Wednesday, February 18, 2009

BrooklynSpeaks, Straphangers say there should be no stimulus for AY

Last Wednesday, District Leader JoAnne Simon asked a fundamental question of Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Forrest Taylor: "When is this project no longer this project and is so fundamentally altered that we need to look at it again and start over?"

Taylor said he'd take the question back, but BrooklynSpeaks, the "mend-it-don't-end-it" coalition of which Simon is member, yesterday issued a statement drawing on that issue to ask Governor David Paterson to reject any request by Forest City Ratner for federal stimulus funds.

Approving a "new project"

“The original Atlantic Yards plan was conceived for the economy of 2004. In 2009, that plan is no longer feasible, and the current design, program and schedule for the project is unknown,” said Prospect Height Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) representative Gib Veconi. “Providing stimulus for Atlantic Yards now would amount to the Governor approving a new project before it’s been disclosed to the public.”

It also would seem to bail out a developer for obligations previously committed.

“Atlantic Yards continues to be a project without any mechanism for meaningful participation by the community or local elected officials, or any true oversight or accountability from the State," Simon said. "To award stimulus funds when Atlantic Yards’ timeline and essential characteristics remain question marks would not only be bad for Brooklyn, but runs directly counter to the criteria for eligible, shovel-ready projects established by Congress.”

BrooklynSpeaks, for reasons of pragmatism as much as principle, has been unwilling to join lawsuits challenging the fundamentals of the project, the approval of Forest City Ratner's role.

Still, BrooklynSpeaks, which has proffered proposals for reform that haven't gotten much traction, at least has been praised by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the project's biggest cheerleader and a proponent of stimulus funds.

Other voices

BrooklynSpeaks, which has gotten support from local elected officials critical of Atlantic Yards but unwilling to oppose it--in other words, most outside of City Council Member Letitia James and State Senator Velamanette Montgomery--includes as sponsors both neighborhood groups and also the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Project for Public Spaces, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Congress for New Urbanism, New York Chapter.

Straphangers weigh in

The New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign released the following statement yesterday:

There are many very worthwhile transit projects deserving of federal stimulus funds, from modernizing stations to replacing aged subway tunnel fans. The Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is not one of these priorities.

The Atlantic Yards developer should pay for moving the yards to accommodate development, not the taxpayers.

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