Tuesday, March 17, 2009

City criticizes developer for writing Coney zoning amendments, but has not criticized source of AY design guidelines

Sunday, the New York Daily News reported, in an article headlined Local Brooklyn politicians push developer's zoning changes for Coney Island, about some apparent collusion that has generated outrage:
Local pols approved dramatic new changes to the city's plan for Coney Island at a developer's urging, infuriating city officials, sources said.

Thor Equities officials floated a half-dozen recommendations - and Community Board 13 even adopted some of the wording, city sources said.

"Having a for-profit developer write these zoning amendments is the equivalent of having a Big Tobacco lobbyist write anti-smoking legislation," a city official said.


And what about AY?

In November 2006, I reported how, according to the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), government agencies worked together (and with the developer) to create design guidelines.

However, while the agencies did contribute to the Design Guidelines, memos acquired via a Freedom of Information Law request to the Department of City Planning show that the guidelines were the work of architect Frank Gehry's office--and that the agencies agreed with Forest City Ratner's plan (see memo above; click to enlarge) to take Gehry's name off the guidelines.

Not quite a direct parallel

Design Guidelines are not exactly the same as zoning amendments. But in the case of Atlantic Yards, there was no need to rewrite zoning. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) can override city zoning, and the ESDC was invited by Mayor Mike Bloomberg to do just that.

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