group rips Ratner plan
on Commerce Bank, Atlantic Yards is next
on Commerce Bank, Atlantic Yards is next
A civic group in Park Slope that began by successfully pressuring Commerce
Bank into modifying the look of a new branch to fit in with the neighborhood,
is now taking aim at developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards basketball
arena and skyscraper project.
Park Slope Neighbors, which formed last October to bring together block
associations and residents who felt estranged by other area organizations,
made a splash when they convinced the bank to reduce the area allocated
to a suburban drive-through design for a more Brownstone Brooklyn facade.
Last Sunday, at the annual Seventh Heaven street fair on Park Slope’s
Seventh Avenue, three members of the group gathered 450 new signatures
of people opposing Atlantic Yards, a $3.5 billion proposal by Ratner,
which would stretch from Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street in Park Slope
along Atlantic Avenue, bounded by Dean Street, and ending at Vanderbilt
Avenue in Prospect Heights.
The concerned Slopers want elected officials to push for a greater public
say in the development of the site.
“It’s kind of interesting,” said Jon Crow, a member of
Park Slope Neighbors, who sat at the table between Berkeley and Union
streets on Sunday afternoon. “All you really need to do is put out
there what you’re doing — which is petitioning against the arena
project — and people just come at you like a magnet.
“Either that or people just pass you by and don’t know what
you’re talking about,” said Crow. “It’s really amazing
that the council members say their constituents support this, when you’re
like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
City Council members David Yassky and Bill DeBlasio, who both represent
portions of Park Slope, are two of those whom the petitions are addressed.
Yassky has stated support for the Ratner project, with the caveat of more
community input, and DeBlasio has voiced his support for the value the
residential component, which may provide as many as 7,300 new units of
Just as the petition against the bank’s plan for a mammoth, glowing
sign-adorned drive-through took elected officials by surprise after the
deal was long sealed, the Atlantic Yards petition will be presented to
elected officials, who members of the organization say have been resting
on their laurels instead of reaching out to the community to explain their
stance on the arena.
Simply worded, the statement signatories agree that the proposed development,
“the largest real-estate development in Brooklyn in 25 years …
would have tremendous consequences for our neighborhoods.”
“We’re being asked to pay for it through hundreds of millions
of dollars in public subsidies, yet we are being given no voice in how
this project might take shape,” the petition reads.
“We, your constituents, demand that you call for greater community
input in the Atlantic rail yards development process,” reads the
petition. “As our elected representative, we expect you to work to
1) protect neighborhood quality of life; 2) ensure competitive bidding
for the MTA’s rail yards; 3) explore alternative proposals, including
the UNITY plan and the siting of an arena in Coney Island.”
Crow said the petition received “450 or 500 signatures this weekend,”
but during a street fair on Fifth Avenue a few weeks ago they collected
as many as 650.
“Primarily, we’re tabling, but we also e-mailed to our list
of folks who have signed the Commerce Bank petition or are on our list
serve,” explained Eric McClure, a spokesman for the group.
“The majority are coming from tabling efforts,” he said.
Along with the two council members, the petition is addressed to Assembly
members Joan Millman and James Brennan, state Sen. Carl Andrews and Borough
President Marty Markowitz, the most vocal political advocate of the plan.
“It’s been pretty clear to us that if the elected officials
are working on these things, they have been completely behind closed doors,
because it doesn’t appear that anybody has been addressing this issues,”
“We don’t really have a mechanism to make sure they are doing
these things right now, but it seems pretty clear that nobody is.”
©2005 Community News Group