Public sees new face of Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
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The state’s newly appointed Atlantic Yards ombudsman met with the public for the first time and promptly squelched lingering fears about future traffic disruptions and security threats at the proposed basketball arena.

Ombudsman Forrest Taylor countered persistent concerns that securing the arena will require street closings — as a similar new arena did last year in Newark — by saying that it won’t happen in Brooklyn.

“The NYPD says it has no plans in taking any lanes of traffic,” Taylor told a packed meeting at the Belarusian Church on Atlantic Avenue on Tuesday night.

But that didn’t satisfy some.

“What [Taylor] said was that the police department has reviewed the plans and said all is right with the world,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), who has called for an independent security review of the glass-walled arena, which would be set back from busy Atlantic and Flatbush avenues by just 20 feet. “But the NYPD should not be the final arbiter.”

As ombudsman for the biggest — and arguably most controversial — develo­pment in Brooklyn history, Taylor’s job is to smooth relations between the affected communities and the state and developer Forest City Ratner, something he seemed eager to get to.

“I recognize there’s going to be some misery,” said Taylor, and “to the best of my ability I’m trying to lower that misery [for the public].”

One of the first mini-crises Taylor tried to fend off in his calm, casual persona was the Jan. 16 two-year shutdown of the Carlton Avenue bridge, a main link between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.

Taylor sounded testy after repeated questions about the bridge and said he had met with high-level FDNY officials who assured him the fire station on Dean Street would be properly informed in time for the bridge closing. He admitted that he did not visit the firehouse.

For some, the presence of Taylor, a former aide to Mayor Giuliani and Speaker Gifford Miller and a high-level official in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was enough to improve their attitude.

“It was good that he came out and met with [us],” said Eric McClure of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. “We had always had a hard time getting the Empire State Development Corporation to respond to legitimate requests.”

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