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don't destroy

BROOKLYN     Press Release Main Page

For Immediate Release: April 6, 2006

Ratner/ESDC "Atlantic Yards" Scope of Analysis Seriously Flawed
Developer Increases Project Size,
Makes Hollow Claims and Ignores Community

BROOKLYN, NY­ At 5pm last Friday developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) and the Empire State Development Corporation released the Final Scope of Analysis for the proposed "Atlantic Yards" development plan. This document finalizes the areas of study and analysis for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)­a document of many thousands of pages, projected to be released in early June. 

There are numerous serious gaps and major flaws within that document.  Specifically:

Though the developer is pretending the proposal has gotten smaller, the new plan is significantly bigger than what was originally announced in December 2003. It is at least 600,000 to 1million square feet bigger today than when it was unveiled in December 2003 (when it was way too big already), and the building heights are a total of 228 feet higher. The proposal also has 2,360 more housing units than when first unveiled in 2003. 

The environmental review will not consider security and terrorism issues as related to the unique design, location and use of the proposal, as well as the financial impact of such prevention measures; this despite the debacle that occurred when such a pre-design analysis was left out of Ground Zero planning.


The final scope says that there will be "interim surface parking" on the eastern (Vanderbilt Avenue) and northern (Atlantic Avneue) parts of the proposed site, through at least 2010. Turning that part of Prospect Heights into a parking lot for the foreseeable future is unacceptable. Details of this "interim parking" must be provided in the DEIS.

The environmental review will not consider the traffic impact on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or the East River bridge crossings, despite the fact that the whole arena financial analysis by Dr. Andrew Zimbalist projects a substantial number of current New Jersey based fans to attend games. The BQE and the bridges should be included in the DEIS.

Traffic modeling should not rely on the outmoded models used for the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning review. Traffic simulation modeling is the only way to demonstrate the availability of road capacity for the "Atlantic Yards" proposal.  Without it the numbers would be fake.  

Widening of Flatbush, Atlantic and Sixth Avenues are antithetical to contemporary smart planning solutions to urban transportation problems.

The scoping document uses February 2006 as a baseline date for the condition of the properties in the proposed footprint. The baseline date should be December 2003 when the proposal was unveiled, since which time Forest City Ratner has been purchasing, vacating warehousing and demolishing properties to create stagnation and "blight" conditions, which the ESDC will try to use to justify eminent domain. Without FCR and the proposal stagnating the neighborhood in the proposed footprint, development would be continuing apace with the surroundings. This baseline date must be changed for the DEIS.

Also, with proposed street widenings, there is reason to suspect that more eminent domain takings might be enacted.

Though the final scope indicates that the environmental review will include three alternative plans, including the financially backed Extell Development Company community based plan, it remains to be seen as to what detailed extent the DEIS will analyze these plans versus the Ratner "Atlantic Yards" proposal. 

The community requested that the final scope include an analysis of alternate locations for an arena (on top of the Atlantic Center Mall site, Coney Island, East New York, the Brooklyn Navy Yard) but this was ignored by the ESDC and FCR. 

Though described by ACORN and Forest City Ratner as a 50% affordable housing project, the final scope describes 2,250 low-, middle-, and moderate-income housing out of a total 6,680 units (4610 market rate units). That is a 32.7% "affordable" housing plan, contingent on securing an extraordinary package of housing subsidies, which has been left to ACORN to secure. At best 10% of the housing would be available to families earning at or below Brooklyn’s median income and no housing for people living at or below the poverty level.

There have been rumors of additional off-site "affordable housing," but such housing is nowhere to be found in the final scoping document.

The final scope will not review the project’s financial viability or the developer’s financial projections. The document says that the environmental review will "disclose, to the extent known, the public funding for the project." (Shouldn’t the State’s lead public agency, the ESDC, know the exact amount of public funding?)

The final scope document does not respond to this serious request from the community: "There must be a detailed analysis of the project’s impact on Engine Company 219/Ladder Company 1, at 494 Dean St., abutting the project site; and the 78th Precinct at 65 6th Avenue, less than two blocks from the site. The impact on these facilities, and their response times, during and after construction should be studied in detail, especially considering the nearby street closings and street widenings."

"Ratner is pretending he’s scaled his proposal down, but it is at least 600,000 square feet bigger today than when it was unveiled in December 2003, and the building heights are a total of 228 feet higher. Its still an urban planning disaster and an offense to the community," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "And the final scoping document has too many flaws which will lead to grossly flawed and absent findings in the environmental review process." 

"Accommodating additional traffic created by the arena's parking lot, ESDC and Ratner have called for ‘improvements’ such as the widening of Flatbush, Atlantic and Sixth Avenues. New York may very well be the last major city in the Western World that is trying to solve urban transportation problems by widening roads and creating big new parking lots in its urban core," said Aaron Naparstek, Project Director at The Open Planning Project. "The proposed ‘new design’ only means more big gaps in the street-wall, a less healthy and viable pedestrian environment, fewer opportunities for street level retail and, almost certainly, more dead, semi-useless ‘open spaces’ on the interior."

"Perhaps the most disturbing development is the proposed creation of a huge interim surface parking lot on the eastern end of the footprint," said Eric McClure, Atlantic Yards campaign coordinator for Park Slope Neighbors.  "Forest City Ratner has repeatedly claimed to be 'listening to the community,' but I'm not sure who in 'the community' would've told them we were clamoring for a gigantic traffic magnet.  Even a small downturn in the housing market could change its status from 'interim' to 'permanent'.  We thought the whole idea of building on a transit hub was to discourage traffic, not help create it."

DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition
fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.
We oppose Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
Over 5,000 members.