Thursday, April 10, 2014

Community Board 2, despite warning about need for consensus, votes that district lines be revised to encompass all of Atlantic Yards

Update: see response from Community Board 8.

Despite a warning from District Manager Robert Perris about the need for consensus with adjacent Community Boards 6 and 8, Community Board 2 last night voted 22-7, with 2 abstentions, to support a change in community district boundaries so that all of Atlantic Yards is placed in CB 2.

CD 2 at top. CD 6 at left, CD 8 lower right. Inset east of
6th Ave. below arena drawn to put 78th Precinct in CB 6
If successful, that would likely extend the border from the current southern terminus, Pacific Street (in the middle of the Atlantic Yards site), to Dean Street.

It also portends potential conflict. "I have friends on Community Board 6," said board member Kenn Lowy. "I know they're upset [about the potential for one board to encompass the entire project], for the same reasons we would be."

"I think that we all know that anybody across the street from Atlantic Yards would be severely impacted [by the project], and somebody five blocks away would be impacted," he said. "In my opinion, it should still be shared."

Others, however, said that sharing the site had hampered the civic response to Atlantic Yards. Perris observed that "sometimes topics come up with regard to Atlantic Yards and because there is no direct responsibility, everyone assumes someone else is going to take responsibility, and then doesn't."

Co-terminality or?

Sharing the site is inefficient, for the purposes both of municipal service delivery and board business. That's why the city designated the 78th Precinct, which is a block from the Barclays Center, to encompass the entire Atlantic Yards site, as well as the two malls that are in Community Board 2, though it otherwise serves Community Board 6.

The concept of co-terminality would suggest that Atlantic Yards be placed fully in Community Board 6, which currently has the smallest slice. Then again, CB 2 has more large buildings and is thus in some ways more akin to the Atlantic Yards towers. And CB 8 currently includes the largest contingent of neighbors concerns about the project.

Members of CB 2 were initially concerned that losing the project might diminish access to jobs and housing. Even when they learned it wouldn't, the executive committee passed a resolution 10-0-1, leading up to last night's vote.

Perris, who noted that the three boards do work together, agreed that the project might be best placed under one community district: "I find it inefficient as a municipal manager."

However, he encouraged the board to consider the political realities. No change will pass muster with the city unless the three boards agree. "Consensus cannot be reached if the boundary is moved further south," he said flatly. "Community Board 6, Community Board 8--neither one of them is going to be willing to give up territory."

Sidney Meyer moved to table the motion until CB 2 had a chance to discuss the issue with the other two boards. Another member, seconding him, warned that CB 2's acceptance of the motion would lead to a headline about a "land grab."

Moving toward the vote

How pressing was it to decide at the moment? District realignment comes only ever ten years, and the process began last year, but Chair Shirley McRae said she didn't know the mayoral deadline.

Perris, who said he and the other District Managers had been discussing border issues for some two years, noted that, beyond police, the other major service realignment would involve the Department of Sanitation.

The motion to table the issue, however, drew only 5 yes votes and 25 no votes, with one abstention, setting up the vote to recommend a change in district boundaries. Chair McRae was among the 7 who voted no. One member muttered that the vote put them in a position of being "a bad neighbor."

"There's definitely going to be conversations" with the other community boards, McRae said knowingly, suggesting she'd be getting calls that evening.

"This is no land grab by Community Board 2," she added. "During my last term [as Chair], Community Boards 2, 6, and 8 stayed in constant communication. I don't see any reason for this to change."

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