Pre-Fab At Atlantic Yards

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New York Times reporter Charles Bagli discusses Forest City Ratner's plans to build the world's tallest pre-fab steel structure at Atlantic Yards. Aseem Inam, associate professor of urbanism at Parsons The New School of Design, joins the conversation to discuss pre-fabricated construction from an urban design point of view.


Charles Bagli and Aseem Inam

Comments [25]

RM in Construction from New York, NY

Construction Technologies these past decades have offered immense efficiencies in speeding up the construction process and also allowing cost savings. Forest City Ratner Companies, Good Luck in your mission to provide a new plan for all to explore.

With the high volume of our City's population passing through this great neighborhood it would be terrific if the overall design includes innovations in engergy, providing all tenants within to enjoy operational savings while also receiving the benefits of a aesthetically pleasing exterior facade.

NYC is generating many new affordable households for its residents the rewards they offer is immense. It is ridiculous to imagine such people will fight for our interests and fault Companies who enter into these programs to proivide affordable housing options. Critics who claim that the buildings that were removed for this project do not know much of anything.

Shame on those who oppose for not enjoying these oppotunities. Let's see how you all make out in the next decade or so.

May. 22 2011 09:47 AM
Kate from Brooklyn, NY

Brian, please get someone other than Charles Bagli from the NY Times to discuss this issue! He has a serious bias toward Bruce Ratner and never reports on the whole story--for example, right now, in the NY State Supreme Court there is a case being argued for Forest City Ratner to re-submit for the Environmental Impact Statement, since the project and its timeline has completely been altered. Never mentions it.
And, by the way, why would Charles Bagli believe anything thing Ratner proposes--like FCR saying they're going to build a pre fab factory in Long Island City and create an industry and jobs? "Bait and Switch" is Ratner's middle name!
Look at the Atlantic Yards Report blog and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn for the real stories here--not the biased NY Times.

Mar. 29 2011 12:02 PM
snoop from Brooklyn

@Seawater: I've got no problem with lowering housing costs.

But what I don't want is to subsidize a developers profits. And I don't want to have trashy cheap looking buildings going up in my neighborhood.

In Brooklyn, developers have been getting nasty looking, poor quality buildings rubber stamped by the city for years now. You bet I'm suspicious of Ratner's intentions here. There is pressure of all kinds to build a good building in Manhattan, where you are. In Brooklyn? Just slap something up, take your subsidy, and prepare to build the next scam project.

Mar. 29 2011 11:56 AM

Prediction: The ESDC will let FCRC get away with the change without a new financial analysis or or a study of the new impacts AND the state will award FCRC grants for starting a new "green" industry in NYC.

Mar. 29 2011 11:52 AM
Nick from UWS

One thing is for enormous building built solely on the basis of cost is going to be an obscene eyesore. I don't understand why these discussions always center only on the cost, when, in the end, in the long view of history, nobody gives a s__t about the cost of buildings. The only thing that matters is whether it will be a building that New York will be proud to have sticking up into the view of the world for 100 years. And I can see by the way this is going that the philistines have a death grip on this project, and we should prepare to be ashamed once again.

Mar. 29 2011 11:49 AM
Sami from New York, NY

How is it possible that the savings don't get passed on to the taxpayers? If the construction costs are less, the subsidies should be reduced proportionally, and the whole design package should require new approval. Seems pretty obvious to me.

Mar. 29 2011 11:48 AM
Joel from Nyack

Ugly, Ugly, Ugly. This is bait & switch. Dangle the excitement of a Frank Ghery building, get your subsidies and approvals and then switch to mundane architecture and cut the promised number of jobs. Fire the developer.

Mar. 29 2011 11:47 AM
Shana from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

JT, pre-fab homes are not constructed in China and shipped here. They are constructed here in the U.S. (generally within miles of the final location) and they are actually pretty good for the enviroment in that it reduces the amount resources and energy needed to make a home. Some pre-fab homes are pretty amazing (look up the Brio54 company in Connecticut). (has links to other prefab companies)

The thing that has me concerned about this pre-fab building is the whole Ratner part. That man has shown he has no taste when it comes to design and I highly doubt he is all that concerned with quality. Plus, I've never heard of prefab being used for building beyond a single family home.

Mar. 29 2011 11:47 AM

Is the city going to give Ratner a subsidy for the factory as well?

Mar. 29 2011 11:46 AM
Seawater from Manhattan

One cannot seriously claim to be interested in increasing the quantity of affordable housing in NYC while simultaneously insisting that it be built using more people than needed at wages that are astronomically higher than needed. If modular housing can, indeed, but the cost of building quality housing in NYC (and think about it, apartments are pretty much modular housing, they are just built in place), we NEED to try this. If we can get the cost of building housing down to a point that developers can do it in an economically viable manner without subsidies, we would be well on the road to solving the housing issues that have plagued NY for decades. But we need to stay focused. We need to view this a solution to housing. Not a means to hand out jobs that might be outdated to the constituents of politicians just looking to retain their own jobs.

Mar. 29 2011 11:43 AM
Steve from Fort Greene

The discussion is interesting, but I believe that this is simply a threat on the part of the developer in order to get concessions from the unions and more subsidies from the city and state governments.

Mar. 29 2011 11:39 AM
Alan from Scarsdale

Rather didn't just now come to the idea of prefab. Forest City was building precast ages ago.

