Thursday, May 19, 2011

On eve of Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, community groups launch web site to monitor Atlantic Yards construction impacts

On the eve of the somewhat delayed third meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet (which meets today at 9:30 am at Borough Hall), three Brooklyn civic groups have announced a web site that complements and augments the work of the public agencies that are supposed to coordinate responses to Atlantic Yards.

Three organizations prominent in BrooklynSpeaks--the "mend it, don't end it" coalition that ultimately saw its members go to court (the case is pending)--have launched Atlantic Yards Watch, a web site to "monitor ongoing construction and operational impacts from the Atlantic Yards project on surrounding communities." (See full press release below.)

The groups are the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Park Slope Civic Council, and the Boerum Hill Association.

Community contributions

The web site, which allows for community contributions, suggests that, as the battle to stop the project has waned, efforts to change and monitor it will continue.

“Atlantic Yards Watch is intended to address gaps in oversight that we hope will eventually be closed through the establishment of a local development corporation or authority that is accountable to the public,” said Howard Kolins, President of the Boerum Hill Association, in the press release.

BrooklynSpeaks and others have advocated for such a governance entity, pointing out that nearly all other state-sponsored projects of similar size and complexity have such oversight. (Here's Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries talking about it.)

For now, those with concerns can submit them to their elected officials, community boards, or the Empire State Development Corporation, which has a project ombudsman. Similarly, questions to be raised at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet are supposed to go through such channels.

However, the cabinet meetings, open to the public but--according to the ESDC--not open meetings, have not been publicized by any of the participants or the host, Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Also, the Carlton Avenue Association and the Dean Street Block Association earlier this month sent letters inviting Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Atlantic Yards Project Director Arana Hankin to a meeting to discuss the impacts of the arena and the larger project.

Initial postings: sidewalks, work hours, rodents, illegal parking

Initial postings on the Atlantic Yards Watch web site submitted by "Peter K." are apparently the work of Dean Street resident Peter Krashes, a mainstay of the Dean Street Block Association, a PHNDC member, and a watchdog of construction efforts.

"Who is responsible for taking care of the project sidewalks?" asks Krashes, pointing to "vacuums in responsibility for custodianship at the site and Forest City Ratner is doing significantly less than it originally committed to do in 2006."

He also points to the expansion of extended work hours, but questions the level of detail in the Construction Alerts prepared by Forest City Ratner and issued by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Another post points to rodent infestation "in the front yards of homes along the north side of Dean Street near 6th Avenue," which are "among the homes closest to Barclays Center construction."

Another post points to ongoing illegal parking around the site.

The press release
Brooklyn Civic Associations Launch Web Site to Monitor Impacts from Atlantic Yards Construction

May 18, 2011 – Civic organizations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Park Slope and Prospect Heights today announced the launch of Atlantic Yards Watch (http://www.atlanticyardswatch.net), a web site which will monitor ongoing construction and operational impacts from the Atlantic Yards project on surrounding communities. The largest single development in Brooklyn’s history, Atlantic Yards is unusual as a State-sponsored project that does not have dedicated public oversight.

“With construction in full swing and the Barclays Center expected to open in September 2012, local community members are concerned over the lack of transparency in identifying and resolving the many traffic, noise, air quality and safety issues associated with Atlantic Yards,” said Danae Oratowski, Chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “By tracking concerns reported through its web site and the NYC 311 system, Atlantic Yards Watch will provide a centralized record of reported incidents and resolutions.”

In addition to submitting reports of construction and operational impacts, site visitors can also participate in discussion forums on quality of life and safety topics. “We’d like to see Atlantic Yards Watch become a resource for the Empire State Development Corporation, City agencies, and also Forest City Ratner,” said Michael Cairl, President of the Park Slope Civic Council.

The idea for the web site grew out of a study by a graduate class at Pratt Institute led by Professor Jamie Stein. The class researched public responses to projects in other urban areas, and proposed potential models for structuring a response in relation to Atlantic Yards . “Communities faced with large development projects having the potential to disrupt local life for decades have to find ways to effectively communicate risks, make recommendations to government authorities and developers, and ensure that proper disclosures are provided,” said Professor Stein.

“Atlantic Yards Watch is intended to address gaps in oversight that we hope will eventually be closed through the establishment of a local development corporation or authority that is accountable to the public,” said Howard Kolins, President of the Boerum Hill Association. “Until that entity exists, it’s critical to document the community’s experience with the impacts of the Atlantic Yards project.”

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