Had the ESDC disclosed the terms of the Development Agreement that were being negotiated when the petitions were initially heard, or brought the Agreement to the court’s attention promptly after it was executed... the balance of the equities may have favored a stay..."
—New York State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman*
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.”
On the last day of 2012, the New York Post reported that Governor Cuomo plans to reorganize the Empire State Development Corporation. An official from the Cuomo administration was quoted describing the agency as “disjointed, dysfunctional — and nobody really is sure on the inside who is responsible for what.’’
Many who have followed ESDC’s role in the Atlantic Yards project certainly share that assessment. Instead of providing the type of oversight that would ensure the delivery of jobs and affordable housing promised to justify the massive public aid, zoning overrides, and access to eminent domain the project has received, ESDC has allowed itself to be used as a shield by Forest City Ratner behind which the developer avoids both scrutiny for its actions and accountability for its commitments.
Following the groundbreaking for the first residential tower at its Atlantic Yards project, community organizations expressed outrage over Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC) intention to use New York City Housing Development Corporation bonds to subsidize apartments too small for working families, and too expensive for the majority of Brooklynites. .
The plans for B2, as the first residential building is known, include 363 apartments, approximately half of which are described as “affordable.” However, of the “affordable” apartments, only 35 are two-bedroom units suitable for families, and only 9 of those are intended to be affordable to families earning the median income for Brooklyn which is just over $43,000 for a family of four. More than half of the two-bedroom “affordable” apartments are intended to be marketed to families earning more than $100,000 annually.