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August 11, 2009

Woman vs. the Machine: Jo Anne Simon

by Theodore Hamm

Brooklyn Rail editor Ted Hamm sits down with City Council candidate Jo Anne Simon.

Brooklyn Rail: And what about Atlantic Yards—have the opponents also been right in forecasting the problems with the project?

Jo Anne Simon: Yes, the community has been right: Atlantic Yards is fundamentally a flawed plan. It follows almost every failed urban design approach, cutting off streets from the surrounding neighborhoods and so on. Obviously the use of eminent domain for private enrichment is very, very bad public policy. The level of public subsidy is problematic—almost no arena has ever been built without public dollars. And the level of the affordability in the housing is too high: very few people from the area will be ever to come back to the new development, if and when it ever happens.

Rail: So should the project go forward? If not, how would you respond to those who say that by not doing so, we’re just left with a giant hole in the ground?

Simon: I didn’t want the project to go forward in the first place, and that hasn’t changed. But nobody who opposed this project wanted a giant hole in the ground. In fact, we warned against allowing demolition to occur ten years earlier than necessary, because there was never a real expectation that Phase Two of the project would begin in the next ten years. They started that demolition in order to gain site control and to create the perception that they had to build here. So the developer (Forest City Ratner) created blight, whereas the neighborhood surrounding the project had been bringing itself back without the need for public investment. Arenas do not stimulate the economy—we know this from other cities’ experiences. The kinds of jobs created are low-level and seasonal. And the infrastructure problems would be tremendous, especially since this is already the most congested area in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at August 11, 2009 4:17 PM