Public hearings tend to be impassioned and last night's Atlantic Yards gathering was no exception. With three community board hearings held simultaneously in different locales, we opted, sans body armor, for the homey confines of Community Board 6 (where we happen to live). And yet, sitting among a crowd of just 60 in the sterile Long Island College Hospital conference room with pale pink walls, a blank blackboard and a television with AV-style accouterments perched in the corner, we sensed an eerie quiet.
Chair Jeff Armer introduced the meeting, saying there was no state assurance that the board's
recommendation would carry as much weight as it would if the development project were subject to the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a mandated public-approval process for development projects not unlike the proposed Atlantic Yards (if you've been living in Burkina Faso, the proposed 22 acre-site includes an 18,000 seat arena and 16 high-rise buildings, including up to 6,860 residential units).
Armer and company heard from about 25 public commenters, who bemoaned the proposal for being out of scale, for "Manhattanizing" Brooklyn, for subverting public review, for its indequate relocation plan and for improperly addressing what are sure to be increases in pollution and street, pedestrian and park traffic. Community member Paul Heller accused "some public authorities" of collusion, cronyism and conspiracy and someone else described the plan as
"They will have blood on their hands" said Jonathan Barkey, who suggested that the Atlantic Yards project surely will trump New York City's 1898 annexation of Brooklyn in the "greatest mistake" department. He then described a recent "Atlantic Yards moment" involving a truck driver dogging cars on Pacific Street while claiming to carry $4 million of materials.
Jim Stuckey, president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, a subsidiary of Forest City Ratner Companies, touted the number of rental units (4,500) and boasted of the project's effort to gain LEED certification for those 16 high-rises. Forest City Ratner transportation consultant Sam Schwartz assured the crowd of his recommendation to maximize transit and minimize car usage. Stuckey briskly entered and exited the room through a door that minimized contact with attendees (except for one or two who accosted him in the hallway) while Schwartz elegantly walked to the back of the room and awaited responses.
In an ominous sign, the hearing ended 25 minutes early and community board members sat around a table to plot their next move. The Empire State Development Corporation is holding a public hearing on August 23 at New York City Technical College in Brooklyn.