Monday, July 19, 2010

Citizens Union: "there is a need to integrate 21st century security concerns into land use decision-making"

Remember the issue of security?

The good-government group Citizens Union (CU), in its lengthy comments to the Charter Revision Commission on land use and other issues (more here), says "there is a need to integrate 21st century security concerns into land use decision-making."

Oh. The CU was never out front on Atlantic Yards, and its comment do not specifically invoke AY, but they essentially back up concerns by AY opponents and critics that terrorism and security should have been considered not merely--as they surely have been--by the developer and the police, but in the environmental review.

As of now, no streets are supposed to be closed outside the Atlantic Yards arena, even though--at least in a previous incarnation--the distance to the arena was no greater than at the Prudential Center in Newark, where streets are closed.

(Given the re-orientation of the arena, the distance from the street, at least on Flatbush Avenue, likely would be greater.

Then again, comments NLG's Eric McClure, This Michael D.D. White photo of the Barclays Center model makes it look like the arena will virtually overhang Atlantic Avenue — surely a security no-no.)

In court


Remember, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in its environmental review, said that state law does not consider a terrorist incident a "reasonable worst-case scenario."

Indeed, in a January 2008 ruling on that lawsuit, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden agreed that, while the argument that the ESDC should have considered the threat of terrorism "raises genuine issues of public concern," the law does not require that level of detail.

Her decision was backed up by an appellate court, which observed in February 2009 “that the project at issue does not pose extraordinary inherent risks,” unlike, for example, the siting of a nuclear storage facility or a biological weapons laboratory.

Well, yes, and no. The addition of an arena, and the history of a planned terrorist attack at the adjacent subway station--not mentioned in the decisions--add a layer of concern.

New report

And, as I wrote 7/13/09, a new report from the New York Police Department on security for high-risk buildings, a category that likely includes the arena and could include the flagship officer tower, raises further questions.

From the CU

The CU comments do not invoke Atlantic Yards but rather an even higher-profile site, Ground Zero:
For example, there is a need to integrate 21st century security concerns into land use decision-making. This was best illustrated in the case of redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, where the Freedom Tower underwent redesign after the NYPD voiced concerns about security. Consequently, a 187-foot concrete base was added to the design of the Tower in April 2006. While this development is controlled by the state, it raises questions as to whether other actions that are subject to ULURP should address potential security concerns where applicable. This could be addressed in a number of ways: outside of the City Charter through alterations to land use applications, within the charter through adding the NYPD as an entity that vets particular applications, or by requiring that a member of the CPC have a background or expertise in security. This could be best accomplished through amendments to Section 2-202 of Rules pursuant to ULURP related to the application.

The Department of City Planning should create standards for circulating to the NYPD particular applications which have significant security implications, and gathering their feedback as part of ensuring the application is complete prior to certification. This approach will address security concerns on the front-end rather than causing revisions to actions at much later stages of ULURP.
Citizens Union Charter Revision Report

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