Friday, February 25, 2011

Flashback, 2006, Gargano interview: "This site is dormant. It's on a railyard" and "the improvements... will benefit all the people from that area"

Remember Charles Gargano, the George Pataki-era Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation who had a much higher profile than any of his successors? (Remember Patrick Foye, Avi Schick, Robert Wilmers, Marisa Lago, and Dennis Mullen? Now there's Kenneth Adams.)

Gargano, who liked to be called "the Ambassador" (for his time sweating out service in Trinidad and Tobago), famously declared "we cannot stop progress, stop development. I think what we have to do is to make sure we go through the proper process to assess everything."

To his credit, unlike his more cautious (and prudent) successors, Gargano liked to meet the press, and he was challenged at times during interviews, by Brian Lehrer ("classic political evasiveness") and also by Channel 13's Rafael Pi Roman, who interviewed him for an October 2006 piece I previously covered (overview and focus on blight).

Back to the video

Now Pi Roman has posted that New York Voices piece, The Battle for Brooklyn, on YouTube.



Questionable statements

Note this exchange:

CG: Look, I know this site for 50 years. I grew up in that area. This site is dormant. It's on a railyard.

See how Gargano, like developer Forest City Ratner, liked to conflate an 8.5-acre railyard with a 22-acre site. The railyard was and is actively used. The better way to change the use of a railyard, as the city determined regarding the Hudson Yards in Manhattan, is to have it rezoned and put up for bid.

RPR: Part of it is, but we did a report about two years ago, we saw some beautiful apartments, it's on the way up, it was on the way up. Wouldn't you say?

CG: Let me tell you. The order of magnitude of this project, the improvements that this project will bring about for the people of Brooklyn, in that particular neighborhood, in terms of shops, in terms of the apartments that I referred to, eight acres of open space, parks, beautiful amenities for this whole area. This is not just coming in, putting up buildings and going home. This is a question of building an entire community that will benefit all the people from that area.

Well, the people of Brooklyn, or the surrounding neighborhood, weren't about to get that eight acres of privately-managed, publicly-accessible open space--not parks--for a decade at best, and now that looks like it could be 25 years.

It's not putting up buildings and going home because the project could linger for decades. That's not the way to build community, is it?

The official promo

Here's the official promotional blurb for New York Voices' The Battle for Brooklyn:
The Atlantic Yards would be among the biggest real estate projects in Brooklyn history, stretching out over 22 acres of land in central Brooklyn. It would create 16 new residential and commercial buildings - including one tower rising over 60-stories - and an 18,000-seat basketball arena for the Nets.

Rafael Pi Roman looks into the explosive political and legal battle over the plan - a fight that has been colored by racial politics and accusations of backroom deals. The show features interviews with Charles Gargano, who is the top development official in the state and a supporter of the project; Council Member Letitia James, whose opposition to the Atlantic Yards led her to split bitterly with factions of her own party; and a profile of Daniel Goldstein and Shabnam Merchant, the leaders of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, who are among the last holdouts in the footprint of the proposed project.

UPDATE: On October 18th, 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation released a seven-page document showing how it had arrived at figures predicting that the Atlantic Yards Project would yield a tax benefit of $1.4 billion to the city and state.

This was a reversal of its original decision not to release the documents. In his interview with Rafael Pi Roman, which was recorded on October 4th, Mr. Gargano said that requests to obtain the documents through the Freedom of Information Act had been turned down because "we are now still negotiating [with the developer, Forest City Ratner], and when you are negotiating you don't open your cards up to who you are negotiating with."

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