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February 11, 2011

More from AY cabinet meeting: few workers on site, reversible lane snag, demand management upgrade, sidewalk dispute with LIRR, wariness re public

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has an in-depth report on yesterday's of the "Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet."

The lead news from the second meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet,held yesterday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, concerned the delayed (but architect-assigned) Building 2 and the re-launch of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards web site.

But there were several other pieces of news, including a rather low number of local workers. FCR said there are about 150 workers at the site now, with 58 local residents placed though a Community Labor Exchange since the start of construction, with 19 now on the site. (Here's more on the lag between numbers and projections.)

A Community Board District Manager expressed dismay over the weather-related demise of a reversible lane along Flatbush Avenue.

Forest City Ratner said it would beef up a previously announced demand management plan to reduce driving to the arena, and then share it for public comment.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) reported on an unresolved dispute involving the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and the city Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding clearing/cleaning of the railyard perimeter.

There also was an unsettled/unsettling vibe regarding transparency, given a relatively low level of participation by cabinet members as well as a wariness toward the public and press, as described below. (The meeting wasn’t announced, and videotaping was banned.)

The meeting was attended by representatives of various agencies, Community Boards, and elected officials involved in the project. The only elected official to attend was Council Member Letitia James.
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At the outset, Scissura announced that it was not a public meeting, and that videotaping would not be permitted.

That statement was clearly aimed at me--the only other press person was Rich Calder of the Post, who wrote an overview-- and a minute later, when Scissura was no longer speaking to the group, I approached him. He told me that if I shot video (as I did in November) they’d have me removed.

Later in the meeting, ESDC project manager Hankin, with a bit of edge in her voice, stated that meetings of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet are not subject to the open meetings law.

She said that had been confirmed with the legal counsel of the ESDC and the Borough President’s Office. “Therefore we are not required to post the date of the meetings or invite the public; as a courtesy we've agreed to allow the public to attend,” she said.

Hankin noted that there are multiple avenues for the public to ask questions, via Forest City Ratner and the ESDC. “This body is really serving as an interagency working group.”

After the meeting, I asked Hankin and Scissura by email for documentation that explained why the meeting was not subject to the open meetings law, as well as the rationale for banning videotaping. Hankin told me I’d get an answer today.
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At one point during the meeting yesterday, Prospect Heights activist Peter Krashes moved to sit next to James aide Alfred Chiodo at the conference table--otherwise limited to cabinet members--and spoke to him. That led Scissura to say a bit sourly, “Alfred, I see you've been fed some questions.”

There were only a couple of members of the public present, but it still seemed that scrutiny and questions were considered intrusive.

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NoLandGrab: How dare the little people ask questions! We see Scissura has been learning from his boss/client.

Posted by eric at February 11, 2011 10:42 AM