Mayor Michael Bloomberg received a fair share of supporters and enemies Monday when he defended the much-ballyhooed Atlantic Yards project, which he believes should be completed.
As he vies for his third term in office, the mayor defended the $4.9 million development project during a special sit down with reporters from this paper and Community Newspaper Group.
At the same time, he took a sideways swipe at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which has taken the lead in the opposition to the project, as well as the many lawsuits that have pushed back its ground-breaking.
“One of the great sins here is that this small group of people stalled it for so long that the economy is different,” said Bloomberg, who not only bemoaned the delay of Atlantic Yards but the fact that Ratner is no longer using the original Frank Gehry design for the centerpiece of the project, Barclay Center.
“I would try to get Ratner to go ahead and do the Gehry design,” he said. “It would have been an icon. It would have been great.
“Simon and Garfunkel would have gone there in a second,” he added.
If it goes ahead as planned, the Atlantic Yards project will be comprised of the Barclay Center, the new home of the NBA’s Nets, and the borough’s largest venue for concerts and conventions, as well as 16 buildings for residential, office, retail and community facilities. Hotels have also been proposed.
During its many incarnations, the Atlantic Yards project promised to bring 5,325 to 6,430 housing units — 2,250 of which will be affordable — as well as units for seniors and some affordable condominiums.
In addition, the plan would bring eight acres of publicly accessible open space, an elementary and intermediate school, a health center, an inter-generational center, a new LIRR storage yard and a new transit entrance at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
If the project doesn’t materialize, then nothing will happen there possibly forever, Bloomberg warned.
“The alternative is leaving it exactly the way it is and your grandchildren won’t see anything,” he said. “This is your chance.”
Despite the heated opposition, as well as the lack of a commercial anchor tenant for his initial Ms. Brooklyn plan, Ratner should have begun building, Bloomberg said.
“I think the project would have gotten a life of its own,” the Mayor said. “He might have been in trouble half-way through, but it would have been in the ground going up. That was the mistake.”
“[Ratner is] a perfectly decent guy trying to do a good project,” said Bloomberg, who has been a longtime supporter of the project. “On balance there is always someone who doesn’t want traffic, doesn’t want this and doesn’t want that, but you should not be leaving it as an eyesore. This part of Brooklyn needs development, it needs affordable housing, it needs jobs and it needs pride in the neighborhood.”
Responding to Bloomberg’s swipe at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, spokesman Daniel Goldstein said that there were “many great sins he’s overlooked”as preparation for the Atlantic Yards Project went forward, including “supporting a sham process for a phantom project,” “endorsing a sweetheart deal to a billionaire to build an arena that the city’s Independent Budget Office has declared to be a money loser for the city,” and “creating a false argument that the choice is Ratner or nothing.”
“Ratner may be a ‘decent guy,’ but that’s not our concern,” Goldstein said. “But the project he continues to foist on Brooklyn is indecent and corrupt, and his firm’s mismanagement is something the mayor needs to take up with him.
“The mayor can pretend that all is well with the Atlantic Yards plan, demonize the majority who reject this corrupt deal, and be left with a failed legacy for himself—or he can actually listen to the community and find out that there is a far better way to develop the rail yards,” he added.