Unarrested Development: Pacific Park

In response to newly available plans for Pacific Park, the eyesore formerly known as the Atlantic Yards development project, Donald O’Finn, a co-owner of Freddy’s Bar, the “pre-Barclays Center” Prospect Heights mainstay of nearly a century, released a statement. Freddy’s Bar was dislodged from the corner of Dean Street and 6th Avenue in early 2011, later returning at 627 5th Avenue in South Slope.

Yesterday, O’Finn wrote:

I have questions about Pacific Park’s legitimacy as a Park, since it is apparently under the suggested amount of greenery for a city dweller, plus it is privately owned… Pacific Park is the ever-expanding suburbanization of Brooklyn. [Forest City] Ratner is just playing with the booty of a very questionable, if not criminal land grab. As long as Forest City doesn’t grab any NEW privately owned properties to give to another millionaire/corporation, then we are just crying over previously stolen milk—um, I mean spilled milk. And as far as I am concerned the milk has soured.

Understandable fatalism from one of the Atlantic Yards’ most memorable casualties. O’Finn went on to raise the question of income limits for affordable housing units, which are, quite frankly, absurd. Brooklyn’s median annual household income is just under $45,000, while Pacific Park’s supposed affordable housing will include households with a maximum annual income of $104,000—more than double what the average Brooklyn household earns, and still more times more than those in even greater need of affordable housing.

Development along Atlantic Avenue may be “stolen milk” not worth crying over, as O’Finn suggests, and indeed, the Barclays Center’s immediate environs have ceased to be thought of as Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, and Clinton Hill, instead becoming just “Barclays-adjacent.” But even so, urban development on the scale of the Atlantic Yards project (“Pacific Park” is the new “ProCro”) is often spoken of as some kind of solution. Even the term, “development,” suggests something formative rather than destructive, as though there were nothing in its place before.

This is the belief sustained by so much turning over of urban soil—that any neighborhood could be “discovered,” that any lot or building might be better “redeveloped.” Huge swaths of Downtown Brooklyn are currently undergoing serious “development,” which at a certain point just means giant, indistinguishable glass buildings which will all look terrible in fifteen years; new, pretend neighborhood names invented by piratical real estate agents; and so, so many impossibly unaffordable apartments. Meanwhile, the people and businesses that made the area vibrant and desirable in the first place get priced out (or eminent domained, a.k.a. Manifest Destiny’d), move farther south and east, and the process begins again.

Freddy’s Bar is certainly not the only establishment that Barclays Village has leveled or priced out, but the loss of familiar social space is often felt more keenly than a gradual shift in local residents, or a change in the traffic pattern. As more nearby storefronts close and reopen, old and new, we’re left to wonder who exactly asked for this, and why?

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