By contrast, on 12/6/06, when the Empire State Development Corporation board voted 4-0 to approve the Atlantic Yards project after perfunctory and uninformed discussion, the Times placed the article, headlined A Nod for Atlantic Yards, and Then a Lawsuit, on page 3 of the Metro section. The ESDC meeting lasted 15 minutes; the City Council hearing Wednesday elapsed over five hours, including breaks.
There wasn't any contentiousness; as I noted, the press release had already been prepared when the 3:30 pm board meeting began. Still, as an example of how business gets done in New York, it was worth a closer look, and the Times article, which did look skeptically at some statements by then-ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano, simply described the board meeting as "largely anticlimactic."
AY via ULURP?
Consider what might have occurred had the Atlantic Yards project gone through ULURP. It likely would have passed the City Council, thanks to the city's and Forest City Ratner's political muscle, but the criticism voiced by the three affected community boards would have gotten much more airing. And, at the City Council vote, critics like Council Members Letitia James and Charles Barron would have had a platform for their views.
An Atlantic Yards critic on the ESDC board might have flayed fellow board member Charles Dorkey for his uninformed question about the location of Atlantic Yards: “What are the cross streets for (Site) 5”). That critic might have said that it was time to start rather than conclude examination of the project.
And even if ULURP is a "complete sham," as Municipal Art Society Kent Barwick has said, it is superior to the ESDC process, not just because it provides a greater opportunity for a democratic vote but because, as shown yesterday, it provides more of a platform for public scrutiny. And Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff now acknowledges Atlantic Yards probably should've gone through ULURP.
When the three-member Public Authorities Control Board approved the project two weeks later, on 12/20/06, the Times did run the story on the front page the next day. (Here's No Land Grab on the anniversary.)
But the coverage, headlined State Approves Major Complex For Brooklyn, was about inside political maneuvering, and then outside reaction from project critics. The approval votes by Republican Gov. George Pataki, who owed little fealty to Brooklyn voters, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, were in the can.
The real drama revolved around Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Lower Manhattan, again not elected by Brooklynites but deeply engaged in city dealmaking. The Times reported: Yesterday's vote followed days of intense negotiation between officials at the Empire State Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project, and aides to Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the State Assembly, who has one of three votes on the control board.
None of those voting, however, got a chance to express any dissent. The approval vote took just five minutes.