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Sobering Plans for Jets Stadium
By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF
New York Times
Published: November 1, 2004
You can't help feeling sorry for the Jets. Their only moment of glory
was the Joe Namath era. And for decades, they have suffered the
indignity of having to play in a stadium named after their cross-swamp
rivals, the Giants. Now the Jets management, with the support of the
city, is threatening to create a new stadium on the far West Side of
Manhattan that is so crassly commercial it makes the head spin. It may
provide the Jets with a home, but it will extinguish any hope of
injecting some humanity into the area.
Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the 75,000-seat stadium is
shaped like an enormous shoe box and would cover the three blocks from
30th to 33rd Streets on a railyard site overlooking the Hudson River.
A retractable roof would allow it to function both as an open-air
stadium for the Jets and as an extension of the Jacob J. Javits
Convention Center just to the north. The project would have around
50,000 square feet of retail space and a waterfront park.
Until now much of the opposition to the stadium has centered on who
would foot the bill for the project. But even if it were a gift to the
city, the result would be depressing. As if to mask its colossal
scale, the stadium is dressed up in a blinding assortment of L.E.D.
screens, advertising, shops and restaurants: a mind-numbing spectacle
that would echo through the surrounding neighborhoods. The park
spaces, supposedly conceived as an act of civic generosity, are
nothing more than banal front lawns for retail outlets. The result
looks like a parody of late capitalist consumerism.
Stripped of its excesses, the stadium itself is not all bad. The
structure is supported on the north and south sides by a massive steel
frame topped by rows of wind turbines that will generate energy for
the building. A series of tapered steel trusses spanning its interior
evoke the skeletal steel frames of the old waterfront warehouses that
once lined the city's piers. The roof slides open to frame a
rectangular patch of sky. (The stadium is also designed so that an
additional 10,000 seats could be tacked on to the side facing the
river if New York wins its bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.)
I've seen uglier stadium designs. Even so, the forms are crude when
compared with the sloping concrete planes of Eduardo Souto de Moura's
recent soccer stadium in Braga, Portugal, which fold like an origami
sculpture to frame views of a valley, or with the soaring tubular
arches of Santiago Calatrava's Olympic Stadium in Athens.
Kohn Pedersen Fox tries to cloak the deficiencies behind a veil of
high-tech graphics. A narrow band of L.E.D. screens projecting scores
and advertising messages would run along the stadium's intermediate
level, just in front of the corporate boxes. The four corners of the
main concourse level, conceived as "sponsors' rooms," are to be
emblazoned with corporate logos and colors.
On the exterior, a series of programmable screens would flash images
across the surrounding neighborhood. The largest, a 55,000-square-foot
low-resolution L.E.D. screen, would loom over 11th Avenue, projecting
soft-focus images of Jets games or convention events. An arrangement
of narrower horizontal screens would create a more abstract pattern of
moving images across the north and south facades. On game days, beams
of colored light would shoot up into the sky from the top of the
The visual noise would be overwhelming. But what's more unnerving is
that some are promoting the stadium design as a model for thoughtful
urban development. The proposal is the keystone of a vast development
area extending several blocks from Madison Square Garden to the river,
with another swath between 10th and 11th Avenues stretching north to
42nd Street. It includes an expanded Pennsylvania Station at the neo-
Classical James A. Farley post office building to the east, a corridor
of office blocks along 11th Avenue and a smattering of park spaces.
To connect the stadium to that context, the architects have proposed a
blocklong park flanking the stadium's north side. The park was
conceived as a public promenade, linking 11th Avenue to the river. Yet
most of the space for it is swallowed up by a proposed one-story
retail complex enclosed by an undulating glass wall at the stadium's
base. The complex will house shops, a sports museum and an
undetermined cultural venue that was no doubt added to help sell the
project to the public. It's a generic urban mall for West Siders,
tourists and football fans that would efface the neighborhood's gritty
but powerful mix of railyards and industrial buildings. It sends a
message that the desires of developers once again trump public
Worse still is a plan to connect the stadium to the High Line, a 20-
block-long strip of abandoned elevated freight tracks that extends
south from the stadium site through Chelsea to the meat-packing
district. The nonprofit group Friends of the High Line wants to
transform the tracks into an elevated public garden that would thread
its way through the streetscape and link a number of West Side
neighborhoods. But under Kohn Pedersen Fox's design, this park would
plug directly into the stadium, serving as an entry point for football
games and convention events. An additional pedestrian walkway would
connect the stadium to the new Pennsylvania Station in the Farley
The contrast between the High Line and the stadium projects could not
be more stark. Designed by Field Operations and Diller, Scofidio &
Renfro, the High Line plan is conceived as a string of discrete urban
moments, ranging from contemplative gardens to an outdoor theater and
distant views of the river. The idea is to savor the nuances of
everyday urban life, to heighten the contrast between vast scale and
intimate spaces that give the city texture.
