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An AY thread in the election for Community Board 8 Chairperson

It can’t be said that the election Thursday for Community Board 8 Chairperson, in which First Vice-Chairperson Nizjoni Granville was elected handily over Second Vice-Chairperson Marlene Saunders, was about Atlantic Yards.

After all, Granville ranked higher on the board, was publicly endorsed by the retiring chairperson, Robert Matthews, and, according to attendees at the hearing, gave a better speech.

But Atlantic Yards, though not an explicit theme in the contest, was a thread, with Saunders known as an AY supporter and Granville as something of a skeptic, if not an opponent.

CB 8 covers Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, with part of the AY footprint in the far west end of the district. (Click on graphic to enlarge.)

BUILD background

Saunders is a board member of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), a signatory of the AY Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which brought over 150 people to support the project to the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing. 

(According to BUILD's three extant IRS Form 990s, the most recent regarding 2007, Saunders is not compensated for her board service.)

Saunders, according to three attendees who reported back to me, did not mention Atlantic Yards or her membership in BUILD, but did speak vaguely about the need to bring in a developer to provide affordable housing.

Need for caution

Granville, in her brief remarks, said it was important to be careful about alliances with developers, and said it was important to listen to the people most affected by development, citing the example of Atlantic Yards. 

Her biographical note mentioned her contribution to CB 8's response to the AY Draft Environmental Impact Statement; as chair of the Housing/ULURP Committee, she raised questions in her brief submission about the accuracy of some neighborhood information.

After the Community Board members had filled out their ballots, but while the votes were being tallied, BUILD President James Caldwell spoke during the public comment period. I’m told he contended that Atlantic Yards was inevitable and, should it not be built, there’d be trouble because of the people who weren’t able to get jobs. Some in the audience interpreted that as a veiled threat, though, I’m sure, opinions vary.

CB 8 AY history

The three community boards containing pieces of the AY footprint have sometimes acted in concert--such as protesting that Forest City Ratner overstated their role in the CBA--but Community Board 8, unlike CBs 2 and 6, did not raise questions that amounted to essential opposition to the project.

Rather, during the comment period for the environmental review, CB 8 sent numerous letters of concern from Executive Committee members and area residents to the Empire State Development Corporation.

Opinion about AY in the district and on the board is mixed; among the members of CB 8 are several project supporters, among them members of BUILD.

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