Friday, April 11, 2014

Community Board 8 expresses strong opposition to CB 2's attempt to encompass Atlantic Yards, seeks "mutually acceptable plan" with three CBs

CB 2 at top. CB 6 at left, CB 8 lower right. Inset east of
6th Ave. below arena drawn to put 78th Precinct in CB 6
As predicted, Community Board 2's unilateral vote Wednesday to support redrawing district boundaries to encompass the entire Atlantic Yards site did not sit well with neighboring Community Board 8, which last night expressed strong opposition to the plan.

Rob Witherwax, the board's second vice-chair, presented the issue at the request of Chair Nizjoni Granville, who'd said "I can't be calm when I think about it."

"I'm sure you've all been following on the news this one political entity that wants to take some territory from another political entity," Witherwax said a bit archly at the meeting, held at the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on Classon Avenue. "I could be talking about Russia, and Ukraine. But I'm actually talking about Community Board 2 and Community Board 8."

(Note that he said this "a bit archly," a key shading missed by the DNAinfo borrowing of my coverage.)

CB 8 statement

He read a statement from the Executive Committee (as delivered):
"1. CB 8 rejects CB 2's attempt to assume the entirety of the Atlantic Yards footprint without consultation with the other involved boards
2. CB 8 rejects any realignment of district boundaries that will split Prospect Heights in half, such as what would occur if those boundaries were redrawn to be coterminous with the 78th Precinct, and
3. CB 8 is willing--and has been willing since this arose in August--to meet with CB 2 and CB 6 to develop a mutually acceptable plan to redraw district boundaries around Atlantic Yards in a way that protects the surrounding communities (the bulk of which of live in CB 8), enhances the effective delivery of services to the footprint (including the construction, which we all going to live with...), and takes into consideration the footprint as it now exists and as it may someday be built."
The executive committee will meet next week to talk about the process, but even without a formal vote, everyone in the room seemed to be on board. The few suggestions were to make the statement stronger.

"We're not going to sit back and allow this board to be eviscerated in any way," declared Dr. Fred Monderson.

Background discussion

Every ten years, the mayor has the power to consider changes in population and redraw district lines to adjust service delivery, Witherwax said in response to a question. "Community districts are supposed to respect the historic, geographic, and identifiable communities in the city, which is why dividing Prospect Heights in half, merely because the 78th Precinct happens to have half, is a non-starter." 

The mayor is supposed to bring a new map to the City Council by May, after presumed consultation with affected parties. 

(Co-terminality would suggest that, to align the 78th Precinct with the main territory it serves--including Atlantic Yards and the two adjacent malls added to the precinct boundaries in 2012-- Atlantic Yards would be placed in CB 6. That board hasn't weighed in, but presumably would not welcome CB 2's action.)

"How did we come to learn about this?" Witherwax reflected. "This started last summer. Some individuals in CB 2 started the discussion and said, We need to come up with a plan that's mutually agreeable. I give them credit for starting that discussion. They lost interest, didn't want to pursue it, and neither did CB 6. And though we had come up with some good ideas, we dropped it too."

"Then, last week, out of nowhere, the CB 2 Executive Committee" voted to include the entire footprint, Witherwax said, "including a block that's not even in the footprint," including the Newswalk building between Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. (Actually, they didn't set a specific boundary, though it would be logical to set a straight line on Dean and thus include Block 1128.)

"That's not a good neighbor," he said of the CB 2's motion the previous night.

"Is their board president Mr. Putin?" one board member quipped, to laugher. (Actually, board Chair Shirley McRae opposed the motion.)

What's next?

The executive committee will meet and make a formal presentation to the full board in May, Granville said.

"I don't want to assume, but I really don't think out of 54 board members, anyone would be in favor of Atlantic Yards going to another community board," she added.

"Of course," shot back one board member.

"Not after all we've been through," Granville continued.

"And 25 more years," added Wayne Bailey, a resident of Newswalk active in Atlantic Yards Watch, indicating the outside date for finishing the project. (Actually, it's 21 more years, since the 25-year clock began in 2010.) It's also possible everything will speed up, which could pose its own challenges.

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