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November 29, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: CBN, Elected Officials Renew Demand for Independent Atlantic Yards Security Study

Revelation of Scant 20-Foot Setbacks from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues Raises Specter of Street Closings or Unacceptable Risks.

What Makes Brooklyn Different from Newark?

New York, NY –The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc. (CBN) and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, State Assembly Members Joan Millman and Jim Brennan, and City Council Members Letitia James, Bill de Blasio and David Yassky, today renewed their demands for an independent security study of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, in light of new revelations that its planned basketball arena would be situated a mere 20 feet from both Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

In an interview in the November 24th edition of The New York Times, a spokesperson for Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) acknowledged publicly for the first time that portions of the glass-walled arena, six-story glass-walled “Urban Room” and adjacent glass-walled residential and commercial buildings would lie just 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, two of the boroughs most heavily trafficked thoroughfares. Police officials in Newark recently ordered the closing of two streets adjacent to that city’s new Prudential Center arena during events out of concern that a vehicular terrorist bomb could inflict significant damage upon the arena and its occupants. The streets ordered closed in Newark lie more than 20 feet from the arena’s walls.

Eight Brooklyn elected officials, including all those named above along with Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Eric Adams, and all of whom represent areas in and around the planned Atlantic Yards site, sent a formal request for an independent security study to Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg on October 29th. That request and similar calls by CBN and other community groups have thus far gone unanswered.

FCRC, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) – the project’s sponsor – and the New York Police Department (NYPD) have said that police security officials have reviewed the plans for Atlantic Yards and are satisfied with their security provisions. But given the recent developments in Newark, Brooklyn elected officials and CBN have questioned why the NYPD believes the smaller setbacks planned in Brooklyn would be less of a security risk than the larger setbacks around Newark’s Prudential Center.

“Logic dictates that Newark police officials were apprised of the Prudential Center’s design well before they made the decision to close streets,” said Eric McClure, a member of CBN’s Steering Committee. “We can’t have the same after-the-fact scenario play out with Atlantic Yards. Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues are already two of Brooklyn’s most-congested roadways, and they’re already frequently gridlocked. Closing them during arena events – even closing a single lane – would be an unmitigated disaster. We need to know why the NYPD believes Brooklyn’s situation is different than Newark’s.”

The same elected officials who have called for an independent security study, along with CBN and other groups, have also repeatedly raised concerns about the effect that the planned Atlantic Yards project could have on traffic in Brooklyn. Newark-style street or lane closings could so negatively affect traffic conditions as to make the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues – widely acknowledged as Brooklyn’s worst – virtually impassable during arena events.

CBN first raised the issue of security when it submitted comments during the scoping hearing for the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement in October, 2005. The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) does not mandate the study of security impacts, but the law governing SEQRA was last amended in June, 2000, well before the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy, in announcing the Prudential Center street closings, told the Newark Star-Ledger “you can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world.”

CBN again asked that the state conduct a security study in August, 2006, in extensive comments submitted at the public hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The ESDC rejected that request, and claimed that the threat of a terror attack, including a vehicular bomb, at the proposed site of Atlantic Yards, was not a “reasonable worst-case scenario,” and therefore required no disclosures to the public regarding any aspect of security planning. This assertion is presently under legal review in New York State Supreme Court, and CBN believes ESDC’s position is without merit, since the Atlantic Terminal subway station, which lies beneath a portion of the proposed project site, was the target of a thwarted terrorist bomb attack in 1997.

The Newark police department’s decision to close streets after the Prudential Center was approved and built, along with the NYPD-mandated redesign of already-approved plans for the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower, which increased building setbacks from 25 feet to 90 feet, are clear evidence that design and security are closely interconnected. The Prudential Center illustrates how security problems can radically alter the surrounding environment, while the Freedom Tower presents an example of significant changes to building design. Both scenarios appear possible in Brooklyn.

“The public must have the benefit of an independent and transparent inquiry into the design of the Atlantic Yards project and its arena, and the management techniques that will be put in place to ensure security at the site,” said Therese Urban, co-Chair of CBN. “Street closures would wreak havoc, and turning the arena into a bunker as a security ‘compromise’ would cheat Brooklynites of the ‘world-class’ design we’ve been promised.”

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc. is a coalition of community groups formed to provide a community voice in the scoping and review of the Environmental Impact process as it pertains to the development of the Vanderbilt Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. All block associations, church, community and business groups regardless of their position toward any proposed development are invited to join CBN and are encouraged to attend and participate in CBN's bi-monthly meetings. A calendar and all CBN documents can be found at http://www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com

Contact: Eric McClure
718-369-9771 / 646-522-2589

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
201 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
cbrooklynneighborhoods@hotmail.com http://www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com

Posted by lumi at November 29, 2007 8:48 PM