Urban Development in the Bloomberg Years

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn (Courtesy of SHoP Architects)

Justin DavidsonNew York magazine’s architecture critic, looks at the ways development has changed the city’s character during the Bloomberg years. We’ll take calls on how neighborhoods have changed through new zoning, historic districts, and new construction in the last decade. 

Weigh in: Has New York become a city of generic glass towers? Does protecting historic buildings and neighborhoods preserve the city’s character or hamper development? Leave a comment and let us know.


Justin Davidson

Comments [34]

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Nov. 01 2012 06:32 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

I thought it important enough so I wrote a Noticing New York article about the Atlantic Yards and “Barclays” part of this conversation. Included in it for everyone’s delectation are pictures of the neighborhood that pre-existed the arrival of “Barclays” so that people can evaluate Mr. Davidson’s assessment that the neighborhood had “no character” together with pictures that let you see the “character” of what “Barclays” and Atlantic yards have brought to the neighborhood to replace what existed before.

The article is here: Tuesday, October 16, 2012, “Barclays”? Atlantic Yards?: On Lopate, NY Mag Architectural Critic Justin Davidson Disses Brooklyn Neighborhoods With Manhattancentric Illiteracy.

Oct. 16 2012 04:08 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Some of what Mr. Davidson offers with respect to Atlantic Yard and the so-called “Barclays” (LIBOR scandal) arena is, to be candid, not so accurate. As for Barclays going into a neighborhood with `no character’. . check out the back of the “Barclays” Center where Freddy's Bar once stood providing a gathering place and music venue and compare what the corner looks like now vs. what it once did. I somehow doubt whether Mr. Davidson walked around to that corner when the debate about destruction of a neighborhood was crucial or even now that the press is paying immense attention to the arena’s arrival, even though Mr. Davidson reviewed the arena is a very recent issue of New York Magazine.

Also, the idea that the site plan for Atlantic Yards somehow hews to (or is legally obligated to) any vestige of Gehry design is ludicrous. Even on the Barclays block, where the first of the construction is occurring, virtually nothing that hearkens back to a Gehry influence remains. What actually carries over pares down to just the things that reflect the marching orders Gehry got from Ratner: To squeeze in an unprecedented amount of density and close down the streets, avenues and sidewalks, creating superblocks, to get even greater density than otherwise possible.

The misgivings Davidson offered with respect to the sole ownership of Hudson Yards by the related companies (in the last New York Magazine) should apply to the plan for the larger Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly in spades with many more misgiving added on top. See: Friday, October 12, 2012, Justin Davidson’s New York Magazine Review Of Hudson Yards Echos Concerns Raised By NNY, But Does So Without Mentioning Obvious Atlantic Yards Parallels.

Oct. 16 2012 12:43 AM

Cities that don't develop - will die. Simple and plain. I do think that certain architecture should be preserved. It's a difficult process to balance. Ppl who complain the most are usually the one's with the narrowest vision. No city is perfect - and none will on this earth. Ppl can complain about the mayor - but there is a reason NYC survived this past economic depression better than any major city.

Oct. 15 2012 05:14 PM
art525 from Park Slope

@david from park slope- I couldn't disagree more. And I speak from the perspective of a pedestrian. It is an anomaly for a car to run a red light. It is an anomaly for a biker to stop at a red light. It's not uncommon for bikers to defend their disregard for the law and in fact some time back a biker wrote an editorial in the Daily News explaining why bikes shouldn't have to adhere to traffic lights. Cars do get ticketed for running lights and therefore are careful. Bikers don't get ticketed and so they completely disregard the lights. I have had to dodge them as they ride through a crowd of pedestrians in a crosswalk and if you yell at them they curse you.

Oct. 15 2012 04:40 PM
Marlene from Brooklyn/Gowanus

The discussion missed one of Bloomburg's (and A. Burdon's) failed zonings: the 4th Ave rezoning on Brooklyn. And they are planning to march that zoning notion right down the hill and across the Gowanus Canal. The big "planning" idea here is that this is not well used space therefore needs higher buildings. 4th Ave has gotten the ugliest buildings built during the Bloomburg administration. And those units are going unoccupied also.

