August 4, 2009
Statement by Council Member Letitia James about Status of the Proposed Atlantic Yards Project
As the City Council Member representing the area in which the Atlantic Yards project is proposed, I must once again state my opposition to the plan as presented by developer Forest City Ratner, as well as its currently proposed modifications.
I stand opposed because I know that Brooklyn deserves better. What was six years ago a vibrant and organically improving neighborhood has been decimated by this developer’s threat of eminent domain and the complicity of the unelected ESDC. The proposed development at the Vanderbilt Yard is the largest in Brooklyn history, and if built would be the densest residential development in the United States. Normally, a project like this would undergo the City planning and approval process known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP. Instead the ULURP process was completely disregarded.
Normally, this process has public hearings at each level of city government, allowing public input and scrutiny. Instead, concerned citizens were left with a state process consisting solely of environmental impact disclosures. In place of public hearings and strict review, citizens were left with zoning overrides and violations of existing zoning regulations. Normally the ULURP process includes approval by the community boards and ends in a vote by the 51 members of the City Council. Instead there was no vote by local officials and the state completely took over the largest proposed development in Brooklyn history.
Brooklyn deserves better. The three affected community boards and the City Council deserve a vote. Brooklyn deserves more democratic and local decision making, but that’s not what we are receiving. The people of Brooklyn should be informed and involved in an open and transparent decision making process. Brooklyn deserves to know how much the developer stands to generate from this project. Brooklyn deserves to know the indirect benefits the developer will receive in tax breaks and exemptions, land values, PILOTS and other incentives. Brooklyn deserves a complete and public cost/benefit analysis.
There has never been a better time, or a greater need, to go back to the drawing board and create a plan for the Vanderbilt Yard that is for the people of Brooklyn. The site should be developed properly and democratically. The project, whatever its current forms, should be scrapped, the rail yards should be put up for bid to multiple developers, and the plans should go through ULURP. Then, and only then, will my constituents’ voices be heard. It is time to put the proposed Atlantic Yards development out of its misery - the end is near. Now is the time to engage in smart and sustainable development, and bring forth a plan that respects the people of Brooklyn.
This city is beset by rising homelessness, the closing of daycare centers, and the closing of senior centers, infrastructure in need of repair, neglected public housing, and a crisis in affordable and supportive housing. Given all the serious issues facing our city, all of these concerns, can someone please tell me why we are still considering the public financing of an arena for a private company? Why are we offering another taxpayer bailout for a private billionaire? I ask Borough President Markowitz, Mayor Bloomberg, and Governor Paterson – WHO DO YOU SERVE? Whose side are you on? Where are your priorities? Where is the transparency? Where is the accountability?
As the years have passed, it has become much more evident that this development project is not, and never was, an example of great city planning. It has also become clearer that this is NOT a plan that does justice to our great Borough of Brooklyn, or our great City. I will continue to stand opposed because I know that Brooklyn deserves better.
Contact: Alfred Chiodo at (718) 260-9191