The State Economic Development Corporation surprised Brooklyn activists today by releasing—earlier than expected—its Draft Environmental Impact Statement on developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan. The DEIS is a key step in the state approval process because it forms a framework for public comment by identifying areas where the proposed project will have a significant impact, and where it won’t. That’s why it’s remarkable that the DEIS concludes that Atlantic Yards, “would not cause any significant adverse impacts related to direct residential displacement, direct business displacement, indirect residential displacement, indirect business displacement, or effects on specific industries.”
What local activists had long feared was that Ratner’s project, while devoting a share of its space to affordable housing, would change the neighborhood dynamics in such a way that rents in nearby buildings would soar, driving people out—so-called secondary displacement. With a stroke of the pdf, EDC casts this argument away, essentially saying that the population at risk of being forced out is already moving out because of other forces at work, and that the new housing Ratner will introduce will tamp down any rising rents. One can almost hear Ratner’s opponents guffawing.
EDC does own up to “some adverse environmental impacts” on schools, cultural resources, shadows, traffic, transit and pedestrians, and noise. Somehow, the arrival of thousands of a major arena and thousands of new residents on the site won’t require any new police or fire resources, or hospitals. Nor does the draft statement include any apparent mention of a terrorism threat, which some local opponents have raised as an issue in light of 9-11 and the Atlantic Ave. subway plot of not too long ago. But then, heck, any adverse impact is dwarfed—at least in terms of text the EDC devoted to it— by what EDC claims will be 27,000 jobs and $5 billion in economic activity during the construction phase and at least 8,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in annual economic impact after that.
Not that Ratner’s foes believe those numbers for a second. Their chance to air those doubts will come on Wednesday, August 23, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at New York City College of Technology’s Klitgord Auditorium at 285 Jay Street in Brooklyn.