Local leaders demand Cuomo shut down massive gym development at Pacific Park

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Activists and local leaders are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put the kibosh on a massive underground athletic facility in Prospect Heights — claiming state officials rubber stamped the new development without giving a second thought to the public good.

“We’re giving benefits to developers without proper public comments and review — at the expense of taxpayers,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D–Prospect Heights). “This is only going to benefit the developers. This is only going to benefit those who wish to sell us out.”

The proposed facility — a 105,000-square-foot fitness center and field house — would be located primarily underground on Dean Street between Vanderbilt and Underhill avenues, and included as part of the Pacific Park mega development project, which was formerly known as Atlantic Yards.

The space had been originally slated for use as vehicle parking until developer TF Cornerstone decided to scrap the garage and build a sprawling fitness facility instead.

The Empire State Development Corporation, which is responsible for overseeing the Pacific Park development, gave the new recreational facility their stamp of approval on Aug. 15 — ensuring the plan will go ahead unless Cuomo intervenes.

The plan has angered activists and local leaders, who argue that the state is providing a massive windfall to developers without extracting any concessions in the form of additional affordable housing, or addressing environmental concerns.

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) raised concerns that the developers are already lagging behind on their prior commitment to build 2,250 “affordable” apartments by 2025, and demanded they present a concrete plan to meet their obligations — before the state hands over additional building rights.

“The community fought long and hard to ensure that the development of Atlantic Yards would include a significant commitment to affordable housing, but we have yet to see a real plan to meet the commitment,” he said. “Now, the developers are asking for more commercial development without making any additional promises to provide public benefits or to follow through on their existing commitments.”

Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D–Prospect Heights) basted the state for failing to conduct a full environmental impact study for the proposed facility.

“We don’t know what kind of impact it will have, because it’s never been studied,” she said. “We’re being asked to make decisions with no information.”

Jack Sterne, a spokesman with the Empire State Development Corporation, said the concerns were overblown, arguing that the proposed fitness facility — equal in size to roughly two football fields — constituted a “minor modification” the original plan for the building’s basement, and was not significant enough to warrant a new, full-scale review.

Sterne also shrugged off the affordable housing concerns, arguing that the state had previously secured concrete commitments to ensure the housing requirements would be met.

“Pacific Park has already delivered over 750 affordable apartments, and we expect hundreds more to be completed this year,” he said. “The project developer made a legally-binding commitment to deliver 2,250 units of affordable housing by 2025 — and we will hold them and all of their partners to that deadline.”

Gov. Cuomo’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.
The Empire State Development Corporation voted to approve a massive new indoor athletic facility in the Pacific Park development.
Empire State Development Corporation