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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + project FAQ (pinned post)

A BrooklynSpeaks press conference Monday (same day as AY CDC meeting), urging disapproval of new development rights without concessions (environmental review, reciprocal benefits, housing timetable)

The BrooklynSpeaks coalition, mostly dormant for more than four years, is back, planning a press conference with elected officials on Monday to pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo's economic development agency not to approve new development rights for an underground field house and fitness center without significant concessions.

The requests include an environmental review with public input for that 96,000 square feet of new underground development rights (which will be coupled with 9,000 square feet at street level), that any such new rights include additional public benefits, and that the developers provide a plan to explain how they'll meet the 2025 deadline for the project's affordable housing.

I think, contra skepticism expressed in a recent article from The City, the developer might be able to meet that deadline, based on plans I've seen (but have not been officially acknowledged), but Greenland Forest City and the state need to answer questions.

The press conference, according to a media advisory (see bottom) sent yesterday, will be at 10 am Monday at the Carlton Avenue Bridge, just north of Pacific Street. The coalition involves neighborhood groups like the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and housing advocates like the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Same day: an AY CDC meeting

That's five hours before a scheduled meeting (info and webcast) of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), to vote on whether to recommend that the board of the parent Empire State Development (ESD) approve those new development rights.

That AY CDC meeting was set up only after members at a meeting last month asked for more time and the ability to review a Technical Memorandum, not made public, that was said to confirm that the new development rights did not trigger the need for more environmental review.

Given that one AY CDC member, Gib Veconi, is a longtime leader of BrooklynSpeaks and has already joined a Community Board 8 committee's opposition to the plan, that AY CDC meeting might involve some disagreements.

Still, the board is controlled by gubernatorial appointees, who typically follow the wishes of the developer and ESD, an executive of which serves as the body's president. And the ESD board, though it surely would prefer an advisory vote from the AY CDC urging approval, can of course ignore it.

Can protest work?

Does the coalition have any juice?

Well, the bully pulpit has some value, simply in calling attention to the astounding (and euphemistic) claims that the new underground development rights initially represented "Clarification on Commercial Use on Residential Blocks" and then became  "Clarification on Indoor Recreational Facility Use on Residential Blocks."

That has gotten coverage so far only from this blog, and the Brooklyn Eagle.

Similarly, it's worth arguing that such a new private benefit should generate a public benefit, and that developer Greenland Forest City Partners' unwillingness to supply a project timetable (and the state's unwillingness to force them, as shown at a March AY CDC meeting) is unreasonable.

But a new environmental review adds delay and cost, so Greenland--and the company leasing and developing the two sites at issue, TF Cornerstone--surely don't want that.

The elected officials scheduled so far--Assembly Member Walter Mosley and Jo Anne Simon, plus City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo--will get attention, but don't constitute a major critical mass. (Will more sign on?)

Going to court

BrooklynSpeaks, after all, gained leverage in the past via actual or threatened legal action. Initially spearheaded by the Municipal Art Society (which since left the coalition), BrooklynSpeaks was set up as an effort to improve the project, not stop it.

A lawsuit filed by BrooklynSpeaks members was combined with a second lawsuit organized by project opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, ultimately forcing a court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement after the state, in its 2009 re-approval of the project, failed to consider the impacts of a buildout that could last until 2035.

After that, a potential BrooklynSpeaks lawsuit on fair-housing grounds, threatened in 2014 as Greenland USA prepared to buy 70% of the project going forward from original developer Forest City Ratner, prompted a settlement that set a new May 2025 date for the project's 2,250 affordable housing units, and also established the advisory AY CDC.

That was an achievement, but with flaws: the housing agreement said nothing about maintaining promised affordability--which led to a disproportionate amount of middle-income units in two "100% affordable" towers--and the AY CDC turned out to be mostly toothless. (The most recent post on the BrooklynSpeaks web site is from February 2015, welcoming--overoptimistically, it turned out--the AY CDC.)

Also not announced as participating is the North Prospect Heights Association, formerly the Dean Street Block Association, which left the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council upon the 2014 settlement, contending the interests of its members--the project's nearest neighbors--were not being heeded.

Though the two groups have not always been in harmony, presumably the nearest neighbors would support a new environmental review of the below-ground space.

Bottom line: it may be that only new litigation can have an impact. The question of potential litigation--and I have no inkling whether any is planned--surely will come up at the press conference.

The media advisory

Elected Officials, Civic Leaders, and Housing Advocates Urge the Governor to Withhold Approval of New Development Rights at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park:
Coalition Calls for Environmental Study, Public Benefits and a Plan to Meet Affordable Housing Deadline

Brooklyn -- Developers at the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project have asked the State for an additional 105,000 square feet of development rights for a fitness center and field house on Dean Street between Vanderbilt Avenue and Underhill [Carlton] Avenue. Empire State Development has recommended these rights be approved without environmental review. The request comes at a time when there is significant doubt that the developers can meet a May 2025 deadline to complete 2,250 units of affordable housing, and they have refused to explain how they intend to do so.

Elected officials and community leaders will call on the State to require an environmental review with public input, insist that any new rights conferred at Atlantic Yards include additional public benefits, and demand developers provide a plan for meeting the project’s current commitments for affordable housing.

Who: Assembly Member Walter Mosley
Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon
City Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo
Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council
Park Slope Civic Council
Boerum Hill Association
Atlantic Avenue LDC
North Flatbush BID
Fifth Avenue Committee
IMPACCT Brooklyn

What: Press conference to demand Governor Cuomo withhold new development rights at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park

When: Monday, August 12, 10:00 AM

Where: Carlton Avenue Bridge (Carlton Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn)