Thursday, August 10, 2006

August 23 hearing covers a lot of ground: not just DEIS but GPP & eminent domain

The four-hour hearing scheduled by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to begin at 4:30 p.m. on August 23 doesn't just cover the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), a document that's so long several political figures have called for a postponement of the hearing.

It's also a hearing on the General Project Plan (GPP), the project overview, which includes findings regarding eminent domain, as indicated by the notice (right) posted on the door of a Sixth Avenue building in the project footprint.

According to the Public Hearing Notice, the hearing will encompass a) the GPP; (b) the proposed acquisition by condemnation of certain property; (c) the terms of proposed leases and conveyances; and (d) the DEIS.

Multiple purposes

With only four hours of hearing time schedule, the public hearing statutorily must cover a lot of ground: (1) informing the public about the project; (2) providing an opportunity to comment on the GPP; (3) providing an opportunity to comment on the proposed leases and conveyances; (4) reviewing the public use (see below, and also see architect Jonathan Cohn's analysis of the tautological goals) to be served by the project; (5) advising on what properties would be acquired by eminent domain; and (6) providing an opportunity to comment on the DEIS.

Note that, after the public hearing and a 30-day public comment period, the ESDC will complete a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and ESDC Directors will be asked to issue the FEIS and affirm or modify the GPP and make statutory findings under the eminent domain procedure law and the state environmental review statute. (At left, a broader view of the western side of 6th Avenue between Pacific and Dean streets, including the door where the notice was posted.)

According to state law, any property owner who may wish to challenge the condemnation of their property in court must "do so only on the basis of issues, facts, and objections raised at the public hearing."

Deadline for comments: September 22

Comments on the GPP, DEIS, the proposed condemnations, and the terms for the proposed acquisition and conveyance of the project site must be received within 30 days of the public hearing (on or before 5:30 p.m. on September 22). Written comments should be delivered to ESDC, at 633 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10017 (Attention: Maria Mooney), or may be submitted by e-mail to atlanticyards@empire.state.ny.us.

Comments may also be made verbally at the public hearing or at a community forum that also will be held at the New York City College of Technology (Klitgord Auditorium), 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn, from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m on September 12.

Public uses

In case you're wondering, here are the stated public uses, according to the GPP:
--a state-of-the-art arena to accommodate the return of a major-league sports franchise to Brooklyn while also providing a valuable athletic facility for the City's colleges and local academic institutions, which currently lack adequate athletic facilities, and a new venue for a variety of musical, entertainment, educational, social and civic events;
--thousands of critically needed rental housing units for low-, moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers, as well as market-rate rental and condominium units;
--first-class office space and possibly a hotel to ensure that Downtown Brooklyn can capture its share of future economic growth and new jobs through sustainable, transit-oriented development;
--publicly accessible open space that links together the surrounding neighborhoods;
--new ground level retail spaces to activate the street frontages;
--community facility spaces, programmed in coordination with local community groups, including a health care center and an intergenerational facility, offering child care as well as youth and senior center services;
--a state-of-the-art rail storage, cleaning, repair and inspection facility for the LIRR that would enable it to better accommodate simultaneously its new fleet of multiple-unit series of electric propulsion cars operated by LIRR which are compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (the "MU Series Trains") and other transit improvements;
--a subway connection on the south side of Atlantic Avenue at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, with sufficient capacity to accommodate fans entering or leaving an event at the Arena, eliminating the need for pedestrians approaching the Transportation Hub from the south to cross Atlantic Avenue to enter the subway, and thereby enhancing pedestrian safety;
--sustainability and green design through the application of comprehensive sustainable design goals that make efficient use of energy, building materials and water; and
--environmental remediation of the Project Site.


Cohn observes::
What's the point of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the enormous study developed by the same group of not disinterested individuals who are promoting the real estate development scheme for the site? The reasons for the project are neatly developed in the Executive Summary: “The overarching goal of the proposed project is to transform a blighted area into a vibrant mixed-use community, incorporating principles of environmental sustainability”. And then, after conceding that there would be “significant adverse impacts” “in areas such as schools, cultural resources, shadows, traffic, transit and pedestrians, and noise”, the authors opine: “notwithstanding these impacts, the proposed project is expected to achieve the long-term State and City goals of 1) enhancing the vitality of the Atlantic Terminal area; 2) providing substantial new housing, including much needed affordable housing; and 3) improving railroad facilities and pedestrian access to Brooklyn’s largest transit hub”. There you have it, in a nutshell, the project’s purpose is to achieve goals 1, 2, and 3. Nothing more or nothing less. These long-term State and City goals are the only justification for the project. So as it turns out, there is no real need to read past the first page, because it’s just full of problems that ultimately don’t really matter as long as the “goals” are achieved

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