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Atlantic Yards foes: Finish this project sooner rather than even later

Brooklyn Daily
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Atlantic Yards critics and supporters have finally found something they can agree on: Forest City Ratner needs to get the job done already.

Project foes are pressing the developer to finish the second phase of the much-delayed mega-project — 11 residential towers between Sixth and Vanderbilt avenues currently scheduled to run 15 years longer than initially planned — within the original 10-year window.

“Twenty five years is too long to wait for the open space that was promised to the public as a benefit and that we have paid hundreds of million dollars for in government aid and zoning overrides,” said Danae Oratowski, the chairwoman of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council during a court-mandated forum last week on the potential impact of a quarter-century of construction.

Finishing the project sooner rather than even later wouldn’t just deliver its much-hyped but not-yet material perks — it would also spare neighbors a generation of construction-related headaches.

If Forest City Ratner can’t wrap things up within the original timeline, critics said Empire State Development, which oversees the project, should divvy up the development among other builders.

“[Empire State Development] needs to develop alternatives for building out in 10 years, perhaps with different developers if current developers are unwilling,” said long-time development critic Jim Vogel.

Many at the meeting were quick to point out the rare kumbaya-moment when Atlantic Yards critics and supporters came to a brief accord.

“If you like Atlantic Yards, because it offers jobs and the promise of affordable housing, would you rather see it in 10 years or 25 years? If you don’t like Atlantic Yards because you’re concerned about some of the construction impacts … do you want to endure those for 10 years or for 25 years?” said Gib Veconi, a member of Brooklyn Speaks, an activist group dedicated to Atlantic Yards oversight.

Forest City Ratner said it is running late because of delays caused by lawsuits and ailing economy.

“We hope to build out the project as fast as possible,” said spokesman Joe DePlasco.

Representatives from Empire State Development, which will study the effects of 25 years of construction and issue a legally binding timeline and plan for the second phase of the project, did not respond to questions for comment.

Backers of the project agree that Atlantic Yards must be finished sooner rather than even later — and they don’t want the Empire State Development environmental review getting in the way.

“Now is not the time to create delays, now is the time to go forward,” said Andrew Steininger, the vice president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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