Community leaders and elected officials demand ESDC study restoring Atlantic Yards’ original 10-year construction schedule
BROOKLYN, February 27, 2013: In advance of a public hearing on a draft scope of work for a court-ordered environmental review of 2009 changes to the Atlantic Yards project which extended its construction from ten to twenty-five years, community leaders and elected officials expressed dismay that the draft scope contains no analysis of alternatives that would enable the project to be completed in its original ten-year time frame.
A group of BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, local residents and elected officials filed suit in November of 2009, charging that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) approved Atlantic Yards’ 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) without sufficient study of the effects of a 25-year construction period on surrounding communities. In July 2011, State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman ruled that ESDC’s approval of the 2009 MGPP lacked a rational basis and violated New York State environmental law. Justice Friedman ordered ESDC to complete a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and revisit its approval of the 2009 MGPP. ESDC’s issuance of the SEIS draft scope of analysis was delayed until December 2012, while the agency unsuccessfully fought to have the court’s decision overturned.
“Atlantic Yards was approved on the basis of removing blight conditions in and around the Vanderbilt rail yards,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic District Leader of the 52nd A.D. “Instead, the project has actually created blight by demolishing buildings, displacing residents and businesses, and causing massive disruptions for the project’s neighbors across its 22-acre site. It’s outrageous that ESDC would fail to even consider how a decade or more of delay could be avoided.”
“The profound impacts of the Atlantic Yards development are felt by the surrounding communities every single day,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Under the proposed SEIS draft scope of work, however, the myriad benefits that the communities were promised—thousands of units of affordable housing and many acres of open space among them—remain far beyond the horizon. The community deserves better and demands better.”
“The current Atlantic Yards project has no resemblance to the initial proposal, other than an arena causing the most dangerous traffic experience in Brooklyn,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “Absolutely none of the public benefits have materialized, and pushing the schedule out 25 years only guarantees 25 more years of broken promises. Atlantic Yards must be required to deliver on promised public benefits immediately, for the benefit of a community suffering through its delays.”
Based on Atlantic Yards having broken ground in 2010, its original schedule would have anticipated the project’s completion in 2020. “The economic benefits of residential development at Atlantic Yards to local business could be significant,” said Ellen Fishman, president of the Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants District and chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “The ESDC should be focused on completing that development, not justifying a delayed build-out.”
“In the last three and a half years, an unprecedented number of new residential units in high-rise buildings have been or will be built in the downtown Brooklyn area,” said Deb Howard, Executive Director of Pratt Area Community Council. “Developer interest in this part of Brooklyn is at an all-time high, and ESDC has an obligation to explore other options if Forest City Ratner sticks to its 25-year delayed time line.”
“Since Atlantic Yards’ announcement in 2003, there has been an enormous demographic shift in downtown and brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods that has already eroded the area’s historic socioeconomic diversity,” said Council Member Letitia James. “This is no time to be warehousing acres of public land that were awarded on promises of affordable housing and jobs. ESDC must make an honest and transparent assessment of whether re-approving the 2009 MGPP with its delayed build-out is truly in the public’s best interest.”
ESDC’s public hearing on the draft scope of work for the Atlantic Yards SEIS will take place this evening, February 27, at 5:00PM, and will be held at St. Francis College, 182 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY.