Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Elected officials will ask DOT to ensure safety at Barclays Center crossing, advise attendance at public meeting tomorrow on scope for Supplemental EIS

A couple of elected officials who long opposed Atlantic Yards still have some specific criticisms, voiced last night at a public meeting sponsored by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) at PS 9 on Underhill Avenue. (Here's the live blog from Patch.)

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery said elected officials including her, Council Members Steve Levin and Letitia James, and Assemblyman Walter Mosley, are sending a letter to the city Department of Transportation "to complain about the hazardous crossing in front of the Barclays Center."

"It is so hazardous that one of my staff has reported she was almost killed because a limousine ran one of the yellow lights," Montgomery said. "We've had many, many complaints... we're asking for some remedies."

She added that she's been "extremely aggravated... when I drive up and try to park in front of Atlantic Center and there are these limos running their engines... That's totally unacceptable.. they are waiting for people to come out of the arena and taking up space... the limousines should be sent into the parking lot."

The latter issue has been high on the list of community complaints, while there have been fewer complaints about crossing hazards.

Scoping for SEIS

James invited attendees to attend the first step in the process for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, a public meeting on the Draft Scope of Work for the SEIS, held tomorrow, Feb. 27, from 5-8 pm at St. Francis College, 182 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights.

The SEIS was ordered by a state judge after documents unveiled after the 2009 re-approval of the project indicated that Forest City Ratner would have 25 years, not the long-promised ten years and the belatedly studied 15 years, to build the project, but Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing the project, had not studied the community impacts of such an extended buildout.

"I do not want this district, this borough, to be a construction zone for the next 25 years," James said. "I want promises to be honored... affordable housing... jobs that can sustain families... open space... I want to make sure the development is respectful of the community."

As I wrote in December, the Draft Scope is a first step, intended to draw comments on its "thoroughness and adequacy," either in writing (atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov) and at the public meeting.

After that, a Final Scope will be issued. Then the ESD's consultant, the ubiquitous AKRF, will produce a Draft SEIS. If the pattern from 2006 recurs, that document will be the subject of public comment and a public hearing before a Final SEIS is issued and approved by the ESD board.

The stated goal: to identify any impacts not previously identified and to target potential mitigations.

Though the process likely will lead to few changes, it could raise some contentious issues, such as the delay in removing blight, the impact of delayed (and modular) construction, and whether alternative developers should work alongside Forest City Ratner.

Affordable housing

James said the part of the project she most liked was affordable housing, but "then they did a bait and switch," emphasizing studios and one-bedroom units rather than promised family-sized units. 

She also said, in reference to plans for affordable housing in Crow Hill, that she emphasized housing that served families earning $30-80,000 a year.

From the Fifth Avenue Committee

A press release:
Make Your Voice Heard on the Atlantic Yards Project!
Ensure that Promised Affordable Housing, Jobs and
Open Space become a reality now and not in 25 years
 
Did you know that Forest City Ratner Corporation (FCRC) is not planning on building the vast majority of promised affordable housing for 25 years? Will anyone in the community who qualifies for that housing still live here in 25 years who is now being displaced?

This Wednesday, February 27, the New York State Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will hold a public hearing to hear testimony on the draft scope of work for the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). ESDC was ordered to perform the SEIS as a result of a lawsuit brought by Fifth Avenue Committee and several of the other BrooklynSpeaks organizations. The court found that ESDC's 2009 approval of a modified project plan for Atlantic Yards violated State environmental law by extending the construction schedule from ten to twenty-five years without required environmental review.
We have since called for a new plan for Phase 2 of the project, which stretches from 6th Avenue east to Vanderbilt Avenue, which would restore the original project schedule, and deliver public benefits like affordable housing, open space and jobs in the ten years originally promised. The draft scope (available from ESDC's web site) does not include an analysis of such an alternative.
We strongly encourage you to attend and to share your concerns and questions about phase 2 of the project.
The lawsuit combined two lawsuits, one by BrooklynSpeaks members (and elected officials), the other by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and associated groups.

It's hardly clear that Forest City would wait until the last of the 25 years to deliver most of the housing. If the modular plan works, the process would likely be more steady--though the developer plans to build over the surface parking lot before building an expensive deck over the Vanderbilt Yard, thus delaying the plan to remove blight, a main ostensible justification for the project.

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