The stadium plan, by comparison, would transform the High Line into a
mundane people-moving machine - a conveyor belt funneling visitors
between Pennsylvania Station, the stadium-retail complex and the meat-
packing district's bars. It mistakenly assumes that all urban density
is good, regardless of its quality. It is a blunt expression of what
was once innocently called the culture of consumption.
There is nothing new about this strategy. It is rooted in the tired
New Urbanist formulas that sprang up in reaction to the Brutalist
aesthetic of 1960's and 70's architecture. But at least those
modernist visions were imbued with a spirit of social optimism, even
when they failed.
The stadium plan will enrich developers, while adding nothing of value
to the public realm. If this is our vision of humane urban planning,
we should fear for the future.
SELF-STORAGE PROJECT OK'D
By Lee Reeder
The San Bernardino County Planning Commission on Feb. 19 accepted the
recommendation of the Land Use Services Department to approve the Lake
Gregory Self-Storage project - a 193-unit mini-storage facility at the
corner of Arosa Drive and Dart Canyon Road.
In late January, the Crest Forest Municipal Advisory Council voted to
write Supervisor Paul Biane and ask him to write a letter to the
County Planning Commission requesting that the project be denied and
that the hearing date be delayed so the MAC could have the opportunity
to review the project.
"We have sent letters to request information for years," Roger
Hatheway said at the time. "We specifically mentioned in our Nov. 19
meeting that we receive additional information prior to our approval
and we have not received that." The letter expressed in detail what
the concerns of the MAC are regarding the project, including the
overwhelming public opposition to the project. No document expressing
the MAC's opposition, either from Supervisor Biane's office or from
the MAC itself, was included in the staff report, and the hearing was
held as scheduled.
Biane Field Representative Marshall Riley explained why Biane did not
write a letter requesting the project be rejected and the hearing be
delayed on behalf of the MAC. "It is not proper for the supervisor to
intercede in the process as it moves along," Riley said. "The board of
supervisors is the final arbiter of any dispute or appeal that is made
relative to a development project."
Riley said that Biane responds to MAC requests either through Riley's
monthly report to the MAC or through memos or a letter to that body.
In this case, Riley said, the supervisor's office also did not respond
to the MAC. "The reason is because they were asking for things that
are not proper for the supervisor to do," Riley said, adding that the
MAC should have sent its letter directly to the County Planning
OBJECTIONS TO THE PROJECT
In addition to the 193 storage units, the project includes an office,
recreational vehicle and boat parking, a caretaker residence and a
garage on the 2.5-acre site.
Over the 13 years the project has been proposed, there have been many
objections in writing and at hearings expressed by neighboring
property owners. These objections include light pollution, negative
visual impacts, drainage concerns, noise and the potential for crime.
Traffic safety was also a major concern. The county states that when
conditional use permits for the project were submitted in 2000 and
2003, there were 25 letters received objecting to the project, and 14
in support. All 14 of the letters of support were received in 2003;
however, six of those letters of support appear to have been signed by
only two people.
At the latest Crest Forest MAC meeting, opposition to the project was
unanimous among the assembled audience, and MAC members stated that
opposition has been overwhelming over the life of the project.
Lee Bell, who will be the resident manager of the property until it is
fully occupied, represented the developers. "I will say that I think
the project is going to be a much-improved use of that property," Bell
said. He added that he believes that a storage facility has minimal
impact in comparison to other uses that could be allowed under the
location's current zoning. He said that the project's developers would
"try to be good neighbors."
Ray MacDonald, the architectural engineer and designer who has worked
on the project since 1996, said at the hearing the developer has taken
into consideration the concerns of locals. "We have adhered to
everything the community asked us," he said.
MOUNTAIN RESIDENTS ATTEND HEARING
Several mountain residents were in attendance, most of them close
neighbors of the site who spoke in opposition to the project.
Sharon Roberts, who said she was representing several surrounding
residents in their opposition to the project, pointed out to the
Planning Commission that Dart Canyon Road is a two-lane road with one
way in and one way out, and that there are two churches down that road
with a combined membership of about 950 people. She said she believes
the storage facility would exacerbate the traffic situation at that
intersection of five roads, where there is also a school bus stop,
which is used throughout the day by the district. She objected to the
fact that the county ruled that a traffic survey was not necessary for
The third finding on the conditional use permit addresses the
project's impact on the surrounding areas: "The proposed use will not
have a substantial adverse affect on abutting property or the
permitted use thereof, meaning that the use will not generate
excessive noise, vibration, traffic, or other disturbance, because
these considerations have been addressed through design review, and
appropriate conditions of approval have been included to mitigate any
potential adverse impacts. A mini-storage facility is not an intensive
land use and represents a relatively benign use of the land."
Roberts also pointed out there are other storage facilities available
in the area, and contended that none of them are full.
