State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery Testifies on Downtown Brooklyn Plan
by State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery
(D - Fort Greene)
Before City Planning Commission, 3/24/2004
NEW YORK The proposed development plan for Downtown Brooklyn, which would include the Arena Complex, the Atlantic Terminal Complex, and the BAM LDC Complex, has the potential to radically and permanently change every aspect of our borough forever.
The plan will transform Downtown into a miniature metropolis within the central confines of our traditional neighborhoods. The decision that you make will have the most dramatic and perhaps drastic impact Brooklyn has experienced in many, many decades.
Moreover, it will significantly impact the host communities of Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Cobble Hill, Farragut Houses, Park Slope, R.V. Ingersoll Houses, Walt Whitman Houses, Wyckoff Gardens, and Gowanus Houses.
I urge you to consider that the Arena/Commercial/Retail/Residential development planned for the New Jersey Nets, which many people do not know is included in the plan, will be situated literally across the street from the BAM LDC and the Atlantic Terminal Complex. Therefore, we must not fail to include the impact of the Arena Complex, its scale and height, and its attendant population increase, traffic and noise on the adjoining areas.
In this context, I urge you not to extend the expiration dates of the three Urban Renewal areas in this plan. Urban Renewal designation reduces the participation by neighborhoods in the planning and implementation of development in their area, while allowing the use of eminent domain for private developments.
Any development in the Atlantic Yards area especially should be planned by and for the surrounding residential areas. The lack of input by community residents and civic groups is evident in leaving many problems unaddressed such as the high unemployment rate, the inadequacy of participation by local businesses and contractors, the shortage of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families, the destruction of historic buildings, the need for more schools and recreational facilities for youth, traffic congestion, and noise and air pollution.
Along these lines, there must be careful planning and consideration for the inclusion of women and minority-owned entrepreneurs and professionals in every phase of development from design, professional services, construction to post-construction, and retail opportunities.
I also urge you to consider additional design guidelines for streetscapes. We want to avoid extending the problems of Flatbush Avenue between the Manhattan Bridge and DeKalb Avenue, where high rise buildings stand at angles to the street stretching up from huge blank walls, creating a hostile environment while creating artificial barriers between neighborhoods.
Similar problems are cropping up on Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street in the BAM area, on Albee Square and other places as well. Building huge garages in a crowded downtown area also appears counterproductive in view of the plan's effort to de-map several streets so that traffic had fewer options to disperse. Already, several thousand garage spaces are being built as we speak. I urge you to reconsider such massive additions to garage spaces.
Finally, urban renewal designation does not respect historic buildings in Downtown Brooklyn. Most are occupied and have viable businesses with hundreds of jobs. Rather than put these buildings in limbo I urge you to evaluate their historic value. We should find ways to emphasize their worth with historic designation or a special zoning area. This might spur funding opportunities to rehabilitate Downtown rather than tearing it down.
We must hold our elected officials from Governor Pataki to Mayor Bloomberg to Borough President Markowitz responsible as the owners of this project and let them know that, if their work doesn't meet our needs,then we won't accept it. Let's not rush into something that we will have to live with for generations to come. Only a thoughtful and inclusive approach will allow us to arrive at a future that meets all of our needs. The planning process must take into account the true value of our neighborhoods.