Sunday, January 14, 2007

Eagle's Holt: nothing wrong with AY process

In Friday's Brooklyn Daily Eagle (though the column is not yet online), Dennis Holt offered a column headlined "Atlantic Yards: Nothing Was Wrong with Development Process." Some excerpts:
Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project are trying to establish a falsehood about the long process of the development of this major mixed-use effort. That falsehood is that there was something wrong about the public process that led to its governmental approval.
...The public process was quite correct, every base touched, and many more than legally called for. There was, in truth, more "public participation" in the Atlantic Yards development process than in any other development in the last 20 years in Downtown Brooklyn.


Holt may be right about the amount of process in comparison to some other projects, but the rest of his claim is dubious. Firstly, those criticizing the process have included not just the die-hard opponents of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, but mainstream voices like the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Plan Association. (Here's the RPA money quote.)

Note that they have criticized the public process that led to the decision to choose Forest City Ratner as the developer, while Holt seems to be referring mainly to the examination of the project once it was announced.

Secondly, it may be that the Empire State Development Corporation so cut corners in its speedy approval process that it violated a state law requiring eminent domain findings to be made within 90 days of a public hearing.

Absence of reform?

Holt also suggests that the absence of action on two fronts suggests public acceptance of the process:
I have seen no one at either the city or state level suggest legislative changes. Further, were there anything out of order with the EIS product or process, lawsuits would have long ago been filed.

Firstly, the failure of the state environmental review process to address post-9/11 security issues has led to a significant belief--if not yet actual legislation--that the law be changed.

Secondly, Holt doesn't acknowledge that a lawsuit challenging the environmental review might take time to develop. Nearly two months ago, DDDB representatives said that such a lawsuit was in the works.

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