Earlier today, a handful of local politicians crowded onto the steps of City Hall to announce an initiative to foster community involvement in the troubled and long-overdue Atlantic Yards project.
The Atlantic Yards Governance Act, co-sponsored by Assemblymen Hakim Jeffries and James Brennan, would create a 15-member development trust to balance what they say is a one-sided effort monopolized by developer Forest City Ratner. The trust would, theoretically, have full power to modify the Yards’ development plan. But at the same time, a majority eight members of the board would still be appointed by the governor.
"Atlantic Yards is a public project built on public land using public money overseen by a public entity for a public purpose," Jeffries said. "It therefore deserves maximum public participation during the life of this project."
Why now? The Atlantic Yards project has stumbled through three governors and a recent shake-up in the top ranks of the Empire State Development Corporation. “The uncertainty that creates,” Jeffries said, was cause for concern.
But Jeffries, who has been known to straddle the fence on the Atlantic Yards project, didn’t say whether he was for or against the project.
"I think there are several aspects of the project which are promising such as the creation of thousands of units of affordable housing. However, there are other aspects of the project which leave a lot to be desired, such as the size and density of the project and the adverse impact that size and density may have on the quality of life in the community."
Meanwhile, City Council members Letitia James and David Yassky also came out in support of the bill. Yassky was adamant that not a single public dollar go towards Atlantic Yards until the community has a say and the “original sin” of the project (circumventing the Council) is repented.