Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ESDC: AY site blighted, because we say so

Near the end of the chapter responding to comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Empire State Development Corporation organized a series of comments on the charged question of blight.

The challenges:
The most absurd claim, that the site would remain blighted if the sponsor's project were not built, is disproved by the content of the DEIS itself. This developer and others have clearly identified northern Prospect Heights as an attractive area for new projects. (Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council)

Blighted areas have no economic value and little hope of acquiring any. These buildings have value and without this project will acquire more value by private investment, the same way the surrounding neighborhoods have. (Marna Garwood, Brooklyn resident)

Two buildings demolished by the developer on Dean Street were appraised by a local realtor as prime renovation opportunities that would have immediately sold for over $1 million each. The DEIS conclusion that this neighborhood would not improve without the AY development is patently false. (535 Dean Street residents)

The DEIS claims the area would remain blighted without this project. This ignores viable existing developer interest as expressed in the Extell Plan. (Daisy Deomampo, Brooklyn resident; Martin Goldstein, Brooklyn resident)

ESDC assumes that without the proposed project the yards wouldn’t be developed, which flies in the face of reality if one considers the competing proposals. The only reason they wouldn’t be developed is if Ratner refused to sell or develop his properties. (Stephen Armstrong, Brooklyn resident)

The ESDC's response:
As described in Chapter 1, “Project Description,” of the DEIS, five of the eight blocks comprising the proposed project site were included in the 1968 Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA). Over the past several decades, a vast majority of ATURA, as well as areas south of ATURA, have experienced substantial redevelopment. The proposed project site (which comprises the southernmost portion of ATURA) is an exception to this otherwise widespread revitalization in this area. Currently, the project site’s below-grade rail yard and dilapidated, vacant, and underutilized properties perpetuate a visual and physical barrier between the redeveloped areas to the north of Atlantic Avenue and the neighborhoods to the south. Although neighborhoods such as Prospect Heights continue to experience residential and commercial growth, conditions on the project site have remained largely unchanged over the past several decades.

Actually, the project site would extend beyond the border of ATURA, and the pending eminent domain case involves properties beyond ATURA. As for conditions "largely unchanged," that depends on the definition of "largely," given the successful renovation of three luxury buildings on or adjacent to the site, and the new construction going up across the street from the site.

Even in 1999, the New York Times had identified the area as ripe for redevelopment:
Speaking of the industrial buildings in the border area on Dean and Pacific Streets Mr. McLaren said: ''It's the last large concentrated amount of square footage in brownstone Brooklyn. These are no handyman specials. You need to have sophistication in navigating city bureaucracy to make them work.''

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