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Stepping out, and stepping up: the absence of de Blasio and Yassky; the louder voices from Brennan and BrooklynSpeaks members

Notable absences at the two-day Atlantic Yards public hearing held last week by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) were two Council Members, Bill de Blasio of the 39th District and David Yassky of the 33rd District, whose districts border the AY footprint.

(Whatever their other obligations, they could have sent surrogates, as did some loyal elected officials in Forest City Ratner's camp.)

Also notable was the presence of several of the candidates vying to replace them, all expressing opposition to the project.

More predictable, but still worth pointing out, was the presence of two long-shot Mayoral candidates who have challenged city leaders' friendliness toward development: City Council Member Tony Avella and activist Rev. Billy Talen.

Also predictable, but notable, was the absence of the Democratic frontrunner, city Comptroller Bill Thompson, who on development issues differs little from Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Was it Markowitz's endorsement?

As I've noted, de Blasio has completely muted his criticism of Atlantic Yards, and likely will not resume, given endorsements in his race for Public Advocate by several AY-supporting unions and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Yassky, however, had kept up criticism until fairly recently, but not after he was endorsed by Markowitz.

Sure, I'm speculating here on the political calculus, but consider that both de Blasio and Yassky, in their campaigns, stress independence and fiscal rectitude.

They shouldn't have punted on Atlantic Yards. In fact, there's still time to submit written testimony, given the August 31 deadline.

If they genuinely believe the ESDC should approve the plan before it, with the deficits in information that have led BrooklynSpeaks (which once counted the two officials as backers) to call for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, they should make the case.

Stepping up

Also worth pointing out, as I did in coverage Thursday, was Assemblyman Jim Brennan's tougher stand on Atlantic Yards, essentially saluting Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, an organization from which he's kept his distance.

Brennan has always been a critic of AY; now he's graduated to firmer opposition. (Will he, however, call an Assembly hearing to examine AY? He certainly hasn't suggested doing so, and his ally, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, has kept his distance.)

Also stepping up were members of BrooklynSpeaks, the coalition whose position I've long described as "mend-it-don't-end-it."

Based on the testimony Thursday by Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee, I think the organization may be graduating to "end it."

Veconi, who's always been measured in his rhetoric, delivered particularly forceful (though still cordial) criticism. Also, de la Uz said flatly, "I believe this project is flawed beyond belief, and ESDC would be wise in stopping this miscarriage in its tracks."

Yes, they were speaking on behalf of their individual organizations, not the coalition. But they are influential members of the coalition.

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