Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Did the Army Corp Notify the Local Community Board About Ikea's Permit Request?

Activists trying to influence the shape of the Ikea in Red Hook seem to have been stymied at every turn of the process, particularly in terms of efforts to preserve historic buildings on the site and protect its working Graving Dock. Because of the site's waterfront location, the Army Corps of Engineers has played a role in the process, although advocates contend that it has circumvented the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. Now, it appears that notification of a public comment period (that ends today) wasn't given to Community Board 6, at least according to an email we received from someone that requested CB6 ask for a public hearing because of this. Here is a description of the process from Mary Habstritt, who is chair of the Preservation Committee of a rabble rousing group known as the Roebling Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology:
This permit, because it facilitates IKEA's development should result in a full review of all the "historic resources" under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Historic resources takes in any buildings, engineered structures such as bridges or dry docks, or archaeological remnants over 50 years old. NHPA essentially says that any federal agency providing funds or permits which facilitate a project must look at all the impacts upon historic resources, determine if the resources are historically significant (not everything over 50 years old is important), and for those which are significant, develop a way to avoid or mitigate any "adverse impacts."...

There are a lot of layers of bureaucracy that have governed what happened at the IKEA site which made it fairly impenetrable to the public and preservationists. For instance, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, then a project of the Municipal Art Society, spoke at every ULURP hearing as did Red Hook's own Waterfront Museum. The National Trust for Historic Preservation also wrote a letter that is part of the ULURP public record opposing demolition of the buildings, including the 1867 pumphouse. Yet, IKEA fairly successfully claimed in the press that the MAS-led fight to save the Graving Dock came too late because they had the chance to speak during ULURP and didn't.
An interesting public process from beginning to end.

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