A Krashes op-ed in the Courier-Life: unanswered questions about modular plan, need for state oversight (and Forest City declined space to respond)
However, Forest City Ratner declined to respond--presumably a managed press rollout two weeks ago sufficed for its purposes--so the single piece is a critique by Peter Krashes, active in the Dean Street Block Association, BrooklynSpeaks, and Atlantic Yards Watch, headlined, "When it came to Atlantic Yards, we, the critics, were right all along."
His points: Forest City Ratner won't deliver what it long promised, there are many questions unresolved, and there's no effective oversight.
Note: Krashes is described as "an outspoken critic of Atlantic Yards oversight," which I think means a critic of "the lack of Atlantic Yards oversight." Also, I'd point out that people at DDDB who'd argue they were right all along call themselves "opponents," not "critics."
An uptick in AY scrutiny
Thus Gersh Kuntzman, longtime Brooklyn Paper editor and editor of certain Courier-Life editions, leaves for a new job at CUNY and The Local at the time of an uptick in Atlantic Yards scrutiny.
I'm still waiting for coverage of, say, Forest City Ratner's use of the EB-5 program, Marty Markowitz's shilling for the latter, and the failure to hire an independent compliance monitor.
Forest City in the driver's seat
Krashes takes issue with Forest City's justification to lower costs by using modular construction, pointing out that "union rates, construction costs and subsidies for affordable housing" are unchanged since 2009, when the project was re-approved, under the state expectation of a ten-year buildout.
He notes that wages and tax benefits would be lower than predicted. And, if reports are correct, the apartments will mostly be smaller ones, in contradiction of Forest City's 2006 pledge to ensure equal coverage, in square footage, between studios/1BRs and 2BRs/3BRs.
(Krashes wrote that the units "will largely be studios;" actually, the New York Post reported "130 studios, 180 one-bedrooms and 40 two-bedroom units.")
Reasons for doubt
Krashes notes that no construction plans have been provided for public review and the use of modular construction at the proposed height is untested.
Thus, "Judgments about the impacts of the use of modular techniques on the adjacent neighborhood are speculative."
Forest City has said, I'd point out, that a shorter construction period would mean less neighborhood impact, and that sounds at least partly plausible, but surely there would be additional concentrated impacts, such as truck traffic.
Krashes also contends that the market "likely will not justify" the cost of building a platform over the railyard and notes that there's been no plan for parking for the residents of the first building.
The bottom line: need for oversight
The lack of public oversight of Atlantic Yards stands out in contrast to Governor Cuomo's stated goal of creating accountable and transparent government. Ostensibly a 4.9 billion dollar project, it is not overseen by a subsidiary with independent directors and has only one full-time [state] employee who is not a planner. The State has delegated responsibility for planning every element of Atlantic Yards to the developer.(This sounds consonant with Michael Kimmelman's observation in the Times.)
Governor Cuomo has the means and the justification to reform Atlantic Yards oversight now so the project's stated goals are realized. In the absence of action by the Governor the coming years will likely see Atlantic Yards promised public benefits diminished further.The article