Friday, June 20, 2014

Straight face: ESD claims "stark contrast" between project site and adjacent blocks (but where was the market study?)

So, was the blight bogus?

In the Response to Comments chapter of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Final SEIS) issued and approved last week, Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, said no--but failed to mention a key issue.

The comments:
This project was supposed to remove blight. That was the purpose of this project, the fundamental purpose to remove alleged blight that did not exist. And in this Draft SEIS the evidence is there that it never existed. That the ESDC hid information, kept information out that the area was on the upswing, which is the opposite of blight. (D. Goldstein)
This project was to eliminate blight. By your own SEIS, blight has been eliminated if it ever existed. (Carpenter)
The DSEIS contains many references to the expanding retail and residential economy in the study area. It should explain how its current assessment reconciles with the 2006 finding of blight, and whether the project’s goals could now be realized without a UDC project being necessary. (BrooklynSpeaks)
The response:
The comments mischaracterize the methodology and conclusions of the 2006 Blight Study, which presented a detailed analysis of the blocks and lots that comprise the Project site. Neither the 2006 Blight Study nor the 2006 FEIS indicated that the neighborhoods surrounding the Project site were blighted or were experiencing downward trends in property values, residential population, or retail activity. The DSEIS indicates that the upward trends in the surrounding neighborhoods that were described in the 2006 FEIS have continued to date. At the time the 2006 Blight Study was authored, there was a stark contrast between conditions on Project site Blocks 1127, 1128, and 1129 (the southern portion of the Project site) and development on adjacent blocks to the south and on blocks north of Atlantic Avenue in the northern part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA).
(Emphasis added)

Looking more closely

As I wrote, both the 2014 Draft SEIS and the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement both indicated that the residential market was improving in the neighborhoods around the project site.

That contrasted significantly with the Blight Study conducted on behalf of ESD, which concluded that only the Atlantic Yards project could remove the endemic blight pinpointed on the project site.

That Blight Study was supposed to include a market study, including:
--Analyze residential and commercial rents on the project site and within the study area
--Analyze assessed value trends on the project site, and compare to sample blocks with comparable uses in the study area, such as the Atlantic Center

That never happened.

Despite that, ESD concluded that the project site was blighted and that only Atlantic Yards could remove the blight.

So ESD contended--and still does--that, while the neighborhoods around the project site were improving, the site itself remained blighted.

That doesn't make sense--blight is supposed to be a corrosive phenomenon. 

(And the blight, such as it were, could have been checked by abatement of problems like weeds and a rezoning to unlock value in underutilized manufacturing sites--there had already been several spot rezonings.)

They never bothered to check with that market study, likely because the results would have argued against blight.

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