Skip to main content

Block association criticizes ESDC for bait-and-switch, from "community sessions" to "public informational sessions"

So, did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) fulfill the promise made by then-CEO Marisa Lago at the June 23 board meeting to hold "community" question-and-answer sessions?

The ESDC thinks so, but it require a bit of a rhetorical switch to "public informational sessions."

"Knowing the interest in this project, we have committed to have additional community sessions beyond what is required," Lago said. "And we will be having a community session--a question-and-answer session in the community--before the public hearing and then another after the public hearing. And at those community sessions, there will be the opportunity for community questions to be answered."

The first session was held July 22, with representatives from the ESDC and Forest City Ratner facing some tough questions. The second was held this past Monday, co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and focusing on the arena design--with the moderator screening out questions about process.

Lago said, "So, in total, there will be a multi-month process, in which there will be opportunity for input, and the testimony at the public hearing will be summarized and presented to the directors at a subsequent board meeting."

Though Lago's words weren't precise, as I've pointed out, the implication was that the community information sessions would help residents formulate input to the ESDC board, including comments at the public hearing and comments submitted in writing.

That didn't happen, given that the comment period closed August 31.

ESDC description

At today's board meeting, Senior Counsel Steven Matlin described the sessions briefly: "In addition to the public hearing, which spanned some ten hours, the corporation participated in two public informational sessions."

Complaint lodged

In a letter to the ESDC distributed today at the board meeting, Peter Krashes, representing the Dean Street Block Association, revealed that his group asked to host the second community session, because community members had follow-up questions, but never got a response.

Moreover, he noted that the community informational meeting had been replaced by a “public information session” outside the time for public comment and that that session was preceded by little notice.

"[I]t is apparent it is not essential to the ESDC that we trust them," he concluded.

The letter

Krashes wrote:
On June 23rd, when the ESDC board adopted the modifications of the general project plans for Atlantic Yards, then President Marisa Lago promised as part of the public review process, two community informational sessions with the opportunity for questions and answers.

On August 10th, following the initial community informational session and the public hearings for this review process, our block association sent a letter to Mr. Mullen requesting the opportunity to host the second community informational session promised the public. In that letter we noted that the plan and implementation of the Atlantic Yards Project uniquely and adversely affects the community in which the members of our block association live, work and worship. Because President Lago referred to the community information sessions in relation to the public comment period, we reasonably assumed the information sessions were to provide the community information as a way to make effective comment on the project. We noted that our members have approached us with questions about the project we continue to be unable to answer, and that the previous had community information session had not been satisfactory because it did not offer an opportunity for questioners to follow up on their own questions directly. We never received a response from the ESDC.

We counted on the second meeting as a way to follow up on answers we found unsatisfactory at the first, and as a way to inform our comments. Unfortunately, the ESDC chose not complete the process outlined by President Lago, and instead replaced the community informational meeting with a “public information session” outside the period of the public review for the modifications to the general project plan. It had a narrowed agenda with a focus only on the architecture of the arena. The prospect that the agenda of the second information session would be narrowed was never raised until the announcement by the ESDC this past Friday, for a meeting scheduled Monday. As a result of this change, members of our community were unable to follow up on what many believe were the ESDC’s insufficient answers on critical topics such as the timetable and feasibility of the project’s mitigations and benefits.

The ESDC also made a short and ineffective effort to inform the community the meeting was taking place. Although the ESDC had two months to schedule the meeting, preliminary notice occurred four business days before the meeting took place and formal notice occurred one business day before the meeting in the form of a press release. It is unclear what notice was provided to the community, when, and to whom. In addition, another party facilitated the meeting, and it is reported that they were given notice they were facilitating it on behalf of the ESDC at an extremely late date. As a result, they did not have the operational capability to facilitate a meeting that is part of a government process, (for example the RSVP link in the ESDC press release led to a page labeled “page not found” until the morning of the meeting). That other party, the American Institute of Architects, has stated it only gave notice to its members who are architects, and that in their view this meeting was “on architecture.”

The ESDC did not fulfill the process outlined to the public and the ESDC board at the June 23rd meeting. As a result, the community has been placed in the difficult position of providing comment on a project without sufficient information. Given the tremendous impact of the Atlantic Yards plan and implementation on our community it is essential the community trust the oversight of the project. Given the willingness of the ESDC to not fulfill its own promised commitments in relation to the review period, it is apparent it is not essential to the ESDC that we trust them.

Sincerely Yours,
Peter Krashes
For the Board of the Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…