1,100 Space Parking Lot at Issue in Latest Atlantic Yards Fight

Plans to create a "temporary" 1,100 space surface parking lot, shown here in the lower left, are at issue in the latest fight over Atlantic Yards. Image: Jonathan Barkey and the ##http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/05/07/atlantic-yards-or-atlantic-lots/##Municipal Art Society.##

The latest round of the knock-down drag-out fight over the Atlantic Yards project is underway, and it’s all about parking. At issue is a potential 1,100-space surface parking lot that would be located between Pacific and Dean Streets, just west of Vanderbilt Avenue. That lot has been portrayed as temporary, “interim” parking by the Empire State Development Corporation and project developer Forest City Ratner, but could sit there generating traffic for up to 25 years. Last week several groups filed a motion to halt construction until the environmental impacts of the project are studied more fully.

The basic question is whether the environmental review for Atlantic Yards needs reworking in light of the fact that development could take up to 25 years, rather than the ten-year construction schedule originally put forward by ESDC and Ratner. (Be sure to check out the invaluable Norman Oder for all the details.) If construction is really going to take an extra fifteen years, the argument goes, the true impacts on things like traffic, noise, and air quality weren’t ever disclosed, in violation of environmental law. That argument got a boost in the courts a few weeks ago, and the legal battle now hinges on whether or not to halt construction.

For the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, the 1,100 space “interim” parking lot is at the heart of the issue. As Oder reports, their lawyer suggested that construction on the Barclays Center basketball arena might be allowed to continue “but all other work, including any attempt to convert Block 1129 to a parking lot, should be absolutely enjoined unless and until there is full compliance with SEQRA.”

“They were supposed to put the parking underground,” BrooklynSpeaks member Jo Anne Simon explained. A quarter-century of surface parking wasn’t part of the deal.

Though Simon said that BrooklynSpeaks has tried not to debate suitable uses for the Atlantic Yards site, she did suggest that surface parking wasn’t an acceptable option. “Something that’s an amenity for the community,” she suggested, “maybe some interim open space.” Simon also added that some additional demolition would still be required to pave over the block, “and that we’d like to see not happen.”

  • Bolwerk

    Atlantic Yards just shows you what contempt developers and politicians have for cities. There’s absolutely no reason why traffic mitigation measures and environmental continuity with brownstone Brooklyn can’t be achieved.

  • Danny G

    Is there a more profitable temporary use of an empty lot?

  • Bolwerk

    There might be a less unprofitable one: doing nothing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    On one hand, I have little sympathy with those who are suing to force a new environmental review because the project was delayed, when it was lawsuits that delayed the project.

    On the other hand, the arena is the one part of the project for which I believe eminent domain was defensible. Certainly not for surface parking.

    Basically, one could argue that without attracting drivers the Nets would lose most of their New Jersey fan base and have to start over by attracting fans from NYC and Long Island. Then again, they never had much of a New Jersey fan base to begin with, and have already put a shift in motion by moving to Newark, where the parking is paid.

    Speaking of Newark, an amusing incident from this weekend. My wife and I attended a Colgate-Cornell college hockey game at the Prudential Center after having dinner in the Ironbound. My wife had purchased a mini-Swiss army knife key chain attachment for her business travels. When we tried to enter the building, security saw the mini-pocket knife and told her she would have to put it back in the car before she could enter the building. Our car was back in Brooklyn.

  • This parking lot makes me stabby. That’s all. Just what Prospect Heights needs.

  • Brandon

    Wow, way to turn Manhattan into downtown Buffalo.

  • MRN

    It’s not contempt – it’s profit motive. These lots aren’t be created by inflated parking minimums, it’s the free market at work. We don’t know if this is a free lot or anything like that.

    Additionally, having seen the material prepared by the opponents of the 34th Street Transitway, I would be skeptical any images, statements, or analysis performed by anyone with an agendad interest. They say the lot “could” stay 25 years… and muslims are building a “mosque” “on” ground zero. Don’t trust anyone with an agenda to be close to objective.

  • J


    The development got dramatically delayed by the recession, as much as by lawsuits. With the glut of Brooklyn condos, it simply didn’t make sense to build a ton of condos in a downmarket. More importantly, Ratner had trouble coming up with financing for the entire project, and just barely squeaked by with stadium financing from the Russian.

