Skip to main content

Batson, Jeffries say AY review deserves more time

They have different positions on the Atlantic Yards project, but Bill Batson and Hakeem Jeffries, candidates for the 57th Assembly District seat being vacated by Roger Green, at least agree that August 23 is too soon to hold a hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) “has insulted all of Brooklyn” by scheduling the hearing during the last week of the summer, when many families go away with children, said Batson (right) at a candidates’ forum Thursday night at the Duryea Presbyterian Church in Prospect Heights.

Jeffries said he though the process of public review should be extended for six months. (The DEIS was released last week, and comments will be accepted only through September 23.) “It is problematic that the two public hearings are scheduled at times that are inconvenient,” he said, noting that the follow-up community forum is on the day of the Democratic primary election.

Freddie Hamilton, the third candidate in the race to succeed Roger Green, who is running for Congress, was less critical. “I think the Atlantic Yards project has been a learning experience for each and every one of us,” she said. “I believe that going forward, we will be able to put different and additional oversight into the process. Having said that, my experience in life is, no matter how open the process is, some people will not see it as that.”

Opening stakes

Batson, a longtime legislative aide who has significant backing from Atlantic Yards opponents, has strongly criticized Forest City Ratner's plan, saying in his opening statement that “16 skyscrapers would just be a stake through the heart of Brooklyn.”

While Jeffries, a lawyer, emphasized “neighborhood-friendly development” in his opening statement, he didn’t mention Atlantic Yards. Hamilton (right), who cited affordable housing as one of her priorities, ran into trouble with a few audience members. “I am a signer of the Community Benefits Agreement,” she said, and because of that, “I will not address Atlantic Yards.”

“That’s not acceptable,” boomed Schellie Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, who was wearing a Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) t-shirt.

“If this is a Develop Don’t Destroy rally, I’m at the wrong meeting,” said Hamilton, Hamilton, a Democratic District Leader for the Assembly District. “I’m not a spokesman for Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards."

“Then don’t be running for office, taking money from him,” Hagan countered.

Ironically, the forum sponsor, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) has distanced itself from DDDB, notably in a press release regarding the Municipal Art Society session last month on design principles for the project.

Security issues

The longstanding state law governing the environmental review process does not incorporate post-9/11 security issues and, despite the entreaties of several community groups and community boards, the DEIS does not address security. The candidates were asked if the review process should be broadened.

“I would say absolutely that this is something that should be included, Jeffries (right) said, adding, “I’d like to make sure that any environmental assessment not just consider security concerns but all the public services.” Actually, the DEIS does address police and fire services, for example, and found no significant adverse impacts.

Hamilton said she’d support adding post 9/11 security issues. Batson said, “We need to stop this mock environmental impact process.”

Eminent domain

The candidates seemed to agree on the issue of eminent domain, notably the Kelo vs. New London case in which the Supreme Court last year narrowly upheld the use of eminent domain for economic development.

“I certainly believe eminent domain should be limited and curtailed,” Jeffries said. “I disagree with the Supreme Court’s most recent decision. I’ve come out against the use of eminent domain to build a basketball arena.” (What that means regarding the Atlantic Yards project is unclear, even after I asked for amplification.)

Jeffries added, “We need to redefine the issue of blight”--which is part of the justification for the Atlantic Yards project.

Batson said that Kelo should be reversed and contended that eminent domain was already driving warehousing of properties throughout Community Board 8, on which he sits.

Hamilton added that she opposed Kelo, said the powers of eminent domain shouldn’t be abused, and agreed with Jeffries that blight should be redefined, though she didn’t mention Atlantic Yards.

Congressional candidates on ED

In the later segment of the forum, featuring three of the four candidates for the open 11th Congressional District seat, the eminent domain issue recurred.

David Yassky cautioned that a law limiting eminent domain could limit “the government’s ability” to build projects, parks, and roads. Still, he acknowledged that “I am troubled by that aspect of Atlantic Yards.” If a project is in the public interest, he said, “you auction [property] off to the highest bidder, not transfer it.”

“Are you against the project?” someone in the crowd asked. The question went unanswered; Yassky has both supported and criticized the project.

Chris Owens said he opposed eminent domain and emphasized his stand: “I am the only person who opposes Atlantic Yards as proposed.”

Carl Andrews acknowledged that eminent domain “is very controversial.” He went on to say, “I support Atlantic Yards, but I realize that Atlantic Yards is not a perfect development. In order to make it a perfect development, you need to have more community input, and hopefully [the developer] will take into consideration those concerns.”

Yvette Clark didn’t attend.

Support & spin in the 57th

Jeffries has raised more money than Batson, and has the support of the county political organization, even though he was an insurgent in a previous candidacy, then saw his residence cut out in a redistricting. (Hamilton’s fundraising lags.)

Batson asserted that he was the real independent, and Jeffries responded that he had support from a variety of groups (including seven unions to Batson's one) beyond the county organization.

See the comments section on the Times Empire Zone blog for more discussion. Jeffries supporters highlight a Batson verbal slip—he said he had graduated from Pratt, and then caught himself to acknowledge that he hadn’t finished the degree. Batson supporters argue that Jeffries, however polished, may not be trusted to take a clear stand.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…