4. Be accountable to the public

The State of New York approved the Atlantic Yards project in 2006 under the Urban Development Corporation Act. Since then, five Governors and three Mayors have been in office. Rights in the project have been sold to a second developer, who in turn has sold leases for lots at the site to other developers. And all that time, no elected official in Brooklyn has ever had a chance to vote on the project.

UDC allowed developers to override City zoning regulations, to add development rights at far greater density than would have otherwise been allowed, and to locate an arena in a residential neighborhood. It allows the Governor’s Empire State Development agency to shield the project’s environmental impacts from public accountability, and its developers from public scrutiny. But zoning overrides and a streamlined approval process haven’t led to coordinated city planning or even reliable enforcement of codes that haven’t been overridden. And it hasn’t resulted in Atlantic Yards delivering on its key public commitments.

Before any consideration of another change to the Atlantic Yards general project plan, the developers must present their strategy for fulfilling the project’s affordable housing obligations by the agreed-upon deadline of May 31, 2025, including details of where buildings containing affordable apartments will be located, how their construction will be financed, how many affordable units will be located in each, and when construction of each will commence. The developers must commit to providing an updated plan on a six-month basis.

  • Until at least 75% of the project’s affordable housing units have been completed, approval for any new building to begin construction must be contingent on its use of not less than 25% of its floor area for affordable apartments.
  • Any future transfer of development rights to a parcel within the project must be approved subject to a binding public commitment by the transferee to provide the number of affordable apartments called out for that parcel in the then-current plan provided by the developers.
  • Transfer of density from other locations in the project to Site 5 as part of a change to the general project plan must be contingent upon the developers engaging the community in a meaningful way regarding the design of the site  prior to requesting any  necessary modification to the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan.
  • Programming for a modified Site 5 with increased density must include space for large community gatherings, to be administered by a non-profit steward not affiliated with project developers, or by a City cultural institution such as Brooklyn Public Library.
  • Programming for a modified Site 5 must also include new, additional commitments for affordable housing targeting very low- and extremely low-income tenants who have been left behind by the Atlantic Yards housing completed to date.
  • All eight acres of project open space obligations should be designated Public Park, Public Playground, Private Park, or Private Court, and plans developed for each condition in consultation with the community, with a schedule of incremental completions.
  • The City must provide a system for collecting reports from community members of environmental impacts from construction. The developers must participate in this system so as to resolve the maximum number of reported complaints possible before enforcement by City agencies is required.
  • The City must create and fund a Special Enforcement District bounded by a five-block radius around the project footprint. It should be staffed by a dedicated team of enforcement officers from select City agencies to manage the disruptions from ongoing construction development and arena event activity. The District will be an important administrative mechanism to reduce their negative impacts on residents’ quality of life.  The enforcement team will be able to respond to reported incidents in real time, a long unmet community need. During the business hours, it will patrol the service area to monitor and enforce construction, parking, environmental, and health/safety violations. During arena events, the team will ticket illegal parking/loitering violations, provide traffic flow management and public safety.