Jeffries To Silver: Atlantic Yards' Density Worries Me

Hakeem Jeffries, the state Assembly member-elect for the 57th district, which is ground zero for Atlantic Yards, did not sign on to his future colleagues’ demands to scale down the Forest City Ratner project, but he is speaking to Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver about it.

Jeffries told The Real Estate on Tuesday that he had a conversation about a week to 10 days ago to express many of the same concerns as Assembly members Jim Brennan, Joan Millman and Annette Robinson did. In the order Jeffries mentioned them, his concerns are: building more affordable housing early on as part of the project, the lack of transparency regarding the project’s financing, the lack of public involvement, and, upon prompting, its density. Jeffries said that he would speak with Silver again soon.

Jeffries is known to be hard to read (some would say slippery) on Atlantic Yards, and he refused to compare his position with that of Brennan’s camp.

“I have always felt that eminent domain is one of government’s most exceptional powers. I don’t believe that a private developer should be able to use it to build a basketball arena.” But he also said that the courts should be allowed to decide the issue.

That, of course, is axiomatic: you don’t need a first-term assemblyman saying that one should obey a court order. He clarified: “If they decide it is constitutional, then we have to find out other ways to make it tenable to the community.”

Jeffries, like his colleagues, does favor slowing the approval process down, starting with the Empire State Development Corporation. “I’m not particularly clear they have done all they were supposed to do to make sure they included all the public comments.”

- Matthew Schuerman