Sunday, August 13, 2006

Magazine calls AY "a defining moment" in NYC development politics

An article in the August issue of the Next American City, a quarterly magazine that addresses "socially and environmentally sustainable economic growth," is headlined A New Dynamic: Atlantic Yards Challenges Brooklyn Progressive Politics.

While there's not much new for Atlantic Yards-watchers, and some information is dated or inaccurate (the project now would be 6860 apartments, not 7300, and Atlantic Avenue divides Prospect Heights and Fort Greene rather than serves as a Prospect Heights thoroughfare), the article does point out to a national audience how the project has fractured some typical community alliances, notably among progressives. The article cites criticism of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) but not the important template established in Los Angeles, where CBA signatories, unlike in Brooklyn, agree not to accept money from a developer.

Rapid gentrification

The article states:
Gentrification of Brooklyn has been so rapid that those left behind seek any intervention that promises economic relief....“The project per se won’t be displacing the long-term residents of the area,” observes Mafruza Khan, Associate Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. Khan explains that “demographic shifts have already occurred” in Prospect Heights: since 1980, more affluent whites have moved into what was a predominantly working-class African-American community. If approved as planned, the biggest impact of Atlantic Yards will be to radically change the scale of development considered appropriate in Brooklyn.

The DEIS also points to ongoing gentrification, but there's also evidence that the Atlantic Yards project would accelerate rising rents.

A defining moment

The article points to the relatively concentrated benefits yet broader social costs:
Because of the wide scope and high profile of Atlantic Yards, the project is sure to be a defining moment in New York City development politics. If successful, Forest City Ratner will have generated a road map for future developers: get a group of powerful elected officials on your side, choose a group of disempowered, but vocal, supporters in the community, and make an unenforceable promise to provide a few goods that the public sector has failed to deliver, such as community facilities or affordable housing. Because the public review process for Atlantic Yards is so limited and vague, a handful of organizations have negotiated on behalf of the community as a whole. Yet the entire community must bear the impacts on public services and infrastructure of such a large-scale project.

And it concludes by pointing to the constrained political process:
Can Forest City Ratner obtain political approval with a partial, but vocal, segment of the community on its side? This may hinge on whether opponents can cultivate allies in the State Capitol, where they are making steady, but limited headway. Whatever happens, it is sure to be controversial and the outcome will affect the development debate in the city for decades.

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