Friday, March 07, 2008

Will the AY Community Advisory Committee get off the ground?

An effort to create a new Atlantic Yards Community Advisory Committee (CAC) seems stalled for now. In January, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) begun to recruit a reconstituted and expanded CAC to meet quarterly and provide comment on the project, asking local elected officials and community boards for nominations.

The first meeting was to be in late February or early March. The only problem: some elected officials aren't playing ball. City Council Member Letitia James told me she wasn't appointing anybody because she didn't consider the group legitimate.

An earlier incarnation of the CAC, a six-member group, barely met during the environmental review process and was criticized in the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review. A state judge, Joan Madden, acknowledged in her ruling dismissing the suit that the CAC could've done more, but said there were no standards for such a group.

Other electeds balk

Other elected officials were more diplomatic, but still haven't made nominations. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries told me, "The decision was made collectively with several other elected officials to refrain from making any appointments until we had a better understanding of the role the CAC would play and more importantly, as part of an effort to develop an entity that had real and meaningful input into the situation."

A spokesperson for City Council Member Bill de Blasio said, "At this point, [he] agrees with the other elected officials that the current proposed body should be stronger and have a more formal role. He would like to see what room there is for strengthening this group before committing to appointing someone."

Jeffries told me that City Council Member David Yassky and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke also were refraining from making appointments.

I wasn't able to check whether the other elected officials--Assemblymembers Jim Brennan and Joan Millman, State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz--have appointed members to the CAC. But it's notable that Clarke, an AY supporter, and de Blasio, a supporter with reservations, want to strengthen the CAC.

I asked the ESDC for comment but didn't hear back. A meeting between the ESDC and elected officials is scheduled in the next two weeks.

And while the three Community Boards also asked to nominate representatives may not be taking as oppositional a position, at least one has questions. In a letter announcing that he and fellow board member David Reiss would be appointed to the CAC, CB6 Chairman Richard Bashner wrote, "In preparation for our first meeting, it would be most helpful if you could explain in greater detail what the role and mission of the CAC will be, including its responsibility and powers. This will enable the CAC to be more effective than its prior incarnation."

Governance structure

Several local officials have supported a new governance structure put forward by BrooklynSpeaks that would involve additional oversight and advisory input. Jasper Goldman of the Municipal Art Society, who worked on the governance proposal said, of the CAC: "Unless it's set up in a way that’s real and meaningful and has a clear mission, it’s not clear where participation gets you. This doesn’t come close to addressing the needs we addressed in the governance proposal. It falls far short of the standard of governance set by projects like Hudson River Park, Queens West and the rebuilding at the World Trade Center site. None of those are perfect, but they're head and shoulders above what we have with Atlantic Yards."

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