What the this administration can't see is that the Gowanus Canal district is a unique valuable asset along the lines of the NYC Highline (maybe even more so given it's depth history and natural history). Why is it the city can't first clean and restore this canal region and from there set the tone for the region's redevelopment, like the Highline and the Hudson Yards planning? Instead we now faced with the 12 story Lightstone development on the banks of the canal that will be open for residential use before the EPA even begins the canal Superfund cleanup work.

This kind of stuff takes real planning.

Oct. 15 2012 12:52 PM

Wait. The guest says many of the "as-of-right" buildings are bad, presumably because they are not subjected to any formal public planning process. The hideous Extell glass towers on Broadway between 99th and 100th streets were built "as of right" and we have now changed the zoning to limit height and require contextual design in the neighborhood to prevent anything like this happening again, the buildings by your guest's word "stick out like sore thumbs," yet he now "feels affectionate about them?" Please explain.

Oct. 15 2012 12:42 PM
david from Park Slope

I'm amazed Leonard just framed the problem with bike lanes as being caused by bicyclists not following the rules. It may be that you need to be a driver in New York to fully appreciate the amazing recklessness of drivers here. I'm a former Californian who hasn't given up his car & I can assure you that every trip through Manhattan underscores what a low priority traffic laws are with the nypd. If bicyclists are playing fast & loose with the law, their carelessness is more than equaled by drivers and pedestrians.

Oct. 15 2012 12:34 PM
Ken from UWS

Lenny, you're a smart guy -- how can you condition the expansion of bike infrastructure on an improvement in cyclist behavior when it is precisely the build-out of protected bike lanes and other amenities for cyclists that will draw less risk-averse cyclists to the streets and create a more civil culture, as your guest suggests. Have you ever tried riding a bike through midtown or on any major street without a protected bike lane? The streets are made for cars. And, by the way, drivers are at fault in 70 percent of cycling crashes, and the police almost never charge the driver.

Oct. 15 2012 12:33 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Zunaira - 7-Elevens and Dunkin' Donuts have sprung up as a direct result of people not liking Starbucks' coffee. They are not lovely or architecturally artistic buildings, but they provide a culinary alternative to Starbucks' black, bitter brew.

Oct. 15 2012 12:32 PM
Tessa from Manhattan

just got back from Copenhagen, with very efficient biking system. Lot of traffic but loads of cyclists, very many with kids in back and in front at all times of day and night. Very impressive. Wish I felt that safe riding here with my kids without having to pull out into traffic because of parked cars etc in bike lane.

Oct. 15 2012 12:32 PM
Leo from Queens

Leonard, your guest is a total disgrace. I'm sorry to say this, but you need to have a guest that actually has an idea of the reality going on. He is being dismissive of many of the issues that are negatively impacting people in this city going from loss of life, loss of property and displacement of people.
Rezoning in visible areas such as Chelsea or Prospect Park get publicity.
Rezoning in other 'non cool' areas is never publicized - I found out about the North Corona rezoning 2 years after the fact. Some of us have real busy lives with work and family and are not actively looking to see if there is a community board meeting on rezoning. no letters, notifications or announcements were made. The Community board members are owned by the politicians who put them there and in fact have ties to the developers.
When I challenged a representative from the Queens Boro president about the lack of communication her response was that they had put a notice in the community papers that get left out and litter the bank lobbies or the entrances to diners. - IS that how one makes a fair effort to notify citizens?

Oct. 15 2012 12:32 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

What does Mr. Davidson think of requiring any residential building with more than FOUR (4) units to provide underground parking for residents?

Oct. 15 2012 12:30 PM
Kim Doggett from East Village

I agree with your guest talked of maintaining the character or a neighborhood not just individual buildings. In neighborhoods with high owner occupancy there is power to achieve that. It's an atrocity that high rises are being allowed to creep into the East Village because there is no cohesive group to fight for what is one of NYCs most historic, in tact communities. What the City should be doing is extending subway lines out to underdeveloped areas and building new high density nodes. Then whose who like steel and glass can have a whole steel and glass modern planned neighbborhood and we can have our neighborhoods uncarbunckled.

