Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Atlantic Yards End Game: More Prominent Groups Call for Delay

With a possible vote on the Atlantic Yards plan as early as tomorrow, and an end-of-the-game pack of headlines about project finance questions, the chorus of voices calling for a delay in a vote by the Public Authorities Control Board is growing. And there have been reports that the PACB might actually vote to stall the project so that the Spitzer administration can take a fresh look at the megaproject. While the new governor supports Atlantic Yards, the delay would represent a stunning setback to supporters whose strategy all along has been to hurry up and get the deal done before Gov. Pataki leaves office.

Yesterday, the venerable and prestigious Regional Plan Association--which has voiced support for Atlantic Yards--called for a delay. It was joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Citizens Union, Municipal Art Society, New Yorkers for Parks, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and other organizations and officials. Ill-timed questions about project finances--like the $500 million decrease in revenue projections and continued refusal by the Empire State Development Corporation to reveal the developer's profits, even to an Assembly Committee--have fueled the moves to delay for further examination and revision.

Municipal Arts Society Presdient Kent Barwick said: "We’re not here to kill the project, we’re here to resusicitate the role of the public. Atlantic Yards, so far, has been a public-private partnership in which the public has not been present. A delay in the PACB vote will not only allow the financial facts of the project to be understood, it will allow for the state to recognize and mitigate the negative impacts of this project that have been identified.” The MAS organized the press event and is behind the Brooklyn Speaks group, which has urged significant revisions in the plan. (Full release on the event is available by clicking here.)

The forces seeking to slow consideration of the Atlantic Yards project grew in strength yesterday as the influential Regional Plan Association (RPA) and the Citizens Union, groups that, respectively, had offered cautious support for the project and had not weighed in, called for the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) to delay its vote.

Atlantic Yards Report, which has extensive coverage of the event and the new calls for delay, writes:
Exactly how that might occur remains a question, but the groups expressed hope that a new state administration under incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer—a project supporter—would take a fresh look at Atlantic Yards.

Yesterday the advocates said that not only does the environmental impact require additional scrutiny, but so do the finances. The latter message was driven in part by recent revelations that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had lowered its estimate of net new revenue for the project by nearly half a billion dollars.
Will Spitzer have a say? Does he want to wade into Brooklyn's most toxic political issue? Stay tuned.

[The graphic is via No Land Grab from an interesting look at the project at Veritas et Venustas.]

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