Saturday, May 03, 2008

At today's rally, one voice, and then?

It was news that, for the first time, three organizations with differing critical views of the Atlantic Yards project decided to join forces in calling for a "time out" regarding the project.

Since the rally was announced, even more reasons for concern have surfaced, notably the revelation that the City Funding Agreement defines "Substantial Completion" of Phase 1 as 1.5 million square feet, some 44% less than initially projected. And Comptroller Bill Thompson, a project supporter, acknowledged Wednesday, "I'm not sure what that project is any more."

It'll be interesting to see how much the messages remain aligned, and to what extent the several elected officials speaking today share the views of the more moderate BrooklynSpeaks, the hard-line Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), which includes a mix of groups and is officially neutral, but which is probably closer to DDDB, given that it's a fellow petitioner in the suit challenging the environmental review.

BrooklynSpeaks

An email yesterday from Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society, which spearheads BrooklynSpeaks, seems to accept Forest City Ratner's curious map but emphasizes a new governance structure and an improved plan shaped by public input:
The site - blighted by a railyard - needs to be developed. But the plan that was rushed to approval in December 2006 was deeply flawed, because of its overwhelming density, outmoded superblock design and 7 acres of “temporary” parking that would blight Brooklyn for decades. Worst of all, the public was totally excluded from the decision-making process for this site.

Now the project has become even more troubling. The developer, Forest City Ratner, recently acknowledged that the buildings that were to surround the proposed Arena at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues have been indefinitely postponed. The arena will be surrounded instead by vacant space or more temporary parking, creating a blighted dead zone where vitality was promised.

If this project follows the pattern of other large-scale projects, this is likely to be the first of many redesigns. But Atlantic Yards is the only large-scale project in the city that has no mechanism for community input.

It is now more critical than ever that an accountable structure be established to foster dialogue surrounding the project and involve New Yorkers in its decision-making.To find out more about how this can be achieved, click here.


DDDB's take

On the other hand, DDDB offers no such willingness to revamp the project:
DDDB has always maintained that Atlantic Yards is not a feasible project. Recent developments in the financial markets and statements by the developer have made that certain, and call the entire project and its purported public benefits into question. The only thing currently with a timeline is the arena and its luxury skyboxes and acres of demolished vacant lots. Meanwhile our neighborhoods are being blighted by unnecessary demolitions for a project that is now a big unknown.

DDDB’s position remains the same as it has from the beginning—the project is bad for many reasons from process to finance to design, and we oppose it. The project should be scrapped; it’s time for a new plan to develop the rail yards in a democratic, fair and responsible way with genuine community participation.
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