Friday, April 20, 2012

AY down the memory hole: Forest City Ratner's malls identified as "crime epicenter," again contradicting Atlantic Yards Blight Study, which absolved them

Of all the dubious work that the ubiquitous environmental consulting firm AKRF has done on Atlantic Yards, its crime study, aimed to support the conclusion that the Atlantic Yards footprint was blighted, was most clearly bankrupt.

Remember, AKRF suggested that a little-populated, railyard-dominated section of footprint, rather than Forest City Ratner's two malls, was responsible for the crime spike in Sector E of the 88th Precinct. But it never checked with the cops to square their observations and statistics with the surely self-serving numbers reported by the malls.

From the New York Times's blog The Local today, Our Crime Epicenter: The Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center Malls:
The Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls aren’t just hubs for Fort Greene shoppers and commuters — they’re also the neighborhood hotspots for criminals.
The adjoining shopping centers, owned and developed by Atlantic Yards master builder Bruce Ratner, have been the site of at least 26 reported crimes, and countless other thefts, making it the singular crime epicenter in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill’s 88th Precinct.
From the Atlantic Yards Blight Study:
For example, while there were 39 robberies in sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security records indicate that no robberies occurred that year at Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal. Similarly, while there were 115 grand larceny crimes reported for sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security force recorded only one incident of larceny that same year. Although crimes catalogued by the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal security staff are not necessarily the same as those catalogued by the NYPD, the relatively low number of crimes reported at the shopping centers indicates that the high crime rate in sector 88E is more likely a result of crimes occurring on the project site than in Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal.
I've been reporting on the malls' crime problems for years. As I wrote in March 2009, the police had said that the malls were responsible for the area's crime problem.

Helpful study

But AKRF's work was very useful to Forest City Ratner and its enablers. Remember, Jim Stuckey, then president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, straightfacedly told WNYC talk show host Brian Lehrer in July 2006, ""The crime in these [AY footprint] areas is substantially higher than areas around it."

Without quoting the police, I explained that month how an analysis of the AKRF methods showed that the conclusions were completely speculative.

Community Board 2 told the ESDC:
The crime statistics in the DEIS are misrepresented and cannot be used honestly as evidence of blight.
There was no response from ESDC, via AKRF.

When the crime statistics were attacked in the first case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden punted, writing that "since the incidence of crime is just one of the factors in determining blight... petitioners' arguments as to the accuracy of the crime statistics need not be addressed."

As I wrote in Jaunary 2008, what if she had tried to assess that factor in the state's claims of blight? That might have led, if not to a full unraveling of the state's case, at least the start of a cloud--potentially, a large cloud--over its legitimacy, notably the Blight Study.

No comment from FCR

For today's article, The Local tried to check with the malls, reporting:
Irv Hansen, a spokesman for Andrews International Security, which polices the shopping center, said he could not comment because security methods are “proprietary and not available to discuss.” Mr. Hansen referred such questions to Forest City Ratner, which declined to comment on the crime spree.
Big bucks for AKRF

AKRF's tab neared $5 million as of May 2007 and surely bumped up another 20-30% or so in 2009 and 2010, when it was commissioned by the Empire State Development Corporation to issue new sets of documents associated with the re-approval of Atlantic Yards and the court case challenging the environmental review.

The tab for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement could reach $1.7 million. These are all pass-through costs to Forest City Ratner.

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