Friday, April 04, 2014

Split removed? Community Board 2 committee recommends putting all of Atlantic Yards under its jurisdiction

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
The Atlantic Yards site has always been split among Brooklyn Community Districts 2, 6, and 8, which hampered planning for the irregularly shaped 22-acre site, and also complicated claims on public opinion regarding the project.

Until the Barclays Center arena opened, in fact, the project site was split among three police precincts (below right). 

Then the arena, as well as the two malls north of it (which were clearly under Community Board 2), was put under the jurisdiction of the 78th Precinct, which is less than a block away but otherwise serves Community Board 6, to the south and west.

Now there's a debate beginning in the Community Boards regarding whether the status quo should stand, and whether one board should house the project site and thus better coordinate service delivery.

Brooklyn Community Districts
CB 2 assesses recommendation

Next Wednesday, Community Board 2 will consider an Executive Committee recommendation (10-0-1) that the full board ask Mayor Bill de Blasio to redraw the district boundaries so the entire Atlantic Yards site is in Community District 2. 

The meeting will be held April 9 at 6 pm in the Pfizer Auditorium in the Dibner Building at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, 5 Metrotech Center, off Metrotech Commons.

Neither Community Board 6 nor Community Board 8 have yet weighed in, though I'm hearing unofficially that this has caused concern.

A desire to ensure access to Atlantic Yards benefits (jobs, affordable housing) for some in its district has driven part of the recommendation by CB 2, which includes Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, among other neighborhoods. Other boards may be influenced by different interests.

The question of fit

Three NYPD precincts, before 78th Precinct boundary
was extended to include malls and Atlantic Yards
The principal of co-terminality--aligning the the districts with precinct boundaries--would put Atlantic Yards in CB 6, which includes Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, among other neighborhoods. 

Some of the population experiencing Atlantic Yards event impacts lives in CB 6 near Fifth and Sixth avenues. (Another fraction lives just north of Atlantic Avenue in CB 2.)

Much of the population currently bearing the brunt of Atlantic Yards construction impacts--and a good amount of event impacts--resides in CB 8, which includes Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. They likely will want their voices heard. 

Some of those residents, on the north side of Dean Street and south side of Pacific Street, might be moved to CB 2 should the pending recommendation lead to policy, while others, on the south side of Dean, would wind up looking across the street at a project outside of their Community District.

A change in boundaries raises a question: is Atlantic Yards more like (and part of) Downtown Brooklyn, or is it, in part or in whole, a piece of Prospect Heights? Or even, in part, an appendage of Park Slope? 

(Generally used boundaries place Prospect Heights southeast of the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. That means only Site 5, currently housing P.C. Richard and Modell's, is outside Prospect Heights and technically in Park Slope.)

Atlantic Yards residents likely will be shopping on Prospect Heights streets like Vanderbilt Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, as well as at the malls above Atlantic Avenue.

CB 2's take

After learning of the meeting, I asked CB 2 District Manager Rob Perris for any backing information, and he sent me the following committee report:
District Manager Robert Perris explained that the City Charter provides an opportunity to revise the community district boundaries every ten years, beginning in the third year after the decennial census. He suggested the process could be used to bring the community district and police precinct boundaries back into alignment (“coterminality”). The 78th Precinct was expanded north into Community District 2 (CD2) when the Barclays Center opened in September 2012. Previously, CD2 included all of, and exclusively, the 84th and 88th precincts.
Mr. Perris recalled that this matter was previously discussed at the August 2013 committee meeting. At that time, strong concern was expressed that CD2 residents would lose access to employment and affordable housing benefits associated with Atlantic Yards if none of the mixed-use development was in the community district.
Since August, Mr. Perris was able to obtain an assurance from Forest City Ratner Companies, developer of Atlantic Yards, that it would maintain its job training, hiring and referral commitments to CD2 residents––in particular residents of the Ingersoll, Whitman, Farragut and Atlantic Terminal developments––even if Atlantic Yards is outside of CD2. He also received assurances from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Housing Development Corporation that they would consider residents of CD2 when determining the community preference for any affordable housing they funded or oversaw.
Despite the new assurances, the committee remained concerned that removing Atlantic Yards from the community district would have negative consequences. Towards the end of discussion, Mr. Perris mentioned that his original inclination was to recommend moving the community district boundary south. He argued that a major public assembly destination and complex of mid-rise apartments were typologically more like CD2 than Community Districts 6 or 8. However, when the police precinct boundaries were redrawn, he changed his opinion in favor of restoring coterminality.
John Harrison moved to recommend Community Board 2 request that the district boundaries be adjusted so all of Atlantic Yards and related property be within Community District 2. Sidney Meyer seconded the motion, which was approved by a vote of ten in favor, none opposed, Shirley McRae abstaining (10-0-1).
Mr. Harrison did not suggest a specific boundary. During the committee discussion, Mr. Perris stated the most straight-forward change would be to request that the portion of the boundary between Fourth and Vanderbilt avenues be moved one block south, from Pacific Street to Dean Street.
CB 6 reaction

I queried Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6, who said a lot more discussion is needed:
When this was last discussed by our Executive Committee in late 2013, it was the general consensus of our committee that there is tremendous value to preserving and re-establishing coterminality. When the City redrew the police precinct boundaries, that threw coterminality out of whack which makes it extra challenging to monitor and coordinate the delivery of municipal services.
The committee also believed that for us to endorse a specific map change at that time, especially without consensus from the 3 affected community boards and formal engagement with the Administration, would have been premature. We are still interested in engaging our sister boards and the Administration in a process where we can discuss and explore options for how best to re-establish coterminality and reflect that with revisions to the community district map.
Since this process starts with the Mayor's Office, we presented the issue to the new CAU Commissioner when we met with him at City Hall on March 6th. At this time we are waiting to hear back from him.
CB 8 reaction

Michelle George, District Manager of Community Board 8, said it was premature for CB 8 to comment, but the Executive Committee will meet on April 10 to discuss the issue.

One CB8 member, who asked not to be identified, acknowledged that some reconfiguration might be necessary. But the member proposed that the border should be Atlantic Avenue, with CB 6 and CB 8 splitting the project either along Sixth Avenue (which would put the arena block in CB 6) or Flatbush Avenue (which would put only Site 5 in CB 6).

"Coterminality is a red herring," the member told me. "The decision to expand the 78th precinct boundary is a legitimate exception to the principle of coterminality, protected by the charter. But co-terminality takes a backseat to other concerns. Community district boundaries are supposed to respect neighborhood boundaries."

Then, on Twitter, Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council suggested that co-terminality would be a disaster for Prospect Heights. He suggested that Atlantic Avenue be a firm border for CB 2 and that Flatbush or Sixth be western borders for CB 8.

Complex issues

Such comments suggest how complex the issue can be. Adding Atlantic Yards to CB 2 extends Downtown Brooklyn. Adding it to CB 6--in part or in full--extends Park Slope. 

Adding it to CB 8 maintains Prospect Heights, though only if CB 8 does not get Site 5.

Keeping the site split might best maintain neighborhood identities and also represent those who are experiencing the impacts of the project. But, as shown in the precinct realignment, it might complicate service delivery.

So, stay tuned for further discussion and debate.

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