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Do you have thoughts you would like to share about the proposed Atlantic Yards development?  If you’re like us, you definitely do!  Now you finally have a chance to weigh in on this proposed $4 billion Brooklyn mega-project.

The Community-Based Planning Task Force will join City and State agencies, environmentalists, planners, and other community members and advocates to give testimony at a public hearing on Atlantic Yards on Friday, held by State Senators Bill Perkins and Velmanette Montgomery.  Oral testimony on Friday is invite-only, but the public may submit testimony via email.

According to an email announcement about the hearing, it’s purpose is the following: “This hearing will trace the history of the Atlantic Yards project to determine its current status. The Committee’s intent is to examine the process by which decisions are made, to understand where the project is now, and to envision where this project might lead. Issues involved include but are not limited to whether this is the best possible deal for taxpayers and the local community; whether the use of eminent domain is necessary and is it being exercised responsibly; the meaning and use of the concept of ‘blight’ in condemnations; what is a ‘public benefit’ sufficient to justify massive state action; and what are the financials?”

The Task Force’s testimony, which we will post online soon, will focus on three main points:

1) The ongoing debate over Atlantic Yards shows the need for a comprehensive plan to precede major land use actions;

2) the public should have a strong voice in the use of eminent domain; and

3) community-initiated alternative plans should be given more weight in the decision-making process.

Although they cannot testify, members of the public may attend the hearing:

Friday, May 29
1PM – 5 PM
Pratt Institute, Higgins Hall
61 St. James Place (corner Lafayette Ave.)
Brooklyn, NY 11238

For some great background on the issues, check out Atlantic Yards Report’s extensive overview of questions that should arise at the hearing.

Tomorrow morning, the City Council will hold a public hearing on the Eastern Rail Yards Rezoning.  Task Force member organization Friends of the High Line is encouraging people to come out and speak in favor of preserving the High Line in the proposed development.  The Council has now changed both the date and time of this hearing, so we wanted to make sure to get the updated information out:

City Council Hearing on Eastern Rail Yards Rezoning
Tuesday, March 31, 9:30 AM
NEW LOCATION: 250 Broadway (between Park Place and Murray Street)
16th Floor Conference Room

In the Inbox today, a note from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn about a public hearing taking place on Monday:

“On Monday, March 16, 2009, at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, the Council will hold a hearing on a package of legislation designed to preserve and protect our City’s affordable housing supply, including:

* two bills extending the rent-stabilization and rent-control laws; and

* two resolutions calling on Albany to end vacancy decontrol and repeal the state’s Urstadt law, returning control over rent regulations to the City Council.

By participating in this hearing and speaking out on the need to strengthen rent protections, you can help us send a clear message to Albany that control over rental housing must be returned to our City’s leaders.”

For more information on the hearing, visit the Council website.

The Department of Buildings is holding a public hearing this afternoon on a new proposed rule that would make new construction and major renovation plans availabe online and implement a 30-day public review and comment period.  The rule was originally set to go into effect on Monday, leaving little time for the DOB to review and respond to any comments received today.  The DOB released a statement this morning that they will delay implementation of the new rule until April, “to ensure adequate time to consider any public input.”

The Municipal Art Society released its recommendations for changes to the rule this morning.  Are you planning to testify today?  Let us know in the comments.

This Wednesday, March 4 at 9 am (note the early start time), the City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing.  Among the items being heard are the following big projects:

More information on procedure for what is sure to be a packed hearing is here.

On February 2, Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Buildings Commissioner LiMandri announced a new DOB proposal to make diagrams of proposed new buildings or major enlargements available online.  Accompanying this will be a new 30-day formal public challenge period.  A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Friday, March 6 at 3 pm at 280 Broadway’s 3rd Floor Conference Room.  The proposal is scheduled to take effect only three days later – Monday, March 9.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of this proposal?  Will it truly “give New Yorkers a stronger voice in the development of neighborhoods, create greater transparency, and clarify the process for the public and for developers,” as Bloomberg claims?

Please join the Municipal Art Society on Tuesday, March 3 at 8:30 am at 457 Madison Avenue for a briefing and discussion. Coffee will be provided, but please BYOBagel and your comments/questions/concerns about the proposal as we prepare for the public hearing.

The MTA’s series of public hearings on its plan to increase fares while scaling back service have ended.

