Skip to main content

Three minutes? Transcript shows how DEIS hearing quickly went off track

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

More than 250 people signed up to speak at the hearing, which, if speakers had been kept to the three-minute limit, would've meant 750 minutes (12.5 hours) in speaking time alone. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

Hearing Officer Edward Kramer's unwillingness to keep some of the first 13 speakers, all elected officials, to three minutes, coupled with his incapacity to keep the crowd under control, made for a chaotic hearing. And while an ESDC spokeswoman insisted afterward that "ESDC followed our practices and policies regarding hearings. We intend to conduct the forums similarly," in the follow-up community forums, Kramer enforced the time limit by having the microphone turned off.

After the elected officials spoke, neither Debra Dawkins of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) nor Nets fan Tal Barzilai required Kramer to warn them to conclude on time.

Then things began to unravel, mainly due to the insistence by certain Atlantic Yards supporters that they had to be heard.

Nine requests to conclude

The first speaker who notably flummoxed Kramer was Karen Smith Daughtry, wife of the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, founder of the DBNA and signatory of the Community Benefits Agreement. (By the way, their daughter Leah Daughtry is CEO of the ongoing Democratic National Convention.)

The transcript of Karen Daughtry's remarks, reproduced in part, shows that, after warning Daughtry she had 20 seconds to conclude, Kramer asked nine times for her to finish. (Note that the term "Audience participation" encompasses a lot and that the transcription is inexact.)

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: My name is Dr. Karen Smith Daughtry. And I am a member of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance otherwise known as DBNA, and a proud member of the House of Lord Pentecostal Church.

... I am particularly excited about DBNA's part in the Atlantic Yards project as it relates to the community, amenities and facilities' portion of the CBA where there will be a health and wellness pavilion, and offers of arena-related affairs an initiatives; parks and open space, a museum and library.

The educator that I am and having more than 35 years of experience working with youth, children and seniors, the possibilities of what an intergenerational initiative will bring for our youth, our seniors and our young people, bringing them together in this dismal time in our history as a nation, is one of the lights of hope on the horizon. As we stand here today at the Klitgord Auditorium --


THE HEARING OFFICER: Twenty seconds.

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: -- one of our alma maters of days of yours [probably 'yore'], the future of our youth is in jeopardy. On September the 8th, this year, 5,000 children will lose their after school care to a system which is not fully developed. The Day Care Direct Lease Program will be closed because the City is not renewing the direct leases which we've had the benefit for the past twenty years.

THE HEARING OFFICER: Please conclude --

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: Classes in already -- in already existing programs for young children are losing slots. The children now will get into trouble if they travel eighteen blocks unattended to go to an unsupervised program that has been set up to the demise of our community.

(Audience participation.)

THE HEARING OFFICER: Your time is up.

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: The families that will lose their --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Ma'am, your time is up. You have several pages, if you could let the next speaker --

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: No, well, I just got one or two more things to say as others have spoken longer than me.

THE HEARING OFFICER: You have ten seconds, ma'am and your time is up.

(Audience participation.)

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: I choose -- I choose to be remembered with those who plan for tomorrow. And I therefore, support the concept of providing support for our children in the dawn of life, for our youth in the prime of summer of their lives and our seniors in the autumn and the winter of their lives. I believe that one of the ways this can be actualized is through --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Your time is up.

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: -- is through DBNA --

THE HEARING OFFICER: The next speaker, please.

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: -- community amenities and facilities --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Ma'am, your time is up.

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: -- and the position in the CBA. I, again, repeat the words of Malcom X --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Ma'am, your time is up.

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: -- so the power belong to those who plan for it today and I choose to plan for it tomorrow --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Ma'am, your time is up.

MS. KAREN DAUGHTRY: -- by being in support of this project today.

(Audience participation.)

Nearly six minutes

Only a bit later in the hearing, her husband, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, spoke for 5:45, albeit with interruptions.

I can't do justice in describing Daughtry's passionate, combative, and triumphant sermon, in front of many cheering followers and some jeering project opponents.

However, the partial transcript suggests that Kramer just gave up trying to enforce the time limit, as he stopped requesting that the speaker to conclude.

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: ...Let me speak -- let me speak more specifically to the area that we are engaged. You heard my beautiful wife of 44 years. My children are here. They were born here in Brooklyn. I came to Brooklyn 65 years ago. I'm 75. Most of my years were spent in Brooklyn.

We support this project because --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Twenty seconds.

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: -- it will provide an intergenerational center. And guess what, guess what, we have participated in the design of the complex. It will provide a health facility in a community that is starved for health facilities. It will provide a place for our young, a place for the seniors, a place for the youth to come together in an atrium designed by us.

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: We support the project --

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: -- and I ask the question --

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: -- I ask the question, I ask the question, listen, I ask the question, why are we holding against Forest City Ratner when all around Brooklyn development is going on with non-union work --

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: Build in Brooklyn first. On with development of this
project --

(Audience participation.)

THE HEARING OFFICER: Can everybody please sit down. Can everybody please sit down. Reverend, if [you] could conclude your remarks, please. Thank you.

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: (Indicating.)

THE HEARING OFFICER: If you can please conclude your remarks. Thank you.

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: And let me conclude -- I thank you for allowing me time. Thank you for your support. I'm only trying to say I appreciate even the opposition. Perhaps if I were you I'd argue the same way. I don't think so, but I'm concerned about the community and I've always been.

