Complementing the Up Close with Diana Williams interview yesterday with Borough President Marty Markowitz was an interview with Council Member Letitia James and Candace Carponter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.
Markowitz vs. critics
Markowitz, the host stated, says naysayers just don't want change.
"This really is a textbook case on how not to do megadevelopment," declared James, who noted that the project was not approved by any local elected officials. She said most construction jobs went to people outside of Brooklyn... was not approved by any community board.
She said the number of local jobs was minimal, with most construction workers outside Brooklyn (true) and maybe outside New York City (not quite).
"The promise of 10,000 jobs... we even heard Marty say some were in steel mills in other states," Williams said.
Actually, that was 10,000 office jobs. Apples and oranges.
Carponter said numbers were "inflated to get approval... it was a major land grab for the developer... this is very, very valuable property... condos were selling on the edge of railyard for $650-700,000... The railyards were not pretty, but everything around it was developing organically."
Well, not everything was developing, because there was manufacturing zoning that needed to be changed--and it was, for some buildings--on a wholesale level.
Do you not like the arena, asked Williams.
"The arena is not very attractive," declared James. "It looks like 10,000 rusted toasters." She then segued to the issue of traffic: "We have been working... with regard to mitigation.. the community is bracing itself... because the developer did not provide any parking at all.... Individuals will be hunting for parking spaces."
Well, they will, but the issue isn't so much the lack of parking spaces, but how to deter driving, such as via residential permit parking.
"You've got a subway station," Williams countered.
"But the promise was [an arena-goer would] get a discount if you took the subway," James responded. "They reneged on that, as well." (Forest City said it couldn't work.)
What about the future development, asked Williams, pointing to the start of the first tower in December.
Carponter noted that has been delayed repeatedly.
"I hear you saying this is not moving fast enough," Williams said.
"This project does not meet the needs of the residents of Brooklyn," James responded. "I knocked on hundreds if not thousands of doors... when you have public land, you should fill public need... and the need is not for basketball...
"We heard a guy who's really excited to have basketball," Williams said, citing one interviewee.
"Sure," said James, pivoting. "This is not about basketball per se.. this about responsible development, and using a public good for a public need."
"What is it do you want to see?"
Carponter pointed out that a court "has ruled the second phase can't go forward... we were lied to about duration... So the second phase can't go forward until we can determine whether that [plan] makes any sense in terms of the negative impacts." This was one of the first references I've seen to the cloud hanging over the project.
Who's to blame?
"Do you take any of the blame for delaying the project?" Williams asked.
"No, because the project from the time it was approved, 2010, they are still talking about a 25-year window, it has nothing to do with our litigation," Carponter said. The numbers never worked... Ratner has said they would need more subsidies." She pointed out that the first building would have nine affordable units for families at Brooklyn's median income.
A misleading reference
"The issue's not whether we ought to be blamed," James responded. "The issue is really about standing up and advocating for your community... against the abuse of all is right.. This woman I know, and I'll always remember her, lived in footprint, she was a Holocaust survivor. She wanted to die in her home. She was 89 years old. She should've been allowed to die in her home and not suffer under the stress of being subject to eminent domain for a basketball arena."
Hold on: wouldn't we have heard such a dramatic story?
I checked with two people who should know, and was told there was an elderly Holocaust survivor who was stressed by eminent domain, but she was a commercial tenant, not a residential one. And there was an elderly woman in the footprint, Victoria Harmon, who didn't want to move, and did end up dying at home.
Update 8/25/18: I have re-checked with people in the heart of the Atlantic Yards resistance, and no one remembers a Holocaust survivor who was a residential tenant.
Going to the arena
Would you ever set foot into that arena, asked Williams.
James said, "I was invited [to the opening], and I respectfully declined. I want to hold true to my principles." She then segued into campaign mode, saying she wanted to "make sure we can address the poverty we continue to see in the city of New York and provide jobs..." I suspect she may have to leave herself an out to visit the building.
"I'll never go there," Carponter said. "And it's heartbreaking to me, I understand its important to a lot of people in Brooklyn. For me, what's more important... to allow the project to go forward the way it's designed at this point is just wrong... What we hope is they allow more developers to come in... so whatever gets built gets built a little more organically, a little less high rise, more open space... certainly lots more affordable housing."
Of course there's a tension there too, because Forest City Ratner argues that only by building big can they build the subsidized housing.