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from the NY Times
Instant Skyline Added to Brooklyn Arena Plan

Published: July 5, 2005
The massive building plan surrounding a new Nets arena east of Downtown Brooklyn will include a ridge of a half-dozen skyscrapers as high as 60 stories sweeping down Atlantic Avenue, along with four towers circling the basketball arena, according to new designs completed by the developer Bruce C. Ratner and the architect Frank Gehry.


Gehry Partners, LLP
With 17 buildings, many of them soaring roughly 40 to 50 stories, the project would forever transform Brooklyn and its often-intimate landscape, creating a dense urban skyline.

The project, the largest proposed outside Manhattan in decades, would include much more housing than originally announced in 2003, growing to about 6,000 units from 4,500, according to a plan made available to The New York Times. But the real impact would be in the size and density of the buildings, which are taller and bulkier than once envisioned.

With 17 buildings, many of them soaring 40 to 50 stories, the project would forever transform the borough and its often-intimate landscape, creating a dense urban skyline reminiscent of Houston or Dallas.

The project would be built in phases, starting with the blocks around the arena, then the apartment complexes along Dean Street at the Vanderbilt Avenue end, and finally the northern stretch of housing along Atlantic Avenue. The arena is planned to open for the 2008-9 basketball season, said James P. Stuckey, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner Companies, with the entire project completed as soon as 2011.

The project will come before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tomorrow as Mr. Ratner makes a formal proposal to buy and develop the Atlantic Avenue railyards.

When it was first announced, the project drew attention primarily to the basketball arena for the Nets. At the time, the return of a major league team and a design by a world-renowned architect led many supporters in the borough to hail a plan intended to heal the old wounds left by the Dodgers' departure after the 1957 season and herald, in metal, glass and brick, a Brooklyn reborn.

But the design of the full plan shows that the arena itself is dwarfed by the scope and ambition of the development. Stretching over 21 acres from Fourth to Vanderbilt Avenues between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, the development would create 1.9 million square feet of office space and housing for roughly 15,000 people in an area where small businesses and multifamily houses now coexist with vacant land, automotive shops and empty industrial buildings. An alternate plan would cut the office space to roughly 429,000 square feet, and add 150 to 200 hotel rooms and 1,300 additional apartments.

The $3.5 billion project is conceived as a way to create a new neighborhood and a transition between a growing business district, the resurgent cultural zone around the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the gentrifying residential areas surrounding them. Reflecting that, Mr. Gehry's preliminary design aims to create the look of a contemporary city that grew up naturally over time, he said.

The project still faces significant hurdles, although there is far less organized political opposition than that which faced the defeated West Side stadium plan. Most of the necessary city and state officials support it, and critics are largely centered in the immediate vicinity.

Mr. Ratner, who is the development partner of The New York Times in building its new headquarters in Midtown, needs approval from the transportation authority to buy its land. Bids are due to the authority tomorrow, and although no other suitor has yet surfaced, some who are opposed to the project said an alternate proposal may be in the works.

In addition, the winning project would undergo an environmental review, and would need zoning changes and approval by the state Public Authorities Control Board, directed by Gov. George E. Pataki and the Senate and Assembly leaders, which recently scuttled Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's plan for a Jets stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. The Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have indicated that they would not block the arena project.

And although Mr. Ratner has been steadily negotiating to buy privately owned properties within the Brooklyn development zone, he may face court battles in his efforts to acquire some land by eminent domain and with critics who have threatened to sue. Opposition is strong among some residents of the quiet surrounding neighborhoods, who say that they have been denied a role in the planning process. They accuse state and city officials of giving Mr. Ratner unfair concessions and charge that the development will strain public services and destroy their quality of life.

The plan calls for direct subsidies of $100 million each from the city and state for site improvements to the area.

If approved, the development, in combination with the city's recent moves rezoning Downtown Brooklyn and the borough's northern waterfront for larger office and residential complexes, stands to remake much of a borough that is the equivalent of the fourth-largest city in America.

"Hopefully this will be a model for other large-scale developments to be done again in the boroughs as they were in the 50's and 60's," Mr. Ratner said. "It is in some sense like Columbus Circle, where residential meets the office district and the cultural district, and it can handle this kind of density."

The preliminary designs, which Mr. Gehry refers to as "a sketch," show a new megalopolis rising over what is now mostly a collection of rail beds and three-to-six-story buildings, crowding out the clear, signature views of the clock atop what would no longer be Brooklyn's tallest building, the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower. At the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, an office, hotel and residential tower dubbed Miss Brooklyn by its designer would soar 620 feet, roughly 60 stories, balanced by a new 40-story tower across Flatbush Avenue at Fourth Avenue.

