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June 16, 2011

Meeting on revision of UNITY plan draws large crowd; development principles may be applied to Phase 2 AY site, but political pressure needed

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on last night's UNITY 4 forum.

There's some new life in the Atlantic Yards opposition, it seems, as a meeting last night on the UNITY4 plan--a revision of a blueprint for an community-driven alternative use of part of the Atlantic Yards site--drew some 140 people, packing an Atlantic Avenue space known as The Commons.

While some veteran (and weary) Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn activists organized the meeting at the behest of Council Member Letitia James, the meeting not only drew people long associated with the BrooklynSpeaks coalition--once more of a mend-it-don't-end-it contrast with DDDB, now more of an ally--but those new to the struggle.

It was a preliminary meeting, to be followed up in the fall, but it was clear that the effort to revise the UNITY principles--regarding open space, transportation, multiple developers, and street connections--is as much political as anything.

And, despite the presence of three City Council members--and the support of representative state officials who were in Albany for the last week of the legislative session--it will be a challenge to wrest control from the unelected Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and to elect city and borough candidates in 2013 who support an alternative vision for the project site.

(The discussion applied mainly but not exclusively to the Phase 2 site, east of Sixth Avenue and the arena block.)

That said, there's clearly political space now, and perhaps more next year. Quoting BrooklynSpeaks' Gib Veconi, DDDB's Daniel Goldstein noted that, when the arena opens in September 2013, "that's when the outcry will really get much louder, and politicians will have to wake up, because they're going to hear a lot of complaints… or when Forest City Ratner comes back for more money, or some other favor from ESDC or the state, that's another time when a negotiation can take place."

[In an interesting piece of timing, Harvard University is reported to be considering multiple developers and smaller projects to revive a stalled major expansion.]

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The Boston Globe, Harvard may turn to partners to revive Allston expansion

Harvard University leaders will recommend today that the school take a dramatically different approach to its stalled expansion in Allston by dividing the ambitious vision into smaller projects and partnering with outside developers and investors.
...

The plan, scheduled to be presented today to Harvard president Drew Faust and Allston residents at a community meeting, lacks many specifics about cost, size, timing, and commitments from outside developers. But the recommendations for more modest short-term development could mark a new start for a gritty neighborhood that has been promised a building boom for more than a decade.

Posted by eric at June 16, 2011 6:04 PM