Since its launch in September of 2006, the BrooklynSpeaks initiative has sought to provide the people of Brooklyn and thier elected representatives a platform from which to demand change to and accountability from the Atlantic Yards project, helping to promote development at the site that works for Brooklyn and New York City.
More information about BrooklynSpeaks' advocacy efforts can be found in the stories that appear below.
On Thursday, March 14, 2013, public comments on the Draft Scope of Work for the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement were due to the Empire State Development Corporation. A statement from the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors follows, as does a link to BrooklynSpeaks' full response.
The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors appreciate the opportunity to respond to the Draft Scope of Work for the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). We note that the need for a SEIS was cited prior to the approval of the 2009 MGPP, not only by our organizations but by nearly every local elected official representing the neighborhoods surrounding the Atlantic Yards project. We sincerely regret that litigation was required to compel the study anticipated by the draft scope, but look forward to working constructively with the ESDC to ensure that the SEIS it prepares will be a new starting point from which the stated objectives of the Atlantic Yards project can be achieved on a timely basis, through a transparent process with public accountability.
Community leaders and elected officials demand ESDC study restoring Atlantic Yards’ original 10-year construction schedule
BROOKLYN, February 27, 2013: In advance of a public hearing on a draft scope of work for a court-ordered environmental review of 2009 changes to the Atlantic Yards project which extended its construction from ten to twenty-five years, community leaders and elected officials expressed dismay that the draft scope contains no analysis of alternatives that would enable the project to be completed in its original ten-year time frame.
A group of BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, local residents and elected officials filed suit in November of 2009, charging that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) approved Atlantic Yards’ 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) without sufficient study of the effects of a 25-year construction period on surrounding communities. In July 2011, State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman ruled that ESDC’s approval of the 2009 MGPP lacked a rational basis and violated New York State environmental law. Justice Friedman ordered ESDC to complete a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and revisit its approval of the 2009 MGPP. ESDC’s issuance of the SEIS draft scope of analysis was delayed until December 2012, while the agency unsuccessfully fought to have the court’s decision overturned.
“Atlantic Yards was approved on the basis of removing blight conditions in and around the Vanderbilt rail yards,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic District Leader of the 52nd A.D. “Instead, the project has actually created blight by demolishing buildings, displacing residents and businesses, and causing massive disruptions for the project’s neighbors across its 22-acre site. It’s outrageous that ESDC would fail to even consider how a decade or more of delay could be avoided.”
On the last day of 2012, the New York Post reported that Governor Cuomo plans to reorganize the Empire State Development Corporation. An official from the Cuomo administration was quoted describing the agency as “disjointed, dysfunctional — and nobody really is sure on the inside who is responsible for what.’’
Many who have followed ESDC’s role in the Atlantic Yards project certainly share that assessment. Instead of providing the type of oversight that would ensure the delivery of jobs and affordable housing promised to justify the massive public aid, zoning overrides, and access to eminent domain the project has received, ESDC has allowed itself to be used as a shield by Forest City Ratner behind which the developer avoids both scrutiny for its actions and accountability for its commitments.
Following the groundbreaking for the first residential tower at its Atlantic Yards project, community organizations expressed outrage over Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC) intention to use New York City Housing Development Corporation bonds to subsidize apartments too small for working families, and too expensive for the majority of Brooklynites. .
The plans for B2, as the first residential building is known, include 363 apartments, approximately half of which are described as “affordable.” However, of the “affordable” apartments, only 35 are two-bedroom units suitable for families, and only 9 of those are intended to be affordable to families earning the median income for Brooklyn which is just over $43,000 for a family of four. More than half of the two-bedroom “affordable” apartments are intended to be marketed to families earning more than $100,000 annually.
BROOKLYN, August 29, 2012: Today, the Board of the New York State Liquor Authority voted to impose a 1:00 AM cut off of liquor sales at the Barclays Center arena. Forest City Ratner Companies and Levy Premium Foodservice had applied for a license with a request to be allowed to serve liquor until 2:00 AM. In stipulating the earlier cut off, SLA Chairman Denis Rosen acknowledged concerns from local residents that late night drinking at the arena would negatively impact quality of life in the mostly residential neighborhoods surrounding Barclays Center, and that the potential of the arena being used for private events could result in more late night drinking than has been described by Barclays Center. The decision by the SLA gives the Barclays Center applicants the ability to request a later cut off time in the future after experience with arena patron drinking has been established. Chairman Rosen made clear that such a future application by Barclays Center should be accompanied by community support.
New York State Court of Appeals denies ESDC and Forest City Ratner appeal of order to revisit 2009 Atlantic Yards plan
In a final defeat for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) in their attempt to illegally extend construction of the Atlantic Yards project from 10 to 25 years, New York State’s highest court today denied their motion to appeal a July 2011 decision ordering a revisit of a 2009 modification to the plan and additional environmental analyses. ESDC and FCRC lost their previous appeal by a unanimous decision of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division. The denial by the New York State Court of Appeals means that the July order by Justice Marcy Friedman will stand, and the supplemental environmental impact study (SEIS) must proceed.
A missed opportunity to lead, and the back of its hand to the affected communities, as ESDC continues to defend its improper actions of 2009
When Forest City Ratner Companies approached the Empire State Development Corporation in 2009 seeking an additional 15 years for the development of the Atlantic Yards project, the agency had two responsible choices. It could have complied with the requirements of New York State environmental law and analyzed the impact of more than doubling construction duration on surrounding neighborhoods. Or ESDC could have fulfilled its obligation to State taxpayers that it manage public funds wisely, and sought bids from additional developers in order to maintain Atlantic Yards’ approved schedule. It could have even done both.
In Chicago, Wrigley Field is allowed to host only 30 evening events a year. Liquor sales must end no later than 9:30PM. And any changes to that policy have to be approved by the Chicago City Council.
You’d think that the people of Brooklyn deserve no less respect.
Not according to Barclays Center, which has applied for a license that would allow it to keep serving alcohol up to the 4AM State limit in an 18,000-seat arena. Sure, the NBA has a policy that requires liquor sales to end after the third quarter. But basketball only accounts for 40 of the expected 220 events to be held at the arena each year. And Barclays’ application isn’t even limited to serving drinks at arena events. (Arena plans include four club/lounge areas.)
We all know that the history of Atlantic Yards has been one blanket approval by government after another, with little oversight afterward. But isn’t this getting ridiculous?
Click here to tell the New York State Liquor Authority and Governor Cuomo that Barlcays’ liquor license must be appropriate for the residential neighborhoods in which it is situated, and through which patrons will travel on their way home. Require drink sales to end after half time at a NBA game, 45 minutes before the end of an event, or 10PM, whichever comes first. And only permit alcohol to be sold during ticketed arena events.
In a unanimous decision, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court today found that Justice Marcy Friedman correctly ruled in July 2011 that the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) 2009 approval of Atlantic Yards’ Modified General Project Plan violated State environmental law. Among other changes, the plan renegotiated in 2009 between the State and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) extended Atlantic Yards’ construction schedule from 10 to 25 years. Justice Friedman’s order that the ESDC conduct additional environmental analyses and revisit the project plan will remain in effect.
On Tuesday, February 14 at 2:00 PM, BrooklynSpeaks sponsors will return to court to argue against an appeal of a July ruling ordering the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner Companies to revisit their 2009 Modified General Project Plan for the Atlantic Yards project, and to perform additional study of its environmental impacts.