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About DDDB
Our coalition consists of 21 community organizations and there are 51 community organizations formally aligned in opposition to the Ratner plan.

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"Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."
Bruce Ratner in Crain's Nov. 8, 2009

NY State Continues Atlantic Yards Charade

For Immediate Release: June 23, 2009

Empire State Development Corporation
Continues Atlantic Yards Charade

Decision Makes Agency Vulnerable to Litigation

New York, New York – Today the unelected members of the Empire State Development Corporation board voted with a straight face to adopt a Modified General Project Plan (GPP) for Bruce Ratner’s failed Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

The adoption of the plan triggers a sixty-day comment period and a public hearing, followed by an ESDC board vote likely to come in the Fall.

During the public board meeting none of the board members asked a single question once the summary of the Modified Project Plan was introduced. None asked if the “affordable” housing could be funded, if there was a cost-benefit analysis. Especially noteworthy was the complete absence of any renderings of the proposed arena or any of the 16 skyscrapers Forest City Ratner insists it will build. None of the board members asked to see what the project looks like.

ESDC claims the project has not changed substantially and that it will be built in ten years as originally planned. But in April the outgoing head of the ESDC Marisa Lago stated publicly the project would take decades to construct.

“The ESDC engaged itself in a charade today that the project it approved in 2006 would still be built. It won’t be. What is planned now, in the middle of a housing crisis, is an $800 million arena that will be a money loser for New York City and sit empty most of the time, one skyscraper and a handful of ‘affordable’ housing units, while the rest of the site stagnates under Ratner’s land speculation,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

“By playing this charade the ESDC has made themselves vulnerable to new litigation, a risk they are willing to take in order to fast track the process in an attempt to help developer Bruce Ratner meet an end-of-year deadline to issue tax-exempt bonds for the proposed arena. The ESDC’s action props up a failed project whose alleged public benefits have all vanished, while missing a great opportunity to develop the rail yards properly with affordable housing and using union labor.”

The following is the prepared written testimony delivered by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn to the ESDC board at today’s meeting:

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn
Statement on SEQRA Determination
June 23, 2009 ESDC Board Meeting

We understand that Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) staff believes that the prior Environmental Impact Statement is sufficient and that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is not necessary, despite the significant changes to the project. That is clearly in error and is designed to avoid meaningful comment and prevents ESDC from meeting its obligation to fully consider the environmental impacts from the changes to the project.

Obviously, we have not been afforded an opportunity to review the proposed Modified GPP. However, from the proposal made yesterday to the MTA and from the press reports we do know that the time frame for Phase II has dramatically changed. Previously, the project was planned to be completed in 10 years in 2016 and ESDC vigorously defended that time frame in court, relying upon the construction schedule in the EIS – despite the fact that the schedule simply reflected the physical ability to construct the project, not the actual timeframe contemplated by FCR.

If ESDC is continuing to rely on a schedule for hypothetical construction, that is clearly wrong. Obviously, the 2016 completion date is no longer feasible and neither is a 10-year time frame measured from today. As set forth in the proposal to the MTA, FCR is contemplating not completing construction until at least 2030 and even that date is not a commitment. While the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) does not require a reconsideration of potential impacts for a delay of a few years, when the delay is on the order of 15 to 30 years, the whole basis of the EIS is changed and must be reconsidered. At a minimum there must be a reconsideration of potential traffic impacts taking into account 15 additional years of background traffic growth to be added to the traffic generated by the project. A SEIS must also consider the impacts of an additional 15 years of construction related activity extending far beyond the time frame considered in the EIS.

Extended construction of Phase II or even the delayed decision to abandon the project will also change the character of the community and undermines the whole presumption of the project as a Land Use Improvement Project as a means to alleviate blight. Obviously, DDDB has challenged, and continues to challenge the baseless nature of ESDC’s original determination of blight. As the appeals of that determination are still pending, we are not waiving or changing that position. However, for the purposes of this action, ESDC’s blight determination may be accepted on face value. Nevertheless, that determination falls of its own inherent fallacies if ESDC is permitting the project to proceed with languid development over a period of decades. For the duration of that period, the alleged blighting influence of the Vanderbilt Yards will not be eliminated, but will be continued into the indefinite future and rather than promoting private redevelopment in the area, will foreclose such development as no landowner will invest in the surrounding neighborhood if he or she is faced with decades of on-going construction.

Another possibility is that the area will remain dormant until at least mid-2016 and then Phase II will be abandoned. At that point FCR can avoid the $11 Million annual payments and accept the subsidies and reduced costs it received on Phase I. Then the area will remain “blighted” and any alternative redevelopment has been blocked from commencing, further delaying the alleviation of blight.


Posted: 6.23.09
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Eminent Domain Case
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[All case files]

November 24, 2009
Court of Appeals

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EIS Lawsuit

DDDB et al v ESDC et al
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