Chris Owens in 2003 warned about Atlantic Yards issues that linger: accountability, community usage, affordable tickets
Prove arena will work[He was quite right that some were bought off with promises.]
To the editor:
The fact that this grand plan has now been presented to the world without any community discussion or input is an outrage and, furthermore, does nothing to convince the arena’s opponents that there is good faith at work here. It would, however, be even worse to find out that some people actually WERE “in the room” regarding this proposal and behaved as surrogates for grassroots input.
...So with all of these concerns, how can Borough President Markowitz “buy me off”? (After all, that is the name of the game here and will be for many of the players.)
•Prove with numbers that this project is different from the economic and cultural disasters that have taken place in other cities ... and there HAVE been disasters.[The arena hasn't been an economic and cultural disaster, but consider how the hundreds of millions in subsidies and tax breaks might have gone, say, to keep libraries open and serve a broad cross-section of Brooklynites.]
•Create a Community Development Corporation with a representative, volunteer Board of Directors responsible for the operations of the project and the fulfillment of all obligations — including community input and involvement with meaningful planning and project performance evaluation.[This goes to the general issue of accountability. Advocates like BrooklynSpeaks have called for a new governance entity... and are still waiting.]
•Make all of this happen with NO public money AND with New York State getting the full value for the land it surrenders.[No public money might have been a stretch, since they always say it's needed for infrastructure. But why didn't the state and the city get fair market value for land they gave up? Why wasn't the value of naming rights calculated in a cost-benefit analysis?]
Put those land transfer proceeds in a trust governed by the CDC and the communities impacted by this project.
•Provide a community usage plan for the arena. In fact, this proposal should be considered only in the context of a greater articulated vision for all of Brooklyn. Even with all of the rhetoric, a more specific vision for the borough and this city has yet to emerge.[This was promised as part of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA): ten events a year, managed by CBA partner Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance. It didn't happen in the first year of operations but is supposed to happen next year.]
•Present a ticket-pricing plan for Nets games that is affordable and sustainable for all residents of Brooklyn — including for the playoffs and championship series.[Arena boosters made a big deal out of the promised 2000 $15 Nets tickets, which were barely available. Next season the price goes up to $25.]
•Present a plan for ensuring that at least 80 percent of all employees (principals, contractor and subcontractor for construction and for operations) related to this project will be residents of Brooklyn, no less than 80 percent of the employed Brooklyn residents are people of color and that no less than 60 percent of those people of color are of African descent. No excuses.[Such percentages likely were unrealistic to many, but consider them a starting point for bargaining. Fact is, we still don't have reliable figures on employment and contracting, because the developer never hired an Independent Compliance Monitor required by the CBA.]
•Mr. Ratner and his firm receive no compensation for their involvement with this project.[This was seemingly tongue-in-cheek, but remember how sports columnist Ian O'Connor suggested that, if the arena was really about Brooklyn, they should've named it for Jackie Robinson.]
(After all, this is about Brooklyn, right?)
If Borough President Markowitz, Mayor Bloomberg and Bruce Ratner can create this covenant with us, then I’m willing to talk about an arena.
— Chris Owens, Prospect Heights