State law requires that the agency conducting the review, in this case the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts. DDDB legal chair Candace Carponter said yesterday that the FEIS fails to adequately explore alternatives to the project or crucial issues like emergency response times for police and fire service.
“The part about the traffic is almost a joke,” she added, speaking at a community forum held at the Hanson Place United Methodist Church in Fort Greene. “We believe there are major flaws, because they worked so fast.” The FEIS took only about six weeks to produce.
The project is expected to be approved by the ESDC board later this month, then must proceed to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), where a unanimous vote is required by the three controlling members, departing Gov. George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
Within 30 days, Carponter said, the lawsuit would be filed. She said that 30 attorneys and paralegals had volunteered to help DDDB’s retained counsel.
Jim Vogel, secretary of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), said that the Final EIS “severely underestimates” issues like traffic and the effect on the power grid, and does not sufficiently analyze emergency services.
He criticized the lack of sufficient transit solutions. “Even with ‘No Build,’” he said, referring to the alternative in which no project is built over the Vanderbilt Yard, “we’d be in gridlock by 2013.” With Atlantic Yards, he said, it would be “bigger gridlock” sooner.
The Final EIS, he said, “serves neither the public nor the governor nor the developer” and spotlights the need for comprehensive regional planning.
CBN has begun Project Report Card, asking those who submitted comments to the ESDC to grade the response.
DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein urged the 125 or so attendees to get local elected officials to pressure Silver to delay the vote “until the eminent domain suit is resolved.” Otherwise, he said, developer Forest City Ratner could begin demolitions, “and we’re left with a mess when we win our case.”
Though he has not criticized the project, Silver is likely the most receptive to a delay, so as to allow Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer, a fellow Democrat, an opportunity to evaluate a project that would be built on his watch.
Speaking of politicians, Carponter said, “There are a lot more that are starting to weigh in and say, ‘Wait a second.’”
Two elected officials rallied the troops. State Senator Velmanette Montgomery said that local representatives will try to delay a decision on the project, “at least until a new governor comes in.”
City Council Member Letitia James declared, “This is not the beginning of the end. This is the end to the beginning of a project that would destroy our community.” She urged attendees to “reject the campaign of deception, of distraction, of distortion, and of divisiveness.”
Local Assemblymembers Joan Millman and Jim Brennan were invited but didn’t attend. Incoming 57th District Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries sent a representative. More than James or Montgomery, the three might have some sway with Silver.
The two 57th Assembly District leaders, Olanike Alabi and Bill Saunders, also vowed their opposition to the project.