Ratner Had Planned 8 Percent Scaleback

Norman Oder uncovered a little document on his blog that says volumes about the way things get built in New York: On Jan. 13 of this year, Forest City Ratner presented the Department of City Planning with four different versions of the Atlantic Yards complex, ranging from a massive 8.76 million zoning square feet, which was the publicized version at the time, to a slightly smaller 7.96-million-square-foot version. (By comparison, the Williamsburgh Bank Building nearby is about 400,000 square feet.)

When City Planning urged an 8 percent reduction in scale, it was merely asking the developer to adopt something like Option 20B, which was the least dense of the four Frank Gehry versions that developer Bruce Ratner had shown commissioners. What’s surprising isn’t so much the back-room negotiations as the fact that City Planning did not push for anything substantially smaller than what Ratner was apparently comfortable with.

The planning commissioners even passed up Ratner’s offer to cut the tallest tower, Miss Brooklyn, by 25 feet, preferring the reductions to come off a building that was closer to Park Slope’s brownstones.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Speaks, the moderate wing of the Atlantic Yards opposition sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and other groups, charges that the project as presented in the final environmental impact statement “has only been changed in response to comments submitted by the Department of City Planning, and not those by the general public.”

- Matthew Schuerman