The Save the G Coalition notes that, at the MTA’s hearing in Brooklyn, “several MTA officials made a point of explaining that concerned riders should appeal directly to their State officials, who will ultimately be responsible for either accepting or rejecting the Ravitch Report.”  The Ravitch Report is a “rescue plan” for the MTA, which includes a new “mobility” payroll tax; tolls on the free East River and Harlem River bridges; a much smaller fare and toll increase; fewer service reductions; and improvements in bus service.  The report is not without its own controversy – Save the G reports that Senator Daniel Squadron, who represents Greenpoint-Williamsburg, said, “There could end up being three toll bridges in one district of Brooklyn, and it will be really horribly affected.  These cuts will affect populations least prepared to deal with them.”

State Senators are now holding their own hearings to gather public feedback about the plan.  Today at 1:30pm, Senator Martin Dilan, Chair of the State Transportation Committee, will hold a hearing at Brooklyn Borough Hall.  Tomorrow, the State Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, led by Senator Bill Perkins, will hold a hearing from 3-9pm at the State Office Building in Harlem (163 125th Street). Oral testimony is by invitation only, but interested persons may attend the hearing or submit written testimony to ccleare@senate.state.ny.us.

Citing a $1.2 billion budget deficit, the MTA has proposed a fare increase up to 23%, coupled with major cutbacks, including decreased service on a number of subway lines; complete elimination of some bus lines and major reductions in others; and permanent closure, reduction of hours, and or reduction in staffing at 42 subway stations citywide.  (The changes are outlined in detail here).

While two hearings have been held already (in Queens and Manhattan), three opportunities remain to participate in hearings in New York City:

Mon Jan 26
College of Staten Island, CSI Center for the Arts, Springer Concert Hall

2800 Victory Blvd, Staten Island

Wed Jan 28, 2009
NY Marriott at the Bklyn Bridge

333 Adams St, Brooklyn

Wed Feb 4, 2009
Lehman College, CUNY, Lovinger Theatre

250 Bedford Park Blvd West, Bronx

All hearings begin at 6pm, registration to speak will be open until 9pm, and testimony is limited to three minutes.  Comments can also be submitted in writing to:

Douglas Sussman
Dir, MTA Community Affairs
347 Madison Av
NY, NY 10017

and/or online.

That seems to be the theory floating around on the blogs this week.  Public Place is a site on the shores of the Gowanus Canal, for which the City chose Hudson Companies’ Gowanus Green proposal.  According to Curbed, the original plan called for 774 units of mixed-income housing, with 615 apartments for low- and middle-income families, including 120 units of low-income senior housing; 25,000 square feet of cultural space; 38,000 square feet of ground-floor retail; and nearly 100,000 square feet of public open space located along the canal.  Since that announcement, the size of the project has doubled (from 774 units of housing to up to 1,500) because an adjacent property owner decided to add to the development.  Although this project, with a development team including Task Force member organization Fifth Avenue Committee, would bring much-needed affordable housing to the area, it has been controversial because of the extreme environmental issues on the site.

The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) held a public scoping hearing on the site yesterday at 5:30 pm, very close to the holidays and with very little publicity.  While the hearing information was on the HPD website, interested members of the public were only likely to find it if they were already looking for the scoping documents.  Perhaps because HPD, not City Planning, is the lead agency on this project, hearing information was not available on DCP’s page.

As our readers know, we always try to stay on top of such meetings so we can get the word out to you.  Yet we learned of this hearing at the same time as most constituents, through an email sent Friday by a community group known as Gowanus CORD.  Curbed has a quick recap of the meeting and says, “Ironically, the way the city handled the ‘scoping’ hearing–which is held to determine how the environmental impact statement will be conducted–may have ended up creating extra opposition.”

Perhaps next time the City will make its hearing information more accessible.

The building that was once Albee Square Mall, the gateway to Downtown Brooklyn’s Fulton Street Mall shopping area, is now a construction site. Eventually, a mixed-use tower development called CityPoint is planned for the site. In the meantime, the Brooklyn Paper reports, Albee Square, the triangular intersection of Fulton Mall, DeKalb Avenue and Bond Street, is “a wasteland.”

According to the article, the City’s Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corporation will hold a hearing on Tuesday, November 18 to collect ideas for the site. The meeting will take place at 5pm at St. Francis College (180 Remsen St., between Court and Clinton streets, room 6301). Call 718-222-7271 for info.

Since 2000, The Community-Based Planning Task Force has been leading the effort to create a more meaningful role for communities in New York City’s planning and decision-making processes.

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