STORAGE IS NEEDED
Mike Chilson, who built Mountain Storage in Valley of Enchantment,
spoke in favor of the project. He added that in the 25 years he has
lived here he has seen the proportion of full-time residents grow, and
the need for self storage grow with it, as many cabins without garages
became year-round homes. He said that when Mountain Storage opened it
was occupied to 75 percent capacity in only 33 days. He said the
storage facility stays at near capacity and said he believes this is
true of the other self-storage facilities in the area.
Chilson was asked to come back to the lectern later by the Planning
Commission to answer questions about the typical traffic patterns
created around such a facility. He stated the traffic impact around
his facility in Valley of Enchantment is minimal.
Roberts said she is considering talking with her neighbors about
whether there should be an appeal, but is concerned in part about the
$1,700 cost of filing such an action and whether the money would be
well spent. Those wishing to appeal have only 10 days after the
hearing in which to do so.
Roberts said she is frustrated at the decision. "What concerns me as a
resident up here and coming from Orange County, is that we really
don't have a voice," she said. "My concern is how we go through all of
the process and all of the procedures, all of the meetings and all of
the petitions and it always comes down to 'No.' I would really like to
find time to go down to the county and find out how many times people
have said we don't want something up here and they've just overlooked
Gloria Midget, who lives within walking distance of the project, said
that she feels safe walking in the area now, but once the mini-storage
facility is there, she will not feel safe doing so.
Estelle Gough, who says she has one of the closest properties to the
project, objected to the effect that the lights at the facility would
have on her property at night. She said she has already had to ask
Lake Gregory Elementary School to turn off lights near Lake Gregory
Drive that the school installed, and the school complied with her
request. Even though the developer has agreed to put covers over the
lights that make them shine downward, Gough is still concerned.
"Sitting on my deck or sitting on my property, I will probably be
looking out over a tremendous amount of lights," Gough said. "You said
you are going to have covers on the lights to keep the light shining
down. That doesn't really help, because it's going to just reflect up
into the air."
Roberts said there are other sites in the mountains more suitable for
such a facility than this small strip of commercial land abutting a
residential neighborhood. "I'm not against progress, but I don't think
it should be there," she said.
Fresno Planners Split On Veterans' Memorial Plan
Jim Wasserman The Fresno Bee
February 17, 2000
In a stunning and rare display of conflicting opinions over values,
honor and aesthetics, Fresno planning commissioners deadlocked 3-3
late Wednesday on a plan by Fresno veterans to make over the entryway
to downtown's 1936 Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
But according to legal interpretations Wednesday night, the tie vote
means that the veterans have received their conditional-use permit for
a controversial 65-foot flagpole and small memorial courtyard in front
of the downtown landmark.
By failing to definitively reject a use permit for the project, the
commission by default upheld the Development Department's approval,
Deputy City Attorney Anthony Cresap said. But opponents almost
certainly will get another crack at the proposed memorial to honor the
nation's six branches of military service.
Standing in the way of construction now is a special permit for the
project, which was denied recently by the city's Historic Preservation
Commission. Commissioners argued that the memorial would obscure a
building that wasn't designed for such an addition. They also
contended it would detract from the vast plaza-style entryway. That
decision is expected to be appealed to the City
Council for a final ruling.
And the council is widely perceived to be supportive of veterans'
goals to build a memorial at the site, directly north of Eaton Plaza
and the Fresno Water Tower.
In November, when veterans groups unveiled the proposal, four of seven
council members attended. Mayor Jim Patterson and City Manager Jeff
Reid are also driving forces behind the city-sponsored project.
Still, despite legal interpretations that veterans had prevailed in
their quest, a nervous and cautious Chuck Monges said immediately
afterward: ''I'll believe it when I see it.'' It was an almost
unparalleled scene in a room where planning commissioners typically
After a two-hour hearing, Commissioners Jesse Alvarez, Sherian
Eckenrod and Nat DiBuduo favored a use permit for the memorial.
Eckenrod's husband, Gervase, is commemorated with a plaque on the
veterans corridor of flags outside the building. He was in the
audience with his fellow veterans.
''I cannot think of a more fitting place for a memorial than the front
of Memorial Auditorium,'' she said.
But commissioners William Civiello, Cynthia Sterling and Terry Stone
came down on the other side, expressing concerns about the memorial's
effects on a building that's on the National Register of Historic
While Sterling quibbled with turning the atmosphere of a building
shared by cultural arts groups and veterans entirely toward veterans,
Civiello said: ''I'm really concerned that it doesn't, in fact,
diminish the long-term historical aspects of the building.''
In a crowd of about 40 people, veterans outnumbered opponents of their
project about six to one.
They spoke emotionally about the project, with its ''magnificent
Said Bruce Kinabrew, aide to Council Member Ken Steitz: ''Our veterans
want it there. . . . They want their memories to go forth in that
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