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Atlantic antics! A week of Yards hearings did little to change things

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They’ve said it before — and they said it again.

Supporters and opponents of the embattled Atlantic Yards project clashed at two public hearings this Wednesday and an information session last Wednesday, rehashing familiar arguments over the controversial mega-project in the wake of a new proposal that would give developer Bruce Ratner sweeter terms.

The July 29 hearing at the New York Technical College on Jay Street wasn’t as uproarious as the June 22 session, where years of built-up frustration erupted from project boosters and foes who long ago made up their minds on the merits of the basketball arena and the 16-skyscraper development planned for Prospect Heights.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without excitement.

More than 50 project opponents as well as a who’s who of politicians and City Council candidates rallied outside the hearing, demanding the project be halted in the wake of changes approved last month that would allow Forest City to build the project at a slower pace, pay the Metropolitan Transportation Authority less money up front for development rights to a smaller portion of the railyards at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, and to make less-costly railyard renovations than initially promised.

“The end is near. It’s time to put the proposed Atlantic Yards development out of its misery,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene).

Meanwhile, about a dozen supporters of the project — who were later joined at the hearing by a larger bloc of Atlantic Yards backers — held up signs and chanted: “You can’t stop the progress.”

Inside the hearing, Daniel Goldstein, who is not only the spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, but a homeowner in the footprint of the proposed Nets basketball arena, was the center of attention.

The outspoken project opponent replaced maps of the project site with his own posters emblazoned with large question marks next to the words “Atlantic Yards Site Plan and Renderings” and “Atlantic Yards Cost Benefit Analysis.”

“We are here to comment on a project with no rendering, no site plan, no nothing. It’s ludicrous. It’s a farce. It’s a sham process for a sham project,” said Goldstein, whose comments were met with cheers and boos.

When a booster of the project accused “a small group of people” of delaying a public benefit for a larger faction of supporters, Goldstein interrupted, shouting, “We’re not a small group of people! We have thousands of people with us!”

After the outburst, police escorted Goldstein out of the auditorium, though they permitted him to return moments later.

Borough President Markowitz touted Atlantic Yards as a way to put Brooklynites to work, eliciting applause from some, and heckling from others. At least two project opponents turned their backs to the Beep as he spoke.

There were fewer interruptions than at last week’s informational session held by Community Boards 2, 6 and 8. At that meeting, a crowd of union workers heckled critics of the project and eventually brought the meeting to a standstill with stentorian chants of “Build it now!” and “Union jobs!”

The $4.9-billion mega-project has been stalled by the downturn in the economy as well as Ratner’s inability to find commercial tenants for the project’s signature skyscraper, the now-tabled “Miss Brooklyn” tower. Opponents say that the changes to the General Project Plan approved last month require another round of public review. Critics say that the project should not go forward without at least renderings that would allow the public to see what Ratner envisions now that starchitect Frank Gehry, the designer whose inclusion in the project was one of its initial selling points, is no longer on the case.

His firm has been replaced by Ellerbe Becket, whose initial designs have shown a generic basketball arena that some liken to an airport hanger.

Supporters say that the entire project, when completed by 2019, will create jobs and economic development. But the modified general project plan now only calls for Ratner to build the arena and up to four buildings around it. Land for the so-called Phase II is not currently being acquired.

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Reader Feedback

Steve Nitwitt from Flatbush says:
Did Norm break out the Superman cape?
July 30, 2009, 3:49 am
al pankin from downtown says:
This is really funny, all these clowns that wanted a much smaller development have finally gotten their wish. they have been in the courts for years, lost every case. finally the project is greatly reduced and they're still complaing and carrying on. don't they have something better to do..? they must like the hole in the ground !!! maybe they should just move. you have to admit that the area looks much better now that Rattner has torn down those ratty decrepit buildings in the area. they were real eyesores. he should get a medal.!
July 30, 2009, 12:23 pm
sam from downtown says:
ahhhh, now wonderful to hear from the Pankin gallery
July 30, 2009, 2:19 pm
freddy from slope says:
hey al....

the problem is less about size than it is about abuse of process and some pretty nasty backroom deals. if there had been appropriate review the original size would have never been approved.

if you were at the meeting you would have noticed that the first speaker described the project. its all about ratner as broker and not developer. "each" of the 16 buildings are now separate private developments, leases and purchases.

and, oh my, the line of shills for the project boiled down to ...

