“A Hornet’s Nest”

Opponents of Atlantic Yards are planning to come out in force at tonight’s panel held by the Municipal Arts Society on the arena and housing complex in Central Brooklyn. An e-mail sent out Sunday to volunteers of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, whose leaders had seen a preview three weeks ago, said the esteemed urbanist organization’s plan was “UNACCEPTABLE.” The e-mail exhorted the volunteers to show up with the same sign (“It will make a good photo-op”) and also to “ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS.”

Well, the call to arms is still in force, though DDDB has since (they say yesterday) e-mailed an update revising its talking points. “It was clarified to us, or they changed their minds, that they are not going to present a plan, but their principles,” DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein told us. Vanessa Gruen, MAS director of special projects, said, “We do not have an alternative plan. I don’t know why they have been characterizing it that way.”

More after the jump.

Chief among the opponents’ objections was that the MAS did not share their antipathy towards a basketball arena and that the planning and preservation organization would be satisfied with reducing the scale of Forest City Ratner’s project by 20 percent, to 6.9 million square feet. Gruen said that MAS was not passing judgment on whether Brooklyn should have an arena, but if it gets one, the location above one of the city’s busiest mass transit hubs (Atlantic and Flatbush avenues) would be a logical place for one. She said tonight’s presentation would not address scale, but that a team of experts convened by the MAS had considered the zoning of Sixth Avenue in Chelsea to be appropriate for the Atlantic Avenue corridor that runs on the north side of the development.

Gruen also took issue with the suggestion, made in the first e-mail, that Forest City Ratner had bought MAS’s support with donations to the organization. “Not at all. They are mad at us.”

Indeed, the MAS principles include a lot of things that opponents have been calling for: respecting the existing neighborhood; a park that is open to the street instead of hidden behind buildings; no street closings; a retail wall along Atlantic Avenue; and traffic mitigation.

Gruen said, about tonight’s presentation, “It’s a hornet’s nest.”

Gruen said she had heard rumors that 200 carpenters were going to show up demanding that the 22-acre project be built as proposed. Anthony Pugleise, the organizer for the New York District Council of Carpenters, dampened those expectations. “I’m going to show up,” he told us. “I’m going to be representing 25,000 people.”

Still, it will certainly be an entertaining evening. The fun starts at 6:30 at the Hanson Place Central United Methodist Church, 144 St. Felix Street.