Architect Presents Alternative Plan for Atlantic Yards Area
by Raanan Geberer (, published online 12-08-2004
FORT GREENE — At a meeting sponsored by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn on Tuesday, a local architect, speaking to opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, talked about an alternative plan for the Downtown site.

Architect Marshall Brown discussed elements of this plan, now known as the Unity Plan, earlier this year at the same location, the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Hanson Place. The crowd was just as enthusiastic now as it was then.

Speaking just before Brown, community activist Lucy Koteen said it isn’t true that the Atlantic Yards project, containing the controversial Nets arena, is a “done deal.” Ratner, she said, only controls about 30 percent of the land, he hasn’t yet bought the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) yards where the arena would be constructed, and he hasn’t worked out a Memorandum of Understanding with state and local officials.

Like most opponents of Ratner’s plan, which she called “too darn big,” she called for the developer to put his project through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), where the community would have more input. Because the LIRR yards are state property, the plan currently only has to go through a less stringent state review.

In addition to the arena, the Atlantic Yards plan would feature 4,500 apartment units, 2.1 million square feet of commercial office space and 300,000 square feet of retail space. The Unity Plan, covering a smaller amount of space, would have 600,000 square feet of retail space, 2,500 units of housing and a “green strip” of public space down the middle.

Its buildings would generally be more low-rise than Ratner’s, although some buildings, those closest to busy Atlantic Avenue, could reach 17 stories. A representative of Forest City Ratner yesterday said the firm has no comment on the alternative plan.

The Unity Plan would only develop the area over the railroad yards itself, Brown emphasized, so no land would be seized from neighboring blocks. In contrast to Ratner’s plan, which would de-map some streets, the architect added, new streets would be created, creating more of a link between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.

“The ground-floor retail would be designed in a scale that permits local business,” Brown added, not only “big-box” chain stores.

After Brown spoke, Irene Van Slyke, a representative for State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) said that Forest City Ratner could be persuaded to change its plans, particularly if it had to go through the ULURP process.

“Look at the Jehovah’s Witnesses — they changed,” she said, referring to the fact that the religious group agreed to lower the height of their proposed DUMBO buildings after intense community pressure.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 2004
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