Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Crowd Jeers As Elected Protect Their Interest in Atlantic Yards

Amidst much jeering and booing, NYS Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee conducted a public hearing at Pratt Institute to ascertain the status of the Atlantic Yards/FCR project, March 29, 2009. Bill Perkins (30 SD, Manh.), committee chair and the sole committee member present, St. Senator Velmanette Montgomery (18 SD, Bk.), Martin Golden (22 SD, Bk.), Karl Kruger (27 SD, Bk.), and St. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (57 AD, Bk.) were present to hear testimony of five panels.

While Senator Montgomery and Assemblyman Jeffries’ presence were due to the project being in their respective catchments areas and Senator Kruger is the Finance committee chair, Martin Golden’s presence was questionable. Senator Golden isn’t a committee member and represents Brooklyn neighborhoods Gravesend, Bensonhurst and Gerritsen Beach. Sen. Montgomery remarked that Golden “showed disrespect toward his colleagues,” after he asked for “the public hearings to stop.” Absent were Forest City Ratner representatives.

The hearing’s purpose was to watch out for the public’s interest in the progress of a massive project involving the Empire State Development Corp. and the Metropolitan Transit Authority State of New York. Jeffries stated, “The Atlantic Yards Project bypassed the ULURP procedure, received $400 million from New York State, $200 million from the City and eminent domain approved to expedite land assembly to make way for luxury housing, an arena and commercial space.”

When asked what kept construction from starting, ESDC executive director Marisa Lago explained it was financial constraints; however, neither ESDC nor MTA applied for stimulus money (ARRA 2009), whose application deadline is June 24 2009.

Hakeem Jeffries served his constituency handsomely by asking the MTA why it hadn’t collected all or most of the $100 million up front from FCR, given its recent proposal to raise fares, defer maintenance and cut bus routes. Rather, the MTA agreed to accept allotment payments and can’t commit to holding fares to the increases that go in effect June 28, 2009.

Jeffries other questions concerned activating construction trade training, raising the present 10% allocation for affordable condominiums (195 units) and getting affordable rental and condominium housing constructed (2,445 units) constructed during Phase I.

Other panels included Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, and the Independent Budget Office. BUILD COO Marie Louis asked “the elected to work with us to make the community benefits agreement enforceable.” The CBA is not a contract; rather a deal between FCR and the community. ESDC and MTA are not included or accountable for its execution.

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