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November 22, 2006

PRESS RELEASE: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Calls on PACB for Terror Study

For Immediate Release: November 21, 2006

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods today sent a letter to the members of the Public Authorities Control Board, the State body responsible for critical consideration of the proposed Atlantic Yards development, calling on it to urge the Empire State Development Corporation to perform a thorough public analysis of any potential terrorism issues in regard to Atlantic Yards. Terrorism and Security were two areas of study requested by CBN and other community groups in response to last year’s Draft Scope of Analysis, a document describing the areas the ESDC intended to analyze in the DEIS. The ESDC replied that the neither study would be performed because they weren’t required according to the environmental legislation. (It should be noted that those requirements have not been updated in over 12 years and that the legislation allows for the addition of study areas at any time.)

“Over 100,000 people live in the vicinity of this project,” said CBN spokesperson Jim Vogel. “It is unacceptable that their safety and security should be compromised by hair-splitting about the letter of the law.”

From the letter:
“We are particularly concerned about the profound range of consequences resulting from concentrating, in what would be the nation’s most densely populated urban tract, adjacent to one of Brooklyn’s busiest intersections, three Department of Homeland Security-designated terror targets: a glass-walled sports arena and a glass-clad office tower built above the borough’s largest transportation hub, which was, in 1997, the target of a thwarted terror plot.

…The ESDC has claimed that it does not have a specific mandate to look at post-9/11 issues. It is equally true, however, that the ESDC should have a public responsibility to fully acknowledge and analyze safety concerns brought to its attention by the community in accordance with the SEQRA process.

… Issues of public safety and security related to terrorism should be as much a part of New York’s planning process as earthquake protections are to San Francisco’s.”

The letter was copied to all relevant state officials. A copy of the letter is attached below this message.

November 21, 2006

The Honorable George Pataki
The Honorable Joseph Bruno
The Honorable Sheldon Silver

Re: Security Concerns regarding the Proposed Atlantic Yards Project, Brooklyn, New York

Gentlemen,

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has been charged by its more than forty member organizations with ensuring that our community is effectively engaged throughout the environmental review process for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project, and that the process is transparent and comprehensive. The membership of CBN includes civic and community-based organizations representing the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards project site.

We write today out of a deep concern that the EmpireState Development Corporation will not provide to the Public Authorities Control Board the information they will need to make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of the Atlantic Yards project.

We are particularly concerned about the profound range of consequences resulting from concentrating, in what would be the nation’s most densely populated urban tract, adjacent to one of Brooklyn’s busiest intersections, three Department of Homeland Security-designated terror targets: a glass-walled sports arena and a glass-clad office tower built above the borough’s largest transportation hub, which was, in 1997, the target of a thwarted terror plot.

These concerns were made known to the ESDC in responses to its Draft Scope of Analysis for the Atlantic Yards from CBN, Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, and many elected representatives and community groups. Unfortunately, the ESDC failed to acknowledge these concerns in its Final Scope of Analysis, or in its subsequent Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Discouragingly, the issue was not addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which was recently released.

The most serious of these concerns include:

  • The potential effects on the Atlantic Yards’ financials when the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act expires at the end of next year, and the potential need for additional subsidies to cover currently “unanticipated” project insurance costs.

  • The indirect socioeconomic impact of insurance availability and affordability for surrounding property and business owners. At risk is the pool of locally available affordable housing as well as the sustainability of existing local small businesses. We base our concerns on the reduction by Allstate of their share of Brooklyn’s homeowners’ insurance market, based on risks brought to light in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (Recent supporting AP and NYT articles can be found at http://www.texaswatch.org/media/ap062206.htm and http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/26/realestate/26coastal.html)

  • How varying requirements for security might affect police, or even the project developer’s, decisions to create additional limitations on the public’s right of entry to the project’s “publicly accessible open space.”

  • How traffic flow, air quality, public health and business activity will be affected, given that no requirements have been specified for traffic and security barriers, backpack and vehicle inspections at arena events, elevated terror threat levels, or other easily anticipated scenarios.

  • Under what conditions commercial vehicles might have to be rerouted in order to safeguard the project’s essentially all-glass “Urban Room,” which would be both a component of the project’s “publicly accessible open space” and the main entryway to the MTA’s Atlantic Avenue Station.

  • The potential impact on emergency response times resulting from the already-degraded traffic flow extensively documented in the DEIS, as well as the potential effect on existing emergency evacuation plans.

  • What post-9/11 safety codes and standards will be used for the design and construction of the project. (We note that while NYC’s Building Codes are to be upgraded at the end of this year, the ESDC has reserved its right to override city requirements as it sees fit [General Project Plan, page 4]. These standards may affect the lives of first responders, and everyone else living at, working in, and visiting Atlantic Yards and its neighboring communities.)

  • What portion of Department of Homeland Security grants to New York City, and other such state, agency, and local expenditures, will have to be devoted to the ongoing protection of this privately developed project? All such capital and operational expenditures should be included in the financial analysis of this project and its public subsidies.

The ESDC has claimed that it does not have a specific mandate to look at post-9/11 issues. It is equally true, however, that the ESDC should have a public responsibility to fully acknowledge and analyze safety concerns brought to its attention by the community in accordance with the SEQRA process. Indeed, in a recent case, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court ruled that consideration of terrorism concerns in a process similar to that required under SEQRA is justified on the grounds that it provides information pertinent to governmental decision-making even though such analysis is not specifically required.

Issues of public safety and security related to terrorism should be as much a part of New York’s planning process as earthquake protections are to San Francisco’s. Therefore, we respectfully ask the PACB to urge the ESDC to study and disclose all issues related to terrorism and security prior to the adoption of the General Project Plan and the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards as a critical matter of public safety.

Sincerely yours,

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc.

By: Candace Carponter, Co-Chairperson By: Therese Urban, Co-Chairperson

cc: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
Borough President Marty Markowitz
United States Senator Charles Schumer
United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
NYS Governor-elect Elliott Spitzer
NYS Attorney General-elect Andrew Cuomo
NYS Senator Carl Andrews
NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery
NYS Senator Kevin Parker
NYS Senator Martin Connor
NYS Senator Martin Dilan
NYS Senator Martin Golden
NYS Senator Carl Kruger
NYS Senator John Sampson
NYS Senator Malcolm Smith
NYS Senator Diane J. Savino
Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries
Assemblymember Roger Green
Assemblymember James F. Brennan
Assemblymember Joseph R. Lentol
Assemblymember Joan L. Millman
Assemblymember Peter J. Abbate Jr.
Assemblymember William F. Boyland Jr.
Assemblymember Adele Cohen
Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz
Assemblymember Diane Gordon
Assemblymember Dov Hikind
Assemblymember N. Nick Perry
Assemblymember Frank R. Seddio Assemblymember Annette Robinson Assemblymember Helene E. Weinstein City Council Speaker Christine Quinn Councilmember Tracy Boyland Councilmember Yvette Clarke Councilmember Letitia James Councilmember Bill de Blasio Councilmember Al Vann Councilmember David Yassky Councilmember Erik Dilan Councilmember Simcha Felder Councilmember Lewis Fidler Councilmember Vincent Gentile Councilmember Sara Gonzalez Councilmember Michael Nelson Councilmember Dominic Recchia Councilmember Diana Reyna Councilmember Kendall Stewart

11/21/2006

Posted by lumi at November 22, 2006 7:50 AM