i posted nearly two years ago about an article by Brooklynite Jonathan Lethem protesting the planned development Atlantic Yards, which requires the clearing of existing residences using eminent domain. A court fifth amendment challenge to the developer was not upheld and building is underway.
At the time I couldn't figure out the rights and wrongs of the situation--although later that summer I visited my cousin who lives in Park Slope, and she told me that the same developer had created a less ambitious project in a nearby part of Brooklyn which had degraded the neighborhood and gotten no business, and ended up costing the city a great deal.
But after reading Death and Life I now have the framework to definitively hate Atlantic Yards.
Apparently, I'm not the only one who thought this way.
Karrie Jacobs (no relation) posted nearly two years ago in metropolismag.com about how her reading of Jacobs affected her view of the Atlantic Yards project. Her criticisms of the project based on Jacobs are as follows:
I don’t know whether Jacobs, circa 1959, would approve or disapprove of Ratner, circa 2006, but her take on the project would likely be a bit more nuanced than the simple declaration “too big.” In certain ways the Ratner plan, with its arena, density, and mixture of residential and office uses is influenced—albeit indirectly—by her thinking. The project’s substantial number of “affordable” housing units adds to its overall heterogeneity. On the other hand, a huge project by one developer and one architect cannot be diverse, and it’s possible that Jacobs would have reacted to Gehry’s irregular forms much as she reacted to Googie-style coffee shops: “virtual sameness trying, by dint of exhibitionism, to appear unique and different.”
The biggest drawback to Atlantic Yards, according to my reading of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, is that it will be constructed atop a rail yard that currently separates the neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights. The new development is unlikely to knit together those two neighborhoods; instead, lacking the cross-streets that Jacobs thought were key to urban vitality, it will exacerbate the division, generating more of what she termed “border vacuums.”
But she goes on to point out, quite rationally, that
Admittedly I could be the one misreading Jacobs—cherry-picking her book for the ideas that support my own penchant for density, diversity, and complexity—but it’s clear from the book’s final chapter, “The Kind of Problem a City Is,” that she was arguing above all against reductive thinking.
... The mistake made by Jacobs’s detractors and acolytes alike is to regard her as a champion of stasis—to believe she was advocating the world’s cities be built as simulacra of the West Village circa 1960. Admirers and opponents have routinely taken her arguments for complexity and turned them into formulas. But the book I just read was an inspiration to move forward without losing sight that cities are powerful, dynamic, ever-changing entities made up of myriad gestures big and small.
I'll be visiting the area next week and intend to go check out the site. Stay tuned.
Turns out, Karrie Jacobs has a blog and she just posted about Atlantic Yards recently. Plus, Saint JJ is all over her blog.