In re: Atlantic Yards

A letter recently sent by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Congressman Major Owens, and City Councilwoman Letitia James to their fellow elected officials.

July 20, 2004

We, the undersigned elected officials representing the proposed Atlantic Yards and surrounding areas, request your support and cooperation in our efforts to represent and act in the best interest of our Borough and the entire City.

Atlantic Yards is a project of Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Companies that proposes: a 20,000 seat sports arena; 17 skyscrapers rising to 62 stories; 5,500 market rate units of residential development; and 2.1 million square feet of commercial office space, including 300,000 square feet of retail space.

A 24-acre plot of land is required to build a project of this magnitude. The Ratner plan would require 13 acres to be "seized" through the process of eminent domain, and the remaining acreage would be acquired from the MTA. Mr. Ratner has already called on the MTA to relinquish 11 acres of rail yard space for his project.

We represent the five neighborhoods that will be directly and adversely impacted by this huge development: The size of this project will be larger in population than the average incorporated village in New York State.

To date, there are a number of unanswered questions and critical issues that have not been addressed:

o We would like the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) to be the appropriate process for a project of this magnitude. The fact that the Empire State Development Corporation and the MTA are the two agencies authorized to amass the necessary acreage for this project means that neither NYC nor local elected officials or affected neighborhoods will have an opportunity to participate in the planning process. These state agencies do not require a thorough land use review as it relates to eminent domain issues, local zoning regulations, and the more strict environmental review required by NYC. The Legislature does not have oversight over any real estate deals conducted by the MTA. Moreover, public notification and hearings are not required.

o The proposed development creates a crisis in traffic both in terms of increased pollution as well as congestion. Traffic mitigation in this instance is an oxymoron. The Atlantic Yards Project combined with the Downtown Brooklyn Development Plan will generate an estimated 500 to 600 cars per hour in the already congested Atlantic corridor beginning at the Gowanus Expressway. The intersections of Flatbush and Tillary, Fulton, and Atlantic would come to a grinding halt. The EPA has already declared these intersections as three of the worst pollution hot spots in the nation.

o An additional 5,500 new residential units would require the City and the State to finance major infrastructure improvements to support what would amount to the size of a new town or small city. The requirements for additional schools, police protection, sanitation, fire protection, and recreational facilities have yet to be mentioned as part of this plan by Mr. Ratner.

o The cost to taxpayers for the privilege of receiving all of the above has been estimated to be from $500 million to $1 billion.

We respectfully request that you take the following action:

1. Write to Governor Pataki and Charles Gargano, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Empire State Development Corporation, and urge that any memorandum of understanding include a provision requiring strict adherence to NYC’s Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Also, please advocate the implementation of a comprehensive traffic and transit plan to alleviate the additional pollution and congestion.

2. Sign on to Assemblyman Gottfried’s bill A2835, which mandates that any eminent domain action in NYC be subject to the ULURP process.

3. Request an independent economic study by the City Independent Budget Office of the arena and Atlantic Yards Project that includes an analysis of the value of the land owned by the MTA, and the value of surrounding private property, versus the total cost of this project to the City and State. We would like to see a cost benefit analysis to determine, among other things, the extent of the economic benefit to taxpayers over total cost in subsidies and lost revenue to NYC.

4. Write to MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow and demand that the MTA commit an independent appraisal of the Atlantic Yards site.

We sincerely appreciate your help with this urgent situation. We believe that economic development can be done in such a way that it is both a benefit to the economy of our borough and at the same time preserves the uniqueness of Brooklyn neighborhoods by respecting their historic significance, character, and quality of life of our citizens.

Sincerely,
Senator Velmanette Montgomery
18th Senate District


Congressman Major Owens
11th Congressional District


Councilmember Letitia James
35th Council District

Contributors

Velmanette Montgomery

Velmanette Montgomery represents District 18 in the New York State Senate.

Major Owens

Congressman

Letitia James

City Councilwoman

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