New design won't save Atlantic Yards
Sep 23, 2009 | 6424 views | 0 0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New York magazine critic Justin Davidison, writing bluntly about ShoP Architects’ renderings for Barclays Center arena, wrote, “Atlantic Yards is too far gone to be rescued by a nice façade…SHoP has hocked its reputation for the sake of a PR stratagem that seems unlikely to end in triumph. [Gregg] Pasquarelli is letting his firm be used to gussy up a degraded project with architectural flimflam.”

We agree. As responsible professionals SHoP must be aware that their designs are being used in an attempt to mask the political, planning, economic, and aesthetic failures of Forest City Ratner’s corrupt development proposal.

Many consider the Atlantic Yards project to be the poster child for bad development and process in New York City. It is an undemocratic, sweetheart deal, yet it utilizes vast public resources, such as land and scare taxpayer subsidies. The largest mixed-use project in Brooklyn’s history — though dependent upon enormous public subsidies, discounted public land, a complete zoning override, disenfranchisement of voters and elected officials, demapping of streets, and eminent domain abuse — has entirely bypassed New York’s public land use review process.

We’re well aware of the purported benefits touted by project proponents. We’ve known those benefits to be misleading and illusory for years. Now, with renderings only for an arena, while the developer claims he’ll build 6,430 housing units, we’re certain that Forest City will leave a blight in Brooklyn’s cultural core if it gains control of the site. And ShoP would be one of the many accomplices responsible for that outcome.

But we want to use this as in illustrative instance of a broader problem. Subverting ethics for commissions happens all too frequently amongst architecture professionals. Consistently they ignore the issues and principles raised by impacted communities and their representatives. Unfortunately in the field, unlike most professions, ethics are self-regulated. This doesn’t work very well.

We’ve observed this throughout the six-year struggle over the Atlantic Yards project, where it has been egregious. Few architecture professionals have publicly spoken out about the project’s abuses and violations of basic good government principles. More s should and urge them to do so.

Lest anyone think we’re all talk, we invite you to look at the community’s plan to develop the 9-acre railyard site (not the 22-acre Forest City Ratner land grab), which grew out of multiple charettes and presentations around the community—the UNITY Plan at

Written by Marshall Brown, TITLE PLEASE, Daniel Goldstein, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, and Ron Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA.

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