Skip to main content

More groups call for extension of AY review; large crowd at community meeting

Several more elected officials and community groups yesterday joined the call for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to extend the time for review of the Atlantic Yards project—but there’s no evidence the powers that be are listening yet.

State Assembly member Annette Robinson and a representative of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez joined the elected officials—including State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and City Council Member Letitia James—at a press conference yesterday afternoon at City Hall.

Still, none of the officials who had previously asked for more time to consider the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) had heard anything from the ESDC--and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a booster of the plan, has refused to join the call. “The response from the mayor is he believes that Atlantic Yards should go forward,” James (at podium above) said.

“It’s a funny place to have a press conference,” observed Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society (MAS). “There isn’t anybody with an office behind us who will get a vote.” He said an extension of the review period beyond the announced 66 days was “essential for confidence in government.”

The ESDC released documents on July 18 and scheduled a public hearing for August 23, with September 22 the close of the comment period.

A bigger coalition

Joining MAS, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), and representatives of Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6, & 8 were advocates from Citizens Union, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, New Yorkers for Parks, and the Women’s City Club. Also present was Bill Batson, candidate for the open seat in 57th Assembly District, which would encompass the project, and a representative of Congressman Major Owens.

Those assembled agreed on the need for an extended review, some saying 30 additional days, and more advocating two additional months, pointing to other projects that had received at least 120 days for review, including the Yankee Stadium project. Still, they differed in their posture to the project in general; some clearly oppose the project, while others, like Robinson, confined their criticism to the process.

Dan Wiley, an aide to Rep. Velazquez, offered sharp criticism of the process: “We know this is basically a developer’s plan, not a community plan.” Later, he clarified that, while Velazquez has not taken a position on Atlantic Yards, “she believes in the ability of communities to plan their future.”

Montgomery, who’s campaigning hard for reelection against a last-minute entrant, Tracy Boyland, who supports the Atlantic Yards project, called the process “an outrage,” adding that it was an insult to have a follow-up forum on September 12, the day of the primary election. “They’re saying, either you concentrate on your campaign, or you focus on this humongous project.”

CBN’s Jim Vogel early in the press conference hefted two bulky binders containing some two thousand pages of documents from the DEIS, and pointed out that an associated document, the General Project Plan, was also more than a thousand pages.

More specifics needed

Tom Angotti of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development said that experts reviewing the DEIS in anticipation of the planned August 23 hearing and September 22 close for comments are facing enormous pressures. “To begin, we have to have all the information,” he said, citing insufficient details in sections like transportation, air quality, and infrastructure.

Just Wednesday, he said, the group received some of the basic data it has requested. “At the same time, we also have a five-page request for additional information” on issues like traffic, open space, and urban design, he said.

For example, he said, in order to evaluate the impact on open space, those studying it need to get sufficient details on existing open space, but the DEIS does not provide sufficient information. Moreover, it’s difficult to assess the impact of the planned 7+ acres of open space at the project, he said, because the DEIS does not specify its location or the footprints of the buildings around it.

While letters from the police and fire departments in the DEIS say that the project would not adversely impact response times, Angotti said there were no background documents that allowed evaluation of such statements.

Crowd at community meeting

Last night, a community meeting on the DEIS sponsored by the Fort Greene Association and the Society for Clinton Hill drew several hundred people to the Church of All Saints. (I counted 150 early on; see comment for an organizer's statement that there were 300.) CBN’s Vogel and Deb Howard led the audience through the seemingly complicated task of searching the DEIS and focusing on specific chapters or topics of interest. They also advocated attendees to lobby state officials about the review process and the plan.

Despite the concern in the room, the screen was small and the sound system flawed, so many in the racially-mixed crowd didn’t stay through to the end--but they did tote away numerous documents and posters to share with neighbors and recruit people to the hearing next Wednesday.

Vogel advised those reading the DEIS to look for errors of fact, missing information, lack of clarity, and methodology that leads to predetermined conclusions. “Write from your heart," he said. "Rewrite from your head.” Further advice is on the CBN web site.

Some in the crowd snickered when Vogel declared that the DEIS said there were no adverse impacts on the infrastructure, the Gowanus Canal, and the sewer system.

Will traffic trip it up?

One person in the audience asked what of the many sections in the DEIS was most vulnerable to criticism. Vogel demurred, saying that CBN’s job was to assist the community in general.

Council Member James, however, felt no such stricture, and she suggested that "the most important issue is traffic and congestion. I think that will have an impact on the decision."

She declared that "this is not an issue of simple slogans--'jobs and affordable housing'"--adding that she had been a longtime advocate of affordable housing.

She pointed out that the DEIS didn't address the affect of the project at the Cumberland Gardens senior center across Atlantic Avenue, and that the project would exacerbate asthma at the Atlantic Terminal 4B public housing project.

The racial divide?

One questioner had earlier suggested that there was a racial divide among supporters and opponents of the project. Indeed, many of the most vocal community proponents are black, while a majority of the most vocal opponents, while part of a more diverse group, are white.

James doesn't believe that represents community sentiment. "The silent majority of people, black and white, tell me this project is too large," she said. "I will not let anybody exploit the issue of race, as Forest City Ratner has done."

Comments

  1. Norm, good review of the meeting. However, there were over 300 people in the room. I helped set up the chairs, so I know exactly how many chairs per row and how many rows. There were 300+.

    Next time we meet in that otherwise wonderful room, the large fan will be off and there will be a huge screen or none of that type of thing at all.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.