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Barclays Center building aims for transparency, but Atlantic Yards project evades it: transportation plan, parking details delayed until late May

Update: why was the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting moved from a tentative May 3 date to May 22? Because the Transportation Demand Management plan requires sign-off from multiple agencies, said Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development.

The buzzword for the Barclays Center arena, insists developer Bruce Ratner in the New York Post exclusive video below, is transparency: transparency from the street, where passersby will be able to see the scoreboard, and from the concourses, where attendees will not be obstructed from the action at hand.

However much transparency may be a design feature, it is most assuredly not a feature of the overall Atlantic Yards project.

Release of the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, aimed to push arena attendees toward public transportation rather than cars, had been delayed yet again, to May 22, given the re-scheduling of the planned Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting from May 3.

No explanation was issued for the rescheduling. That means, for example, that Forest City Ratner's plans for the interim surface parking lot, on which construction starts May 1, will not be revealed until three weeks later.

Forest City can build a lot up to 1,100 spaces, but the larger capacity would require stackers, which neighbors believe would add noise and delay. (I asked the developer yesterday for an update, and was told it would be issued at the meeting.)

Dismay over delay

Local elected officials and community stakeholders have already expressed dismay over the delays--and this adds to that.

The TDM plan was originally supposed to be released in December, then was delayed until February, then delayed until May--early May.

In January, Council Member Steve Levin said of the delay, “Speaking for myself and the constituents that I represent, that's not welcome news. I don't think that's acceptable. We were told this would be coming out this month or in February."

"Obviously, time is running out. A plan put forth in May that's going to be implemented in September does not allow for enough time for adequate public input, for ideas to be addressed," he said.
At a  meeting of the cabinet in March, Community Board 2 District Manager Rob Perris asked for “interim work products” for discussion before May.

"I pondered this,” Forest City executive Jane Marshall said. “It can't be done in a piecemeal way. You can’t break off the parking from the transit. I don't think there are individual pieces that we can present.”

She promised an update in early May, not late May, and “earlier than May if we can do it.” No such update has been issued.

Transparency issues

Numerous questions remain about the arena and the operational plans, many raised by neighborhood residents weighing in about the planned liquor license.

Forest City has been closemouthed in other areas. As developer Bruce Ratner told the 11/8/09 Crain's, "Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."

Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman twice criticized the Empire State Development Corporation, which is Forest City Ratner's evaluator/partner, on transparency. In March 2010, while upholding, barely, the environmental review, Friedman wrote:
While the court cannot find that ESDC lacked any rational basis for its use of the 10 year build-out for the Project, the court cannot ignore the deplorable lack of transparency that characterized ESDC’s review of the 2009 MGPP [Modified General Project Plan].
The case was reopened and, after Friedman evaluated the impact of the belatedly-released Development Agreement, in November 2010, she required the agency to make new findings, citing "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency."

Friedman ultimately ruled that the agency failed to evaluate the 25-year buildout permitted by the documentation, and required a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement. Earlier this month, an appellate court unanimously upheld her ruling.

Bruce Ratner, the arena, and transparency: video

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