Questions Await New Atlantic Yards Ombudsman
Projected view of the Atlantic Yards project from Dean Street and Sixth Avenue courtesy of Pbase.com.
More than half a year after announcing the position, the Empire State Development Corporation has hired an ombudsman for the controversial Atlantic Yards project.
The ESDC tapped Forrest R. Taylor - a former chief of staff for former Council Speaker Gifford Miller and deputy executive director for operations for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority - to be the "dedicated project coordinator and liaison between ESDC, elected officials, community representatives and the public," according to the ESDC press release.
“Understanding and addressing the community’s concerns are a high priority for this administration. We believe this important development project will help transform Brooklyn by bringing much-needed housing, transit improvements, open space and jobs to the downtown area,” said Avi Schick, President and COO of ESDC said in a press release. “Forrest’s background in government, transportation and community affairs makes him ideally suited to provide the public with direct information and direct access to the state and the developer.
After months of waiting for an ombudsman, the public wasted no time in posing questions for Taylor.
Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report wanted to know how to contact Taylor, how much he was being paid, and how long his tenure would be?
If John Q. Public has a question for Taylor, how to contact him? I couldn’t get that information from ESDC spokesman A.J. Carter last night after hours, but will post that once I get it.
For how long is Taylor hired? (The project is officially supposed to take a decade, but even project landscape architect Laurie Olin has suggested it could take 20 years.) Taylor, Carter said, is an ESDC employee, so he's not hired on a contract. (That leaves things open-ended.)
How much will Taylor be paid, asked the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, citing a New York Times report that he'd resigned from the City Council job after not getting a raise from $175,000. The ESDC didn't answer the Eagle yesterday, but that information should emerge.
The folks at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn wonder "What makes the Brooklyn arena's proximity to streets different from the Newark arena that it will not require street closings?"
See, in mid-October, just two weeks before the grand opening of Newark's Prudential Center arena, that city's police department mandated that at least two streets adjacent to the new arena would be closed during events as a necessary precaution against terrorist attacks. Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy told the Newark Star-Ledger, "you can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world. So we're playing catch-up and taking measures to make sure it's safe."
The Newark arena is set back about 25 feet from its nearest abutting streets. Forest City Ratner's arena would be set back only 20 feet, in most places, from busy avenues. But unlike in Newark, the NYPD says that street closures will not be necessary in Brooklyn; according to the NY Times, the NYPD "found that the arena was safe and streets need not be closed on game days."