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Saturday workshop solicits ideas for Atlantic Yards plan

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For anyone who has ever walked past the barren Long Island Rail Road storage yards along Atlantic Avenue and thought, ‘Hey, know what would look great there?’ now’s your chance to vent those ideas to real-live urban planners who want to listen.

Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James is hosting a workshop on Saturday, March 20, from 10 am to 6 pm, to solicit design alternatives for the 11-acre strip of rail yards stretching between Fifth and Vanderbilt avenues.

The site is where billionaire developer Bruce Ratner wants to construct his Atlantic Yards project, a colossal development including a 19,000-seat professional basketball arena, soaring office towers and 4,500 units of housing that would extend to the blocks south of the rail yards.

Ratner, who is best known for the Metrotech office complex in Downtown Brooklyn, hired architect Frank Gehry to design the 8-million-square-foot development extending from Flatbush and Atlantic avenues east into Prospect Heights.

Not so fast, says James, who is a fervent opponent of Ratner’s plan, which would require condemning more than two square city blocks of privately owned property and displacing hundreds of residents.

James, however, believes the rail yard site should be developed.

“The site needs to be developed, but it needs to be developed consistent with some of the pressing issues in the community,” James said.

Marshall Brown, an architect, urban designer and Fort Greene resident is one of the leaders of the workshop, which is expected to draw upwards of 100 attendees.

“One of the first things we want to do is change the public discussion a little bit,” said Brown. “Right now, the media is going on about the arena, or no arena plus all of this other development [Ratner] is proposing.

“What we’re looking at — rather than what Forest City Ratner has proposed — is really looking at the site in particular and thinking about what would be interesting or intelligent ways of developing it,” Brown said.

Topics of discussion at the all-day session will include zoning, scale, density, public and private landscapes, community facilities and amenities, commercial spaces, and traffic and parking.

The Atlantic Yards Development Workshop is free and open to the public and will be held at the Hanson Place Central United Methodist Church at 144 Saint Felix St.


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