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November 21, 2006

The Honorable George Pataki
The Honorable Joseph Bruno
The Honorable Sheldon Silver

Re: Security Concerns regarding the Proposed Atlantic Yards Project, Brooklyn, New York

Gentlemen,

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has been charged by its more than forty member organizations with ensuring that our community is effectively engaged throughout the environmental review process for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project, and that the process is transparent and comprehensive. The membership of CBN includes civic and community-based organizations representing the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards project site.

We write today out of a deep concern that the EmpireState Development Corporation will not provide to the Public Authorities Control Board the information they will need to make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of the Atlantic Yards project.

We are particularly concerned about the profound range of consequences resulting from concentrating, in what would be the nation’s most densely populated urban tract, adjacent to one of Brooklyn’s busiest intersections, three Department of Homeland Security-designated terror targets: a glass-walled sports arena and a glass-clad office tower built above the borough’s largest transportation hub, which was, in 1997, the target of a thwarted terror plot.

These concerns were made known to the ESDC in responses to its Draft Scope of Analysis for the Atlantic Yards from CBN, Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, and many elected representatives and community groups. Unfortunately, the ESDC failed to acknowledge these concerns in its Final Scope of Analysis, or in its subsequent Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Discouragingly, the issue was not addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which was recently released.

The most serious of these concerns include:

  • The potential effects on the Atlantic Yards’ financials when the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act expires at the end of next year, and the potential need for additional subsidies to cover currently “unanticipated” project insurance costs.

  • The indirect socioeconomic impact of insurance availability and affordability for surrounding property and business owners. At risk is the pool of locally available affordable housing as well as the sustainability of existing local small businesses. We base our concerns on the reduction by Allstate of their share of Brooklyn’s homeowners’ insurance market, based on risks brought to light in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
    (Recent supporting AP and NYT articles can be found at: http://www.texaswatch.org/media/ap062206.htm and http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/26/realestate/26coastal.html)

  • How varying requirements for security might affect police, or even the project developer’s, decisions to create additional limitations on the public’s right of entry to the project’s “publicly accessible open space.”

  • How traffic flow, air quality, public health and business activity will be affected, given that no requirements have been specified for traffic and security barriers, backpack and vehicle inspections at arena events, elevated terror threat levels, or other easily anticipated scenarios.

  • Under what conditions commercial vehicles might have to be rerouted in order to safeguard the project’s essentially all-glass “Urban Room,” which would be both a component of the project’s “publicly accessible open space” and the main entryway to the MTA’s Atlantic Avenue Station.

  • The potential impact on emergency response times resulting from the already-degraded traffic flow extensively documented in the DEIS, as well as the potential effect on existing emergency evacuation plans.

  • What post-9/11 safety codes and standards will be used for the design and construction of the project. (We note that while NYC’s Building Codes are to be upgraded at the end of this year, the ESDC has reserved its right to override city requirements as it sees fit [General Project Plan, page 4]. These standards may affect the lives of first responders, and everyone else living at, working in, and visiting Atlantic Yards and its neighboring communities.)

  • What portion of Department of Homeland Security grants to New York City, and other such state, agency, and local expenditures, will have to be devoted to the ongoing protection of this privately developed project? All such capital and operational expenditures should be included in the financial analysis of this project and its public subsidies.


    The ESDC has claimed that it does not have a specific mandate to look at post-9/11 issues. It is equally true, however, that the ESDC should have a public responsibility to fully acknowledge and analyze safety concerns brought to its attention by the community in accordance with the SEQRA process. Indeed, in a recent case, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court ruled that consideration of terrorism concerns in a process similar to that required under SEQRA is justified on the grounds that it provides information pertinent to governmental decision-making even though such analysis is not specifically required.

    Issues of public safety and security related to terrorism should be as much a part of New York’s planning process as earthquake protections are to San Francisco’s. Therefore, we respectfully ask the PACB to urge the ESDC to study and disclose all issues related to terrorism and security prior to the adoption of the General Project Plan and the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Yards as a critical matter of public safety.

    Sincerely yours,
    Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc.

    By: Candace Carponter, Co-Chairperson By: Therese Urban, Co-Chairperson

    cc:
    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
    Borough President Marty Markowitz
    United States Senator Charles Schumer
    United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
    NYS Governor-elect Elliott Spitzer
    NYS Attorney General-elect Andrew Cuomo
    NYS Senator Carl Andrews
    NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery
    NYS Senator Kevin Parker
    NYS Senator Martin Connor
    NYS Senator Martin Dilan
    NYS Senator Martin Golden
    NYS Senator Carl Kruger
    NYS Senator John Sampson
    NYS Senator Malcolm Smith
    NYS Senator Diane J. Savino
    Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries
    Assemblymember Roger Green
    Assemblymember James F. Brennan
    Assemblymember Joseph R. Lentol
    Assemblymember Joan L. Millman
    Assemblymember Peter J. Abbate Jr.
    Assemblymember William F. Boyland Jr.
    Assemblymember Adele Cohen
    Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz
    Assemblymember Diane Gordon
    Assemblymember Dov Hikind
    Assemblymember N. Nick Perry
    Assemblymember Frank R. Seddio
    Assemblymember Annette Robinson
    Assemblymember Helene E. Weinstein
    City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
    Councilmember Tracy Boyland
    Councilmember Yvette Clarke
    Councilmember Letitia James
    Councilmember Bill de Blasio
    Councilmember Al Vann
    Councilmember David Yassky
    Councilmember Erik Dilan
    Councilmember Simcha Felder
    Councilmember Lewis Fidler
    Councilmember Vincent Gentile
    Councilmember Sara Gonzalez
    Councilmember Michael Nelson
    Councilmember Dominic Recchia
    Councilmember Diana Reyna
    Councilmember Kendall Stewart

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