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State Review of Atlantic Yards Plan Begins, and MAS Weighs In

atlantic yards aerial view plan

With more than nine million gross square feet of development, 17 new buildings, one of which would rise up to 620 feet, an 18,000-seat sports arena, and seven acres of new open space, the Forest City Ratner plan for the Atlantic Yards and surrounding areas would change northern Brooklyn forever. It is among the largest development proposals in the history of New York City, and the MAS has begun its review of the plan.

On October 18, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), as lead agency for the required State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), held a public hearing to gather comments on the Draft Scope of Work for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project. More than 300 people attended the hearing and the MAS used the opportunity to submit written comments on the Draft Scope of Work as a first step in its review. Click on the icon to the right  to read the statement.

Encouraging a Comprehensive Review – Our comments focused on expanding the environmental review to include a full assessment of the area’s historic resources, traffic and circulation conditions, neighborhood character, and the cumulative impacts of this project and other pending development proposals and plans for the area. We also urged a review of the project in light of existing public policy documents produced by the three affected community boards, and that a broad range of alternative development proposals be studied, including those that might reduce land use impacts.

About the Process – An EIS must be prepared whenever a project is determined to be an action that will have significant local impacts if constructed. Although it’s called an environmental impact statement, the term is interpreted broadly to include an assessment of the project’s impacts on everything from schools to historic resources to neighborhood character. Because the final EIS becomes the official basis for government officials’ decisions about the project, it is essential that the environmental review be comprehensive.

The Scope of Work is the work plan for studying the project’s impacts, and it should identify potentially significant adverse impacts, determine the extent of information needed to make assessments, and identify a range of development alternatives to the proposal that should be studied. The Draft Scope of Work, which is ESDC’s proposed work plan for the tasks involved in the environmental assessment, must be approved by ESDC before the environmental review can proceed, and public comments about this draft scope, both oral and written, help to shape the environmental review to come.

The Public Hearing – While the hearing was technically limited to the scope of the project’s environmental review, speakers used the opportunity to register their overall views on the project. Proponents of the plan argued that the development would provide new jobs and affordable housing and also bring major league sports back to Brooklyn. Opponents argued that the scale of the project was far too large, given the low-rise character and existing infrastructure of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Others noted that the anticipated use of eminent domain was not justified. Another often-heard comment was that the overall planning process was developer-driven rather than community-based. Several speakers supported the project with reservations, including Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Council Member David Yassky.

The Next Steps – Once the ESDC determines that the DEIS has been completed—which may happen as soon as mid-February—the public will have an opportunity to review the findings and make comments. The public comment period will run a minimum of 30 days, during which time a public hearing is generally held. To learn more about the SEQR process, click here.

The MAS will continue to review the development proposal as it works its way through the state’s process and beyond. Check this website for future updates on this important project.