Coalition Calls for Continued Review on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards trafficLast July, State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman ordered further environmental review of Atlantic Yards, in light of the Empire State Development Corporation’s 2009 approval to extend construction from the original 10-year-span to 25 years. In September, ESDC and developer Forest City Ratner chose to appeal that decision rather than re-examine the plan. On Jan. 13, sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks coalition filed legal documents in response to that appeal, in order to ensure a proper evaluation of the megaproject’s construction.

“ESDC and FCRC have, in effect, asked the court to believe that when the agency approved increasing the construction duration from 10 to 25 years, it didn’t expect the developer would actually use the extra time,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, a petitioner in the case. “The lower court didn’t buy that, and we don’t think the appellate court will, either.”

The Park Slope Civic Council is one of several community organizations that sponsors BrooklynSpeaks, which also includes the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Pratt Area Community Council.

“Brooklyn needs Governor Cuomo to step in to end the cycle of litigation, and get this project to deliver on its promises,” said Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council. “It’s time to move beyond the past failings of the ESDC, and focus on building the affordable housing and providing the jobs the community so desperately needs — now, not in 25 years.”

Responding to ESDC and Forest City’s claims that Friedman attempted to second-guess the agency’s review, BrooklynSpeaks attorneys Albert K. Butzel and Jeffrey Baker wrote: “This is a case where the agency acted irrationally to cover up what it knew to be an unsupported analysis and decision. The Court … fulfilled the classical role of the judiciary in calling ESDC to account and requiring it to reevaluate the impacts of the Atlantic Yards Project in good faith and in accordance with the law.”

State legislators from communities surrounding Atlantic Yards previously called on ESDC to comply with the court order to reconsider the modified plan. In an August 2011 letter to ESDC head Ken Adams from Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries and signed by Assemblymember Joan Millman and State Senators Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery, the officials point to troubling facts. “More than seven years have passed since Atlantic Yards’ announcement, and almost five years have passed since its original plan was approved. In that time, we have seen the promises of affordable housing and local jobs move nearly a generation into the future,” they wrote.

(Hakeem, Adams, and Assemblymember Karim Camara held a press conference on Jan. 22, calling on the developers to follow through on their promise of affordable housing and thousands of jobs that would come with the project. Read more about the press conference at

The legislators also noted other critical changes introduced with the 2009 modified plan, including the extended use of the site for 1,100 surface parking spaces and the removal of project elements intended to reduce the impact of locating an arena in a residential neighborhood.

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Photo by David Herman

from the Winter 2012 Civic News