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PRINCIPLES FOR RESPONSIBLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ON THE VANDERBILT RAIL YARDS

Click to download pdf of the Principles
The "Atlantic Yards" proposal was announced in December 2003. In March 2004 Councilwoman Letitia James and the Atlantic Yards Development Workshop (AYDWS), led by urban designer and architect Marshall Brown, convened a community charette bringing together stakeholders, laypeople, and professionals to envision community-based planning for development over the rail yards (officially known as Vanderbilt Yards) which form a border between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.

The UNITY Community Development Plan grew out of this charette and a fifteen month Period spent refining the plan and presenting to stakeholders all around the communities that surround the rail yards–Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope.

In February 2005 a loose coalition of community-based organizations began meeting to prepare for the environmental review of the Ratner proposal. Using the principles behind the UNITY Plan, the groups developed and forumulated a document called Principles For Responsible Community Development On The Vanderbilt Rail Yards which has since been endorsed by 23 community based organizations, as well as Congressman Major Owens, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and Councilwoman Letitia James, all of whom represent the districts where the rail yards are located.

In May 2005, after much public pressure, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the sale or lease of all or some of the 8.4 acre Vanderbilt Yard (Vanderbilt Yard is the MTA's official name for the rail yards.) The MTA barely advertised the RFP (2 placements only). So, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn mailed the RFP, along with a cover letter and the Principles For Responsible Community Development On The Vanderbilt Rail Yards to one hundred developers. The few who responded were deterred by the political situation swirling around Ratner's project. But one firm, Extell Development Company, agreed to meet with some DDDB members.

After showing the UNITY Plan and The Principles to Extell, the development firm decided to submit a proposal to the MTA, with thirty days left in the ludicrously short 42-day time period the MTA had set for proposal submission. The plan submitted to the MTA by the Extell Development Company is guided by the principles underlying the UNITY Plan. (See: Yard Fight, by Peter Slatin. July 8, 2005 in The Slatin Report.)

Extell bid $150 million for the rail yards, versus Ratner’s low-ball bid of $50 million. Despite the MTA’s own appraisal of $214.5 million, the clearly fixed and deficient bidding process led to a decision by the MTA board to negotiate exclusively with Ratner–whom they had been working with and negotiating with for over two years–over an extended 45 day period.

When that period ended, to nobody’s surprise, Ratner upped his offer to $100 million and, still well below the Extell bid and well below the appraisal, the MTA approved the sale of the yards to Ratner. But that sale will not close unless “Atlantic Yards” is approved. MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow, when challenged by the only dissenting board member Mitchell Pally, said, “I’m not going to be beholden by that appraisal, it’s just some guy’s idea of what those yards are worth.”

The Extell Plan is a viable, financially-backed plan which will be studied as an alternative plan, and its impacts compared to "Atlantic Yards" in the ongoing environmental review.

Three of the four elected officials representing the district where Vanderbilt Yards are located have endorsed these Principles:

U.S. Congressman Major Owens
(11th Congressional District)

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
(18th Senate District)

City Councilmember Letitia James
(35th Council District)

The following Community Organizations have endorsed these Principles. This list continues to grow, as more organizations continue to take the matter up for vote:
Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association
Boerum Hill Association
Boerum Hill For Organic Development
Brooklyn Bears Community Garden
Brooklyn Vision
The Society for Clinton Hill
Cambridge Place Action Coalition
Carroll Street Block Association 5th -6th Ave
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
East Pacific Block Association
Fans For Fair Play
Fifth Avenue Committee
Fort Greene Association
New York Preservation Alliance
Park Slope Civic Council
Park Slope Greens
Park Slope Neighbors
Pratt Area Community Council
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Prospect Place Block Association
Sierra Club - Atlantic Chapter
South Oxford Street Block Association
South Portland Block Association
St. Felix Street Block Association
Warren Street St. Marks Community Garden