Pacific Park is starting to take shape despite setbacks


Development near the Atlantic Terminal has been ramping up with the long awaited towers going up fast around the already popular Barclays Center, transit hub and mall.

That progress, however, comes after decades of setbacks, controversies and stalls that have come to shape the section known as Pacific Park.

The 22-acre area defined by Vanderbilt Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, has been eyed for a transformation since the 1950s. The rail yards, weeds, garbage and a couple of unkempt buildings stood out among the homey, brick town houses and apartments that surrounded the section.

Everything from a new stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers, to apartments for low income New Yorkers were proposed. However, a lack of capital and disagreements from the community, state and other parties kept the neighborhood’s upgrade in limbo.

Things changed when developer Forest City Ratner Co. announced its mega plan in 2003 to develop the area, dubbed Atlantic Yards, as a way to link it to the improved public transit hub, with a new sports arena, mall, and 17 high-rises designed by Frank Gehry that would be built on top of the rails. The development also included millions of dollars for an improved subway terminal that would connect the LIRR with eight subway lines.

Despite the bold promises and support from elected officials, including former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Borough President Marty Markowitz, the project faced strong opposition from community groups. Their concerns included an increase in traffic, the altered views, the need for more affordable housing and the use of eminent domain to free up the land for construction.

The latter concern was the subject of multiple lawsuits that prevented the project from moving forward for years. The housing crash also put the development on hold as costs skyrocketed from $2.5 billion to $4.9 billion.

The delay cost Gehry, who left the development, but Forest City Ratner kept pushing forward with new architects and designs. In the meantime, The Atlantic Terminal mall opened in 2004 with a big name store, Target, and the restaurant Chuck E. Cheese.

With the final legal hurdle cleared in 2009, Ratner went to work on the Barclays Center in 2010, and worked a deal to move the New Jersey Nets across the Hudson.

Two years later, the arena opened its doors with the inaugural season of the Brooklyn Nets, which was complemented with the revamped Atlantic Avenue, Barclays Center subway station that gave commuters streamlined connections between nine subway lines — the N, Q, R, B, D, Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains, and the LIRR.

Despite all of the flair from the arena, opponents were still vocal about the project’s still undeveloped housing component. Of the 6,400 residential units, 2,250 are promised to be affordable.

The first residential building, 461 Dean St., began construction in 2012. The rental building, is made up of 363 modular apartments that were constructed off site and then assembled with a crane. The final unit was brought to the site and topped out in May.

Half the units of the building, which is owned by Forest City Ratner, will have affordably priced rents, from $559 a month for a studio to $3,012 a month for a two bedroom, for select applicants who make between $ 20,675 and $144,960 annually. A lottery for those units which will be implemented by the city’s Housing Development Corporation took place in April and tenants are slated to move in this fall.

In 2014, Forest City Ratner announced a partnership with China-based developer Greenland USA to pick up the housing development and renamed the site Pacific Park,” to emphasize its connections to the neighborhood rather than just the transit hub.

Among the new housing options that the new partnership will create and own are 550 Vanderbilt Ave., a 278-unit condominium building, which is to open this year, and 535 Carlton Ave., which has 298 rental units that are all classified as affordable housing. The Carlton Avenue building, which is still under construction, began taking applications for its affordable housing lottery in July and continues until September 13.

 

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