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August 24, 2006

Pol parade — windbags and wonks

Yesterday's parade of politicians provided an opportunity to learn more about how some of their positions have evolved, though most used their (loosely regulated) three minutes to pontificate on the greatness of the Borough of Kings.

ESDCHearing-Fiddler.jpgBig Ratner supporter - and City Councilmember - Lew Fidler shared his thoughts about his old Buick, while State Senator Carl Kruger served up a boilerplate special that could have easily addressed local Lions Club boosters.

The most interesting comments were made by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assemblymember Joan Millman and City Councilmember David Yassky - all of whom presented nuanced views of the DEIS - and City Councilmember Letitia James, who warned the room about the already high rates of asthma in the neighborhood (btw: the DEIS says that there will be no significant adverse impact to air quality from the project).

[Blockquotes from Atlantic Yards Report.]

The BP continued his cheerleading for the project, but added a few new twists, seemingly intended to pressure Bruce Ratner into downsizing the project and dealing with traffic:

[Markowitz] praised the project for providing affordable housing and union jobs. But he offered his own concerns, asserting that the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank, at 512 feet, should remain Brooklyn’s tallest building, not to be overshadowed by Frank Gehry’s 620-foot “Miss Brooklyn.” He declared that the building planned for the railyards opposite the Newswalk condos on Pacific/Dean streets—and home to numerous project opponents—“must be reduced.” And two other buildings bordering lower-rise Prospect Heights, he said, must be reduced.

“Next, build a school,” he declared, an acknowledgment that the project would bring many schoolchildren but be forced to disperse them. Make sure the open space is inviting and accessible, he added, echoing criticism from the Municipal Art Society and others that the projected seven-plus acres of open space would be too easily defined as backyards for the enormous residential buildings.

And, he added, “Get real about traffic and parking,” saying that to find “an urban transit solution, we need to engage the best minds.” It was a backhanded slap at Forest City Ratner transportation consultant “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, who surely is one of the better minds, but whose solutions have been met with much criticism....

...

Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who represents Park Slope and other areas near the site, began by expressing her “disappointment with ESDC and the developer for the failure to make this project work for Brooklyn.”

She said she agreed that the project should be reduced, then offered some prescriptions that surely conflict with the developer’s economic plan. Build affordable housing and the arena first, she said—even though the luxury housing, as several commenters pointed out later, is what fuels the project.

Millman cited traffic concerns and said she did not support redirecting Fourth Avenue traffic via narrow (and part-residential) Pacific Street to Flatbush Avenue.

Millman also cited the need for traffic officers to handle traffic on nights of arena games or events, a new school, and sufficient police and fire services. “I object to eminent domain,” she concluded, “not here, not now.” (That would put her advocacy for the arena in question, given that Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein, whose condo lies near the projected center court, has vowed to be an eminent domain plaintiff.)

Councilmember David Yassky warned the ESDC that its failure to address serious issues put the project in jeopardy, due to growing opposition to the project:

Yassky, a candidate for the 11th Congressional District, offered his “mend it don’t end it” prescription, calling for changes to help realize the benefits and avoid having the project killed.

The project, he said, must be reduced in height and bulk, though he offered no specific numbers. “The impact on traffic will be destructive without serious measures,” he said, adding that he’d submitted a “comprehensive traffic plan”—previously announced but not made available—to the record.

ESDCHearing-James.jpgHe also added a comment on the CBA that some other elected officials echoed. The promises must be enshrined in the Atlantic Yards approval document, not a side agreement, for them to be binding.

City Councilmember Letitia James has been consistent in her criticism of the project, but her testimony focused on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:

“ESDC is not and could not be an honest broker,” James declared, citing the schedule for public hearings, questionable claims about revenue, and dubious statistics about such issues as noise. “Growth is good,” she said, “but growth has its limits.”

The DEIS, she said, is flawed, and findings were made without sufficient technical support. “There’s no meaningful discussion of alternatives,” she said. Scoffing at claims about the project’s location near a transit hub, she called it “not a transit-oriented development but a traffic-oriented development.” She declared that the project would trigger asthma attacks and said it would displace poor residents.

Posted by lumi at August 24, 2006 9:22 AM