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Will Bushwick's Rheingold development be a 'fantasy' or a 'dystopia'?

Archicritic Justin Davidson on whether a “kindler, gentler gentrification” is possible

In June, Eran Chen of ODA New York revealed plans for his firm’s 1 million-square-foot mixed-use development on the site of the former Rheingold Brewery in Bushwick, which will allegedly be inspired by a "European village." Among the development’s amenities are multiple public spaces, a woodworking shop, a community art gallery, and a microbrewery, all envisioned as places where "longtime residents and their new neighbors would mingle."

But how will this play out in like Bushwick, which—despite its newfound popularity—is still not exactly wealthy? In a new column, New York magazine’s archicritic Justin Davidson looks at the myriad issues that arise when a working-class neighborhood is confronted with encroaching affluent development.

While Davidson supports ODA’s ingenuity in creating "articulated, lively, and congenial buildings that are simultaneously contextual and assertive," he still asserts a healthy skepticism regarding developer All Year Management’s willingness to follow through with Chen’s social vision. Here are six key lines from the piece:

  1. "Nearly 1,000 apartments and a million square feet … would slip affably into a neighborhood that, despite its real-estate hotness and brand-name cool, remains tenaciously poor. "
  2. "The idea is to use the two-block site to break down the Brooklyn grid and make it seem less implacably rational. Instead of enclosing a single courtyard or wrapping a park around a set of towers, ODA interlaces private structure with public space."
  3. "To the passerby, the Rheingold site looks like that urban rarity, a clean slate, but in fact, every long-fallow acre in the city is a battleground, especially in a neighborhood where crime, rents, and construction are all disconcertingly high."
  4. Here’s a quote from Stephanie Cancel, an organizer at the advocacy group Churches United for Fair Housing: "To say that you’re going to put a European village in the middle of an impoverished community that’s mostly black and Latino, what are you implying? We know exactly what’s happening: It’s gentrification."
  5. A quote from Chen: "People get smaller spaces of their own, but a lot of community space, which keeps the rent down per person but high per square foot. That would be super-­attractive"
  6. "If the gates wind up staying closed, if the cafés are too precious and the shops too generically fancy, then all the best architectural intentions in the world can’t halt the creation of a pseudo-urban dystopia, a barricaded enclave with the look of a city and a suburb’s soul."