Wednesday, September 22, 2010

BrooklynSpeaks: another push for governance bill, as "important first step"

According to a press release from the BrooklynSpeaks coalition (reprinted by the Brooklyn Eagle under the helpfully transparent byline of "Press Release"), more than 1,000 New Yorkers have signed a petition calling for legislation mandating public oversight of the project.

The key line in the statement is "important first step." As I wrote in June, the legislation last year had clear roles for local appointees, while the structure now proposed is vague, likely leaving more centralized power.

And this year the Empire State Development Corporation supports the legislation, though developer Forest City Ratner has not issued any statement.

From the press release
Bills introduced into the State Assembly by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (A11431) and into the State Senate by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (S8193) would require the Empire State Development Corporation to create a dedicated subsidiary responsible for governance of the Atlantic Yards’ development, now expected to extend as long as twenty-five years.

“As the largest development project in Brooklyn’s history, Atlantic Yards must be managed with no less transparency and accountability than other important State and City projects, like Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said Assemblyman Jeffries, who represents the 57th Assembly District, which encompasses most of the Atlantic Yards footprint. “We will not accept a private developer being given sole decision-making power over this project’s future given the significant public investment that has been made."

“The overwhelming support for this critical legislation shows that the fight over Atlantic Yards is far from over,” said Deb Howard, Executive Director of the Pratt Area Community Council. “Now that construction has started, streets have been closed, and traffic has been disrupted, the communities surrounding the project know what’s at stake. And there is a growing awareness that the affordable housing, open space and public benefits originally promised to the public, may never be realized.”

In 2007, the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors proposed a roadmap for reform of Atlantic Yards governance, calling for the creation of a dedicated oversight body and a separate stakeholder council to provide meaningful community participation in decision-making over the project’s lifespan.

“The bills now before the State legislature represent an important first step toward making Atlantic Yards accountable to the public,” said Howard Kolins, President of the Boerum Hill Association. “It’s also critical that an Atlantic Yards subsidiary have a board with outside directors appointed by local elected officials to ensure the public is properly represented in future decisions.”

The Atlantic Yards Governance Act has passed the Corporations Committee in the Assembly, and is currently before Ways and Means. The bill is before the State Senate’s Rules Committee.

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