Gehry lightly tweaks Ratner’s ‘Yards’ plan, says boro wedding inspired tallest tower

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The “bride” will wear aluminum.

Architecht Frank Gehry unveiled slightly slimmed down towers and an update on the classic Brooklyn stoop, in fresh renderings for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development revealed Thursday. He also told how he came up with the design for the project’s most controversial building — the 62-story “Miss Brooklyn Tower” — likening it to a bride.

Opponents of the 22-acre, $3.5-billion project were unimpressed.

“It’s a Frank Gehry sheen on repudiated, 1960s-style urban renewal,” said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Prospect Heights resident Patti Hagan quipped, “I guess this is the ‘Ratner/Gehry Diet,’” calling the slimdown miniscule compared to the weight the project put on in since its initial unveiling in 2002.

Discussing “Miss Brooklyn,” which would sit at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, Gehry said, “When we were studying Brooklyn, we happened upon a wedding, a real Brooklyn wedding. And we decided that ‘Miss Brooklyn’ was a bride.”

Gehry showed off the renderings at a packed press conference at Ratner’s Atlantic Center Mall, where a large third-floor space was converted into an “Atlantic Yards Information Center.”

The renderings of Miss Brooklyn showed a shimmering, wavering, aluminum-clad tower, with a 120-foot glass-walled atrium called “the Urban Room,” a hotel in the first few floors, dozens of stories of office space, and residental condos up top.

“She’s a bride with flowing veils,” Gehry said. “OK, I got carried away. But if you’d seen that bride, you’d understand. I fell in love with her.”

Another building, also near the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic, was reduced in size by 165 feet, but Gehry and his designers said that the differences between the latest designs and earlier renderings are not just a matter of size.

Gehry said he and his design team took great pains to mesh the development — which includes a basketball arena, nearly 6,900 new units of housing, more than 600,000 square feet of office space, a 165,000-square-foot hotel and 247,000 square feet of retail stores — with the surrounding communities of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights.

“[Original designs] got a little carried away,” he said. “We’re calming it down. You can now see different [building] materials and a connection to the texture of the existing buildings.”

Gehry evoked late urban crusader Jane Jacobs, who railed against the kind of office development that created Manhattan’s monolithic Sixth Avenue.

“We’re tyring to create a skyline [with] a variety of sizes, scales, materials, and trying to relate to existing fabric and existing buildings,” he said.

“Yes, the buildings will exist, but we are going to create usable spaces, not awful plazas, [that reflect] the body language of Brooklyn.”

Another major change is on the Dean Street side of the project. Where once there was a wall of high-rises, now the street wall will not rise above the level of the existing Newswalk building.

The centerpiece of the project remains “the Urban Room,” part of the Miss Brooklyn skyscraper. Gehry said that people will congregate on the “front stoop” and be able to look through the glass into the arena itself.

“Kids can hang out here and watch replays on the scoreboard,” he said.

David Sheets, whose apartment was just sold to Ratner, felt the changes on his block were insignificant in the larger scheme of things.

Asked earlier about opponents of the project, Gehry cracked, “They should have been picketing Henry Ford.”

When pressed to explain that remark, he added, “There is constant change. We’re not on horseback anymore. The issue is how do you manage change in a way that represents and respects the place it’s in.”

— with Ariella Cohen


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