New York Utopia: Less Traffic, a Park on Every Corner
City Hall reports that, so far, 45 percent of the responses to its online PlaNYC survey call for “reducing traffic congestion and ensuring that every New Yorker lives within 10 minutes of a park.” One person suggested an “invention to eliminate double-parked cars.”
New Yorkers have until “the next few months” to stuff the ballot box.
Atlantic Yards, by the Book? Blogger Vies for Title Role
Norman Oder wants a book deal. Mr. Oder, the blogger behind the oft-cited Atlantic Yards Report, recently told The Observer that he’d like to write a book about the Atlantic Yards controversy—although he acknowledges that it might be slightly skewed toward the viewpoint of those, like him, who oppose the Brooklyn mega-plan.
“I know I can’t do the 360-degree version of the book, in which you get inside [architect Frank] Gehry’s office,” Mr. Oder said, “but there is a lot out there in terms of the public events, all these documents. There is a lot of narrative there.”
Mr. Oder originally pitched The Nation, The New Yorker and Salon on an article about Atlantic Yards, but got the back of the hand from each. “It’s a little hard to get your grip around, and I’m not Jonathan Lethem,” he said.
(Mr. Lethem, a best-selling novelist and oh-so-Brooklyn celebrity, had a story on it in Slate.)
No, Seriously: Class-B Building Sells for $1,000 a Foot
The Rodin Studios is a closed deal as of Feb 8. As The Observer first reported in December, the corner landmark at 200 West 57th is being sold to the Feil Organization for $125,735,000.
The sale confirms the shocking news: The 120,000-square-foot building, regarded by several leasing brokers as a neglected Class B disaster, sold for more than $1,000 per square foot. The reason? Retail location. But also: This market is entirely nuts.
Brooklyn Arena as Toilet Bowl and Other Rejected Art
Isn’t everybody sort of sick of the controversy surrounding Atlantic Yards? Wouldn’t it be nice to just look at some pictures of people and places in and around the footprint and leave out all the anger (or maybe even the joy?) that the project has generated?
Well, the Brooklyn Public Library hears you. Its Grand Army Plaza headquarters reintroduced on Feb. 13 the Brooklyn Footprints exhibit that debuted in October at a multicultural center in Prospect Heights, albeit in condensed form. About six pieces will be left out, said Dan Sagarin, the co-curator of the original exhibit, speaking to The Observer.
He said library officials saw the exhibit when it was up at Grand Space last fall and decided then not to take the more overtly critical pieces.
The library told The Observer it couldn’t display the six pieces critical of Atlantic Yards because it’s a publicly funded institution that could lose those moneys:
“B.P.L. is a publicly funded, nonpartisan institution, so we exhibit art that is relevant to the community and the times.”
Or maybe it’s the private funding that the library’s worried about losing. The Brooklyn Paper reported last September that the library was trying to get Bruce Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards, to fund its new arts branch.
Either way, one of the rejected artists, Donald O’Finn, knows some French, and he is mounting a Salon des Refusés de la Bibliothèque de Brooklyn at the condemned bar he manages, Freddy’s, with an opening on Feb. 22.
“The only piece that I can see the slightest hesitation to exhibit in a public forum where children could experience it is my video piece called The Burrow,” O’Finn wrote in an e-mail, “because it is rather scathing and does have a moment or two of a cartoon penis becoming erect (from an old sex-education film) that visually pulls up an architectural image of the proposed stadium project from below screen. They also excluded my comical small illustration of the arena as a toilet bowl.”
Preservationists to Historical Society: You’re a Trojan Horse!
Condos. The wealthy. Landmarks. And a famous address. This controversy has it all.
Landmark West!, the nonprofit that seeks to preserve the Upper West Side, has launched a letter-writing campaign to “save our skyline” from a 280-foot glass condo tower planned for atop the New-York Historical Society’s building on Central Park West, between 76th and 77th streets. The tower’s a part of the overall alterations to the landmarked headquarters.
The historical society labels the tower a revenue generator for growth. The preservationist group labels it, in an e-mail last week calling all letter-writers, “a Trojan Horse.”
It’s Never Time for Another Robert Moses, Says Caro
Robert Caro, he of The Power Broker fame, started off his lecture on Feb. 11 praising the exhibition that challenges his pre-eminence in Moses scholarship, if not his interpretation of the city’s master builder. “I think it’s a fair and evenhanded job,” he said.
But throughout the next hour at the event, which was sponsored by the Museum of the City of New York, Mr. Caro kept making subtle suggestions about how that exhibit, Robert Moses and the Modern City: Remaking the Metropolis, came up short.
While the exhibit emphasizes the impact that Moses had on “the built environment” without regard for his methods, Mr. Caro argued: “The way that Robert Moses left his mark on New York has to do with the way he treated the people of the city.”
And for those who feel the ends justify Moses’ means, Mr. Caro said:
“For several years now, I am constantly being approached at parties by large gentlemen, usually of the real-estate persuasion, but sometimes from government—they come up to me and say to me, ‘Don’t you think it’s time for a new Robert Moses?’ And because I don’t want to argue with people at cocktail parties, I say to these people, ‘No!’ Which happily cuts the conversation short.”
The overflow crowd jumped to their feet to douse Mr. Caro in a standing ovation.
You Don’t Want to Own Starrett City
’Twas a rough week for David Bistricer and Sam Levinson, the partners behind Clipper Equity, the likely new owners of Starrett City. Mr. Bistricer and Mr. Levinson earlier this month offered a winning bid of $1.3 billion for the affordable-housing complex in eastern Brooklyn.
That was the high-water mark, and the wave’s been rolling back on them ever since.
First, on Feb. 11, two Brooklyn Congressmen, Anthony Weiner and Edolphus Towns, called for Congressional hearings into the deal. Then, a day later, Senator Chuck Schumer called on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to stop the deal if Clipper Equity couldn’t guarantee an affordable future for Starrett City.
Hours later, H.U.D. released a statement saying the department would do just that. And hours after that, Senator Hillary Clinton’s office e-mailed The Observer to say that she too supported monitoring the sale.
And Mr. Bistricer and Mr. Levinson? Through a spokesperson, they e-mailed The Observer a statement declaring that they’d met with city, state and federal officials: “There is unanimity on the part of all that it is crucial to protect long-term affordability at the 5,881-apartment development. We understand this must be achieved and we are confident this can be achieved.”
And the Winners Are ….
Finally, the nominations are in and the suspense can begin! The Oscars? Nope: the Real Estate Board of New York’s Most Ingenious Deal of the Year Awards.
By 5 p.m. on Feb. 7, nominations for the award, which honors commercial and retail deal-cutting, had to be in to REBNY. These will be reviewed by the very secret jury, with the top three awards announced on April 17 at the 101 Club.
The careers of the winners are expected to take off shortly thereafter.
—Compiled by Tom Acitelli and Mark Wellborn