Friday, June 15, 2007

Atlantic Yards Lessons

There is an instructive editorial in this week's Brooklyn Eagle that looks at what opponents of the Atlantic Yards project did wrong in their effort to stop the development in its tracks. As editor Dennis Holt points out, "The Atlantic Yards project, now in its fourth year, has engendered deep emotions, more so than any project in my time. Sometimes emotions are fake,but not in this case. The problem is that the emotions got in the way of common sense three years ago when the project first surfaced

As Holt highlights, the emotions ran raw and an absolutist-"No Way"- mentality was rampant. So much so that, "the kind of discourse that should have happened never took place until far too late in the process." In addition, as Holt observes, "The whole form and feeling of the 'other side' got out of hand."

What was missing in all of this was an honest broker who could represent the community interests. The reason for the absence was that the mood in the community that coalesced around Develop Don't Destroy wasn't looking for any compromise that would have allowed the Nets to come to Brooklyn-the linchpin of the entire development.

So at the end of this long process, the opponents have their fruitless lawsuits, but little else. Knowing Bruce Ratner as well as I do (since I work for him on this development), I know that he was ready to listen to anyone who was willing to be reasonable. On the other hand, if you believe in all of your heart that a project will never be in the community's benefit, then you can't be reasonably expected to negotiate a community benefits agreement.

That's fair enough; but if a project is moving forward with broad support you risk it all by simply placing your body in the path of an oncoming train. It might feel both righteous and heroic, but in the end its a futile romantic gesture.