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September 17, 2009

City Council Nominee Brad Lander Criticizes ESDC for Rubber-Stamping Atlantic Yards Changes

OK, big points to Brad Lander, who won the Democratic primary for the 39th District City Council seat on Tuesday, for the speed and forcefulness of his statement condemning today's ESDC rubber-stamping of the Atlantic Yards MGPP (though, like the ESDC's vote, this was surely prepared in advance). Here's his statement:

Brad Lander, the Democratic and Working Families Party nominee for City Council in Brooklyn’s 39th District (Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, and Kensington) released the following statement:

“I am deeply disappointed that the Empire State Development Corporation voted today to approve significant changes to the Atlantic Yards project without sufficient review or adequate information, and despite new evidence from the Independent Budget Office that the project is a money-loser for the City of New York.

The Atlantic Yards project has long proceeded with inadequate process, and with too little regard for the significant negative impacts on the surrounding community. But today, I believe the process has reached a new low, as the ESDC board approved the project despite the lack of a clear site plan, a new cost-benefit analysis, or a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

At a minimum, the proposal requires an SEIS because of the substantial changes that have been made to the plan. It is clear to me that the ten-year project benefits claimed by ESDC are highly speculative and virtually unattainable. Unfortunately, the ESDC refused to take this critical step, or to face up to the stark reality that the project’s economic structure is at best highly questionable.

I am particularly concerned about this in light of the recent report by the NYC Independent Budget Office that concluded that the City of New York will lose $40 million on this project over the next 30 years, and that it represents $180 million in opportunity cost loss for the City over that period. This is on top of the fact that the anticipated benefits of the project – in particular the affordable housing units – have become much more uncertain as a result of changes to the project.

It is my opinion that the Atlantic Yards project should be withdrawn. We should go back to the drawing board to develop the rail yards – with a genuinely public and participatory planning process that begins from public goals, at a scale and density that are suited to the infrastructure, and that proceeds through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

We need to get it right, and I am firmly convinced that we can. The yards represent an incredibly valuable opportunity to create affordable housing, good jobs and new businesses, new parkland, and new spaces of civic life. As the next councilmember for the 39th District, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves, work with City Hall, the City Council, and the community to meet these challenges. But first we must scrap the present plans for Atlantic Yards. I’m sorry the ESDC missed today’s opportunity to put us on the right track.”

Posted by eric at September 17, 2009 1:34 PM