Developer-Backed Atlantic Yards Proponent Attacks City’s Coney Plans

It seems a controversial figure in the Atlantic Yards debate is popping up in the debate over Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to remake Coney Island, the folks at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn point out today.

James Caldwell, president of BUILD, a Forest City Ratner-funded group formed to support the labor and economic benefits of Atlantic Yards, was spotted in a photo at a public meeting on the city’s plans to remake Coney Island earlier this week. Mr. Caldwell was pictured wearing a yellow hat that read “The Bloomberg Plan: How much $? How long? Who pays?” standing front and center with state Senator Carl Kruger, an Atlantic Yards supporter who is vocally opposing the city’s proposal at Coney. Earlier this month, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled his plans for the historic amusement district and surrounding community, which include the city buying up the entertainment area and contracting it out to an operator.

Mr. Kruger, who endorsed Atlantic Yards despite it being well outside his southeastern Brooklyn district, is fighting a battle on his home turf this time. But the involvement of Mr. Caldwell, chairman of the North Crown Heights Family Outreach Center, according to BUILD’s website, leaves one to scratch their head a bit, as his presence so far away from neighborhood and place of business seems slightly odd.

The various blogs and newspapers that covered the meeting did not offer an answer as to who organized Mr. Caldwell and the others wearing the yellow hats. Obviously, it seems highly unlikely that BUILD backer Forest City Ratner, developer of Atlantic Yards, would have any desire to publicly oppose the city at all, let alone in Coney Island. Or maybe the Coney plans instill more passionate responses from residents of Crown Heights, located about eight miles north of Coney Island and without any direct subway connection, than we suspect.

A spokesman for the major landowner in the Coney Island amusement district, Thor Equities, did not immediately return a call for comment, nor did Mr. Caldwell.