NEW YORK—What looked like a formless construction site on a rainy morning will soon become a center for public space in Brooklyn as part of the extensive Atlantic Yards construction undertaking.
A live Web camera feed relayed images of the site where a new plaza at the Barclays Center is underway. The plaza will serve as an entryway to the arena surrounding one of Brooklyn’s busiest subway stops, the Atlantic Avenue station at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue.
The designs for the plaza unveiled on Tuesday includes an entrance to the new Barclays Center basketball arena expected to be completed in 2012, as well as a new transit entrance to the subway station.
The plaza is just a small part of a much larger development undertaking of the Atlantic Yards by Forest City Ratner Companies. Included are state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena alongside 16 residential and office buildings, the majority of which are expected to be a mix of market rate and affordable housing.
Architect Gregg Pasquarelli from SHoP Architects gave a virtual tour of the new plaza, describing its amenities and features in hopes of “engaging the public” in an intimate setting.
Pasquarelli worked with Forest City in his design, drawing inspiration from plazas around the world. A large oval oculus takes center stage as a prominent feature, in addition to public seating, open space, and a green roof transit exit.
The function of the open space is not yet determined, however Pasquarelli drafted a number of proposals suggesting the space could feature café seating, a green market, movie nights, and more.
In creating the space, Pasquarelli says he wanted to emphasize smooth movement of the flow of traffic, customizing the type of paving to the level of traffic expected throughout the area. Ground lights inspired from a plaza in Spain will illuminate the space allowing it to be open 24/7.
Chairman and CEO of Forest City Bruce Ratner said the project is quite complex and has met with various infrastructure problems. Despite that, he notes that in its current state, excavation is 70 percent complete, with work on the new transit exit having already started. The expected completion of the project is July 2012 and has a $900 million price tag.
"The plaza will create a new destination while also allowing for a smooth flow of pedestrian traffic to and from the transit entrance," said Ratner in a statement. He noted that its various amenities will establish the plaza as an iconic part of the Brooklyn landscape.
The overall development project of the Atlantic Yards, which began seven years ago continues to receive a fair amount of criticism from a number of detractors. In 2008, the University of California published a paper by Norman Oder sighting disapproval for the project. Oder reports that although some see the 22-acre development project as revitalizing Brooklyn’s downtown area, opponents fear the project will create extreme density as well as “encroach on surrounding historic low rise neighborhoods, burden local infrastructure, and create a pattern of superblocks.”
Develop—Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a coalition consisting of 21 community organizations in opposition to the Ratner plan, released a statement shortly after the announcement this Tuesday expressing hostility toward the project.
The coalition says the developer defaulted on its promise of building affordable housing and instead unveiled designs for a public plaza instead of providing any indication as to whether his firm would “build 15 of the 16 towers he promised to build.”
During the design unveiling, Ratner discussed one of these 16 proposed buildings, saying they will announce the architect for the first residential building by the first quarter of 2011. It was also noted on an Atlantic Yards project fact sheet that new residential building will commence in Spring 2011 with construction of additional buildings beginning every six to nine months following the first.