Thursday, November 30, 2006

High crime in footprint? FEIS ignores the criticism

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in the Response to Comments section of the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), aims to offer "a summary of these relevant comments and a response to each." (Emphasis added)

Many responses might be seen as incomplete, but at least they're responses. When it comes to dubious charges of high crime in the Atlantic Yards footprint, charges raised in the ESDC's Blight Study but severely criticized (by me, at first), the ESDC has ignored the issue.

Criticisms sent to ESDC

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn in this file (p. 7) from its Blight Response, quoted my criticism and added to it. Community Board 2 told the ESDC:
The crime statistics in the DEIS are misrepresented and cannot be used honestly as evidence of blight.

Indeed, as I pointed out, in two of the three sectors studied that each included parts of the footprint, the crime rate was lower last year than in the larger police precincts to which they belong. That's hardly a sign of high crime.

But there's no response to these criticisms in either Part 1 or Part 2 of the Response to Comments chapter.

Generalities on blight

The agency did respond to criticisms that the area wasn't blighted by citing its Blight Study.

[The numbers designate those who commented.]

Comment 20-8: The DEIS makes an absurd claim that without Atlantic Yards, without eminent domain, no development could benefit New York State and that phony blight conditions would remain. (58, 107)

Response 20-8: The blight study accurately identifies blight on the project site, and eminent domain is an appropriate tool to address this blight.

Comment G-31: The designation of Prospect Heights, an up-and-coming neighborhood with new co-ops and condos, as blighted is bogus. (58, 69, 107, 119, 122, 160, 172, 197, 235, 239, 241, 256, 265, 274, 281, 325, 337, 338, 339)

How is the surrounding neighborhood blighted when residences are selling for upward of $1 million? (10, 31, 421, 160, 411, 445)

With housing values going up every day and out of reach of the common person, how is the area blighted? (144, 172, 204, 228, 229, 268, 385)

The area is already developing in an independent way through small businesses and individuals. This area is far from blighted. (144, 214)

The community has already transformed a blighted area into a vibrant mixed use community. (31, 107, 191, 235, 397, 438)


Response G-31: The DEIS states that the proposed project site is characterized by blighted conditions, including dilapidated and structurally unsound buildings, debris-filled vacant lots, and underutilized properties. The DEIS does not state that the neighborhoods or blocks surrounding the project site are blighted. In addition, ESDC has prepared a Blight Study, which is appended to the General Project Plan.

But there's no defense of the crime rate analysis within the Blight Study.

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