Kimmelman has words of praise for the arena, which he seems to value more for what it isn't (a traffic nightmare, the source of roaming drunken mobs, a civic blight) than what it is ("a giant billboard for corporate naming opportunities"). He's especially thankful that after dumping original architect Frank Gehry, developer Bruce C. Ratner hired architects SHoP to "dress up" an "off-the-rack" Ellerbe Becket design.
However the plan for the larger project, and the process by which it was created, comes in for harsh criticism. "[T]the Atlantic Yards project also exemplifies how the city, in this case hamstrung by the state, got planning backward, trying to eke public benefits from private interests awarded public subsidies and too much leeway," says Kimmelman. "Development on this scale may take its lead from a developer's vision but needs to proceed from public-spirited, publicly debated plans for what the city and streets should ultimately look like."
Kimmelman adds that "[i]t's probably too late to reconsider the [next phase of the project]. But it's not too late to hold Mr. Ratner, the city and the state to their word about creating jobs and building the promised number and type of subsidized apartments for low- and moderate-income Brooklyn families. Then the remainder of the project, which promises next to nothing for the public realm, ought to be sent back to the drawing board, so that, should it go forward, it could still include density (density is good) but also much smarter streets, different scales of development and diverse public services."