-paid for by ratner (bam/fishman, daughtrey, buiild, acorn)

-uneducated - my aunt is on welfare with 4 kids, likes construction. anything to make her happy and give her a job - or i was a thug and a CBA signatory straightened out my life.

-stand to gain - unions, CBA signatories.

-angry opposition(dddb and some locals who dont need ratner to get by in life)

still really good theater. no popcorn though.
July 30, 2009, 2:54 pm
bradley from park slope says:
some classism here, freddy?

all union members who might not be as well educated as you do and certainly don't make as much are "thugs" now? i mean gosh, why should they get jobs if it puts some of your sunlight in jeopardy? why should there be more affordable housing for people if it will get rid of those great rail yards? i mean, gosh, i don't need any affordable housing, i live in a beautiful brownstone and i could care less about the plight of the poor, i really just care about the sunlight for my backyard garden. HOW WILL MY POTATOES GROW!?!?

you guys are mad selfish
July 30, 2009, 3:24 pm
Paul from Park Slope says:
This boondoggle was all smoke and mirrors from the start, an example of a developer asking for billions in public money to make a few more billion himself. Now the lies all come clear, and they're being painted as "timing corrections" and similar BS. The thing should never have been approved, all based on lies, and now the only support he has for his lies he has to pay more for.

The opposition didn't ask for a smaller version of Atlantic Yards. They have always asked for a different project WITHOUT a blight causing arena and WITH public benefits at a scale that would sustain the neighborhood.
July 30, 2009, 3:37 pm
lydia for progress from park slope says:
ok folks, lets get real. Ratner should get something started afterall, the blank slate we have now looks ugly and is getting full of rats. Something is better than nothing. Daniel Goldstein is a single holdout, and he wants the crowd to follow his lead. What does he have to gain, nothing, he is a jerk. Living alone in an apartment building putting his family at risk. What kind of a husband and father does that.? Instead of screaming at Ratner, how about talking this through and asking him to put in a new school (the neighborhood needs one) an open green space (the neighborhood needs that too) (although i heard the North Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District is going ahead with plans to redeisgn Flatbush Avenue and putting in some plaza spaces) so why not ask for what the community NEEDS and not just your own greedy needs. Daniel Goldstein should be ashamed of himself. He will not go down in history as a hero, but as a shmuck!! Some legacy..... Thanks Daniel for your help in the community.
July 30, 2009, 3:41 pm
freddy from slope says:
bradley:

read the transcript. i was there. were you?

i chose specific examples from the 2pm-5pm portion.

you seem to be missing the fact that the CBA signatories have been paid for. pure and simple. "any" rigorous analysis shows that this is just another siphon of $$ out of brooklyn with benefits that pale in comparson to what is being given out.

you want me to do anythng but knee-jerk react? have the esdc disclose all documents on the "public" project. till then quit yappin the "anything for a job" mentality. it just shows how low your sales price is.

perpetual wealth to ratner. 3 years of sheetrock work for us. ohh, good trade, cause nothing else was on the table. pathetic
July 30, 2009, 3:43 pm
Mondugu from On High says:
How lofty, Paul. How boringly esoteric, Freddy. How shrill, Letitia). How Mary Bienstockish, Daniel.
Yes, hold Ratner to the fire for a world class design. Yes, reduce the number of skyscrapers (but make them taller). Yes, demand more open space. Don't kill the project because of your jealousy and love of the frumpy and decrepit, all the while pretending to speak for the "community." Why not accept the project and extract another good out of Ratner, namely that he pay for the aborted arts and culture library.
July 30, 2009, 4:48 pm

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