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February 16, 2012

City Limits package on Atlantic Yards: Bertha Lewis accepts Forest City's failure to live up to housing promises, still thinks AY will live up to its billing

Atlantic Yards Report

City Limits, via its new Brooklyn Bureau, has published a package of stories on Atlantic Yards. While the package serves as a reasonable overview, recognizing considerable uncertainty about neighborhood impacts and jobs/reveneus, the publication--with some contributors new to the project--misses the chance to dig in some ways.

Take Traffic, Noise & Hope: Atlantic Yards Still Elicits Mixed Views. Of course it does: residents living near the arena are understandably alarmed by the prospect of a surface parking lot and traffic, while business owners, however dismayed by construction, understandably welcome new crowds.

That's not the issue. The issue is whether the state, in overriding zoning to squeeze this project into the northern section of Prospect Heights, bordering--at least on two edges--a residential district, bent over backwards too much for developer Forest City Ratner.

That's what the battle February 14 in court--unmentioned in this package--was all about.

False framing on housing issue

The article headlined Opinions Harden Over Atlantic Yards Housing could better have been framed, perhaps as "Forest City Ratner Reneges on Promises, Maintains Support from Advocate Lewis (Who Owes Them)."

This issue is not "opinions" but accountability.


Related content...

Here are some excerpts from The Brooklyn Bureau's package, which suffers from a good bit of redundancy among the individual pieces.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Opinions Harden Over Atlantic Yards Housing

Facts be damned, Bertha Lewis continues to blame everybody but herself and Bruce Ratner.

Rather than cast aspersions on the community benefits agreement, former ACORN head Bertha Lewis blames economic conditions and litigation for reshaping the Atlantic Yards deal.

“What we should have done is allow those in power to negotiate for us and pat us on our heads,” said Lewis. “Deal after deal, one agreement after another, if you don’t have someone overlooking that, things happen.”

Um, what?

Lewis says she speaks with Ratner two or three times a month. She sometimes frames the housing issue in racial terms, claiming that some who opposed the Community Benefits Agreement privately lambasted the idea of having a “high-rise ghetto.” She remains convinced the project will live up to its billing.“You will see the first building go into the ground this year. We build housing, we don’t build arenas. If I didn’t believe [in this project] and to put faith with works, then what’s the point? No, I’m a true believer, so that’s why I’ve got to dig in every month.”

NoLandGrab: OK, Bertha, name names. We don't know anyone who has actively fought Atlantic Yards who was or is opposed to a large affordable-housing component. The community-supported UNITY Plan calls for a larger proportion of affordable units than that outlined in your so-called Community Benefits Agreement. Give up the race-baiting b.s., already.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Brooklyn's Arena Is Coming. What's Coming Next?

Lost in all the tabloid headlines has been a deeper question: Now that the first stage of Atlantic Yards is set to arrive, what will Brooklyn get for its near-decade of discord? What will the project—possibly the biggest single change to arrive in the borough since Robert Moses rammed the BQE through a half-dozen neighborhoods in the 1950s and 60s—mean for Brooklyn residents, workers, and businesses?

In some ways, the argument that Atlantic Yards prompt eight years ago persists today. The impact of the project on rents, businesses, the job market and quality of life is no clearer now because of the delays and uncertainty surrounding every aspect of the Ratner plan but the Nets arena.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Traffic, Noise & Hope: Atlantic Yards Still Elicits Mixed Views

As the opening approaches and the plan evolves, opponents of the project are claiming vindication. Business owners hold out hope for a silver lining amid what they say are mounting problems related to construction and traffic. And supporters of the project are curiously silent. BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), a group which initially supported the project and accepted funding for job training from Forest City Ratner, did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment. Once billed as a linchpin of community support for the Ratner plan, BUILD hasn't posted a new press release to its website since 2004.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Nets Arrive, Questions Remain At Atlantic Yards

Already, there are hopes (and fears) of the impact of 18,000 fans a night pouring out into the streets, bringing both spending money and noise and traffic to the neighboring brownstone blocks. At the same time, elected officials and construction workers are nervously eyeing the empty lots that remain around the arena, where promised — but as yet unscheduled — condo towers are supposed to provide both housing and some of the 25,000 new jobs that developer Bruce Ratner promised would result from his Atlantic Yards master plan.

"We get closer and closer to opening day, and there's so many things that we just don't know," says Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, which abuts the Atlantic Yards development site on the north.

Posted by eric at February 16, 2012 12:18 PM