Sunday, June 10, 2012

Forest City claims "we've been working very hard to make Atlantic Yards a reality," says "there's a certain irony" about protest today (well, only a bit)

In a preview today about the Atlantic Yards protest at 3 pm, Patch offers a quote from Forest City Ratner:
We understand fully the need for more jobs and more housing in Brooklyn and throughout the City, which is why we’ve been working very hard to make Atlantic Yards a reality. But there’s a certain irony that people who were opposed to the project, and worked hard to stall the project, now criticize it for not delivering fast enough the benefits.
The arena is scheduled to open this September and we have started an extensive outreach initiative to fill the 2000 arena jobs, including visits with community groups, public housing and churches. We hope as well to begin the housing this year. Fifty percent of the first building will consist of affordable units.
We are hopeful that as Atlantic Yards progresses, that we can all work together to achieve the benefits that we believe Brooklyn needs and that this development will provide.
Looking more closely

Forest City has been "working very hard to make Atlantic Yards a reality" under the timetable and program that makes sense to it as a company that must meet certain profit and revenue goals. 

Bruce Ratner admitted in 2010 that the project was never expected to be built in the promised ten years, even though that's the time frame that the developer and governmental officials used to estimate project benefits. And last he said that "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing, which is of course what his firm proposed.

As for the "certain irony that people who were opposed to the project, and worked hard to stall the project, now criticize it," Forest City has a slender point, though not a convincing one. The Coalition for Arena Justice organized by Brown Memorial Baptist Church consists mainly of churches that were not part of the Atlantic Yards battle, though a few pastors were periodic critics.

BrooklynSpeaks, a co-sponsor of the rally, never opposed the project but has tried to improve it, and went to court to seek a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, given that Forest City, while promising a ten-year buildout, negotiated contracts that give the firm 25 years. (It had previously avoided going to court.) Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which did oppose the project and led several lawsuits, has promoted the protest, but is not an official sponsor.

Has Forest City "started an extensive outreach initiative to fill the 2000 arena jobs"? Nearly, but not quite.  The 105 full-time jobs do not require "extensive outreach," while the 1901 other jobs are part-time--but not the equivalent of full-time jobs once promised by the project. That said, Forest City had not previously promoted this number of arena jobs, and they will surely be welcome to those who have them, and tell their friends and associates.

While fifty percent of the first building will consist of affordable units, affordable does not mean low-income, and most of those who rallied for the subsidized housing will not be eligible for many if not most of the affordable units. And Forest City Ratner, as Council Member Letitia James has pointed out,  has not lived up to its promise for larger affordable apartments in the first tower.

As for how "we can all work together to achieve the benefits that we believe Brooklyn needs and that this development will provide," consider the passive sentence construction: "this development will provide."

The development won't provide anything without investment, subsidies, pressure, and penalties. That's the argument for oversight.

Who's talking

The "certain irony" quote also depends on who's speaking.

Elected officials expected to speak, according to Patch, include Council Member Letitia James and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Given that James and Montgomery are longtime opponents, if they simply talk about the overall project--rather than specific issues of accountability (like the size of the apartment) or general oversight--then they're vulnerable to charges of irony.

The rally would demonstrate broader support, however, if other elected officials, such as state Senator Eric Adams, a candidate for Borough President in 2013, also attend.

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