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Brooklyn Bound

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Photo: Hugh Stewart and David Nicolas

The fiercest battle, however, centers on Atlantic Yards, a $4.2 billion development that would bring 16 residential and commercial towers and a Frank Gehry–designed basketball arena to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, already one of the most congested intersections in the city. The 22-acre complex would replace a derelict rail yard—as well as seven residential blocks of not-at-all-derelict Prospect Heights. Most tenants and homeowners in the project’s footprint have already vacated their apartments, but a handful still remain, refusing buyout offers and possibly forcing an eminent domain action.

The pros and cons are both outsized. According to an environmental-impact study, Atlantic Yards would cast a literal shadow over surrounding low-rise neighborhoods, place a significant strain on mass transit, and knot up some 60 intersections in gridlock. It would also supply 2,250 subsidized apartments for low- and middle-income residents (an increasingly threatened population in New York), create thousands of jobs, add up to $1.5 billion in tax revenue, and relocate the New Jersey Nets to a legendarily jilted sports town that’s gone five decades without a big-league team.

Brooklyn desperately needs affordable housing. And an NBA franchise would be a potent symbol and point of pride for still bereft trolley dodgers. Yet Atlantic Yards seems grotesquely proportioned, the proverbial bazooka-on-a-quail-hunt. If approved, it will be the biggest and costliest development in Brooklyn’s history: a Manhattan-scale megaplex in a borough defined by its small neighborhood charms.

Will it happen anyway? Right now it seems inevitable. If so, I’ll certainly be rooting for the Brooklyn Nets—especially when they play the (Manhattan) Knicks. Might even attend a game, if I can actually get to the arena. But in the back of my mind, I’ll be counting the days until summer, when I can sit on my stoop, sipping 25-cent lemonade, watching the kids play stickball.


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