The way things have gone in recent years (make that decades), the New York Times has never seen an eminent domain case it didn’t like. They even approved editorially of the Kelo disaster which promised all sorts of goodies in the form of new shops, condos and a five-star hotel, but only wasted a fortune in public funds, and produced absolutely nothing. It only destroyed an unoffending lower middle class neighborhood and transformed it into a vacant, trash-strewn dump — yes, an officially designated dump. So imagine our surprise to come across an NYT article slamming the impact — or more accurately non-impact — of the Atlantic Yards revedelopment project.
Before you get carried away by this dispatch, we must note that this item comes to us not as a Times editorial, nor even as an op-ed piece on the editorial pages, but from an architectural review of the new Barclays Center arena built on the Atlantic Yards project site. It appears, in the Arts section of yesterday’s newspaper. See Michael Kimmelman, An Arena as Tough as Brooklyn, N.Y. Times, Nov. 1, 2012, at p. C1 – click here .
You will find what we have in mind at the end of the article after all the obligatory whoop-tee-do about the hip appearance of the stadium. After all, who wouldn’t just love a building adorned with slabs of rusty metal? The punch line that is of interest to us may be found near the very end of this article (at p. C5), where, after briefly lamenting the departure of Frank Gehry, the far-out architect who was originally in charge of the design, but was later let go, goes as follows:
“It’s probably too late to reconstruct the first apartment towers. But it’s not too late to hold Mr. Ratner [the redeveloper] , the city and the state to their word about creating jobs and building the promised number and type of subsidized apartments for low- and moderate-income Brooklyn families. Then the remainder of the project, which promises next to nothing for the public realm, ought to be sent back to the drawing board, so that, should it go forward, it could still include density (density is good) but also much smarter streets, different scales of development and diverse public services.” Emphasis added.
So this wonderful redevelopment project that was endorsed by federal and state courts as a “public use,” turns out to be one that “promises next to nothing for the public realm.” Some public use! But, hey man, this is par for the course — these projects have an unfprtunate tendency to promise much but deliver little; sometimes nothing at all, except for a prodigious waste of your tax dollars.