Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Voices of the People

As Bill Egbert's curtain raiser in today's Daily News highlights, the South Bronx community is beginning to find its collective voice on the Terminal Market development as well as the contiguous Yankee Stadium project. The community, represented by the aptly named Bronx Voices for Equal Inclusion, held a very successful rally and press conference in front of the Bronx Courthouse today at 11:00 AM.

The community groups feel that they have been totally ignored and they have watched, askance, as the city has unceremoniously moved to evict the BTM businesses that have occupied the market for decades. There is a growing alarm that, "today the merchants, tomorrow the neighborhood". If the city feels it can get a "better and higher use" for the land it creates the discomforting feeling that the working class residents of the area may also become endangered species, if not from direct expulsion than from the equally compelling surge of rising land values.

As the News points out, the local community board sees the summer certification of the application for the development as a ploy to avoid the most scrupulous community review of the project's impacts. Chief among these concerned impacts is the increased traffic and attendant air quality. Their appears to be little confidence in the accuracy of the traffic evaluations being done by consultants hired by the Related Cos.

The community's worries are far from unfounded. At today's event the issue of traffic was addressed by Brian Ketcham, a traffic engineer who has worked for over thirty years in defense of local neighborhoods. Ketcham pointed out the following:

1) The developer has significantly underestimated the number of car and truck trips the project will generate;

2) A similar Gateway project in Brooklyn, half the size of this development, generates 28,000 trips on a typical weekday and 34,000 on Saturday. The propose BTM project will likely double these numbers;

3) The traffic consultants have low-balled the important trip estimate numbers, 3/4 below those suggested by the engineer's manual and 15% lower than the already proven low-balled numbers used for Gateway Estates in East New York;

4) The Major Deegan, already at capacity for most of the day, will be brought to a halt and the local streets, forced to accommodate the overflow, will be flooded;

5) Lastly, in comments sent to the Alliance, Ketcham said the following: "This is one of thee worst traffic analyses I have encountered"

Community Benefits

In today' News story a spokesman for Related is quoted saying: "We're committed to signing a Community Benefits Agreement". That's just fine and dandy but a CBA needs to be negotiated before any land use review is conducted, not after an approval is clearly on the horizon. Anyway, how come Related has yet to talk to any community groups including Bronx Voices for Equal Inclusion?