Wednesday, September 07, 2005

BTM, Gateway and ULURP

Tonight, Community Board #4 in the Bronx will have its first - and really only - chance to review the full scope and impact of the proposed Gateway Mall. The Board will have to pass judgment on the project and its over 500 page EIS by next Monday.

As the Alliance has been pointing out, the project is moving forward without any real input from any of the impacted local neighborhoods. And the certification of the land-use review in July was done, with contempt for the community, in order to avoid any legitimate local scrutiny of the project's impacts. Our full press release on tonight’s event can be found here.

A cursory look at the EIS will underscore the developer's rationale for haste. As community traffic consultant Brian Ketcham's analysis demonstrates, the environmental analysis done for Gateway is, at best, third rate. In fact, the overall quality of the review makes the strongest case possible for removing the environmental review function from consultants who are handpicked by a project's developer.

In particular, there are so many deficiencies in the EIS, deficiencies that whitewash some very serious public health dangers to the South Bronx, that the community's call for the withdrawal of the land use application should be heeded immediately. The consultant's low-balling of traffic trip estimates is particularly egregious since Related's Gateway Estates project in East New York should have provided the appropriate vehicle generation parameters if they had bothered to use them.

On that front what is also interesting is the consultant's overestimation of the project's reliance on mass transit. The developer's shucking and ducking in Brooklyn should be seen as a guide here. The EIS in East New York predicted that 20% of the mall's shoppers would come by bus. The reality: Only 5% actually do. So, using this experience as a guide, what does the consultant predict in the Bronx? The Bronx estimate is that 41% of the Gateway shoppers will come by public transportation!

All of this speaks to the reality of traffic minimalization and the obfuscation of the air quality impacts of the BTM development. For a further understanding of this issue a review of the California Air Resources Board analysis of the impact of particulate matter on public health is an important reference. Ketcham's extrapolation of the Board's data is also an essential guide. What all of the Bronx elected officials, the same ones that fought the righteous battle against transfer station proliferation, need to do is to examine this issue with great care. Unfortunately, this cannot be done by relying on the current inadequate – we could say fraudulent – EIS.