Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Opponents Of EDC's Four Sparrow Plan Up In Arms

“There are all of these reports that people are suffering from nature deprivation,” said Mary Anne Muller. “No one is suffering from a store deprivation.”

February 17, 2011. The City's Economic Development Corporation held a Public Scoping Meeting for its controversial Four Sparrow Marsh Retail Mall project on Thursday night. EDC is proposing to seize 15 acres of public parkland to expand a nearby retail shopping site. One of the public relation angles the City is taking is agreeing to map 46 acres (out of 67) of Four Sparrows Marsh as public parkland which would, in their words, "protect, in perpetuity, these tidal wetlands and coastal habitats as natural areas," under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department. The land however is already under the jurisdiction of Parks. This property was transferred to Parks Department by the City of New York on March 3, 1994 and dedicated on October 29, 1997 as a Forever Wild property. Public Comments are due on February 28th. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC PArk Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.

New York City is claiming that because Four Sparrow Marsh was never officially "mapped" as parkland it can be disposed of and therefore, DPR is not required to protect it. However there are many playgrounds, parklands and natural areas throughout New York City that have never been mapped, yet these sites are recognized and protected as parkland. Mapping is only one factor that is used to determine whether land can be legally protected under the Public Trust Doctrine, use is another factor. Since the entire site has always been used as parkland, it therefore should be protected under Public Trust Doctrine. The new, proposed retail use is clearly a non-park use.

EDC continues to misrepresent details of the project: in other ways as well. Under Project Highlights EDC says will involve the "creation of a new park," but fails to mention that it already is a park and they would be seizing 15 acres for a commercial use.

On page 6 of the New York City Quality Review Environmental Assessment Full Form (CEQR EAS), for question 4a, they are asked, "Would the Project change or eliminate existing open space," the response checked is "No.” According to EDC 15 acres of parkland would simply disappear without any elimination of existing open space.

There is no acknowledgment in the Environmental Assessment Statement that Four Sparrow Marsh is even under the aegis of DPR. The scoping documents coyly refer to the parkland as "City owned."

Because EDC refuses to recognize the 15 acres as parkland is refers to them as "underutilized" and therefor ripe for development purposes. - Geoffrey Croft


Mill Basin residents say the city’s plan to expand a shopping center built atop protected marshlands near the foot of Flatbush Avenue is not going to happen without a fight — and some argued it shouldn’t happen at all, according to YourNabe.

At a Feb. 18 meeting intended to get the neighborhood’s take on its plans for the Four Sparrows Retail Center between Kings Plaza and the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, environmentalists and Walmart opponents joined forces to shoot down the project — making it clear that if the city and developer Forest City Ratner Companies want to replace the cherished wetlands with big box stores, there will be a war on two fronts.

• Front one: Environmentalists and bird watchers want to prevent any development at the site, claiming that construction will destroy a borough treasure — a priceless city-owned wetland.

“The city says it wants to build something fabulous [on the wetlands],” nature lover Vivian Carter told residents attending the hearing at Kings Plaza. “But we have something there already, thank you very much.”

• Front two: The battle over which store — we’re talking about Walmart, of course — will be housed in the new shopping center.

“We’re completely opposed to bringing in a big box store,” Assemblyman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park) told city officials. “Local businesses in Marine Park and Mill Basin will go out of business with a big box store just down the street.”

Members of the Economic Development Corporation obviously hoped for positive feedback on the proposal to expand the small shopping strip to accommodate three more stores, more parking and more than 40 acres of parkland, but they got very little.

And it got ugly when the agency could not promise that a Walmart — either a controversial mega-store or one of the company’s newersmaller versions — would pop up at the new center.

“One thing we will never consider is a Walmart,” said Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano to applause. “If a Walmart opens, the neighborhood near it suffers. We want to keep stores like that out of this shopping center, but we don’t know what’s going to happen. Nothing here is carved in granite.”

Neither is the plan, actually: Even though the city has been working on this project for more than a decade, it’s still considering two designs.

One proposal calls for creating two additional buildings on the property — a one-story structure off of Flatbush Avenue the size of a football field and a two-story building abutting the Mill Basin creek roughly the size of two football fields that would allow for multiple tenants.

The second proposal calls for one building the size of three football fields — the same size as the property Walmart currently has its eye on at the proposed Gateway II shopping center in East New York.

Environmentalists applauded the city’s plan to convert the marshlands into parkland — protecting the lands in perpetuity — but saw no reason why it should construct a shopping center right next to it.

“This land doesn’t belong to Mayor Bloomberg, it belongs to all of us,” added Geoffrey Croft, the president of the New York City Park Advocates, who threatened to take the city to court if it goes ahead with its plans. “We’re simply not going to let you give it away.”

Mill Basin resident Mary Anne Muller agreed.

“There are all of these reports that people are suffering from nature deprivation,” she said. “No one is suffering from a store deprivation.”

Forest City Ratner Companies is also currently building the controversial Barclays Center, the future home of the Brooklyn Nets, as well as a proposed 16-tower mini-city containing more than 6,600 units of housing — another project that some believe swiped public land for private benefit.

To read more about the project and send in comments:

Proposed Four Sparrow Retail Center at Mill Basin.

Read More:

YourNabe - February 22, 2011 - By Thomas Tracy

NY1 - March 19, 2011- By Jeanine Ramirez

Mayor's Office Of Environmental Coordination

The Wall Street Journal - January 11, 2011- By Joseph De Avila

Sheepshead Bites - Jan 7, 2011 -By Marina Fridman-Rybner

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