What does the “secret” memo, circulated among the city, state and Forest City Ratner and uncovered by anti-Ratner Brooklyn group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn on Aug. 17, really mean?
The Real Estate is less surprised than The Sun and the Brooklyn Papers (pdf) that the city didn’t give this deal much publicity, even though it was reached the same day as an agreement endorsing Atlantic Yards (the Frank Gehry one with the Nets basketball arena).
After luxuriating a fortnight in the memorandum’s elegant prose, we think the most important bit is that Bruce Ratner may end up razing the dreaded Atlantic Center mall–don’t worry, not the one with Target, but the weird one next door–and replacing it with an office and apartment complex five times as large. Or he might just stick the added bulk on top.
A Forest City spokesman, Joe DePlasco, emphasizes that Forest City has not developed alternative plans, but even Ratner’s right hand man, James Stuckey, has said publicly that he dislikes the Atlantic Center, designed to lure chain stores to the Big Bad Brooklyn of the mid-1990’s. The place does look a bit like a prison diagram from Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.
The “secret” memorandum explains that if the Atlantic Yards plan goes through, Forest City would, in addition to building about 7.5 million square feet under the Gehry project, add 1,257,728 square feet to the Atlantic Center site. If the Nets arena plan fails, Forest City would get to develop even more on Atlantic Center—1,586,000 square feet, on top of the roughly 400,000 square feet of retail already there. Forest City would have to pay the city for the extra development rights, and also have to get zoning approval to change the use from commercial to partially residential.
Good thing we finally got this figured out because this afternoon, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn has got another story for journalists, who are particularly news hungry at this time of year: a report that alleges The New York Times, which just happens to be developing a new headquarters with Forest City on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, has been “inadequate, misleading, and mostly uncritical” in its coverage of the Brooklyn arena. Stay tuned.
- Matthew Schuerman