Here's a fantastic Google Earth model of the controversial Atlantic Yards development here in Brooklyn. This is a great example of the power of mixing open-ended geo software with on-the-ground local knowledge and passion. You don't have to rely on the developers' mockups anymore; you can just create your own in Google Earth and let others explore the environment and make their own judgments about the feasibility and appropriateness of the project.
I happen to be supportive of the general idea of the Atlantic Yards development, if not some of the details. Interestingly, the creator of the Google Earth model seems pretty critical of the scale of Atlantic Yards, and the screen grab he's put up emphasizes the discontinuity by capturing the buildings from the Boerum Hill/Gowanus area, where the buildings do seem to jut up out of nowhere. But Google Earth actually lets you see more clearly the continunity that I suspect we'll feel once they're built, as in this snapshot looking towards Manhattan from behind the project.
There's an almost direct line of 20-60 story commercial and residential buildings running from Atlantic Yards to downtown Brooklyn, and then, in fact, continuing on to Lower Manhattan in the distance. On either side, the low-rise neighborhoods of brownstone Brooklyn, nestled like little alpine villages on the side of a mountain ridge. It gives the downtown Brooklyn area a defined shape -- it's a corridor, not just a weird, anonymous empty space between vibrant neighborhoods, the way it is now. Yes, it's not the same scale of brownstone Brooklyn, but urbanism -- particularly New York City urbanism -- isn't just about continuity. It remains to be seen if Ratner/Gehry can actually build a downtown environment that has some genuine energy to it -- Ratner's existing commercial buildings in Brooklyn have been disasters -- but if they do manage to pull it off, I think the scale change will be exciting and romantic, not deadening.