The documentary film Battle for Brooklyn was presented at the Show-Me-Institute’s panel discussion at the Luminary Center for the Arts this past April. If you wish to know more about the effects of eminent domain issues on citizens residing in the way of nearly boundless developments with governmental blessings, I highly suggest checking out this moving film. During this viewing, I found a number of parallel situations between this particular 22 acre section of Brooklyn in New York being purchased for a new area for the Nets around 2006 and Lambert’s expansion into Bridgeton, Missouri from the 1990s into the 2000s.
That said, the arena constitutes only the first part of Mr. Ratner’s 22-acre, $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development. So what we see today is like seeing a naked man with just his socks on — nice socks, but we still can’t be sure what he’s going to look like when he gets dressed. Three apartment towers, the first of which starts rising shortly, will share the superblock with Barclays, obscuring much of the exterior. The arena will loom less like an object landed in the middle of Brooklyn; it will merge into a titanic complex, the towers most likely doing it and the aesthetics of the whole site no favors, the center’s identity focused more around its canopy and entrance plaza.
We’ll see who wants to live next to it. What’s clear now is that Barclays makes the Garden the second-best arena in town, which is to say even worse than we already thought it was. On the up side, losing face and business to Brooklyn may nudge the Garden’s competitive owners to reconsider moving in the coming years to a new site and a better home, which would finally make it possible to fix Penn Station.
I can’t help adding that while public officials went so far as to exercise eminent domain to clear the Barclays site for the arena, pushing out mixed-income tenants and a homeless shelter, these same officials (I speak from firsthand experience) greet any hypothetical question about eminent domain and the Garden like kryptonite.
But I digress.
Sort of, because the Atlantic Yards project also exemplifies how the city, in this case hamstrung by the state, got planning backward, trying to eke public benefits from private interests awarded public subsidies and too much leeway. Development on this scale may take its lead from a developer’s vision but needs to proceed from public-spirited, publicly debated plans for what the city and streets should ultimately look like.
In short, Brooklyn created an ugly and questionably necessary monstrosity in the middle of a historical neighborhood that desperately needed housing for low and middle income people, and it’s only the beginning phase of this highly controversial development. It is about time to see greater vocalizations for public input and the expertise of professional urban planners into such large scale urban developments.
Where would Bridgeton be today had the entire region of St. Louis been involved in the planning of W-1W? Perhaps we would have a functional, new airport outside our metro area, where it should be.