Mega-rally to stop mega-project

Three local groups that haven’t exactly agreed on how to fight the Atlantic Yards development will put aside their differences to demand a halt in demolition work on the project at a mega-rally next Saturday.

The announcement of the May 3 rally by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Brooklyn Speaks and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn comes one week after three City Councilmembers from Brooklyn asked the Empire State Development Corporation to bar developer Bruce Ratner from continuing to tear down buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint given that the developer has said he cannot build the 16-skyscraper, office space, retail and basketball arena project that was approved by the state in December, 2006.

“Recent statements by the developer have called the entire project into question,” said Terry Urban, co-chair of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. “The public benefits are in question and the only thing remaining seems to be an arena! This is not the project that was approved. Meanwhile our neighborhoods are being blighted by unnecessary demolitions for a project that seems to be disappearing or drastically postponed.”

All three groups oppose Atlantic Yards in one form or another. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn came out against the project from its inception, arguing (among other things) that its 6,800 units and 16 towers would overwhelm low-rise Prospect Heights, and that city and state taxpayers were footing too much of the bill.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods was established to ensure public input into the project’s Environmental Impact Statement. The CBN spent more than $100,000 to find the flaws of the EIS, which was nonetheless accepted by state officials.

Brooklyn Speaks formed mere weeks before the project got its finally approval in late 2006. Unlike DDDB, the group has neither explicitly opposed the basketball arena nor the project’s use of eminent domain.

That said, the group has argued that Atlantic Yards “must be changed substantially or rejected.”

Ratner appears to have taken care of the “changed substantially” part himself. Last month, he told the New York Times that the $4.2-billion project now consists only of the arena and two or three buildings surrounding it. The bulk of the project — which includes the vast majority of the promised below-market-rate units and most of the open space — is no longer scheduled for completion.

And even the iconic Miss Brooklyn tower at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues has been postponed until Ratner can get a tenant, he told the Times.

Despite the group’s different approaches to opposing Atlantic Yards, there will be a unified voice on display next Saturday.

“We can all agree that we can’t allow things to continue as they are going — with Ratner demolishing the neighborhood,” said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

Expected on hand will be Councilmembers Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), the trio that penned a letter to state officials calling for a halt in demolitions so that the neighborhood is not left “in an empty, blighted state for an unknown number of years to come.”

Rally against Atlantic Yards sponsored by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhood, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and Brooklyn Speaks will be held at 752 Pacific St. (between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues in Prospect Heights) at 2 pm on Saturday, May 3. Visit www.councilofbrooklynneighborhoods.org, www.dddb.net or www.brooklynspeaks.org for info.

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