Comments to the Downtown Brooklyn Development Plan Zoning Applications and Draft Environmental Impact Statement Testimony of Aaron Naparstek, Chair of Transportation Alternatives’ Brooklyn Committee
January 15, 2004
Transportation Alternatives is New York City’s advocacy group for pedestrians, cyclists and sensible transportation. We have 5,000 dues-paying members, of which, the biggest and most active corps live in the neighborhoods around Downtown Brooklyn.
We read a good chunk of this 500-page Environmental Impact Statement and found that it didn’t quite capture the essence of Downtown Brooklyn’s environment as we who live and work here experience it. So, I would like to add one anecdotal piece of data for the record:
One morning before work, a few weeks back, I was sitting in the Mazzola Bakery on Court and Bergen for a quick cup of coffee. Three women were at the table next to me and I couldn’t help but overhear some of their conversation. The first woman started talking about how she’s dealing with her son’s asthma now that he’s started grade school. Then the second woman chimed in about her daughter’s asthma. Finally, the third young, Brooklyn mother pitched in with some matter-of-fact asthma tips of her own. Apparently, her kid has asthma too.
Now, this wasn’t the morning meeting of the Brooklyn-moms-with-kids-who-have-asthma support group. Nor was this a policy meeting to discuss how the traffic-choked Brooklyn neighborhoods ringed by the BQE have some of the most astronomical childhood asthma rates in the country. These just happened to be three mothers who live in our neighborhood, just a little bit older and a couple years ahead of me and my wife. My wife and I want to start a family and live in Brooklyn for a long time. But when you catch a conversation like this, and then you take a good look at a redevelopment plan such as the one that is being proposed today, it gives you serious pause about the future of Brooklyn.
Unfortunately, this EIS does not take an honest and straightforward enough look at the transportation chaos that is currently wrecking havoc on Downtown Brooklyn and the neighborhoods around it. As such, this document does a poor job of moving Downtown Brooklyn towards the healthy, sustainable and economically viable future we all want.
T.A. strongly believes that the redevelopment of Downtown Brooklyn can be a good thing for the Borough, the City and the region as a whole. Growth needs to happen. But it needs to be done right. Currently, the City is proposing to develop similar amounts of new space in Lower Manhattan and on the West Side of Manhattan. Yet those Manhattan proposals come with billions of dollars worth of transportation infrastructure plans and improvements. In contrast, this Downtown Brooklyn plan suggests nothing more than the fixing up of some subway stairwells. That’s not good enough. Brooklyn is not getting its fair share.
Despite the importance of the redevelopment of Downtown Brooklyn and a number of good little mitigation ideas that are, in fact, included in this plan, we should not allow the City to do this rezoning unless the City can show us that it is prepared to put real money into implementing a comprehensive transportation plan and traffic reduction strategy.
Therefore, we urge Community Board 2 to reject these proposed zoning actions.
We are submitting an additional set of concrete suggestions in writing. Thank you.