Oct. 15 2012 12:27 PM
Leo from Queens

Reply to your guest: "YES< IT IS THAT WAY!!". If you are riding a bike you should ride it responsibly, not weave in and out of traffic; Not running red lights; not riding at night or dusk without any lights; Hitting pedestrians.
Since bike riders are IMPACTED that most then maybe they should take their lives a bit more seriously instead of having the car driver being responsible for the immaturity and carelessness

Oct. 15 2012 12:27 PM

Bike lanes: New York could be one of the great bike cities of the world. Many bikers are terrible, tearing through crosswalks, etc. But WNYC and other news organizations reported recently how the NYPD almost _never_ even ticket drivers who hit bicyclists and pedestrians. Consider the case of the bicyclist who was recently fined over $1,500 in one day. When was any driver fined that much for the most dangerous driving?

Oct. 15 2012 12:26 PM
art525 from Park Slope

Hey Leonard how about the danger and harrassment that the bikes represent for pedestrians? How about the bikers absolute refusal to follow traffic laws and have consideration for pedestrians? And as fdor rules for bikers, how about bikers being registered and having visible licenses in case they do break laws and or hit people.

Oct. 15 2012 12:26 PM
Ian from Brooklyn

Why arent there any affordable houses built in say Queens like they do in Brownsville, East new York and now Spring Creek Brooklyn. The Nehemiah home project (lottery) seems to be a great project.

Oct. 15 2012 12:26 PM
crowna from nyc

I def' think Bloomberg has little regard for the comfort and sanity of the non-wealthy residents of Brooklyn (basically anyone who doesn't work on wall street). The city under Bloomberg is seeing the clearing of land for condos I will never be able to afford moving into.
The one good thing I'll give the guy, is that finally in the 3rd term of his reign he decided to build small units for single newyorkers - but it came very late and still in planning stages.

Look at Red Hook, land has been paved on the waterfront (pun intended) and whose benefited from it? Why can't Red Hook remain a refuge from Manhattan's insanity. I'm looking at you, Ikea.

Oct. 15 2012 12:24 PM

Under Bloomberg, Manhattan has become one huge playground for fratboys and hedge fund managers, and the same is happening to Brooklyn, which, thanks to Bloomberg, has been destroyed as a low-density, low-rent oasis for New York's low/er-income population. New York's spirit has been killed.

Oct. 15 2012 12:24 PM
art525 from Park Slope

The public has seemed to become like crows attracted to bright shiny objects, principally in the form of proposals for new Frank Gehry buildings. If you have a controversial project you want to get approved just toss out Gehry's name. Everyone will ecstatically fall in line. Will he actually build it? Maybe? If he does build it will it function well? Possibly? (Unlike The Fisher Center at Bard College wherre they can't use certain doorways in the winter. Who knew there'd be snow in the Hudson Valley? Or the issue of 120 degree temperatures on LA streets surrounding the Disney Opera Center due to reflected sunlight from the metal sheath. Or the fact that they had to hire an architect to redesign the interior of Bilbao to make it conducive to showing art. Picky picky picky.) But jeez we have a Gehry building. Oooo! In twenty years Gehry will be considered the Googie of our era. Corny and dated and defining the shallow tastes of our time. HAving said that, in the case of the Atlantic yards they managed to come up with something that would make Gehry look good in comparison.

Oct. 15 2012 12:23 PM
Rose from Brooklyn, of course

Is your guest an elitist or just rude?! "...Before the Barclays Center there was no character at this site..." There were beautiful brownstones that were brought and replaced by the people behind the center and the city. How dare he.

Oct. 15 2012 12:21 PM
Leo from queens

Can you remind your guest that 'downzoning' has been a ploy created by government officials in coordination with real estate developers to actually increase density.
Example: North Corona was 'downzoned' in 2001 without any input from the community and property owners because of an irrational fear of skyscrapers. This was a mix neighborhood that needed renewal.
Instead, what downzoning caused was a mad rush to tear down all 2 family homes and replace them with 7-10 apt tenements; overcrowding, blight and abuses where developers are intentionally damaging older properties. The 'down zoning' did not allow for any playground; No additional schools in the area though they were already overcrowded and the area STILL does not have a Junior HS or High School. Plus the subway stations in the area were never modified to handle the increased use.

