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Atlantic Yards Fight Gets Re-Energized

As construction moves forward, the emphasis shifts to 2013 elections and moving control of the site from state to local entities.

The , but locals have far from given up the fight against developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards mega project.

Instead, community members have refocused their energy on trying to stop over development from coming to the rest of the Atlantic Yards site, primarily through political means.

“That site is going to be contested for decades. People think it’s all over because they see an arena going up,” said Daniel Goldstein, one of the main organizers of the activist group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, at a community strategy meeting that drew well over 100. Goldstein emphasized that the fight, however, is far from over.

The Barclays Arena and four other buildings currently under construction by developer Forest City Ratner take up less than a quarter of the site. Last night, organizers argued that development could easily be scaled back on the rest of the site.

The meeting at The Commons on Atlantic Avenue was organized by DDDB, Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James, and more than a dozen area politicians and neighborhood associations. It drew about twice as many people as expected, leading to a standing-room only crowd. It follows  held Saturday, and an overall ramping up in the fight against the development over the past week.

Organizers said they hoped the meeting would kick off a six-to-nine month planning period for a new phase of activism that would focus on working within the political system through legislation and a focus on the 2013 elections.

“We can elect somebody in 2013 who has a different vision,” said Councilmember Brad Lander. “There’s a lot of room to do right on the site,” he said, adding that while “the arena block is what it is,” plans for the rest of the site are still in flux.

Councilmember Steve Levin agreed, noting that if nothing is done, the rest of the site could become a parking lot (a "temporary" 1,100-car surface lot is already slated for the site).

"I think that every candidate in 2013 who is running for the big offices ought to be on the record as saying that’s not acceptable."

Participants suggested holding candidate forums and perhaps even putting out a list of endorsements. One of the candidates endorced might be Prospect Heights Councilmember Letitia James, who confirmed at the meeting that she is considering running for borough-wide or citywide office in 2013, leading to loud applause from the audience.

The group’s other political focus is lobbying to get legislation passed (sponsored by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries) that would create a subsidiary of the state-run Empire State Development Corporation to oversee Atlantic Yards construction. According to organizers, Atlantic Yards is one of the only sites of large-scale development that doesn’t have a locally-based subsidiary to oversee it, making Forest City Ratner the de facto entity in charge.

Finally, Gib Veconi, a member of the board of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, urged participants to contribute reports of problems created by Atlantic Yards construction to , arguing that the reports could be used to argue that the construction has created more problems than the environmental impact statement claims.  

Overall, the message was clearer that there is still a lot that can be done to affect what the Atlantic Yards site looks like in decades to come.

“I don’t know about you but I’m not prepared to surrender my community to a developer,” said James at the meeting. “I’m not prepared to surrender and I’m not prepared to give up.”

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