Friday, September 22, 2006

New Development in the Atlantic Yards Debate

With the fight over Atlantic Yards poised to enter the official Empire State Development Corporation potential modification and definite approval phase, some neighborhood and civic groups are turning up the volume of efforts to reduce the scale of the massive project. Rather than trying to block the project, they will seek to changes in its scale and nature.

A new website called "BrooklynSpeaks.net" will go live today to push for negotiated changes in the development. The Brooklyn Speaks coalition's working assumption is that the project will be approved, so they need to push for reductions in the project's size along with an increase in the percentage of truly affordable housing allocated for low-income Brooklynites.

The groups involved in the effort include the Pratt Area Community Council, the Municipal Arts Society, the Boerum Hill Association and the Park Slope Civic Council. The coalition, however, does not include a significant number of civic and neighborhoods groups that remain deeply opposed to the project, including some based closest to the development. The New York Times reports today that the proposals will be uneiled tomorrow (Saturday) on BrooklynSpeaks.net.

The group, apparently, will not take a stand on the use of eminent domain, which is the issue around which Atlantic Yards earliest critics organized.

So, is it a crack in the opposition? It depends on one's point of view. There has never been a united front of opposition to Atlantic Yards, although many have rallied under the banner of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. Some opponents want to block the project entirely in its current form. Others look to make significant changes in it and to lessen its impact. If the new group leads to public in-fighting among project opponents it will afford project supporters the advantage that comes from having members of the opposition wasting ammunition on each other. If it introduces a productive voice into the debate, and opponents can work together, it is less problematic. Whether this group has staying power and the ability to influence the debate remains to be seen, although one senses they are angling for the middle ground in the polarized debate.

Norman Oder writes in Atlantic Yards Report:
Supporters of Brooklyn Speaks apparently believe that the effort is pragmatic politics, given the current constellation of forces, and that the modifications they seek would avert a much worse outcome. Meanwhile, DDDB and some allies will be rolling the dice with a lawsuit over eminent domain and, likely, the legitimacy of the environmental review itself.
The messy end game is already beginning.

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