We hadn’t thought of calling David Walentas a few weeks ago when we did a piece for the Observer on the re-emergence of superblocks at Ground Zero and Brooklyn. It turns out the King of Dumbo has some firm ideas about urban planning. When asked innocently the other day what he thought of the Atlantic Yards complex, designed by Frank Gehry and proposed by rival Forest City Ratner, Walentas delivered this treatise:
“I think the Nets are good. I think the transportation is good. I think the housing is too dense and I think the superblocks they have there is a bad idea. I think superblocks don’t work anywhere in America. I think you need streets between buildings. You need traffic and pedestrians for safety and activity and shops and restaurants. But architects like these utopian kinds of ideas. They don’t work….
“I think that it will really change and connect those neighborhoods. The railroad yards are not beautiful. They are a terrible barrier and I think it will connect those neighborhoods….
“We did a rehab on a big property out in Queens that was built in the 60s and it was a disaster because they had closed the streets and they had made these superblocks-Kew Garden Hills, 150th between Kissena and Main-it was six or eight city blocks. They had closed the streets and made these superblocks and it was a disaster. So we put the streets back in. Superblocks don’t work. People in urban areas not only need streets. You need shops on the streets. You need parking on the streets. That’s what a city is about. Whether a building is 10 stories or 20 stories doesn’t matter. It’s a big mistake.”