Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gargano says there's "no question" about blight

As part of the New York Voices show on Atlantic Yards broadcast Friday on Ch. 13, titled The Battle for Brooklyn, host Rafael Pi Roman queried Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano about the issue of blight.

CG: We have declared this a blighted area, and there's no question in anybody's mind that drives around there or walks around there, that a lot of the site is.

RPR: How can you declare a site blighted that has apartments of over $750,000?

CG: Well, number one, I heard the same story when we were using eminent domain on 42nd Street. There was drug sales, prostitution, all kinds of illicit activity going on. And people criticized us then, said, "Why, this is America. This is a democracy. Why are you condeming those properties?" You have to look at what's for the public benefit. Look at 42nd Street today. Now it is true, not the entire street was blighted, but a major portion of it.

The parallel is that there were, indeed, thriving businesses in some of the 42nd Street buildings, just as there are thriving residential buildings (and some businesses) in and around the Atlantic Yards footprint.

There are no parallel drug sales, prostitution, and illicit activity around the Atlantic Yards footprint, despite what the ESDC's Blight Study claims.

Railyard blight?

Gargano continued:
Look, I know this site for 50 years. I grew up in that area. This site is dormant. It's on a railyard.

The railyard is actively used. The way to change the use of a railyard, as the city has determined regarding the Hudson Yards in Manhattan, is to have it rezoned and put up for bid.

On the way up?

RP: Part of it is, but we did a report about two years ago, we saw some beautiful apartments, it's on the way up, it was on the way up. Wouldn't you say?

CG: Let me tell you. The order of magnitude of this project, the improvements that this project will bring about for the people of Brooklyn, in that particular neighborhood, in terms of shops, in terms of the apartments that I referred to, eight acres of open space, parks, beautiful amenities for this whole area. This is not just coming in, putting up buildings and going home. This is a question of building an entire community that will benefit all the people from that area.

Indeed, the Atlantic Yards project would represent an enormous change. The improvements, however, are a matter of debate. The open space would be too little for the expected population and it would not be a park but privately managed.

And "building an entire community," according to numerous comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, would overburden the neighborhoods and the infrastructure.

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