Miss Brooklyn would be the tallest of four mixed-use towers ranging from roughly 35 stories that would surround the arena like turrets on a castle, Mr. Gehry said. Traveling east, the design calls for a block of apartment buildings, roughly 33 to 47 stories, with gardens and walkways, between Sixth, Carlton and Atlantic Avenues and Pacific Street.

At the eastern edge of the development, seven apartment buildings, ranging from about 20 to 40 stories, would rise over a two-block area bounded by Dean Street and Atlantic, Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues.

Pacific Street would disappear in that area, subsumed by gardens, walkways, a reflecting pool that could become a skating rink in winter and an open field that designers determined gets the most sun on the site throughout the year. In all, the project would provide at least 4,500 rental apartments, with half reserved for low- and middle-income residents, and 1,500 market-rate condominiums in a neighborhood where brownstones sell for well over $1 million.

Although the fanciful shapes Mr. Gehry has designed at this point are preliminary, he said, he plans to work with a variety of materials and designs so that the development seems more like an organic city, and less like a single-vision project like Rockefeller Center.

"It's big and so we're trying to design it as a good neighbor, which is hard to do when the buildings you're building are bigger than the ones around you," he said. "No one's had an opportunity in a long while to build a new urban complex of this density in the city," he added. "By breaking it down and making it look like a city it has a sense of belonging and a sense of choice. You're not saying everybody's got to live in the same thing. And that's something that's quite Brooklyn."

Of course, not everyone feels that way. Many residents, including some who have organized into a group called Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to stop the project, fear their tree-lined streets where neighbors lean out of windows to chat with those below will be overrun by arena visitors and choked by car traffic.

"Our fear is that towers breed towers," said Jon Crow, a graphic designer who was working at a community garden whose organizers have clashed with Mr. Ratner in the past.

He added: "Office towers, high-rise towers, sports arenas, that's not a community. Brooklyn doesn't want to be Manhattan. If we wanted Manhattan, we'd live there."
Personally to me, that proposal looks ridiculous.
Fred and Ginger ... and Carmen Miranda ... and Josephine Baker ... and The Marx Brothers ... all jitterbugging around Brooklyn.

"Jumpin Jehosephat!"



"In the groove Jackson!"
Here is a good piece from the NYTimes:

Seeking First to Reinvent the Sports Arena, and Then Brooklyn

Frank Gehry's new design for a 21-acre corridor of high-rise towers anchored by the 19,000-seat Nets arena in Brooklyn may be the most important urban development plan proposed in New York City in decades. If it is approved, it will radically alter the Brooklyn skyline, reaffirming the borough's emergence as a legitimate cultural rival to Manhattan.

More significant, however, Mr. Gehry's towering composition of clashing, undulating forms is an intriguing attempt to overturn a half-century's worth of failed urban planning ideas. What is unfolding is an urban model of remarkable richness and texture, one that could begin to inject energy into the bloodless formulas that are slowly draining our cities of their vitality. It is a stark contrast to the proposed development of the West Side of Manhattan, where the abandoned Jets stadium was only the most visible aspect of what seemed doomed to become another urban wasteland.

From the dehumanizing Modernist superblocks of the 1960's to the cloying artificiality of postmodern visions like Battery Park City, architects have labored to come up with a formula for large-scale housing development that is not cold, sterile and lifeless. Mostly, they have failed.

Mr. Gehry, for his part, has never worked on such a colossal scale. And the construction of an arena, in particular, is more apt to create a black hole in a city's fabric than to ignite a major urban revival.

Mr. Gehry begins by reinventing the arena. To minimize the deadening effect of the obligatory rings of corporate seats, Mr. Gehry partly hides them under a cantilevered portion of the arena's upper tier. And a slight arch in the rows of seats on either side of the court adds to the impression that the entire room is being squeezed and is buckling under invisible pressure.

Such touches reaffirm that Mr. Gehry, at 76, is an architect with a remarkably subtle hand. Yet what makes the design an original achievement is the cleverness with which he anchors the arena in the surrounding neighborhood. Located on a triangular lot at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, the arena's form is buried inside a cluster of soaring commercial and residential towers. At certain points the towers part to reveal the arena's bulging facade behind them. Pedestrians would be able to peer directly into the main concourse level, creating a surprising fishbowl effect.

The tallest of the towers, roughly 60 stories, would echo the more somber Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, now the borough's highest building. A cascading glass roof would envelop a vast public room at the tower's base, so that as you arrived by car along Flatbush Avenue, your eye would travel up a delirious pileup of forms, which become a visual counterpoint to the horizontal thrust of the avenue.

