Friday, April 25, 2008

Rally for AY "time out" to be held Saturday, May 3

No More Demolitions!
No More Changes to Infrastructure!
No More Subsidies!
No More Displacement of Residents and Businesses!


The "Atlantic Yards stall" has brought groups representing different flavors of project criticism and opposition together for a rally at 2 pm on Saturday, May 3, with a range of local political officials confirmed as attendees. The location is 752 Pacific Street near Carlton Avenue in the AY footprint, a block planned to hold "interim surface parking" that could last indefinitely. (The Brooklyn Paper broke the news, though the lead of the article says Sunday rather than Saturday and stresses stopping demolitions.)

The stated purpose--asking Gov. David Paterson for a "time out"--is certainly milder than the full agenda of Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). Indeed, DDDB restates its opposition to the project in its rally announcement.

What does the statement that "Brooklyn needs a new plan and community involvement" mean? It could mean the UNITY plan, which DDDB and CBN support, but it also could be a restatement of the position of more moderate coalition BrooklynSpeaks, which has taken a "mend it, don't end it" posture toward AY and has avoided joining any lawsuits.

BrooklynSpeaks, which has the expertise of the Municipal Art Society behind it, has proposed a new governance structure to oversee the project and has gained the support of several local elected officials who have expressed concerns about the project but have avoided standing with DDDB.

CBN and DDDB are petitioners in the pending appeal of the lawsuit--dismissed at the trial court level--challenging the state's environmental review. (DDDB has raised money for this and the eminent domain lawsuit, now on a longshot effort to get the Supreme Court to hear it.)

Potential impact

It's unlikely that Paterson would intervene regarding demolitions; after all, judges have previously been unwilling to intervene when FCR demolishes properties it already owns. As for displacement, that would mostly be a consequence of eminent domain--not yet exercised, but certainly on the Empire State Development Corporation's agenda. Will Paterson revisit his 2005 call for a moratorium on eminent domain?

If project completion requires more subsidies, as the developer asserts, then that may be the most critical issue at the rally. Does the developer deserve more subsidies to deliver promised public benefits on a specific timetable? Or was the promised ten-year buildout unrealistic from the start, as suggested by the long leash given for the arena and Phase I, with no timetable for Phase II? That's an issue, perhaps, for the upcoming Assembly hearing on megaprojects, which could look more carefully at plans and promises behind AY.

(Note that that FCR is in the middle of demolishing the Ward Bakery, a building many wanted to save, near the site of the rally, to create space for that "interim surface parking." It has taken no steps to tear down 24 Sixth Avenue, once filled with handsome condos and now being used for offices and temporary apartments, though it would be needed for the arena block. Should the project fail, the units could easily be resold.)

Elected officials

Two City Council Members who've generally supported the project, David Yassky and Bill de Blasio (both candidates for higher office), have ramped up their critical rhetoric and joined their Council Member colleague, project opponent Letitia James, in asking Paterson for a similar time out.

DDDB says several other elected officials have confirmed attendance: State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, State Assemblyman Jim Brennan, State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, the three Council Members mentioned above, and Council Member (and maverick mayoral candidate) Tony Avella.

While that group basically contains the local elected officials most concerned about the project rather than a huge base, they haven't previously come together for such a rally.

(Note that the rally location is outside a building owned by Henry Weinstein, a plaintiff in the eminent domain case and a party in a suit, so far successful, against his tenant Shaya Boymelgreen, who then assigned leases to Forest City Ratner.)

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