Sunday, December 11, 2005
The Times ignores letters criticizing its Atlantic Yards editorial; maybe letters should be on the web
The Times receives many more letters than it can print, so that any decision to ignore Atlantic Yards in favor of other topics--this week, on election reform and the Brooklyn Bridge--is a judgment call. (Then again, the newspaper on 7/17/05 did print three letters critical of its 7/10/05 editorial, "Skyscrapers Grow in Brooklyn.") But the Times, like all newspapers, should be more responsive to the many legitimate responses to its coverage and, especially, its editorials. Perhaps the Times can consider a web version of an expanded Letters section--in which the letters are vetted as in the print edition. Otherwise the newspaper is selling its readers short.
So, in the interest of public discussion, I reproduce three letters--surely there were more--sent to the Times, each making a different point.
The Times editorialized, "The Nets arena is not destined to be a cash cow, but the borough deserves a sports team, so long as the price is not too high." However, the arena would be one of 17 buildings, and the September 2005 Independent Budget Office report cited by the Times did not address the price of the development as a whole.
The IBO, in a partial attempt to calculate costs-- the delivery of new education, sanitation, and police services over 30 years to the project as a whole--came up with a figure significantly higher than that projected by developer Forest City Ratner's consultant. That suggests we still need a thorough look at the potential costs and benefits of Atlantic Yards, especially in its current configuration. Indeed, the IBO cited a figure of nearly twice as much office space as currently projected, and 6,000 apartments rather than the currently projected figure of 7,300.
Wrote Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Your editorial about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, "A Matter of Scale in Brooklyn," says: "It's understandable that residents bordering the project do not want such drastic change, but that in itself is no reason to stop the development. It is difficult to build in New York as it is. Growth would come to a screeching halt forever if neighborhoods could veto projects to keep the status quo."
Ratner's opponents don't want the status quo. We seek development that enhances and benefits the entire community, without destroying the existing neighborhoods and relying on massive taxpayer subsidies. We want to develop our community with our input--that's the essence of civic engagement. We even found a developer, Extell Development Company, to submit a community friendly proposal tripling Ratner's offer to the MTA.
We stand by the name of our group leading 50 community organizations against Ratner's proposal: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.
Fellow activist Shabnam Merchant wrote:
Your editorial "A Matter of Scale in Brooklyn," argues that Bruce Ratner's development proposal in Brooklyn must be scaled down. But it misses the point that Ratner's proposed scale and density is necessitated by his arena's expense. At $555.3 million dollars, a cost sure to increase, the arena is by far the most expensive ever proposed and will be an economic loss for the city. Also, there is no political oversight to mandate a reduction in scale.
You support the arena because "the borough deserves a sports team, so long as the price is not too high" and "its impact on the area's night life should be positive." This contradicts the call for a smaller project--the economics say the arena requires the large scale. With a direct tunnel from the subway to the arena along with traffic and parking nightmares, the area's night life, already vibrant, could be doomed.