The first part here mostly reprises what I wrote 12/4/06, but the issue shouldn't be ignored.
The project site is not anticipated to experience substantial change in the future without the proposed project by 2016 due to the existence of the open rail yard and the low-density industrial zoning regulations.
The Park Slope Civic Council and Park Slope Neighbors challenged that, commenting that a city rezoning could do just that, though it would "involve professional planners whose job is to advance the public interest, rather than a reliance on private interests to establish de facto zoning."
In the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the ESDC (via consultant AKRF) responded:
While the City, if it desired, could rezone the project site, it has not. Given the attempts over the life of ATURA [Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area] to encourage development, the challenges of developing over the rail yard have resulted in the project site remaining underutilized and blighted, rendering any rezoning of the rail yard parcels unable to affect desired change.
Remember, the Department of City Planning's Winston Von Engel said in March 2006 that the city hadn't yet taken a look at the railyards: "They belong to the Long Island Rail Road. They use them heavily. They're critical to their operations. You do things in a step-by-step process. We concentrated on the Downtown Brooklyn development plan for Downtown Brooklyn. Forest City Ratner owns property across the way. And they saw the yards, and looked at those. We had not been considering the yards directly."
So, really, was Forest City Ratner's project the only way to effect change? The ESDC should be pressed to defend its conclusions.