    This project is the type of top-down planning that we thought (hoped?) was dead. A developer and some politicians sat in a back room and decided everything. Then the public was informed of the project. It’s a huge slap in the face, since Ratner is getting all sorts of taxpayer subsidies. The point is, that since we’re paying for this crap, the absolute least our government could do is be honest with us about what exactly we are paying for and what we will have to live with. Yes, the arguments are about worst-case scenarios, but there is precedent for this type of project to linger indefinitely. Check out SPURA to find out how long “temporary parking lots” can last:



  • Geck

    How about a temporary ice skating rink while the one in Prospect Park is out of commission.

  • Daniel Goldstein

    Larry wrote “On one hand, I have little sympathy with those who are suing to force a new environmental review because the project was delayed, when it was lawsuits that delayed the project.”

    This is just mythology, the 25 year timeframe, which leads to the massive parking lot, is written into the development agreement between Ratner and NYS. The lawsuits have nothing at all to do with the buildout timeframe of the project.

  • Ian Turner

    MRN, I don’t know how you can describe any project funded with hundreds of millions of dollars of government subsidies as “the free market at work”.

  • Bolwerk

    Given that capitalism is about making things, places, and even ideas proprietary, I don’t know how the idea of an unfettered “free market” really applies to anything desired by massive corporations.

  • @MRN,

    Neither the state nor Forest City Ratner — surprise, surprise — have ever released a rendering of what their version of a giant surface parking lot might look like. So this is all we have to go on. Perhaps they were too busy having their attorneys lie to the judge last November about the 25-year timetable in the Master Development Agreement that, had it been disclosed, might have sunk this awful project once and for all.

    And I will take it as a personal insult that you would compare me and other opponents of Atlantic Yards — an eminent domain-abusing, massively subsidized, backroom-dealing boondoggle — with the shadowy opponents of the smart, progressive 34th Street Transitway.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    This is f’ing sickening. It’s criminal that these guys used eminent domain and tore down perfectly re-usable buildings to turn an entire, massive block of Prospect Heights into arena surface parking. This is awful for Brooklyn and New York City. One of the developers arguments in favor of this particular site was the fact that it sits atop one of the city’s biggest transit hubs.

    Ratner and the Empire State Development clowns aren’t going to do anything to change this. The parking, from their perspective, is too profitable and practical. But the sad fact of the matter is that nothing is going to get built on those empty blocks for years if not decades. Talk about blight.

    The only hope of getting this parking lot removed — and it’s a slim hope — is via the Mayor, NYC DOT and NYC EDC. My first call would be to my City Council members.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The development got dramatically delayed by the recession, as much as by lawsuits.”

    The development got delayed until the recession by the lawsuits. The only debate, and its a funny one, is whether the lawsuits cost Ratner dearly or saved his butt, because he would have been completing buildings and trying to shift to permanent financing in the recession otherwise.

    I believe the parking lots of that size would require a special permit, unless EDC gets some kind of over-ride (or it is divided into smaller, individual parking lots). They could say it is accessory to the arena, but would that mean the lots would have to remain empty when there is no event?

  • tom

    Benjamin Kabak: “This parking lot makes me stabby.” Reassure us, it doesn’t like you’re “going postal”?

  • Blayze

    Depressing as usual.

  • First, Atlantic Yards was supposed to be a hyper-dense collection of project-style towers. Now that it’s not working out, Ratner wants to build a parking lot that Wal-Mart would be proud of in prime CBD territory.

    Dear Bruce Ratner: please drop dead and will your property to the poor. Thank you.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    Larry, I think Goldstein’s chronology is more accurate than yours, but that is a matter of opinion.

    More factually, FCRC did say recently that the parking lot would be accessory use. Of course, it’s hard to put much faith in the statements of a company that has said so many things that later turned out not to be true.

  • Larry Littlefield

    You know, if the city and MTA were not so broke, I would say that they should buy the property back for what they sold it for, minus the area right near the transit hub where the arena and perhaps some other buildings would be built.

    And tell Forest City to meet some of its affordable housing promises by using that money to buy stalled, half built Brooklyn projects out of bankrputcy and finishing them.


  • MRN

    You can feel offended or insulted that I compared one interest group with unknown (to me) practices with a clueless and reactionary one (in Murray Hill); but it’s certainly not a personal insult.

  • Larry, depending on which judge is in power, the MTA might be able to get away with using eminent domain against Ratner for what the yards are actually worth.

  • MRN,

    I was just being dramatic. But I can assure you that a good many of us who’ve fought Atlantic Yards for nearly seven years now are neither clueless nor reactionary.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Larry, depending on which judge is in power, the MTA might be able to get away with using eminent domain against Ratner for what the yards are actually worth.”

    If current (2009 to 2011) market conditions for development sites with regulatory constraints are included, that might mean it can buy them back for less than Ratner paid!


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