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BROOKLYN     Press Release Main Page

For Immediate Release: November 26, 2007

Major Security Flaw Revealed in Ratner's Atlantic Yards Plan
Arena Setback Only 20 Feet From Congested Brooklyn Avenues

Newark Arena Requires Street Closings - How is Brooklyn Different?
ESDC, NYPD, Mayor and Governor Not Saying.

BROOKLYN, NY -- Developer Forest City Ratner's planned basketball arena would be set back a mere 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, two of Brooklyn's main arteries, which intersect at what is already a heavily congested choke-point abutting the proposed arena site. Security experts agree that substantial setbacks for facilities like an arena are required to protect against vehicular bombs and other terror attacks. Twenty feet is not substantial.

This major security flaw in Ratner's Atlantic Yards development plan in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, was revealed by the developer, after weeks of stonewalling, over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in a New York Times article.

In mid-October, just two weeks before the grand opening of Newark's Prudential Center arena, that city's police department mandated that at least two streets adjacent to the new arena would be closed during events as a necessary precaution against terrorist attacks. Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy told the Newark Star-Ledger, "you can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world. So we're playing catch-up and taking measures to make sure it's safe."

The Newark arena is set back about 25 feet from its nearest abutting streets. Forest City Ratner's arena would be set back only 20 feet, in most places, from busy avenues. But unlike in Newark, the NYPD says that street closures will not be necessary in Brooklyn; according to the Times, the NYPD "found that the arena was safe and streets need not be closed on game days."

"It is a major security flaw to have a mere twenty foot distance between Ratner's planned arena and congested Brooklyn avenues. What makes the Brooklyn arena's proximity to streets different from the Newark arena that it will not require street closings? This is the key question that Governor Spitzer and his Homeland Security Deputy Michael Balboni, Mayor Bloomberg, ESDC President/CEO Avi Schick and NYPD Commissioner Kelly all need to answer," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "One can assume that during the Newark arena planning process, Newark's police officials ‘found that the arena was safe and streets need not be closed'--just like the NYPD is saying now--only to decide at the last minute that streets did indeed need to be closed. There is every reason to think that scenario can occur in Brooklyn; the problem is that Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues cannot be closed for 230 events per year."

Twenty-six community groups, led by DDDB, filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in April 2007 (that suit is still pending) in which they asserted, in part, that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) violated state environmental review laws by failing to consider the potential security issues and impacts from a terrorist attack on the proposed Atlantic Yards project in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). During the environmental review of the project, the three jurisdictional community boards, community groups, elected officials and individuals commented on the need for the ESDC to study security and terrorism. The ESDC--the state agency overseeing the project--responded that: "Emergency scenarios such as a large-scale terrorist attack similar to the World Trade Center attack, a biological or chemical attack, or a bomb are not considered a reasonable worst-case scenario and are therefore outside of the scope of the EIS." Tellingly, the 20-foot setback distance was never mentioned in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement or General Project Plan which were both approved by the ESDC Board of Directors in December 2006.

"When ESDC denied that a terrorist bomb attack on the arena is a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario' worthy of study, we wonder if ESDC officials even knew that the proposed arena would only be 20 feet from the street. The attendant risks from that mere 20-foot setback present a very reasonable worst-case scenario," said DDDB Legal Director Candace Carponter. "If ESDC did know about the inadequate setback from the surrounding streets, then they have been grossly irresponsible by ignoring it. And if they did not know what the setback would be then they could not have logically determined what is or isn't a reasonable worst-case scenario worthy of study. Since the NYPD and ESDC have refused to answer anyone asking for the simple fact of setback distance, we wonder if they were even aware of the insufficient setback until it appeared in the newspaper."

For more than two years, elected officials and many community groups have been asking for a proper and comprehensive review of the Atlantic Yards project in the context of security and terrorism issues and impacts, but such a review has never been done. About one month ago, eight elected Brooklyn officials sent a letter to Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg demanding an independent security review of Atlantic Yards. The officials have yet to receive a response.

"The revelation that the arena would be only 20 feet from Atlantic and Flatbush, a fact that has clearly been hidden by Ratner and the ESDC for more than three years, presents the final evidence that the Atlantic Yards plan requires an independent security review," Goldstein said.

Atlantic Yards would be a glass-walled arena surrounded by glass-walled skyscrapers, abutting the busiest (and frequently gridlocked) intersection in Brooklyn, on top of the third-largest transportation hub in the city, which was the site of a thwarted terror attack in 1997. It would be the densest residential community in the United States, by far. Forest City Ratner projects about 230 events per year at the arena.

Renderings of the Atlantic Yards project illustrating the issues discussed above are here:

More background can be found here:
What Would the Worst Case Be?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's July 2005 white paper, "Terrorism, Security and the Proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards High Rise and Arena Development Project" can be found here: http://www.dddb.net/php/reading/security.php

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