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November 6, 2010

MAS Summit: why the "civic community" is vital (and how they stayed out of the AY fray)

Atlantic Yards Report

If fully built, Atlantic Yards would be the the largest development in Brooklyn's history, yet it seems to have barely appeared on the radar of some civics groups.

The Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City Oct. 21-22 offered another opportunity to reflect on how some major civic groups stayed out of the Atlantic Yards fray.

Panelist Richard Kahan, a winner of the Jane Jacobs Medal for lifetime service, suggested that the "the power of civic community" has been misunderstood when developers make sure they get an endorsement from the mayor but forget about organizations like the MAS, the Parks Council, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA).

"The first developer to figure that out was [Donald] Trump, who said, 'if I have a partnership with the civics, the government can't say no," Kahan observed.

What about AY?

Forest City Ratner took that to another level, recruiting support from a few established community groups for the Community Benefits Agreement, and helping create and fund more than half the eight signatories.

What about Kahan's list of larger civic organizations? The Parks Council--I think it's now New Yorkers for Parks--sat out the debate, the MAS was a mend-it-don't-end-it latecomer, and the RPA offered a convoluted statement, criticizing the process and Phase 2 but essentially endorsing the arena block and the project.

Organizations like the once-tough Citizens Union also feared to criticize a project that might mean economic development.

That left Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn without some potential major, experienced allies.


Posted by steve at November 6, 2010 12:35 PM