The striking collision of urban forms is a well-worn Gehry theme, and it ripples through the entire complex. Extending east from the arena, the bulk of the residential buildings are organized in two uneven rows that frame a long internal courtyard. The buildings are broken down into smaller components, like building blocks stacked on top of one another. The blocks are then carefully arranged in response to various site conditions, pulling apart in places to frame passageways through the site; elsewhere, they are used to frame a series of more private gardens.

Mr. Gehry is still fiddling with these forms. His earliest sketches have a palpable tension, as if he were ripping open the city to release its hidden energy. The towers in a more recent model seem clunkier and more brooding. This past weekend, a group of three undulating glass towers suddenly appeared. Anchored by lower brick buildings on both sides, they resemble great big billowing clouds.

Anyone who has followed Mr. Gehry's thought process understands this back-and-forth. It is his struggle to gain an intuitive feel for the site, to find the ideal compositional balance between the forms. The idea is to create a skyline that is fraught with visual tension, where the spaces between the towers are as charged as the forms themselves. That tension, Mr. Gehry hopes, will carry down to the ground, imbuing the gardens with a distinct urban character. In this way, he is also seeking to break down and reassemble conventional social orthodoxies.

There are those - especially acolytes of the urbanist Jane Jacobs - who will complain about the development's humongous size. But cities attain their beauty from their mix of scales; one could see the development's thrusting forms as a representation of Brooklyn's cultural flowering.

What is more, Mr. Gehry has gone to great lengths to fuse his design with its surroundings. The tallest of the towers, for example, are mostly set along Atlantic Avenue, where they face a mix of retail malls and low-income housing. Along Dean Street, the buildings' low, stocky forms are more in keeping with the rows of brownstones that extend south into Park Slope.

A more important issue, by contrast, is the site's current lack of permeability. Because the development would be built on top of the Atlantic Avenue railyards, the gardens are several feet above ground level, an arrangement that threatens to isolate them from the street grid. In the current version of the plan, shallow steps would lead up to the gardens from the sidewalk. Olin Partnership, the landscape architect, has suggested that the same effect could be accomplished with a more gradual slope - a significant improvement - but the key will be to create a balance in which the gardens feel like a smooth extension of the public realm.

Even so, Mr. Gehry's intuitive approach to planning - his ability to pick up subtle cues from the existing context - virtually guarantees that the development will be better than what New Yorkers are used to. The last project here that was touted as a breakthrough in urban planning was Battery Park City. As it turns out, it was as isolated from urban reality as its Modernist predecessors. Conceived by a cadre of government bureaucrats and planners, it produced a suburban vision of deadening uniformity.

By comparison, Forest City Ratner Companies, a relatively conventional developer known for building Brooklyn's unremarkable MetroTech complex, has seemingly undergone an architectural conversion, entrusting a 7.8-million-square-foot project to a single architectural talent who is known for creating unorthodox designs. It seems like a gutsy decision. But Bruce C. Ratner, the company's chief executive and the development partner of The New York Times in building the newspaper's new headquarters in Manhattan, has apparently realized that the tired old models are no longer a guarantee of cultural or financial success. He seems willing, within limits, to allow Mr. Gehry the freedom to play with new ideas.

This is no small miracle. Even in this early stage of development, the design proves that Mr. Gehry can handle the challenge better than most. His approach is a blow against the formulaic ways of thinking that are evidence of the city's sagging level of cultural ambition. It suggests another development model: locate real talent, encourage it to break the rules, get out of the way.
I like it. It is like a cubist view of a typical downtown core.
Holy crap.

Go Brooklyn! Rapidly becoming NYC's coolest borough...
Is that Vince Carter projected on the "titanium"? :)

I like the design. I think it will really give identity to Brooklyn. This is the architecture which will make one city unique to all other cities.
To the left, that's one crude model representation of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower...
Most Gehry models are known for their crudeness, except for the "good copy" models with the wood and the metal people and cars. Most of the models shown at "Transformation AGO" weren't very professional either.
Very cool indeed. Toronto are you taking note? Let's try to move ahead in our architectural vision insetead of always settling for our conservative status quo. ACC could have had some jump to it, and as much as I dig Concorde, it too could use some spunk! The developers here make me crazy! No vision only GREED.
^Just curious, but do you believe that New York developers are going to forgo profit when building this? Maybe its only possible to build something like this in New York because the rent is so high, as is the cost of purchasing.
True Bizorky and though Brooklyn is cheaper on the whole one can bet that these suckers ain't going for cheap! That said, if Trump, Stinson and co want to charge what they are for their spaces you would hope for better design. I don't mind Trump but Sapphire is taking a turn for the worse. That whole developement along Lakeshore W (by Park Lawn) is awful. It's those types of developers I am pissed at. Of course the city should take the blame for that as well.