PROSPECT HEIGHTS — After elected officials and local residents demanded that the state halt the approval of recreation space at Pacific Park, an advisory board came to a deadlock on the proposal.
The Empire State Development Corp. (ESD) asked its subsidiary, Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp (AYCDC), to give a nod of approval to more than 100,000 square feet of development rights for recreational space — a gym where parking was initially planned — on Dean Street between Vanderbilt and Underhill avenues, without an additional supplemental environmental review beyond the tech memo that had already been conducted by state entity.
Under the original state-mandated General Project Plan for the site, there are no provisions for how the below-grade space is used. Now, the modification of the plan seeks to codify the use of space under buildings B12 and B13 as a gym and a field house, which would sit at the same depth as the formerly proposed parking.
The change of uses for below-ground space sparked the ire of some local politicians and residents.
Ahead of a Monday afternoon advisory vote by the AYDCD, Assembly members Jo Anne Simon and Walter Mosley gathered with local advocates in a press conference organized by Brooklyn Speaks — a coalition of advocacy groups that has raised concerned about Atlantic Yards/ Pacific Park — to ask for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a halt to the project until a full environmental review for the aforementioned TF Cornerstone plan is carried out.
“I am calling on the ESD to reject this proposal and to ask the governor to intervene, to help us,” Simon, who represents some of the 16-building megaproject’s area, said. “The reality is that it’s a 40 percent increase in the retail space, and that alone should trigger an environmental review. We don’t know what kind of impact that will have.”
She added, “The AYCDC is being asked to make decisions with no information.”
“The state wants to do everything possible during the summer months while everyone is on vacation … [to] sneak this in all under the guise of saying this is a benefit,” said Mosely, whose district includes much of the controversial development site. “This will have an impact on our community, [and] the quality of life that we expect to have here in Brooklyn.”
Jimmy Greenfield, who lives nearby the development site, was angered by the lack of environmental review.
“The idea that there is going to be another 100,000 square feet of space developed and the possibility of however many people on the sidewalk daily and not have any input as to how those decisions are made or what those impacts are going to be, is unconscionable,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, the AYDC arrived at a tie on its advisory vote — a stalemate in a step that comes before the ESD can pave the way to amend the developer’s plans for the 22-acre development site. The ESD board could vote as soon as this week on the proposal. (The board’s next meeting is August 15, though no agenda has been set for the date as of publication).
In a statement, ESD spokesperson Jack Sterne said, “The facts are clear — we have reduced the size of the project and have completed the required environmental assessments for this minor modification.”
“In recent years, we have decreased the amount of required underground garage space at Pacific Park, and this action will merely clarify that space planned to be a garage for building residents can instead be used for a gym that anyone in the community can join,” he added.
In addition to expressing concerns about the below-grade recreational space, the Brooklyn politicians also made a broader complaint about the recently shifting Pacific Park development, including delays on meeting the affordable housing component of it.
“I don’t think they’ll meet the benchmark by 2025,” Simon told THE CITY last week.
“This is a project that has had, historically, issues and problems with extending themselves to the community without proper input and public review,” said Mosley on Monday.
“Everything that is an alleged public benefit never really comes to fruition,” said Simon at the press conference. “The public isn’t getting any benefit. New York State put a lot of money into this project, and the state’s taxpayers are getting bupkis back.”