Atlantic Railyards Campaign

Environmetal Impact Statement Draft Scope Hearing for the Empire State Development Corporation

Park Slope Neighbors is a grassroots community organization representing the Park Slope Neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

Earlier this year, we collected more than 2,000 signatures from area residents on our petition protesting the absence of any real community involvement in the development of the Vanderbilt rail yards.

Our petition was addressed to the elected officials representing Park Slope.  Since, however, the State, has taken control of this project - undermining our representatives’ ability to influence it – we are in turn presenting the Empire State Development Corporation with the enclosed copies of those signed petitions.

The 2,000+ people who signed on asked for three things:

First, that the rail yard property be disposed of in a truly open and competitive bidding process.  Thanks to the sham perpetrated by the MTA, that one’s already out the window.

Fortunately, though, you still have the chance to address the two remaining demands.

Our petition asks that alternative proposals for the site be given full and thorough consideration.  In addition to the project and a No-Action scenario, the EIS must consider the UNITY and Extell plans as alternatives.  The UNITY plan was created with significant, broad-based community input, and Extell’s proposal is a financially viable, lower-density alternative backed by an experienced New York City developer.

Our petition also demands that the quality of life of the surrounding neighborhoods be protected from the negative effects of massive development over and around the rail yards.

These encompass adverse effects on traffic, parking and transit, pollution, and noise, and strains on police, fire and educational services, many of which have not been adequately addressed or provided for in the Draft Scope of Analysis.

More specifically, the EIS must analyze, study and disclose the following:

Task 5.  Community Facilities and Services
The EIS must address response times for emergency services, including police, fire and EMS.  It must analyze the possible relocation of the 78th Police Precinct to the south side of Flatbush Avenue.  It must study and disclose all risks and costs related to anti-terrorism security measures.  And the EIS must analyze the impact of increased population on Park Slope’s public schools, libraries and healthcare facilities.

Task 12.  Traffic and Parking/Transit and Pedestrians
The proposed ½-mile study radius is grossly inadequate, and must be expanded to a two-mile radius in order to encompass the East River crossings, access points to the Gowanus Expressway and BQE, and Grand Army Plaza.  The EIS must be integrated with other area traffic studies, it must analyze the spillover effects of traffic onto residential streets, and it must analyze Manhattan-style parking zoning, residential parking permits, and transportation-specified event ticketing.

The EIS must include a precise model for assessing the project’s modal transportation split, it must study the mandated use of traffic control agents for all arena events, and it must analyze the mitigation effects of tolls at the East River crossings, congestion-pricing programs and event transportation plans like those developed by Gameday Management Group.

The EIS must also study traffic-calming mitigations to ensure the safety and easy access of pedestrians and cyclists in and around the project area.

Task 14.  Noise
More traffic will mean more noise.  The Transportation Noise Model should be used to estimate noise levels.  In addition, arena events will mean large crowds of people in the neighborhood late into the night.  The noise these crowds will generate must be accurately estimated.

Task 17.  Public Health
The Draft Scope of Analysis states that “depending on the results of relevant technical analyses, a public health analysis may be warranted.”  The area surrounding the proposed development is already afflicted with one of the highest asthma rates in the nation.  A public health analysis is more than warranted.  A detailed study must include a detailed analysis of the effects of air pollution, noise and hazardous materials.

In addition to the specific items outlined above, Park Slope Neighbors fully endorses the written testimonies being submitted by the Park Slope Civic Council and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

If and when ground is broken for this project, there will be no turning back, no second chances.  The surrounding community will feel its effects for decades.  Nothing less than the future of Brooklyn depends on a thorough, comprehensive and effective EIS – and that rests in your hands.

Eric McClure
Atlantic Yards Campaign Coordinator
Park Slope Neighbors
eric@parkslopeneighbors.org