Atlantic Yards

The following are photos of the area that beame Atlantic Yards, a Brooklyn real estate project over and around the Long Island Railroad's Vanderbilt rail yards. Development included a new arena for the Nets professional basketball team, office/retail space, and 6,400 residential units in 17 massive buildings. The site is near Downtown Brooklyn and is adjacent to the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Park Slope, and Fort Greene.

Block Map of Atlantic Yards

On February 22, 2007 I ventured to the site with the received memory of Robert Moses' abhorrent 20th century urban renewal projects foremost in my consciousness. I expected to find a ill-fated blocks of noble, unappreciated buildings destined for destruction by a heartless billionaire.

What I found was a much more complex vestigial remnant of New York's industrial past in transition to a residential future. I still have significant sympathy with the local residents who strongly oppose the seizure of their property and the radical transformation of their neighborhood. I still feel that smaller-scaled natural development of this area would produce a smoother transformation and more satisfying outcome. However, after walking among the numerous decrepit buildings and unsuccessfully dodging the numerous piles of dog excrement left by the pets of uncaring local owners, I must admit that the new development will certainly be cleaner.

Developer: Atlantic Yards is being spearheaded by the Forest City Ratner Companies, which was established in 1985 by the appropriately-named developer Bruce C. Ratner as an affiliate of Forest City Enterprises, a publicly-traded Cleveland-based real estate development company established in 1921. Ratner's Brooklyn developments include One Pierrepont Plaza (opened 1988), MetroTech Center, The Atlantic Center Mall (opened 1996) and Atlantic Terminal Office and Retail Complex (opened 2004). Forest City Ratner also owns the Queens Center Mall and Embassy Suites in Manhattan.

History: As America suburbanized following World War II, this area fell into decline and became a magnet for oversized, grandiose redevelopment plans typical of an era that saw destruction of the old as a virtue. ( history link)

Size Problems: The major arguments that have dogged numerous ideas for this site have revolved around plans that have simply been too large for the area.

Eminent Domain: While much of the Atlantic Yards property has been acquired through legitimate purchases, eminent domain will be required to oust the final holdouts. Since this is a private and, arguably, unnecessary project, there is a fundamental question about whether it is right for the government to take land from a small land owner and give it to a bigger land owner so he can make billions of dollars. Although the controversial 2005 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London does not bode well for the current plaintiffs trying to protect their homes, this is an emerging area in constitutional law and in politics that is not yet settled.

Flatbush Avenue Block 927
Flatbush Avenue Block 1118
Railyard Block 1119
Railyard Block 1120
Railyard Block 1121
Pacific Street Block 1127
Pacific Street Block 1128
Pacific Street Block 1129
Southwest Corner - Vanderbilt Avenue / Dean Street / Carlton Ave
Pacific Street Block 1129
Pacific Street Block 1128
Pacific Street Block 1127
Flatbush Avenue Southwest Corner
Atlantic Avenue North Side

Next: Banana Kelly and Urban Renewal in the South Bronx