20061005
Commute part 1: The Atlantic Avenue Project


I promised this post weeks ago but never got around to finishing it... until today that is. My roommates and I walk about 5-6 blocks everyday from our condo to the Atlantic / Pacific subway stop, home to almost every single subway line you can think of including the L.I. double-R. A lot has changed in the area since I moved away to Jersey. So in an effort to rest my mind and educate myself (and you guys) about the humble community of Fort Greene, I've done some sleuthing.

Dug through the net to find some details on the development and area that I've returned to. One of the more uplifting aspects of the walk from the subway is the row of 3-story houses on Fulton Street across from the Cuyler Gore Park. Though some may disagree, I find them suitable low-budget replacements for brownstones and more importantly the residents pride themselves on maintaining their property. They possess a greater sense of community than our gated area which puts my gated micro-community to shame considering their homes open up to one of the busier streets in Brooklyn.

The secret to it? I think it's the unity that stems from competing in the Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest. Everyone wins including nearby residents like my roommates and me when people go out of their way to green up their property. I wish the city would break up some of that sidewalk and plant some trees for them (I'm guessing the fact that there are subway grilles everywhere held them back). It's a ridiculously wide piece of drab concrete that could benefit from a long strip of grass and trees at the edge. It would provide a nice frame for people to walk through, the trees and strip of grass on one side, the beautiful miniature ornate lawns on the other.

So what about that property? I recall the developers constructing it during my final year in Brooklyn before my transplant to suburbia. Until then, I didn't even know light gauge metal framing studs existed. It was either the large I-beams (can't use the lowercase 'i' or people will think it's some hip digital framing product, damn Jobs and Apple for ruining the lowercase i for everyone) for skyscrapers or wood framing for the smaller buildings. Yes I was in 6th grade and had considered these tidbits of information at the time, and no, I did not eventually become an engineer or architect. All that passion just fluttered away when I hit Damiani's dreaded "Fear of God" studio.

Back to the development. The houses I speak of were built as part of the NYC Housing Partnership program under the Atlantic Avenue project. Everyone must know of Ratner now, how he's battling the community to bring another huge development to the Atlantic Yards. He's the man behind MetroTech and Atlantic Center. If you've been to either areas, you'll understand why Ratner has met opposition for his newest project. Thought they are much better than what had existed beforehand, they are woefully short-sighted. Walking down Hanson Place to the subway station and you are met with tall brick walls, in essence the rear of the Atlantic Center. How hard would it have been for the site developer to plan for commercial shops along the street? Apparently too hard, and until those buildings are renovated to open them up to Hanson Place, it'll always feel like a ghost town walking up those few blocks.

I haven't really walked down Cumberland much to see the inner-houses but I do know there's a tennis court or two in that area, and that the buildings are built with vinyl siding. All the brick is just a front. Still you have to give the architect credit for being able to push the brick facades through. It must have been an incredible battle of the budgets to get something like that approved. Closer to the main street where I walk, there's a house (pictured) on the corner with a lavish garden. A hefty portion of the house is covered with vines. Down on the ground, vegetation spews out over the fence. Walking by, it brings to mind The Secret Garden frequently. I don't remember much about the book other than the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Don't kid yourself, at least I'm man enough to state it.

The next post will focus more on Hanson Place and the always interesting-wish-I-lived-there-81-Hanson-Place-building. My original intent for this post weeks ago was to cover that building, but after Googling, I just found way too much information on the Atlantic Avenue Project to disregard.

"It's been a blessing," Ms. Rosado said. "All that land was vacant for 20 years. People used to dump garbage there. Now you walk home from the subway and there are people on the street, kids playing, trees and flowers."
At 11:30 AM, Blogger Nets Fan said...

Brooklyn is a great cultural destination with BAM, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Botantic Garden, to name a few. Lots of the area under the Atlantic Yards plan has been lying fallow for decades. It's poorly connected to joining neighborhoods and needs renewal. The Atlantic Yards project is a once-and-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape Brooklyn's inner core.

I can definitely relate to your precautionary watch-out. There are still issues that need to be addressed moving forward. If handled wisely, this project can transform Brooklyn into a cultural mega-center. Like you said in the above, the inclusion of parks and lawns (the "green") is very important and will humanize the condo complexes.

 
At 9:55 AM, Anonymous SmithBrother said...

I think NetsFan misses the point. The Atlantic Yards proposal is so poorly conceived it will make this area of Brooklyn unfit for residences, even though it's being sold partially as "affordable housing." Right now it's luxury condos that can be repurposed as office space if they don't sell well, and they probably won't since they're situated right over an arena, a well-known blight generator. If you want to see what's most likely to happen, go check out the area around the CNN HQ in Atlanta. That's the most analogous development to this monstrosity you'll find. And it hasn't exactly helped housing values in the area.

As for the area "lying fallow:" c'mon! Newswalk, the Spalding Building, Atlantic Arts, all redeveloped as housing, upper middle income housing. You can't even say the train tracks were lying fallow; they are central to the operation of a critical regional transportation system!

This disastrously conceived project is simply an attempt to make office towers rise in residential Brooklyn. Forget about "culture", and definitely forget about "neighborhood character." This thing will bring a new neighborhood character. Look at MetroTech. Oh Boy! Let's all move in now!

 

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