Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Senator Gillibrand, in "listening tour," hears some Atlantic Yards criticism

Well, new Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand may be close with former Sen. Al D'Amato, now a lobbyist for developer Forest City Ratner, but she can't say she hasn't heard criticism of the Atlantic Yards project.

She met with about 50 civic and community leaders from Central Brooklyn on a listening tour earlier this week at Borough Hall organized by City Council Members Letitia James, Bill de Blasio, and David Yassky. (The Observer, reporting on her statewide tour, suggests that the new senator is "laying down a marker.")

Most of the discussion, moderated by James, revolved around the impact of federal stimulus funds on issues like health care, education, and infrastructure. As noted in the Courier-Life article at right, the attendees included both Atlantic Yards critics and supporters.

However, I'm told, supporters James Caldwell of BUILD and Charlene Nimmons of Public Housing Communities did not advocate for the project but rather spoke about job training and public housing issues.

AY criticism

So Gillibrand heard some criticism of AY, implicit and explicit. District Leader (and 33rd District Council candidate) JoAnne Simon stressed issues of accountability, oversight and transparency that she had mentioned in connection with federal stimulus money.

"I asked that she work to ensure that stimulus dollars go to projects that met those requirements," Simon told me. "I mentioned that in our experience many public authorities were engaged in projects that escaped such review and it was a significant and growing problem. Atlantic Yards was certainly among the projects I was thinking of, but I did not mention it (or any project) specifically."

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn told me that, unlike other attendees, he told Gillibrand about a project that "shouldn't get any of the stimulus money."

Gillibrand asked why. Goldstein said there were dozens of reasons, but, asked for one, said it wasn't "shovel-ready." He said he passed on a letter signed by DDDB and several other groups to a Gillibrand staffer.

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