Friday, October 23, 2009

So, did UN "special rapporteur" on housing visit Atlantic Yards site? Not quite

So, is the United Nations "special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing," a Brazilian urban planning professor who's briefly visiting New York, actually going to see the Atlantic Yards site?

So a New York Times City Room blog post today stated:
Housing advocates will be taking Ms. [Raquel] Rolnik to the Atlantic Yards site in Downtown Brooklyn to see the results of the government’s use of eminent domain to seize property; to the New York City Housing Authority’s Grant Houses in Harlem to see how public housing residents live; and to the Bronx to meet residents whose landlords are in foreclosure.
(They changed the "Downtown Brooklyn" mention to "Brooklyn" after I commented.)

Not enough time

Actually, no. I called around and learned that Rolnik this afternoon is learning about displacement and gentrification issues in and near Downtown Brooklyn from her host, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE). But she has no time to visit the AY site.

The City Room post did not make it clear whether the host was a housing advocacy group like ACORN, which favors the project, or a group like FUREE or the Fifth Avenue Committee, which oppose or criticize the project.

Critical view of AY

A fact sheet prepared by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative for Rolnik's visit shows a critical stance toward AY:
Eminent Domain and Predatory Development
Developer Forest City Ratner is constructing 16 skyscrapers and a $950 million sports arena in the Prospect Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Besides relying heavily on the use of taxpayer subsidies, the Atlantic Yards project extensively utilized eminent domain, which allows the state of New York to seize private properties, homes and businesses, and transfer them to commercial developers.
Actually, eminent domain is planned but not actually used.

And maybe it's for the best that Rolnik didn't get to focus on Atlantic Yards. The housing issue would require her, for example, to sort out ACORN's role. That has flummoxed the New York Times, which has a lot more time to devote to it, and led some housing advocates to strain in ACORN's defense.

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