Sunday, October 01, 2006

CB 8 sends ESDC committee and individual criticisms of DEIS

Community Board 8, which takes in part of the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint at its western tip, didn't take a harsh official stance toward the project as did Community Board 6, but it did submit numerous letters of concern from Executive Committee members and area residents to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

In fact, while CB 8 did submit a summary of the testimony at the public hearing it held Aug. 3, which attracted a significant fraction of project supporters, all of the dozens of other pages submitted to the ESDC raised questions about the project or criticized it.

CB 8 Chairperson Robert Matthews submitted a cover letter on Sept. 29 along with the documents. He wrote:
It is my understanding that as a member of the Community Advisory Board, we were expected to review and comment on the DEIS and the General Project Plan (GPP). However, given that your agency notified my board of these proceedings in late July when our Board is not in session, it has been impossible to thoroughly complete this task.
...Further, as we have noted in the past, Community Boards do not have technical support to adequately review materials that are normally examined by attorneys and engineers. We are at a disadvantage. We hope your agency will seek to address this inequity in the future.
...In the future, I hope that you would allow our community ample time to address such urgent matters.


Bill Batson, cochair of CB 8's Atlantic Yards subcommittee, told me that, given the board's lack of power to approve or disapprove of the project, an up or down vote was avoided, since it could lead to divisions. (Several project supporters, including officers in Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), are on the CB8 board.)

"We felt we needed to educate our community on all of the aspects while avoiding the heated rhetoric," said Batson, who ran for the 57th Assembly District seat on a platform critical of Atlantic Yards but was defeated by Hakeem Jeffries.

CB 8 concerns

CB 8 submitted a copy of Matthews' testimony at the AY community forum on Sept. 12, in which he said that the board sought a time horizon for the analysis to be extended from ten to 20 years to better account for development in the area; that the direct and indirect costs of the project be specified, and that the effect on community facilities be considered.

Such comments were amplified in individual submissions. Holly Fuchs Furguson, representing CB 8's Fire and Transportation committees, sent a copy of the testimony she delivered, in which she pointed out that the impacts of the project on police and fire response "are ignored with the comment of no significant impact because these are considered reactive, not pre-planning agencies."

Ferguson slammed the treatment in the DEIS of traffic and transportation issues. "The current document ignores the looming intense gridlock, as it ignored the current near gridlock conditions on project streets during weekday and rush hours," she said. "The document ignores the congested bus and subway lines during rush hours."

Ultimately, she said, the DEIS shouldn't go forward because it lacks a "credible traffic and pedestrian model."

No real parks

The chairpersons of CB 8's Parks and Recreation committee, speaking personally, criticized the project for not including actual parks. "We choose to define a park as something that the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation controls, operates, and maintains," wrote Robert Witherwax. "The much touted Publicly Accessible Open Space included in this plan is, by that defnition, NOT a park."

Given that the space would be controlled by a nonprofit organization created by the developer, he wrote, "In the view of the Chairs, this is an unacceptable arrangement."

Community facilities

Akosua Albritton, chair of the Youth & Family Services Committee, criticized a DEIS statement that child care facilities in the area would be able to accommodate the increased population of children 12 and younger. "This statement is counter to the reality of the subject area," Albritton wrote, adding, "CB8 has an insufficient number of daycare slots at present."

Albritton also pointed out that the new population would strain libraries, which offer rooms for meetings and events, and serve as places for after-school homework and tutoring.

Nizjoni Granville, chairperson of the Housing and Land Use Committee, noted that the DEIS incorrectly described a Prospect Heights Historic District, which implies greater protection against overdevelopment than the actual situation, in which part of Prospect Heights is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Granville also pointed out that a reference to the "now-closed Brooklyn Jewish Hospital" was misleading, because the site has since been transformed into market-rental housing.

Power & waste

CB 8's Ethel Tyus questioned the DEIS's estimates regarding the electrical supply: "The DEIS' blithe blather about merely laying new conduits in the street to replace aging wires and that Con Ed is taking steps to provide increased capacity are not sufficient assurances that the electrical infrastructure will be adequate to [the] task."

Ede Fox, chair of the Environment/Sanitation committee, expressed concern--as have several experts--that the project would overload the city's waste treatment system. Additionally, Fox wrote, "We want more extensive air monitoring, more limitations on heavy construction and an active community advisory committee throughout the ten-year construction period."

"Radical changes"

Several residents within the district sent versions of a letter calling for "radical changes in response to public concerns":
--project impacts "must be meaningfully mitigated or averted"
--the scale should relate to but not overwhlem its neighbors
--local streets should not be overloaded
--the open space would be insufficient, inaccessible, and unavailable for years
--the housing should match the neighborhood's socioeconomic diversity
--the proposed construction phasing, which would clear the Phase 2 footprint for vacant lots and surface parking, "may blight our neighborhood for at least a decade."

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