Governance reform

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BrooklynSpeaks' advocacy for meaningful public involvement in Atlantic Yards decision-making.

Greenland USA defaults on EB-5 debt, lender moves to foreclose on development rights over rail yards

Empire State Development greenlighted the Atlantic Yards development plan nearly 20 years ago, which would  have added public open space, affordable housing, and connected long-divided Brooklyn neighborhoods

BROOKLYN, NY, November 29, 2023: Nearly twenty years after the Atlantic Yards project was announced in December 2003, it was reported yesterday that its developer is about to lose control of six development sites over the MTA rail yards between Sixth Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn. The news is a potentially fatal setback for the project, and a searing indictment of New York State Empire State Development’s failure to oversee Atlantic Yards in the public’s interest.

BrooklynSpeaks, the coalition formed in 2006 to hold the development project accountable, fiercely criticized this news, which follows decades of previous setbacks.

“After 20 years, it is galling to see a major project be left in a state of chaos, with public commitments like affordable housing remaining unmet for many more years or decades to come,” said Gib Veconi, Chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “The State of New York took a massive gamble on Atlantic Yards, and Brooklyn lost.”

A milestone in Brooklyn

Last Friday afternoon at four o’clock, the first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AYCDC) took place in a conference room at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University.

In the eleven-year history of the Atlantic Yards project, no meeting like this had ever happened before. Fourteen board members appointed by the Governor, the Mayor, the Brooklyn Borough President, the New York State Senate, the New York State Assembly, and the City Council met to formally organize a new State agency charged with ensuring the public benefits for which the Atlantic Yards project was approved would in fact be delivered as promised, and that the project would comply with all commitments and regulation intended to mitigate the impact of its construction on neighboring residents and businesses.

Not only had the members of the AYCDC board each been recommended by a local elected official with a unique perspective on the challenges of accountability at Atlantic Yards, the appointees themselves represented a diverse cross-section of project stakeholders, including affordable housing advocates, signatories of the Community Benefits Agreement, and residents living at the edge of the footprint. At past Atlantic Yards meetings, members of these groups had often sharply disagreed. On Friday, for the first time, their representatives gathered at a single table, and committed to the goal of making the Atlantic Yards project work for Brooklyn.

Achieving accountability: The story of a settlement, and what happens next

Rezonings and large-scale redevelopment projects, even those with affordable housing components, tend to accelerate gentrification. That's why it's critical to ensure that affordable housing promised by developers in exchange for overrides and special approvals is delivered on a timely basis to meet the needs of populations now threatened with displacement.

In this video, advocates, attorneys and community members explain how the 25-year build out agreed by the State of New York in 2009 for Atlantic Yards' affordable apartments would have had a disparate impact on African American residents eligible for preference in the lotteries through which those apartments are to be awarded—and why a coalition was ready to fight to hold the project accountable to its original commitments. BrooklynSpeaks organizers talk about what was achieved through the recent settlement with the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner, and what to expect next.

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