner’s control of the site is related to the inclusion in the building of a school the community needed and which should have otherwise been provided.  The blackmail quality of the terms of that bargain took an accentuating turn when the Ratner organization threatened to halt construction unless the local community board agreed to confer still greater benefits to Ratner than had been originally worked out.

    •    The St. Vincent’s shell game of a real estate circus that ultimately resulted in the demise of St. Vincent’s Hospital in bankruptcy was at one time promoted with the notion that Rudin Development, the private real estate developer designing and pushing the deal (that would have effectively sold off a portion of the Greenwich Village Historic District), was offering to be involved with “giving” a school to the community.    
When I was writing yesterday about the starving of the library system in order to blackmail the public to approve real estate deals I missed noticing a piece of the overall puzzle unfolding in this regard.  It involves the defunding that is demolishing libraries by neglect and it loops us back again to the Walentas Two Trees development that is again requesting a zoning increase premised upon its provision of a benefit the public wants and should otherwise be entitled to.  It was written about in Atlantic Yards Report: Friday, February 01, 2013, Pacific branch library building adjacent to Atlantic Yards site too expensive to repair, destined to close; will it be demolished?

Image used by Atlantic Yards Report is from library's web site
One of the many libraries the city is seeking to sell off for real estate development after defunding and demolition by neglect is the Pacific branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street just below.  (See yesterday’s article for information about many other libraries in the city system whose doom is similarly threatened.)  The library is adjacent to the site of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly and a stone’s throw from the “Barclays” arena spearheading it.  We hope that officials do not plan to add to Ratner’s contiguous multi-acre mega-monopoly by giving the site to Ratner, but library officials have refused to disqualify or blackball Ratner as a future owner (without bid?) of library properties as a result of the sell-offs toward which they are maneuvering.

The city wants to close the Pacific branch library . .  And what is envisioned as the plan whereby the public can get that library back?  The public will have to approve greater density for a new Walentas Two Trees development building that will include such a library.  Here is the developer’s public spiel as to why they should get greater density for their proposed project (nearly double the number of apartments currently permissible) with a zoning change in order to give the library back to the public (emphasis supplied):
The development company claims putting about 300,000 square feet of apartments above 50,000 square feet of commercial space and cultural offerings — including three Brooklyn Academy of Music theaters, a new home for the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and a rehearsal space managed by 651 Arts — is a far better proposal than the tallest possible structure it could build without a zoning change, which would set aside about 152,000 square feet for arts and commercial tenants and 171,000 square feet for housing.
(The above is from: January 16, 2013, Looking for apartments: Two Trees seeks zoning change to allow more housing near BAM, By Eli Rosenberg, The Brooklyn Paper.)

Bigger building Two Trees wants to build with zoning change.  Click to enlarge

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PS (added February 9, 2013): The following recent article (with links to others) that ends with a link to a petition to stop the defunding and skrinkage of the library system for the sake of creating real estate deals: Saturday, February 9, 2013, Libraries That Are Now Supposedly “Dilapidated” Were Just Renovated: And Are Developers’ Real Estate Deals More Important Than Bryant Park?

1 comment:

reginag said...

Must be really cool to see this high rise buildings.

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