Saturday, November 26, 2005

Circulation

At the AIA presentation last week, the project’s landscape architect Laurie Olin spoke about how people move through the open space, and about how the design could mitigate blind corners so that people could see the space as they move through it. He presented an image of red lines on the site plan, and proposed that these represented paths of circulation. But the lines appear to have been drawn without any reference to the origins and destinations of the pedestrians. Other than dog walkers and joggers, people don’t just meander about without a destination in mind, as the red lines seemed to indicate. These paths are meaningless without reference to what people are walking to and from. It has been suggested by Matthew Schuerman in the New York Observer (see article here) that Olin’s drawing exercise was in order to allay City Planning Director Amanda Burden’s concerns about losing Pacific Street and the making of a superblock. But this response is a gross misunderstanding of the problem of towers in a park. No amount of open views in the interior of a superblock will make the ground plane function like a watched public street. A real street functions not only for access to adjacent built form but connects and integrates the immediate area into the circulation systems of adjacent areas.

It is a mark of incredible hubris for a developer to take away a public street and call it project open space. And ultimately, it is disingenuous to suggest that the street should be taken to make a better place. Why does the developer want to take the street? The developer needs to take the street in order to keep the gross square feet he is proposing within a defendable limit. Stuckey stated that the proposed density is equivalent to that proposed in the new zoning plans for downtown Brooklyn (see the Downtown Brooklyn Plan
here), But the project’s proposed Floor Area Ratio (FAR), is based upon using the taken street areas in the calculation of the project area. The intention of an FAR calculation is to limit density on private property relative to the site, with the circulation in public rights of way already factored in. Even if one were to believe that the place-making qualities of closing the street made it a good idea, the area of the street should not be used in the FAR calculation when compared to Downtown Brooklyn projects that don’t count the streets. You can’t have your cake and eat it too: calling it a public right of way for proving to City Planning that it is really equivalent to a watched street, and project open space for lowering the FAR.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Lumi said...

Good points!

I reference to FAR, I was struck by how Forest City Ratner VP Jim Stuckey answered the question of density in relationship to the surrounding community, by comparing the Atlantic Yards project to the Downtown Brooklyn Plan. In reality the majority of the project is surrounded by lowrise commercial/residential neighborhoods with a significantly lower FAR.

Discussing the Downtown Brooklyn Plan's FAR was a convenient strategy for avoiding discussing the impacts of increased density in Prospect Heights.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Alan said...

In your comments about parking & security you raised the issue of a Post 9/11 world and how security is a factor that must be taken into account.

Since we do live in such a world, at a minimum there is going to be controlled accesss to the complex making this a essentially a Gated Community whose interior "open" space is not quite so public as advertised.

Imagine further, if either or both of the 2 access streets leading to the open space need to be closed - temporarily or even permanently - "for Security reasons" - then the idea of there being open space becomes meaningless for all the rest of the borough. The Superblock shifts from being a self contained private community to becoming full fledged Fortress Community!

In this scenario, not only will inter-neighborhood sight lines be lost with Gehry's design, but inter-neighborhood movement will be lost as well.

Alan

12:32 PM  

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