Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gotham Gazette Goes to the 57th AD

Today the Gotham Gazette covers the 57th Assembly District race. This is the key race when it comes to "Atlantic Yards."

The proposed project sits squarely (or triangularly) within the 57th, and the neighborhoods that would be most directly impacted–Prospect Heights, Fort Green, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights –would be represented by the winner of this race.

Within the bounds of the 57th "Atlantic Yards" is by far the biggest issue and controversy. Not just the development itself but the precedent it would set for other areas in (and out) of the district. It touches on so many policy and quality of life issues from housing to eminent domain. How could it not be the biggest issue in the district when it is the largest project proposed by one developer in the City's history?

The assemblymember representing the 57th District, currently "Atlantic Yards" supporter Roger Greene, will have a special voice, when it comes to the approval decisions, into Speaker Silver's ear. And the results of this race may very well be the clearest political signal about the disposition of the district towards the project.

As stated in an early post, of the three candidates only Bill Batson opposes the project outright.

Current female District Leader Freddie Hamilton fully supports the project, concretely evidenced in the fact that she signed the controversial and severely lacking "Community Benefits Agreement" (CBA); she has also publicly admitted to taking money from Forest City Ratner to the tune of $350,000.

Third time candidate Hakeem Jeffries has straddled the fence, offering strong criticisms, but in the end comes to this position of support quoted in the Times:
After some prodding, he said he would "be more inclined to support it than not," in large part because the project includes a large component of below-market housing.

If Jeffries has come to a new conclusion regarding the project after the July 18th release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) we would like to hear. But the question is: Do you support THIS proposal as it CURRENTLY stands?

There is no room for equivocation at this late date: the question remains, do you support or oppose the project as described in the DEIS? We would gladly accept a clarification.

From the Gotham Gazette's Succeeding Green in Fort Greene – and Beyond:
Atlantic Yards
Freddie Hamilton, a staunch supporter of the project, was a signatory of a community benefits agreement between six community based organizations andthe developer of the project, Forest City Ratner Companies. Hamilton believes that the project "will ultimately provide the best outcomes for the district."

William Batson, former aide to State Senator David Patterson, is an outspoken opponent of the 6.5-acre real estate development. "This project has everything that's wrong with overdevelopment in it... .It's a three-card monte proposal that changes every time you look down" said Batson.

Hakeem Jeffries, a litigator for the CBS Corporation and third time candidate, refuses to denounce the $4.2 billion project, but criticizes the plan in its current form. "The proposed project is too dense and would dramatically change the character of the tree-lined residential neighborhood that it borders," he said.
(emphases added)

Affordable Housing
All the candidates agree that the district needs more affordable housing. However, they differ over whether Atlantic Yards will help provide that.

Freddie Hamilton believes that it will. According to her, plans for the development include over 200 units for residents with annual incomes as low as $19,00 .

William Batson, who has worked with local residents to protest the pending development, calls Forest City Ratner's promise of new affordable housing a "fraud." "We need real government action to address our housing crises, not the dubious promises of private developers," said Batson during a recent speech.

If elected, Hakeem Jeffries hopes to address the housing situation by repealing the Urstadt law, which places the power to control rents in the hands of the state legislature rather than city government.

Working families and senior citizens on fixed incomes are being pushed out of the only neighborhoods they've ever called home," said Jeffries, who was born and raised in central Brooklyn and provides free legal advice to residents who are facing displacement.


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