MGPP legal challenge
ESDC's DSEIS preserves Forest City's right to delay Atlantic Yards, ignores critical need for housing now
It is an outrage that ESDC has produced a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Atlantic Yards project nearly five years after it was required. If properly prepared at the time of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan, it would have led to an informed discussion about the merits of the MGPP among policy makers, elected officials, community members and the board of the ESDC. ESDC waited eighteen months after the New York State Supreme Court ordered it to produce an SEIS before even releasing a draft scope of work for review. After submitting detailed comments on the draft scope a year ago, we were deeply disappointed to find in February of this year that ESDC dismissed our request that it reconcile the 15-year project delay to which it agreed in 2009 with the project’s goals of eliminating blight and providing what the 2006 FEIS accurately described as “much needed affordable housing.” We were even more troubled to discover on March 28 that ESDC would allow only 45 days for public comments on the DSEIS—a period far shorter than it had allotted for comments on either the draft scope of work or the 2006 DEIS. Given the agency’s extended delay in complying with a court order to do what it was otherwise required to do under New York State law, ESDC’s refusal to grant our request for additional time to prepare a response demonstrates again the agency’s contempt for public participation in the Atlantic Yards process, contempt it has consistently displayed since the time it declared itself lead agency in September of 2005.
While not as long as would have been appropriate for a report of this size, our review has nevertheless made clear that ESDC has not taken the opportunity to meaningfully consider strategies that would directly address the 15-year project delay that necessitated this SEIS. Instead, in an effort to cement both Forest City Ratner’s position as sole developer and decision-maker at Atlantic Yards, as well as the firm’s right to wait up to 2035 or longer to make good on its commitments to provide affordable housing, the DSEIS attempts to recast Atlantic Yards as something nearly unrecognizable from the project that was described in previous documents leading up to its prior approvals.
When: Wednesday April 30, 2014 from 5:30 PM. to 9:00 PM
Where: Long Island University, 75 DeKalb Avenue, Room HS107
In 2009, sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks filed suit against the New York State Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies for their decision to allow the completion of the Atlantic Yards project to be delayed from 10 to 25 years. A State Supreme Court ruled in July 2011 that ESDC’s failure to study the effects of the 15-year delay on surrounding communities violated State environmental law.
Now, four and a half years after its illegal approval of the delayed project schedule, ESDC has issued a draft environmental report that claims waiting until 2035 to complete Atlantic Yards won’t be a big deal for our community.
Our neighbors in danger of being displaced through rising rents can’t wait a generation or more for Atlantic Yards to make good on its commitment to provide 2,250 affordable apartments. The community asked that the State consider bringing in other developers to speed up the project. Can’t be done, the State tells us.. In the meantime, Forest City just announced that the first building at the Atlantic Yards site will be delayed for yet another year—until the end of 2015.
Local residents haven’t forgotten the disruptions they suffered during construction of the Barclays Center arena, either—disruptions that were supposed to be relieved through environmental commitments by Forest City that ESDC failed to enforce. ESDC says it’s learned from past mistakes, but we’ve heard that before. Should we have to take a chance on the agency’s utter inability to look out for the community’s interests for another two decades?
Atlantic Yards is the only large State project where decisions are made by a board of political appointees with no local members. It’s time to use this opportunity to tell Governor Cuomo how you feel about giving Forest City Ratner the exclusive right to hold 22 acres of our community hostage for 25 years with no accountability to the public. Join us! Make your voice heard for accountability, transparency and community input and speak up for Brooklyn!
State court decision acknowledges misrepresentations by ESDC may have enabled construction of Barclays Center to proceed
In a decision issued yesterday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman confirmed what many observers of the Atlantic Yards project have long suspected: if the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had fully disclosed the terms of its 2009 agreement with Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), the Barclays Center arena might not have been built. Justice Friedman’s decision granted a motion filed by BrooklynSpeaks sponsors for recovery of legal fees from a 2009 suit challenging ESDC’s approval of changes to the Atlantic Yards plan. Those changes allowed FCRC to extend the construction of the residential portion of the project—including the majority of its promised affordable housing—from ten to twenty-five years.
In legal papers filed in response to BrooklynSpeaks’ 2009 suit, ESDC had suggested its agreement with FCRC included provisions to ensure the completion of Atlantic Yards on its original ten-year schedule. However, ESDC delayed releasing the text of the agreement to the Court prior to arguments being heard in the case. Yesterday, Justice Friedman wrote, “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, construction would not have been as advanced on the arena at the time of the court’s determination requiring an SEIS, and the balance of the equities may have favored a stay pending preparation of the SEIS.” If such a stay had been issued after initial arguments, FCRC’s access to $500 million in bond financing for arena construction would have been in jeopardy.