Thursday, February 15, 2007

Spin city #3: Doctoroff says AY had "enormous level of community input"

In this week's New York Observer, in a Q&A headlined Modern-Day Robert Moses, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff first seems to acknowledge that the Atlantic Yards project received too little community input, then reverses himself, claiming--against strong evidence--"an enormous level of community input."

Location: What do you think when people compare you to Robert Moses?
(Location is the name of the newspaper's new real estate section.)

Doctoroff: That is always a little odd. I don’t think that any comparison between the period that Moses was active and today is really that relevant. The biggest difference is the need for community input.

With very few exceptions, we have really made an effort to reach out to local communities and understand their needs. Moses was a believer that it was experts who were able to divine what was best for the community or the city on the whole.


Location: You said there were a few exceptions?

Doctoroff: Those that go through the state process.

Location: Well, what do you think about that? Atlantic Yards, in particular?

Doctoroff: I think in that case there was an enormous level of community input. There were hundreds of meetings and enormous outreach to community leaders. The difference was that it was not submitted to a vote of the City Council. In that case, you had a local Council member who was not in favor. On the other hand, you had the majority of the Council—I can’t say this with 100 percent certainty—that wants it.

The Council shows deference to the local Council member, but it has also demonstrated an ability to see needs of citywide import and to respond accordingly. I don’t think the response would’ve been any different.

(Emphasis added)

"Behind closed doors"

Perhaps the project would have been passed, but it certainly would have faced more scrutiny and pressure for changes. As the Regional Plan Association, which supports Atlantic Yards, at least in the first phase, stated last August:
“Unfortunately, the public review process for the Atlantic Yards project is part of a pattern in which the State and the City enter into an agreement with a single developer prior to a full debate of alternatives. Ideally, this strategically vital piece of public real estate would have been the subject of a planning exercise… open bidding…. Instead, the state worked exclusively with Forest City Ratner while the MTA entered into a truncated bidding process only after a memorandum of understanding had been signed by FCRC, the state and the city. The details of the project were largely devised behind closed doors by the developer, and only minor modifications have been made in response to public criticisms. While the developer has held numerous public meetings and provided information to the community, most of the decisions regarding the site had already been made. As a result, the public has no way of knowing if this project is the best possible one for the site. It is greatly handicapped in assessing potential alternatives, and has less leverage for negotiating changes that would add to its community benefits.
(Emphasis added)

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