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Pols want more Yards scrutiny

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State legislators want to take oversight of Atlantic Yards away from a development agency controlled by the governor’s appointees and give it to … a new agency controlled only slightly less by the governor’s appointees.

The bill, drafted by Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries (D-Fort Greene) and James Brennan (D-Park Slope), would replace the Empire State Development Corporation’s ongoing oversight of Bruce Ratner’s approved mega-development and hand it over to a new, 15-member panel.

It’s unclear whether the new body would have any real power to alter the $4-billion development, as Gov. Paterson, who supports the project, would have seven appointees.

Of the remaining seven voting members of the panel, two would be appointed by Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (who supports the project), two would be appointed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (who supports the project), two would be appointed by Mayor Bloomberg (who supports the project), and one would be appointed by Borough President Markowitz (who really, really supports the project).

A remaining non-voting member of the panel would be appointed by community leaders. Nonetheless, Jeffries said the new trust would be a breakthrough for community involvement in what has been a closed-door, state-run process.

“The Trust will permit … a greater involvement of elected officials as opposed to simply concentrating power with the executive branch,” he said.

Ratner has still not closed some state financing deals to begin construction of his stalled project, and Jeffries said the new Trust would ensure that those deals are done properly.

The CEO of Bruce Ratner’s parent company, Forest City Enterprises, has said that the company would likely seek additional public subsidies — a move that the new Trust could, in theory, block.

“I have no doubt Forest City Ratner is going to try and come in and reopen this deal,” said Councilman Yassky, who supports the Jeffries-Brennan bill (even though he and Brennan are rivals for the comptroller seat next year). “We need the government entity that’s supposed to be representing the people … not just the ESDC.”

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Reader Feedback

Captain Steubing from Downtown says:
Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
June 19, 2008, 11:36 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Removing ESDC from the Atlantic Yards picture opens up a lot of possibilities but whether changing oversight over Atlantic Yards (development in the Vanderbilt Yards area) from one gubernatorially controlled entity to another gubernatorially entity will improve public input, and more importantly “fundamentally change power dynamics” is going to depend on other underlying essentials. To “fundamentally change power dynamics” ESDC’s ill-conceived notion that Ratner has some sort of theoretical monopoly on development in the area needs to be jettisoned.

There is no reason to give the idea any credence or legitimacy. This is not an approved project. Subsidies, financing and a multitude of other arrangements for the Ratner vision of Atlantic Yards have never been approved and the Ratner vision also needs to go back to the PACB before it can ever move forward. The Ratner vision is also already a far different project than the Ratner vision that George Pataki tried to ram through in the final days of his administration. Plus, there are many more changes to come beyond Ms. Brooklyn’s recent conversion to the stack of discarded pizza boxes which Gehry now refers to as “Building 1.”

Ergo- Remove ESDC from the picture and, more important, remove Ratner from the picture as the “monopoly-developer.”

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York
June 20, 2008, 6:35 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
To be effective, the Atlantic Yards Governance Act is going to need to provide for a fair amount “back to the drawing board” work otherwise there won’t be principled development, community involvement, a good project, or effective negotiation when it comes to subsidies- The old axiom is that you don’t want to lock the barn door after the horse has been stolen- By the same token, we don’t want to appoint a posse whose job it is to sit around on the corral fence rails and admire horse-rustling-thief-Ratner riding off into the sunset.

Principled development among other things includes, as one of its starting points, eliminating the unnecessary avenue and street closings which the Municipal Art Society has long been calling for. It would involve proper processes without shortcuts circumventing community involvement and ULURP, which, for instance, very importantly applies to upzoning and proposed condemnations.

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York
June 20, 2008, 6:49 pm

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