Wednesday, January 11, 2006


FCR's Stuckey: no under-arena parking, Gehry's (sort of) a free agent

There wasn't much news during the session "Real Estate Development in the 21st Century: Revisiting Opportunities for Minority Developers," held yesterday part of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 9th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Conference, though it did give the 60 or so attendees, many of them new to New York, some information (and misinformation) about the Atlantic Yards project and the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). The Rev. Herbert Daughtry described the CBA signatories as "a group of community organizations widely representative of the community," even though, as the New York Observer reported, Just two of the eight signatories to the agreement... existed as incorporated entities before the negotiations.

But afterward, panelist Jim Stuckey, executive VP, Forest City Ratner, was cordial enough to answer some questions lingering in the minds of Atlantic Yards-watchers after last weekend. (Photo from Forest City Ratner bio of Stuckey.)

Parking aboveground?

Is Forest City Ratner still planning an under-arena parking garage, which could pose a security risk? No, said Stuckey, clarifying an issue that's caused concern, though his answer raises further questions about how parking would fit into a revised design for the site. (I initially thought it indicated aboveground parking, but others have commented that it suggests use of underground parking across the street, as well as parking at other sites.) The question wasn't answered in the New York Times article Sunday on traffic, and a Forest City Ratner PR rep previously didn't respond to questions. Stuckey said yesterday that there would be 1,100 parking spaces for the arena but "there will not be any parking under the arena itself." He said that, under the arena, there would be a loading area and small amount of secured parking for team officials, referees, and other insiders.

Stuckey said there would be parking "part on the arena block, part across the street, part down on Block 1129, and dispersed throughout a number of different areas." (Does "part on the arena block" mean anything more than the small amount of secured parking? Unclear. Any unsecured parking facility near the arena raises security questions.) The left section of the graphic (at right, from the New York Times) shows parking in the black-bordered sections of the arena block, across 6th Avenue and in Block 1129, between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Pacific and Dean streets, though it's unclear where the "dispersed" parking would be. Forest City Ratner hasn't officially announced that there wouldn't be an under-arena garage, as the 9/15/05 draft scope issued by the Empire State Development Corporation, was vague about the precise location of the parking.

There would be 4,000 indoor spaces for both residential and spectator parking for the project; as it has increased in size, from 4,500 to 7,300 residential units, as the Times noted, the developer was required to add parking spaces. FCR announced 3,000 underground parking spaces in the December 2003 architectural sketches. The 2/18/05 Memorandum of Understanding between the developer and city/state agencies is unclear about whether parking would be underground (though it might be inferred from p. 18 of the PDF). It describes how tax-exempt bonds would finance both the arena and "the on-site Arena garage" (see p. 6 of the PDF).

Gehry unleashed?

Will Forest City Ratner let architect Frank Gehry meet with community groups? After a public interview session last Saturday, Gehry told Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association that any request would have to go through his client's office, saying he'd be willing to meet "as soon as the guys let me," adding "talk to Stuckey." (Photo of Gehry from interview at Columbia University.)

Questioned yesterday, Stuckey demurred, saying, "I don't schedule for Frank" and "I'm not Frank's scheduling secretary." That suggests that Gehry assumed too tight a leash, or perhaps--to get a little Jesuitical--it means someone else at Forest City Ratner has that responsibility. The conversation, also involving Patti Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, quickly turned into a discussion of whether community critics of the Atlantic Yards plan had returned Stuckey's calls to set up a meeting. Stuckey said they hadn't; Hagan said she had.

So the Gehry issue remains unclear, but others may pursue a meeting, as well. Last night, at a meeting of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Borough President Marty Markowitz endorsed the idea of a community charrette, or collaborative session, with Gehry, saying "I think it would be a fabulous idea--why not?" Commented CBN co-chair Candace Carponter, "I think it would be something we should consider doing, and doing soon."

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