Monday, October 22, 2012
There are some who think Bloomberg is a master urban planner
Justin Davidson, New 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?
Listen to just a snippet of the interview and you'll quickly realize that Davidson is pretty clueless. Here's urban planner Michael D.D. White's analysis and response to his remarks:
Before the “Barclays” Center there was “no character” at that site?
The plan for Atlantic Yards mega-project “flows from” a “Gehry design” that developer/subsidy collector Forest City Ratner is “legally” obligated to follow?
Davidson is carelessly promulgating misinformation that’s in service to the Ratner narrative. He does so notwithstanding a level of scrutiny he gave to Manhattan’s comparable, but overall smaller, Hudson Yards only a week ago which level of scrutiny is entirely inconsistent with such ignorant assessments.
In describing the “Barclays” site as previously having “no character” Davidson describes it as a single block that was at the triangular intersection of two large trafficked avenues. That’s what it is now: It's not just a “block” but a newly created superblock created out of what were previously three blocks. Previously, it wasn’t just between two avenues: Previously, Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street flowed through that now superblock block to define those three individual, separate blocks.
And if Davidson is to consider his own point that preserving a neighborhood means paying attention to “the economics of it” and “the character” of a neighborhood (presumably with respect to its interwoveness with the rest of the city), then he should note that what was cleared away at the “Barclays” site just to make way for arena included, but was not limited to, Freddy’s, a neighborhood bar and music venue, and two large newly renovated condominium buildings. Freddy’s was an anchor and a gathering place generating neighborhood connection. The two condominium were also more important than just what they were themselves: They set the tone and example for development that was taking off in the neighborhood, something the Ratner organization elected to wipe out because it was competing with its own properties which Ratner wasn’t developing at the time.
Getting back to Queens, at about 14:40, Paul Graziano, the planner who designed most of the downzonings in Queens, weighs in on Davidson's assertion that Queens downzonings are a bad thing. He mentions the 1961 zoning maps that have been in place until recent years when the rezonings were completed. They based zoning pon the prediction of a buildout of 12-16M people. That type of density transposed on neighborhoods of 1 and 2 family homes were a recipe for disaster.