Monday, October 24, 2005
Factchecking the Daily News editorial on Atlantic Yards
Complaints from the not-in-my-backyard crowd, who packed a downtown Brooklyn auditorium, made the hearing sponsored by the Empire State Development Corp. drag on for hours longer than was necessary.
Critics complained about everything from increased traffic to the bizarre notion that the steel exterior of the Nets arena, designed by Frank Gehry, might reflect too much sunlight and make nearby streets uncomfortably hot - an alleged problem with a Gehry project in sun-drenched Los Angeles that likely would not be repeated here.
Thank goodness for responsible leaders, including Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who aren't letting the NIMBY-ites slow the progress on Atlantic Yards. Ratner now owns or controls about 90% of the needed land, and Bloomberg is committed to the project. That means Brooklyn is only a few years from seeing 17 office and residential towers atop what is now an underused railyard.
The plan would create an estimated 15,000 construction jobs and more than 6,000 housing units. Ratner, who has lined up $100 million in private investments, has already signed an innovative community benefit agreement that guarantees thousands of low-cost housing units will be built. And at least 45% of the construction jobs would go to women and minorities.
As Lumi Rolley points out on No Land Grab:
The mandatory hearing's purpose was to submit comments on the Scope of the Environmental Impact of the project, as was not a pep rally for or against the project as proponents and the Daily News seems to believe. Many of the groups who submitted comments and concerns have not taken a stand on the project, but all these groups are working together to make sure that concerns of the entire community, not just handpicked groups receiving finanacial support from Ratner, are addressed.
And let's count Marty Markowitz as a NIMBY himself, since he expressed concerns about traffic and scale, but would not specify them at the hearing.
15,000 construction jobs? As noted by the Brooklyn Papers and acknowledged by New York City Economic Development Corporation president Andrew Alper (see my report, p. 81 of PDF, marked p. 56), construction jobs are calculated in job-years, so that would mean 1,500 construction jobs a year over 10 years. By the way, in May, "responsible leader" Mayor Bloomberg calculated only 12,000 construction jobs.
As for "17 office and residential towers atop what is now an underused railyard," it's actually 16 towers plus an arena, and the railyard is a little more than eight acres. The planned site, according to the Empire State Development Corporation, would be 22 acres.
What the editorial calls an "innovative community benefit agreement" has been criticized by experts such as Good Jobs New York because it involves a small group of handpicked allies rather than a broad coalition that would otherwise oppose a project.
More than 6,000 housing units? Yes, how about 7,300.
"Thousands of low-cost housing units"? Well, maybe 900, plus 1,350 middle-income units, plus over 5,000 market-rate units.
As for 45% of construction jobs going to minorities and women, the Community Benefits Agreement (p. 13) calls for "good faith efforts to meet the overall goal... of not less than 35% Minority and 10% women construction workers..." Unless all those women are white--hardly likely in Brooklyn--that wouldn't add up to 45% of the jobs.
As for the editorial's criticism of the bizarre notion that the steel exterior of the Nets arena, designed by Frank Gehry, might reflect too much sunlight and make nearby streets uncomfortably hot - an alleged problem with a Gehry project in sun-drenched Los Angeles that likely would not be repeated here, note that the problem isn't exactly an allegation. Here's Rolley's response:
[I]n the past, Gehry's experimental forms have been deemed environmental hazards in themselves. The Draft Scope Environmental Impact hearing was just the place to make that point.
Oh, and didn't the editorial writer read the paper's own Mike Lupica?