1,100 Space Parking Lot at Issue in Latest Atlantic Yards Fight

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Plans to create a "temporary" 1,100 space surface parking lot, shown here in the lower left, are at issue in the latest fight over Atlantic Yards. Image: Jonathan Barkey and the Municipal Art Society.

The latest round of the knock-down drag-out fight over the Atlantic Yards project is underway, and it’s all about parking. At issue is a potential 1,100-space surface parking lot that would be located between Pacific and Dean Streets, just west of Vanderbilt Avenue. That lot has been portrayed as temporary, “interim” parking by the Empire State Development Corporation and project developer Forest City Ratner, but could sit there generating traffic for up to 25 years. Last week several groups filed a motion to halt construction until the environmental impacts of the project are studied more fully.

The basic question is whether the environmental review for Atlantic Yards needs reworking in light of the fact that development could take up to 25 years, rather than the ten-year construction schedule originally put forward by ESDC and Ratner. (Be sure to check out the invaluable Norman Oder for all the details.) If construction is really going to take an extra fifteen years, the argument goes, the true impacts on things like traffic, noise, and air quality weren’t ever disclosed, in violation of environmental law. That argument got a boost in the courts a few weeks ago, and the legal battle now hinges on whether or not to halt construction.

For the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, the 1,100 space “interim” parking lot is at the heart of the issue. As Oder reports, their lawyer suggested that construction on the Barclays Center basketball arena might be allowed to continue “but all other work, including any attempt to convert Block 1129 to a parking lot, should be absolutely enjoined unless and until there is full compliance with SEQRA.”

“They were supposed to put the parking underground,” BrooklynSpeaks member Jo Anne Simon explained. A quarter-century of surface parking wasn’t part of the deal.

Though Simon said that BrooklynSpeaks has tried not to debate suitable uses for the Atlantic Yards site, she did suggest that surface parking wasn’t an acceptable option. “Something that’s an amenity for the community,” she suggested, “maybe some interim open space.” Simon also added that some additional demolition would still be required to pave over the block, “and that we’d like to see not happen.”