Oct. 15 2012 12:21 PM

The guest is exactly right on New York's growth rate. In terms of population, New York is not even in the top 20 nationwide in rate of growth.

Oct. 15 2012 12:20 PM
Rachel from Noho

Can you explain the "as of right" scenario? How do these terrible eyesores happen?

Oct. 15 2012 12:20 PM
Robert from NYC

Yankee Stadium is a failure and the garbage built along 3rd Avenue in the Bronx is just really bad planning that has destroyed the natural lite that the once Elevated train destroyed but has been gone for more than 40 years. These are Soviet type structures and will probably not last more than 5 - 10 years before they'll need lots of repairs.

Oct. 15 2012 12:17 PM

A lot is revealed in the sheer shoddiness of construction — the developer-designed phenomenon that the guest alludes to. This has been a problem in the city for over 100 years, something Luc Sante and others have chronicled. Even 'the best' institutions of the city — Trinity Church, Columbia, NYU — have been instrumental in some of the worst development in the city.

Oct. 15 2012 12:17 PM
Rose from brooklyn, of course

Why is it that there is a "need" to change the landscape and architecture of the boroughs and lower parts of New York but the same doesn't apply to the Upper East Side and other higher income areas?

The reason why the Upper East Side is still attractive and expensive is that its "old" architecture is left alone.

Oct. 15 2012 12:16 PM
Leo from queens

Zunaira: The reason it's happening is that individual owners CANNOT own a business in this city. The only businesses that will exist will be those that are part of national or international retailing chains that have expensive lawyers to grease the hands of the unaccountable city government. 10 or 20 years from now this City will have no character and will be no different from any large overcrowded city

Oct. 15 2012 12:15 PM
Hugh Sansom

Glass towers can be beautiful, striking and fit in (perhaps not in Greenwich Village), but New York still fails to develop great architecture. I think Norman Foster's "kissing towers" for the World Trade Center reconstruction was actual genius. But we got the SOM monstrosity instead. And I noticed today that SOM is doing the Cornell Tech center design. What a shame.

New York always seems so determined to develop fast and cheap — the Wall Street approach — that we get garbage. The High Line and the Brooklyn Bridge Park are, importantly, not buildings and not entirely new developments, but evolutions of existing structure.

Oct. 15 2012 12:13 PM
Leo from Queens

Leonard, one of the failures of the Bloomberg administration expansion of rezoning and development is not coherent. Rezoning is done without any communications to the home owners and businesses impacted by rezoning. We are being kept in the dark about construction and damages being done to existing structures.
There is no coordination between the rezoning (increased population density) and planning for additional parks, schools, expansion of subway stations to accommodate the increased traffic. There has been a pressure to increase density in the outer boroughs while suburbanizing retail so that people now have to drive to shopping centers. The commercial areas originally developed around subway stations are being neglected and slowly killed.
You might also want to bring up the topic of the high number of killings resulting from the increased construction and the high number of structures currently compromised that stand now as time bombs. Bloomberg and his people have had no regard for the history and character of NYC and no regard for building safety and human lives while allowing organized crime to take over all aspects of construction and 'development'.

Oct. 15 2012 12:13 PM
Thomas Pinch

Before the Barclays Center there was no character at this site??? Did he just say that??? That couldn't be more untrue. Everything has character even if it's bad character, which this area was not. I hate this guest already. shame.

Oct. 15 2012 12:12 PM

Density, Density, Density - it is pitting residents against businesses that used to close at 5pm as families came home. Now everything is open till 4am for the tourists, and our children can't sleep at night. We are being squeezed from all sides, and more and more we all hate each other. Density is the worst legacy of Bloomberg, and now he wants to increase the tall buildings in midtown. It's only making life more miserable for everyone in this town.

Oct. 15 2012 12:08 PM

I am alarmed by the rising number of 7 Eleven stores in the the East Village. Why is this happening?

Oct. 15 2012 11:29 AM

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