Friday, February 13, 2009

Brooklyn Paper editorial generates outrage; is AY project really "shovel-ready" (as stated in Markowitz's State of the Borough address)?

At his State of the Borough Address last night, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz apparently declared that Atlantic Yards was "shovel-ready," echoing the Empire State Development Corporation.

Unanswered is a question Prospect Heights resident Peter Krashes raised Wednesday: would federal stimulus money lessen the burden of the developer or lessen the burden of government?

From the text

Markowitz's prepared remarks:
To ensure progress continues on creating the "city center" our borough of over 2.5 million deserves.
And let me tell you, if Brooklyn ever needed a project like Atlantic Yards--the time is now.
As the one who originally came up with the idea to make Brooklyn a "professional sports city" again --
And the one who insisted that the project include affordable housing--
I believe what's most important now -- is the thousands of union jobs it will create right when we need them most!
When it comes to ambitious, shovel-ready project, we say "Build Baby Build!"
Atlantic Yards -- Yes we can-- and yes we will.
And when Atlantic Yards is built -- it will keep on generating jobs in Downtown Brooklyn...

(Emphases in original)

Schumer's not sure

Sen. Chuck Schumer, according to Reuters, "said he did not know if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Atlantic Yards Brooklyn development would qualify" for federal funds. Well, it's Forest City Ratner's project, and federal money for a new MTA railyard within the project would bail out the developer rather than fulfill a government request already on the table.

AY vs. other projects

Noticing New York blogger Michael D.D. White overkills the Brooklyn Paper's shocker of an Atlantic Yards editorial, and adds his own editorial comment (right) on the newspaper's front page last week.

White offers numerous strong arguments, hearkening back to Publisher Ed Weintrob's previous editorials, and takes special aim at Weintrob's reductionist assertion:
Bottom line: If we don’t get the money, Peoria will.

White writes:
That’s not true. Getting money for Ratner only takes money away from other New York projects that are truly infrastructure and that would truly benefit the city and state, projects like the Second Avenue subway, the extension of the #7 IRT subway line to the west side of Manhattan, Moynihan Station, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island, the PATH tunnel to New Jersey and and the new water tunnel. Further, Atlantic Yards would not only be a net negative harmful to Brooklyn, it would be one that would also sap city and state dollars.

From DDDB

In a letter to the Brooklyn Paper, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein and Board of Directors member Ron Shiffman write:
Weintrob wrote that “the most problematic, oversized components of Bruce Ratner’s proposal for Atlantic Yards should not be built, no matter how much federal money is being thrown around.” But the arena is the most problematic component of the project.

The arena, and the fixation on it, is the major impediment to the construction of affordable housing over the rail yards and job creation within any meaningful time horizon.

...But Weintrob does get it partly right. We should be asking for stimulus money for Brooklyn, but not for business as usual — not to benefit well-connected developers at the cost of generating jobs and building desperately needed low- and moderate-income housing and other infrastructure investments that generate well-paying, union jobs that would stimulate the local economy for years to come.

An arena on land obtained through the questionable use of eminent domain violates both sound planning processes and sound community economic development. It also violates provisions of the proposed bill that require a transparent and competitive public bidding process before contracts with entities such as FCR can be entered into.


They advocate for amending the Atlantic Yards proposal by sub-dividing the MTA’s eight-acre railyard into smaller, developable parcels, a la the UNITY plan. Whether there's a market for that right now is a question, but they say that stimulus funds to relocate the train tracks to enable the development of affordable housing would be a legitimate use of such funds.

Other voices

While some commenters on the Brooklyn Paper web site endorse the editorial, the most extensive comments, including other letters, are critical.

Writes Park Slope resident (and Streetsblog editor) Aaron Naparstek:
Bizarro! Your publisher just undermined years of award-winning anti-Yards reportage!

Writes Alan Rosner of Prospect Heights
What a thin, ethically challenged gruel your readers have been served. And how ironic that right above this editorial is The Paper’s self-congratulatory piece on winning national awards for last year’s editorials, one of which excoriated another of Forest City Ratner’s backroom dealings.

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