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As de Blasio stresses AY support, he claims CBA, not government, would guarantee the affordable housing

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

Given his current more critical posture toward Atlantic Yards, note that Council Member Bill de Blasio declared his support for the project up front. He acknowledged concerns--amplified significantly in recent months, as he ramps up his candidacy for Borough President--about the impacts on quality of life.

I've written about de Blasio's failure to do "due diligence" regarding Atlantic Yards. But I hadn't examined his statement at the hearing, which claimed that, because the federal and state governments were not supporting affordable housing, Atlantic Yards "is one of the only ways we're going to be able to make progress," but "only if we insure the community benefits agreement [CBA] is adhered to."

However, the affordable housing depends significantly on city and possibly state housing bonds, both authorized by the federal government. Other elements of the CBA depend on government funding as well.

His statement

COUNCILMAN DE BLASIO: I'm the Councilmember representing, among other neighborhoods, Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill, all very close to this site. And I want right up front say I want to express my support for this project.

(Audience participation.)

COUNCILMEMBER DE BLASIO: I am providing written –

(Audience participation.)

COUNCIL MEMBER DE BLASIO: -- I am providing written comments, but I just want to summarize here. I support the project because I believe that we're at a crisis in New York City when it comes to affordable housing.

(Audience participation.)

COUNCILMEMBER DE BLASIO: And I think we're in a crisis when it comes to economic development and providing real jobs for the community. But I also want to stress as much as I believe this project will help move us forward in terms of economic development and especially affordable housing, I also believe very strongly the need for accountability in relationship to the community benefits agreement. I think the community benefits agreement is historic. I think it sets a model that I hope will be followed throughout New York City going forward --

(Audience participation.)

COUNCILMAN DE BLASIO: -- but it must be adhered to. And it's the responsibility of all of us and especially as we elected officials, to ensure that it is scrupulously adhered to. As someone who's been involved in the housing field for a long time, I can say that unfortunately the places that we look to historically for affordable housing are not producing it, meaning our Federal and State government and this is one of the only ways we're going to be able to make progress. But, again, only if we insure the community benefits agreement is adhered to.
(Emphasis added.)

Now I also want to note that the crucial elements of the Draft EIS related to the impact on the surrounding community. Although I do see some important acknowledgments on the kind of actions we have to take to protect our neighborhood surrounding this project, we have much, much more that we have to do than what is indicated in the Draft EIS. It only, in my opinion, begins to indicate what we have to do in terms of traffic and congestion and parking, in terms of reducing any negative impact on neighborhoods during the construction process, and obviously in terms of infrastructure, insuring we have schools and water lines and sewer lines and all the basics we need for a large increase in population.

I see in the Draft EIS an outline of what we have to do, but we have to ensure that actions are taken, that government budgets reflect the needs, for example, for new schools to accommodate the kids who will be living in this area, and particularly for increased public transportation, to take full advantage of the transportation hub that exists. And to ensure that congestion is not untenable.

So those are some of the concerns I want to share. I am very, very concerned that we take that Draft EIS as a starting point and that as we move towards any type of implementation of this project, that there be real commitments and firm commitments by government agencies to address the quality of life needs of the surrounding neighborhood. And that is a precondition about just starting to get into any of the specifics of this project


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