Saturday, October 13, 2007

From "Brian Lehrer Live": criticism and context

The Brian Lehrer Live show broadcast on Wednesday night will be rebroadcast several times, and it is also available as video on demand.

There wasn't a heck of a lot new, but it was an interesting position to come on after a video about fascinating Future Perfect installation (with the voice of a caller decrying $2 billion in subsidies--clearly an exaggeration) and a clip from the powerful but hardly balanced Brooklyn Matters documentary.

I, often critical of Atlantic Yards, and fellow guest Robert Guskind (right) of the Gowanus Lounge, a self-described "skeptic," come to this as journalists rather than advocates and, in our discussion with Lehrer were critical of the project by putting it into context.

AY & the environment

Lehrer pointed to the environmental benefits of density (vs. sprawl), noted that Atlantic Yards would be next to a transit hub, and suggested that, from an environmental perspective, the project was a good

"Density is good," Guskind replied, "but the issue with Atlantic Yards, in my opinion, is one of excessive density.... Frankly, I'm skeptical of the environmental review process that was done."

"Density is good, but who decides on density?" I continued. "Do you simply say, 'Hey, this is our plan, take it or leave it,' or do you have a public process, a rezoning...?"

"Done deal" & public process

Lehrer pointed out that Forest City Ratner has long portrayed Atlantic Yards as a "done deal "and that, shortly after the project was announced, Bruce Ratner appeared on his radio show and declared that there was no opposition.

"They structured the process so it would be a 'done deal'," Guskind observed.

Lehrer asked about the lawsuits against the project and suggested that they were a last-ditch effort, given that opponents had lost at every level: "They've lost at the legislative level..."

"What legislative level, Brian?" I responded, clarifying that the City Council did not have a vote.

And Guskind offered the money quote, suggesting that the lawsuits were the only hope, given that the political and approval process was "rigged to produce this outcome. In a few decades of covering urban affairs and covering public policy all over the country, I've rarely seen a process this anti-democratic."

And it's not exactly radical to think the process behind AY was deeply flawed; that's pretty much what PlaNYC 2030 implies.

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