Atlantic Yards Crescendo in Brooklyn

07/27/2009 06:45 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Atlantic Yards Crescendo?

It looks like we're headed for another crescendo in the controversial proposed $5 billion Brooklyn Atlantic Yards development issue: An actual hearing! Yes, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has deigned to allow the public to comment this week on the biggest development in the city, one which, if completed as originally described, will be the denser than the densest census tract in the country, in Harlem.

How much denser? Original projections were as much as TWICE as dense, or about 500,000 people per square mile. For various reasons we don't know what the final population of new tenants will be.

One of those reasons is that neither Forest City Ratner (FCR) nor the ESDC is providing final figures or drawings of the proposed arena and buildings despite the hearing's ostensible purpose: to comment on the Modified General Project Plan. Read it here, on ESDC's web site:

The idea, I guess, is to simply trust the ESDC. They say they'll release new information in September, which as I figure it, comes after the July hearings. How can you comment on a proposed project with no site plan and no rendering of the buildings? In a kind of Alice in Wonderland scenario, the ESDC is saying things are modified but not that much so that a new environmental impact statement is needed, but modified enough to warrant a new hearing and garner reassurances that things look good indeed despite the delays, financial meltdown, and firing of the star architect, Frank Gehry, who was the big draw to begin with. That's weird.

Lawsuits by a host of civic groups are in the offing because of this, which when combined with the impending Court of Appeals case (NY State's highest court) on the abuse of eminent domain in October, makes Ratner look like he's the lone holdout in this situation. He's been beleaguered for years, now.

Plenty of citizens will be at the hearing, many participating in demonstrations beforehand that are likely to be heated and confrontational. This time, the many civic groups fighting Ratner are likely to be there with signs and slogans too. Ratner has always had his paid or contractually obligated folks out there in mock support (they punch out when their obligation is reached) mostly to disrupt any public informational event. Using whistles and fake construction worker garb, they yell out for "jobs" as if an alternative project would not generate any jobs (there aren't going to be all that many permanent ones created here, anyway).

Join the fun: the hearing, held at the Klitgord Auditorium of NYC Technical College, near Boro Hall at 285 Jay Street, near Tillary, is on Wednesday July 29 and Thursday, July 30 at 2-5PM and 6-8PM; demonstrations will occur beforehand (written commentary is encouraged for 30 days following the event). This should be a high point--or a low point, depending on what happens--in the long story of Atlantic Yards.