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September 22, 2006

Brooklyn Speaks to modify AY project--but which Brooklyn?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder does a better job than we do, or The NY Times for that matter, at explaining the issues and dynamics surrounding the BrooklynSpeaks campaign.

Essentially acknowledging that the Atlantic Yards project is a done deal, even before the most significant criticisms of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) emerge, several community groups in Brooklyn have lined up with the Municipal Art Society (MAS) to seek changes to the scale and design of the development. A new web site will be unveiled Saturday, BrooklynSpeaks.net.

Is a rift forming in the community that could play into developer Bruce Ratner's hands?

Unmentioned in the Times is the heated debate ongoing in Brooklyn, with some groups representing significant constituencies near the proposed project site, notably the Fort Greene Association and the Society for Clinton Hill, refusing to endorse the new venture yet.

Some groups endorsing Brooklyn Speaks are essentially repudiating some of the principles for responsible development for the Vanderbilt Yard that they endorsed, including no use of eminent domain and a project evaluated via the city's more stringent land use process, not the state's fast track. And the Boerum Hill Association just weeks ago reiterated major criticisms of the project, including the use of eminent domain.

The Times article suggests that "The new effort follows a series of legal and political setbacks for opponents of the project," citing a failed lawsuit and the recent losses by insurgent political candidates who emphasized their opposition to the project.

On the other hand, it's not clear what leverage--other than the MAS's capacity to earn the ear of some political leaders--this new group would have. After the Empire State Development Corporation approves the project later this year, it must receive the blessing of the three-member Public Authorities Control Board and one member, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, will be pressured to call for modifications.

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NoLandGrab: What is apparent is that both voices in the debate over how to respond to the project feel that the other side is gambling on a risky strategy.

The individuals of the groups that secretly developed the Brooklyn Speaks campaign felt that relying upon a legal challenge would leave the neighborhoods surrounding the project with nothing to negotiate if the legal challenges were lost.

The groups that have led the fight thus far are wondering if Brooklyn Speaks does not go far enough and has already set a course for negotiating for a scaled-down project that is already in the hopper. These groups have what Forest City Ratner needs most, that's Dan Goldstein's condo, without which Phase 1 of the project cannot be built.

Posted by lumi at September 22, 2006 9:11 AM