But listen, Forest City Ratner isn't even the largest development plan in Brooklyn. Downtown Brooklyn plan, why don't you protest against that?

[Well, some people did protest it, but the difference is that the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was approved by the City Council, while Atlantic Yards, given the state override of zoning, is essentially a private rezoning.]

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: That bank -- listen, listen. That bank that you hold sacred, the Williamsburg Bank, guess what, the developer said ain't going to be no affordable housing. That's what they said. Protest against that.

[Indeed, the condo conversion is as of right and need not include affordable housing--and there are tax breaks to boot, a sign that the city and state moved too slowly in reforming the 421-a tax break. But developer Forest City Ratner promised from the start that the bank's iconic clock would not be blocked.]

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: Why don't you cry over that?

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: And so I conclude. Thank you for the time. I conclude. Let me finish.

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: Let me finish.

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: Let me finish.

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: Let me finish. The Chairman has been kind. Just let me finish. I'll conclude this way. I'm an old man now. I've walked these valleys all over the world, --

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: -- from Belfast to Bangkok to Baton Rouge. I have fought for justice --

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: -- and rights for everybody. And now finally in my neighborhood, a few blocks from my church is an urban development --

(Audience participation.)

REVEREND DAUGHTRY: -- is coming on and I don't even have to take a cab or a plane, I can walk there. I say forward with the Atlantic Yards project.

(Audience participation.)

Another example

Later in the hearing, a representative of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) was intent on describing the Community Benefits Agreement and went way over time.

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: ...There you will also find the School Based Workforce Development Program for youth in our school from grades five through 12; You also find the Church-based Employment Training & Educational Attainment Services Program for underemployed and unemployed adults out of school ages 16 to 25. You find for the highly educated brothers of which they doubt like myself, the Brooklyn Scholarship and Fellowship program for young black brothers and sisters between the ages --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Twenty seconds.

MR. DE SHAUN TAYLOR: -- of 18 and 23.

(Audience participation.)

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: How much time I have left? Okay. And to wrap it up, let me give you my best twenty seconds on my final point. We have brought a $4.2 billion project to Brooklyn, New York. Let's understand that very clearly. What I am suggesting and my recommendation to the CBA and to the fine Speaker here, is that along with this $4.2 billion project we need to have a program called the Free Enterprise Institute of Education that focuses on entrepreneurial sciences and focuses on business development, okay --

(Audience participation.)

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: No, no, hold on now. We need to teach our people, we need to teach our people collectively in Brooklyn, New York, what does is mean to create a $4.2 billion project. What does it mean to --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Please sum up.

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: -- have economic analysis -- Hold on one second.

(Audience participation.)

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: What does it mean -- what does it mean to have economic analysis in our community to project the next profit gain. And for all the people who are against -- no.

THE HEARING OFFICER: Mr. Taylor, your time is up. Your time is up.

(Audience participation.)

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: Well, Mr. Speaker --

(Audience participation.)

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: -- I ask you for a little more time.

THE HEARING OFFICER: Thank you for your comment. You can submit your comments. Sir, your time is up.

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: All right. I can deal with that. But let me tell you --

(Audience participation.)

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: -- on our time of political uncertainty --

(Audience participation.)

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: In our time of political uncertainty we --

THE HEARING OFFICER: This gentleman, please come to the microphone. Thank you.

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: Okay. You want me to go public with that statement?

THE HEARING OFFICER: You can do whatever you want, sir.

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: Okay. In our time --

THE HEARING OFFICER: Time is up.

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: -- of political uncertainty -- on our time --

THE HEARING OFFICER: The next speaker --

MR. DESHAUN TAYLOR: -- in our time of war, what we need is balanced -- balanced politics. We need --

A moment of levity

THE HEARING OFFICER: The next speaker is Eric McClure.

(Audience participation.)

MR. ERIC MCCLURE: Do I have three allotted minutes or three of his minutes?

THE HEARING OFFICER: Hopefully three of my minutes.

MR. ERIC MCCLURE: My name is Eric McClure and I am here this evening as Atlantic Yards Campaign Coordinator for Park Slope Neighbors....

I was going to start with a critique of the ESDC, but since its actions have shown that it obviously just doesn't give a damn, I won't waste my breath.

(Audience participation.)

MR. ERIC MCCLURE: Suffice it to say the ESDC is a walking advertisement for Public Authorities reform.

Later on

Apparently even more people signed up to speak, since at about 8 pm, Kramer made the following announcement.

THE HEARING OFFICER: We have been here a little over four hours straight now. We still have registered speakers. However, in view of full disclosure, we still have, on my estimate, it's about 250 to 300 more registered speakers.

The essential complaint

More people might have spoken had the time limits been adhered to. And the evidence generally supports the complaint made by JoAnne Simon, district leader for the 52nd Assembly District, who wrote to the ESDC:
While generally respectful of witnesses [hearing officer Edward] Kramer had a heavy hand on the time clock for those who were testifying about environmental impacts, allowing project supporters to preach and scold well beyond the 3-minute limit... Had such testimony been remotely on topic, I might be less offended, although it still would have been unfair.

He didn't have a hand on any time clock, as far as I can tell. While some project opponents offered their share of jeers and unseemly behavior, those who testified were more respectful of time limits.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.