Mar. 29 2011 11:39 AM
tricia from Brooklyn

First one of your guest works in the TIMES center built by RATNER The NY Times has an incredible bias toward Ratner which your guest just enforced by explaining prefab as RATNERs "way of making good on his promise". The biggest story is not the bait and switch with the construction unions it is a Forrest City Ratner lobbiest recorded on Federal tape bribing KRUGER . Please a little reporting here. This was a gross misuse of emminent domain , tax breaks and public trust.

Mar. 29 2011 11:39 AM
Nate Bowman

Atlantic Yards in short:
Please subsidize us to do what we want and we promise create jobs and provide affordable housing.

Oh, the economy has gone bad; we can't provide as much housing; we can't provide many jobs (and the ones that we DO provide will be to specialized, out-of-area workers); we CAN, however, build the arena (which will make the most money for the rich and do the least for the poor);oh, and, by the way, we need more subsidies.

Why, when the goal posts shift, are the developers allowed to backtrack on their promises? Why do they not have to go back to square one and justify their project under present conditions?

They wouldn't happen to have friends at those who make the decisions, would they? They wouldn't happen to have contributed to campaigns, would they?

Mar. 29 2011 11:37 AM
snoop from Brooklyn

Schadenfreude... I have to say I feel a bit of it as I remember the unions fighting as Ratner's lackeys to build the project regardless of the impact on our neighborhood.

On the point of modular, I live near 4th avenue in Brooklyn, near the yards, and I see what sort of large condo developments have gone up on 4th just to the south of Atlantic Yards.

They are, to be blunt, garbage. As part of a project to revitalize 4th avenue they are a joke: some don't even have windows-- of any kind!-- on the ground floor. The reality is that this area of Brooklyn has been treated to the lowest quality of architecture (and building quality) in the city.

So, am I surprised that we will have this vertical trailer park going up in the neighborhood? No. Do I expect that it will look nice? No. Do I expect my politicians to protect us from bad quality and ugly construction? No. They've swallowed everyone of Ratner's lines thus far hook, line, and sinker. I'm sure they will give him what he wants on this as well.

Mar. 29 2011 11:37 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

fyi: it was called Habitat 67, b/c it was built for Expo 67.

Mar. 29 2011 11:36 AM

your guest is mistaken. habitat was 67. it was architect moshe safdie's thesis project.

Mar. 29 2011 11:36 AM
Jeff from Austin, TX

This all sounds familiar. Where are the Luddites? Smash the machines!

Mar. 29 2011 11:34 AM
Lucy from Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Bait and Switch-again. 17,000 jobs. Right! Modules built in a factory at a fraction of the cost of on-site building promised to the unions. A giant safety experiment as no module of this height has ever been built. How did this project go from starchitect Gehry to trailer trash modules? No govt oversight. Most of the whole project paid for by us, the taxpayers.
More big ugly from Bruce Ratner and Co.
Unions-bring on the rat!

Mar. 29 2011 11:18 AM
Eric McClure from Brooklyn

Won't modular building cut the number of construction jobs by half, while also reducing wages significantly for work done in the factory vs. on-site?

The slogan that appeared on t-shirts and buttons at every Atlantic Yards hearing was "Jobs, Housing & Hoops." Forest City Ratner and supportive pols touted the "17,000" jobs (really job-years) that the project would allegedly create as a major selling point. Will that number now be cut in half? More than half? The taxpayers are sinking hundreds of millions into Atlantic Yards based on Ratner's empty promises. Is he going to give back half if he only creates half the touted jobs?

Mar. 29 2011 11:14 AM

The Atlantic Yard Project has been a sham from the beginning with Ratner getting enormous tax breaks and incentives to build it at the expenses of the Brooklyn residents of Fort Greene and Park Slope. Modular housing of the sort that is being proposed is cheap and trashy. It is like having a trailor park a mile high. Why would anyone support it?

Mar. 29 2011 11:01 AM
Cathy from Clinton Hill

What about quality standards! We keep going cheaper and trashier- maybe he could just do a trailer park!

And this is our trade-off for the destruction of the amazing historic buildings on the site, such as the Wards Bakery whose builder took his architects to Europe to be inspired by classic architecture, and the beautiful terracotta work on 636 Pacific!!

Mar. 29 2011 10:33 AM

I don't understand how it's cheaper to build these units in China, ship them half way around the world by sea, deliver them to the construction site by land and install them precisely. Are their labor and material costs that much lower? Even then I would expect that transporting these massive modules would offset the labor savings. Are there any figures for this project that breaks this down and compares the cost of these two methods?

Mar. 29 2011 10:09 AM

I would agree that modular housing would appear to require a new economic analysis for Atlantic Yards for the reasons cited above. Would it also, in the opinion of your guests, require a new economic calculus for affordable housing subsidies - both for Atlantic Yards and future developments? Those subsidies must be based on industry standards for construction costs.

Mar. 29 2011 08:31 AM
Norman Oder from Brooklyn

Beyond the economic savings to the developer, and the reduced numbers (and thus income) of construction workers, consider that modular construction also would have a significant impact on the projected tax revenues to the city and state from Atlantic Yards construction.

Those rosy projections of tax revenues have already been diminished by delays in the project, notably in the planned office building. They would be further diminished if Atlantic Yards is not built out to the size approved, as a significantly smaller project would pass state muster.

Those reasons are why City Council Members Letitia James and Brad Lander, at a committee hearing earlier this month, pressed NYC Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky on the need for a new cost-benefit analysis. Pinsky resisted the idea.

More here:

Mar. 29 2011 07:00 AM

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