Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry has reportedly laid off more than two dozen workers on the mega-project’s team, indicating that perhaps the project is more doomed than previously thought.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Yards developer Bruce Ratner, who is building the $4-billion, oft-delayed project, ordered Gehry to “put down his pencils” in late November.
And on Thursday, the New York Daily News suggested that the layoffs amounted to a complete shutdown of Gehry’s Atlantic Yards team.
“Almost all the people working on the Brooklyn project got laid off,” a source told the News, adding that the source claimed that Ratner had refused to pay Gehry additional costs for design revisions. “Basically, he’s not willing to pay.”
If true, it means that most of the sprawling, 16-skyscraper project — which has been off the construction timetable for most of the year — haven’t even been designed.
In May, Gehry and Ratner last showed off renderings for only “Miss Brooklyn,” a 511-foot shimmery tower at the gateway to the development at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, plus the basketball arena and one other residential tower.
At the time, Ratner admitted that he “Miss Brooklyn” would not be built until he found an anchor tenant.
Ratner’s principal opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, saw the Wall Street Journal report as yet another signal that Atlantic Yards will not be built.
“There’s plenty left to do in terms of design, and now there’s nobody to work on it,” said group spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “They’re not ready to go if the don’t even have the design. They don’t have the land, they don’t have the money, and now they don’t have the architect.”
The report about Gehry comes at a particularly tumultuous time for the project — last week, developer Bruce Ratner’s parent company, the Ohio-based Forest City Enterprises, admitted that the bad economy had stalled the project.
“We remain committed to this [project],” Forest City CEO Charles Ratner had told investors. “When we get — and we believe we will — successfully through the last of the litigation in 2009, we’ll evaluate the market at the time and see what our next steps are.”
One of the main remaining cases against Atlantic Yards, which challenges the state’s use of its condemnation power to hand over private property to Ratner, will be heard next month with a decision expected in the fall.
Spokespeople for both Gehry and Ratner did not return calls for comment.