A milestone in Brooklyn

Last Friday afternoon at four o’clock, the first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AYCDC) took place in a conference room at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University.

In the eleven-year history of the Atlantic Yards project, no meeting like this had ever happened before. Fourteen board members appointed by the Governor, the Mayor, the Brooklyn Borough President, the New York State Senate, the New York State Assembly, and the City Council met to formally organize a new State agency charged with ensuring the public benefits for which the Atlantic Yards project was approved would in fact be delivered as promised, and that the project would comply with all commitments and regulation intended to mitigate the impact of its construction on neighboring residents and businesses.

Not only had the members of the AYCDC board each been recommended by a local elected official with a unique perspective on the challenges of accountability at Atlantic Yards, the appointees themselves represented a diverse cross-section of project stakeholders, including affordable housing advocates, signatories of the Community Benefits Agreement, and residents living at the edge of the footprint. At past Atlantic Yards meetings, members of these groups had often sharply disagreed. On Friday, for the first time, their representatives gathered at a single table, and committed to the goal of making the Atlantic Yards project work for Brooklyn.

Now the real work of project oversight will begin. AYCDC has inherited a project that is obligated to deliver its 2,250 affordable apartments ten years from now, instead of the twenty years that had been approved in 2009 by shortcutting environmental review. Still, Atlantic Yards has yet to complete a single unit of housing, and questions remain as to how affordable what is to come may be to average Brooklynites. Now that construction has resumed in earnest, previously unforeseen impacts from work at the site have materialized. And although the AYCDC board members individually have varying degrees of personal experience with the Atlantic Yards project, none could have been unaware of the difficulties and contention that have marked its history before accepting their appointments. But we are confident they will now do what all responsible and professional boards do: work together to harness diverse perspectives into solutions for the challenges and opportunities facing their stakeholders. We cannot but express our appreciation for the commitment made by the AYCDC appointees and the agency’s new project director, and share the hopeful sentiments expressed by community members at Friday’s meeting.

The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors must also express our gratitude to you, the thousands of Brooklynites and New Yorkers who have lent your voices to this initiative over the past eight years. It has not always been easy to pursue a path based upon principles of democracy, inclusiveness and accountability while advocating on an issue as charged as the development of the Atlantic Yards project. We could not have persevered without your encouragement and active support. The establishment of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation is very much your achievement.

Thank you for speaking up for Brooklyn.