When a factually incorrect or otherwise dubious opinion article concerning Atlantic Yards comes across my computer screen, I usually leave the editorial dissection in the very capable hands of others fighting this boondoggle. For some reason, when I read the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Consulting Editor Henrik Krogius’s October 14th editorial, “Us Against Ourselves,” I just could not remain silent, however unlikely that he’d actually read my response, let alone reply personally, online or in print.
His editorial isn’t specifically about Atlantic Yards, but the controversial development scheme is mentioned in the context of “[t]he latest perversity” in “the concerted opposition to an expansion of Brooklyn Friends School into Boerum Hill.” He says, “[a]s with every other project, the opponents have seized on the always handy objection: ‘traffic.'” He alludes that traffic “is only a conveniently ‘neutral’ argument” and that “there is the general unease we’ve seen in Brooklyn during the past couple of decades over any project that brings outsiders into our midst.”
In his opinion, the opposition to Atlantic Yards is really about fear of invading alien outsiders, but our fears have been cloaked in more “respectable arguments”:
With Atlantic Yards, too, the unease about outsiders coming in has clothed itself in a variety of more respectable arguments, including traffic (never mind that the site is uniquely well served by public transit), eminent domain (which affects a small handful of people for a 22-acre project), impact of scale on brownstone neighborhoods (which in fact don’t abut the site), and financing arrangements (as if the developer hadn’t incurred considerable risk).
Leaving aside for now his points about traffic and financing (however significant and problematic they are in the Atlantic Yards scheme), I decided that I couldn’t let his errors about eminent domain and the relationship of the project site to brownstone neighborhoods stand. Below is the email I sent to him on October 15th. I have yet to receive a response.
I am a resident of Dean Street in Prospect Heights, less than a block from the border of the proposed Atlantic Yards site. I have a couple of comments/corrections to your editorial “Review and Comment – Us Against Ourselves” published on October 14, 2009 online at www.brooklyneagle.com:
1. “…eminent domain (which affects a small handful of people for a 22-acre project)”
Although technically true that the exercise of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards would directly affect only those who currently own property or live within the proposed project’s footprint, as a matter of precedent, if the use of eminent domain is allowed, it would put the private property of *all* New Yorkers in jeopardy. I would guess that if it were your home that was being threatened by an economic development project that promised more tax revenue or a subjective public “benefit”, your opinion on this matter would be different. I think that the use of eminent domain for purposes other than explicit public uses is a very slippery slope that leaves it wide open for subjective interpretation of what constitutes a public benefit, at best, and fraud and corruption in the worst case.
2. “…impact of scale on brownstone neighborhoods (which in fact don’t abut the site)”
This is false. The newly created Prospect Heights Historic District directly abuts the Atlantic Yards footprint (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_collins/3654259151/). Brownstones and low-rise townhouses directly abut this site on Carlton Avenue, between Pacific and Dean Streets; on the intersection of Carlton Avenue south of Dean Street; on Dean Street, between Flatbush and 6th Avenues; on Dean Street, between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues; and on Vanderbilt Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets. (I’ve included small photos of these areas to fit them all in this email. I can provide larger and other photos if you’d like, or you can view many more here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_collins/sets/72157594432323135/)
Dean Street, Prospect Heights
Below are several of the photos I sent with the email: