Monday, December 29, 2008

Atlantic Yards: RIP?

Actually, the above headline is just wishful thinking on my part. But there seems to be hope, despite the Supreme Court's refusal earlier this summer to hear an appeal of the eviction notices related to the 22-acre development on the outskirts of downtown Brooklyn. The crippled housing market coupled with an economy in full recession has paralyzed the Atlantic Yards project, while two major lawsuits opposing it are making its way through the New York court system.

For those of you unaware of the Atlantic Yards development project here's a brief summary of this highly controversial enterprise:

A Long Island Rail Road yard and a sizable amount of private property surrounding it--made available to the developer, Forest City Ratner, via the city's use of the eminent domain policy--will be the site for a commercial and residential development which will include a stadium for the New Jersey Nets, who are owned by FCR. (Ironically, the site is right across from where Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley wanted the city to let him build a stadium for his team. When his request was denied he moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957.)

Did I mention that over 15,000 people are expected to move into this area as a result of the Atlantic Yards project, which could make it the the most densely populated neighborhood in the world? (Hello, terrorism target!) How about the detrimental environmental aspects of something this large? Or that the site is located at the busiest intersection in Brooklyn, one that at 11 PM on a weeknight resembles rush hour traffic in a medium sized-town? (This is slightly more impressive when you actually visit the area with folks from outside of Brooklyn and witness their dumbfounded reactions.) I'm convinced that only the insanely greedy could conceive of building such an overwhelmingly-sized project on the chosen site.

I'm not necessarily against urban development; but this one I'm firmly against, to the point of boycotting companies and institutions aligned with it, The Brooklyn Academy of Music and Brooklyn Brewery, among them. (Yeah, I know: they're not going to buckle under my non-existent pressure, but I don't have to give them my money.) Anyone who agrees with the use of eminent domain to benefit a private developer should be ashamed of themselves. Period.

And don't get me started on that whole Nets stadium nonsense. (By the way, the British banking institution Barclays, who paid $400m for the stadium's naming rights, is rumored to have been in cahoots with South Africa's apartheid regime and the Nazis. Way to go, FCR! And for the record, before accusations of hypocrisy are levied against me, I did not agree with city funds being allotted for the new Yankee Stadium, unless there would be some sort of ticket subsidy involved. Fat chance.) Yes, the area should be utilized for commercial and residential development, but at a reasonable scale, just not for this purported monstrosity.

And to those who favor the project, like Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, who long for the area to become our answer to Manhattan's business and financial districts, I say, Get over your Brooklyn inferiority complex! Hopefully, Brooklyn will never be Manhattan, and that is nothing to be ashamed of, on the contrary. Yes, we should all strive for the betterment of the borough but without losing sight of the big picture, as it relates in this case to those who will irrevocably harmed by this monumental tribute to greed and shortsightedness. Those fashionably ironic t-shirts that announce "Defend Brooklyn" should add "from the Atlantic Yards fiasco!" It's only right.

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