Thursday, April 03, 2008

BAM on AY: excited about changes, happy with (donor) Bruce Ratner

What does the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) think of the Atlantic Yards project? It would be a good neighbor, especially since Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner's been a good guy, a major donor, and--as documents show--the Forest City Ratner Foundation has been a generous donor, too.

Comments filed as part of the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) stressed the potential upside of the project without acknowledging the downside. BAM Chief Financial Officer Peter Gee testified:

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is excited about the new potential audiences, donors, subscribers, and amenities that will result from residential and commercial development in the Downtown Brooklyn. [sic] The affordable-housing component of the Atlantic Yards plan will ensure that BAM audiences continue to be representative of a wide range of people with diverse cultural interests. BAM looks forward to providing programs and services for everyone.

(Did he mean "Downtown Brooklyn" or "the Downtown Brooklyn area"?)

Sensitive to community concerns

As many of you know, Bruce Ratner served as BAM's chair for 10 years. He was a generous, thoughtful, and responsive leader who presided over many important milestones for the institution, including the expansion of free community programs, the creation and opening of the BAM Rose Cinemas and the establishment of BAM's endowment. We at BAM believe that Bruce has been--and will continue to be--sensitive to community concerns as he forges ahead with the Atlantic Yards development.

Ratner remains a member of the BAM board, as is Dan Klores, who chairs one of Ratner's main p.r. firms. Ratner almost certainly has made significant personal contributions to BAM.

Beyond that, the Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation gave $107,035 to BAM in 2004, the foundation's first year of operations; $100,000 in 2005; and $100,000 in 2006. Only the Brooklyn Museum has received a gift of $100,000, and only for two years. Reports of foundation gifts in 2007 are not yet available.

Traffic & BAM

While new housing and development would help further audiences for BAM and the organization's plans for a cultural district, the Atlantic Yards project also would bring some potential snags, especially traffic.

For example, Saturday matinees at BAM might be affected by traffic congestion; the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) shows "unmitigated significant impacts" (aka severe delays) at several intersections nearby, including one at Flatbush and Lafayette avenues just west of BAM.

In the graphic, look for the circled dot just northwest of the project site. Note that the impact is estimated not to come until the project's second phase, though critics have argued that the state has underestimated the traffic problem.

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