Calling for a ‘time out’ on Atlantic Yards

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As this paper went to press, a rally this Saturday by opponents hoping to put a freeze on the Atlantic Yards project is expected to be met by a counter-rally from supporters of the project, according to sources.

The rally was slated for 2 p.m., in front of 752 Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues in the footprint of the 22-acre, $4 billion arena, housing and commercial development.

The three opponent organizations calling the “Time Out” rally include Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the Council of Brooklyn Neighbor-hoods (CBN) and BrooklynSpeaks.

The rally is being called to suspend the demolition work, infrastructure disruptions and further subsidies to the project so that changes to the project can be assessed and a plan prepared with their involvement.

Also expected at the rally are State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery; Assemblymem-bers Joan Millman and Hakeem Jeffries; and City Councilmem-bers Letitia James, Bill de Blasio, David Yassky, and Queens Councilmember Tony Avella.

The rally comes amid speculation that developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) may not build the entire project including the 2,250 units of affordable housing due to the downturn in the economy.

Both FCRC and ACORN, a nonprofit organization partnering in the project’s affordable housing component, maintain that the entire project will get built.

“We are going to build Atlantic Yards in its entirety, including all of the affordable housing. Any suggestion otherwise is simply not true,” said FCRC spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt.

“The site work and infrastructure improvements going on now are essential to the long-term success of the project,” he added.

Riegelhaupt said the company already contracted out over $42 million worth of union work at the site, with 45 percent going to minority- and women-owned businesses.

“Any delays in this phase will only result in delays in our ability to deliver the thousands of affordable units and union jobs,” he said.

Among the project supporters expected to counter-demonstrate is James Caldwall, president of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), which is also a signatory to the community benefits agreement signed with FCRC.

Caldwell is a longtime community activist and BUILD has received money from FCRC for job training initiatives.

Caldwell estimates the unemployment rate for black males in the area is about 50 percent.

“There’s many people in our community that are for it [Atlantic Yards] but they are sometimes too busy making ends meet to show their support,” said Caldwell, adding that many of the protestors have better lifestyles and take opposing Atlantic Yards as a cause celebre.

Caldwell also criticized the elected officials expected to show up at the rally for not working with the local community regarding job opportunities in other developments going up near Atlantic Yards in Downtown Brooklyn.

“Atlantic Yards is our best shot right now. No other of the Downtown Brooklyn developments are trying to work with the community,” he added.

Caldwell said almost all the developments underway in Downtown Brooklyn have only minimal affordable housing components, and when people of color from the community go to these jobsites looking for work they get the runaround.

“This developer is the only one who really is making an effort to work with the community. No one else is doing that,” he said.

Updated 3:47 pm, October 19, 2011
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