Gubernatorial front-runner Eliot Spitzer — who said last year that Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development should be built “immediately” — is now calling for a delay to allow the public to more fully weigh the project’s significant environmental impacts.
In a letter sent last week to Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano, candidate Eliot Spitzer — as opposed to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer — asked ESDC to postpone its Aug. 23 public hearing for at least one month to allow vacationing Brooklynites and their in-recess Community Boards to have enough time to digest the state’s just-issued draft environmental impact statement.
The DEIS “deserves the careful review that is essential for a project of this magnitude,” Spitzer wrote in the letter, which was sent on his campaign’s letterhead.
“An extension of time for public review … is indispensable.”
The “circumstances” apparently involve vacations taken by many people during August, but also the sheer size of the DEIS. At 2,000 pages, the document is so technically dense that groups such as the Council on Brooklyn Neighborhoods have hired outside consultants to weed through it.
Many activists felt that doing so in the 36 days from its release until the public hearing was virtually impossible.
“We are thankful that Mr. Spitzer has called for a lengthened environmental review period because it is the responsible thing to do,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which opposes Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, but supports development in the area.
A delay in the final state approval of Atlantic Yards — which could come as early as late October — would allow a newly elected “Governor Spitzer” to weigh in or tinker with the project.
But it’s unclear whether Spitzer would want to change anything anyway.
Last March, the attorney general said, “I’m all for Bruce Ratner’s plan. It is a spectacular development, it needs to be built ... It’ll build housing, it will generate jobs, tax revenue. I think we should move forward on it immediately.”
But in last week’s letter, Spitzer was a bit less enthusiastic, saying that he “strongly” supports “development at the Atlantic Yards site.”
Some project opponents held out hope that the vague words meant that Spitzer would tinker with the project once elected.
“The ESDC is clearly trying to fast-track this process so it can all be done before Gov. Pataki leaves office,” said Candace Carponter, who is also with Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (and is one of the vacationing Brooklynites who is having trouble coordinating several groups’ responses to the DEIS).
“It’s unfair. They had two years to produce this document and we get 30 days during the summer to review it before the public hearing.”
ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen said a Sept. 12 “community forum” has been added to the review schedule. Sept. 12 is primary election day.