Replacing one neighbourhood with another

The Atlantic Yards project got some press in Canada over the weekend. Globe and Mail columnist Simon Houpt takes an interesting view of the various skirmishes between city officials and ordinary New Yorkers:

Last Thursday evening, in a cultural contrast as stark as they come, the anti-Atlantic Yards organization Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn held a benefit concert at the Park Slope club Southpaw, while across the river – in Manhattan, that is – Forest City Ratner used the publicity over the new designs to kick off the sale of the arena’s 130 luxury boxes with a splashy party on the 38th floor of the New York Times building. (The Times new headquarters was developed by Forest City Ratner, which has frequently caused Brooklynites to be skeptical of its coverage of Atlantic Yards.)

The admission fee for the Southpaw event, which featured a screening of the anti-Atlantic Yards documentary Brooklyn Matters and music by John Wesley Harding, was $15. The average annual lease fee on the luxury suites is $300,000; if you’re feeling flush – say you work at JPMorgan rather than Bear Stearns – you could pony up $540,000 a year for one of 12 “elite” boxes, which, in an illustration that rich people operate in a different sphere of logic, are actually bunkers, located under the bleachers, with no view of the action (though they do each come with eight courtside seats).

Atlantic Yards isn’t the only large-scale development in trouble. At the end of March, the developer Tishman Speyer was granted the rights to build office space, parklands, and residential towers on Manhattan’s West Side Railyards. But two weeks ago, when it couldn’t change the terms of the billion-dollar deal it had just agreed to, it walked off like a spoiled child. The Bloomberg Administration now has two failures to its credit in that one spot, after its ill-fated plan for a football stadium died with its Olympic bid.

Still, the administration, which doesn’t seem to grasp that New York is a city of people who live at street level, continues to push these sorts of high concept developments. Up in Harlem, city council has just approved a rezoning that will see skyscraping office buildings and luxury condos consume historic 125th Street. The local community was opposed to it, of course. Not that it mattered.

The whole thing is worth reading.