Tuesday, May 09, 2006

CB6 confronts the ESDC's dis; how to respond to an inadequate scope?

The three affected Community Boards (2, 6, 8) are hardly the most radical entities involved in the Atlantic Yards debate, but the disrespect they've received during the environmental review might drive more forceful expression of their concern--if the sentiments expressed last night by CB6 Executive Committee members are a clue.

At the commitee meeting, held at the Cobble Hill Community Room, District Manager Craig Hammerman distributed a document showing how CB6's comments on the Draft Scope of Analysis were frequently disregarded in the Final Scope of Analysis issued 3/31/06 by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). There were 12 instances of "Fails to address this issue" and 11 instances of "Fails to address this issue directly."

The consensus: the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), expected from the ESDC within the next weeks or months, will inevitably be inadequate. "The area they chose to analyze is way too small," observed board member Louise Finney, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee. "You don't have to be a genius to know you should look at the BQE."

Traffic is likely the most important issue for this CB, and the Final Scope has already been criticized for ignoring the effect of traffic on the East River crossings. "They're not even looking at Grand Army Plaza as an intersection," Finney added.

Strategy

Board members discussed strategies, including holding public hearings and raising funds to hire an expert to respond to the DEIS. Information gathered could also support an eventual lawsuit over the inadequacy of the review process, suggested one board member. "Except we're supposed to stay neutral and act as a vehicle" for public input, commented Chairperson Jerry Armer.

Hiring an expert could cost half a million dollars--a daunting sum. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has already begun the process of seeking such expertise, but no funding has come through yet.

"The only real avenue is public opinion," one board member commented. "[FCR VP Jim] Stuckey is upset--too bad."

Steaming Stuckey

Indeed, Stuckey, the developer's point man on the Atlantic Yards project, was none too pleased with the letter cosigned by the chairpersons and district managers of the three CBs asking the developer to stop claiming the boards helped "craft" the Community Benefits Agreement.

Stuckey personally called each of the three chairpersons, expressing dismay that the letter was in the press last week before he saw it--though, apparently, CB staffers had already informed the developer of their concerns.

Committee members noted that the letter was diplomatically phrased and that they had agreed not to pursue an alternative strategy: holding a press conference on the steps of Borough Hall. "They should be more careful," said one member of FCR.

Meanwhile, will the developer excise the "crafting" claim from its web site and other printed material? "We didn't get a response," said Hammerman.

CB's position?

Along with the DEIS, a General Project Plan will be issued, setting forth the developer's outline of the project--which means it could still change in the next weeks or months. "When this does hit like a ton of bricks, we're going to have to come up with a position," Hammerman said. He noted that the board could support some elements and oppose some elements of the plan, or could support the entire project, "with conditions," or oppose the project, "with conditions."

ESDC advisory committee

Meanwhile, the three CBs have been invited by ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano to participate in a Community Advisory Committee that would act as a liaison between their community and the agency. Armer said the committee has not yet met, and that he did not know what other agencies were included.

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