Sunday, October 9, 2011

More Parallels: Atlantic Yards and the Way the Fossil Fuel Industry Is Setting Up An Approval For the Keystone XL Tar Sands High Pressure Oil Pipeline

Noticing New York made a comparison between Atlantic Yards and the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline in testimony the other day. One of our readers directing us to an article about the pipeline pointed out that there are additional comparisons to be made.

This recent testimony at the New York City Department of Transportation concerned how the Ratner/Prokhorov (“Barclays”) Atlantic Yards basketball arena being built for the New Jersey Nets and installation of related security bollards is resulting in the public’s being forced to surrender its expectation of adequate neighborhood sidewalk space where the brownstone neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene meet. (See: Wednesday, October 5, 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg In the Regalia of Queen Elizabeth I? Noticing New York’s Testimony at the DOT Hearing on Atlantic Yards Bollard Plan.)

Part of the testimony compared the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment with the Keystone XL oil pipeline proposed to carry the high pressure pumping of Canadian tar sands oil for shipping out of the Gulf of Mexico; both have involved collusion by developers with government officials to obtain public approvals incrementally so that complete disclosure of the true nature of the project and the full measure of the public’s sacrifice could be side-stepped as initial approvals were locked in.

For instance, the Atlantic Yards Forest City Ratner government-assisted mega-monopoly is consistently misrepresented as being just 22-acres. In truth those 22-acres are being added to additional government-assisted acres already owned by Ratner for a total of 30 contiguous Ratner-owned government assisted acres so that in the vicinity Ratner will control, in total 50+ acres of dense government assisted acres astride the subway lines. Now the public is being told it has to relinquish additional sidewalk to the monopoly after already having given up streets, avenues and sidewalk that should have inalienably belonged to the public. Now the public is being told that through variances and special permissions Ratner gets to jackhammer away throughout the night (and on weekends) at incredible hearing-destroying decibels for months when, in theory, his arena is on schedule and there is no need to rush its building with extraordinary measures. Now the public is being told that ongoing construction to complete the mega-project will need to be endured for decades (like the 40+ and counting year Roosevelt Island) when, and for purposes of public hearings, newspaper press release consumption and the Environmental Impact Statement the public was initially told construction would be a (comparatively) lickety-split 10 years.

In the case of the environmentally unsound Keystone XL oil pipeline, U.S. State Department e-mails show collusion by government officials and the proposed builder to win political support for the pipeline by applying to build it at low pressure but then apply afterwards for an exception to build it at high pressure once the project had cleared approvals.

The article to which our reader directed our attention was: Rigging the Keystone XL Pipeline-
How to Grease a Pipeline
. The article, appeared in the political newsletter Counterpunch with the byline of an activist best known for her intrepid reporter role reporting for the Daily Planet with the byline Lois Lane: Margot Kidder.

Here are the some of the main points in Ms. Kidder’s article and how they match up against Atlantic Yards:
• The State Department’s public review and consideration of the pipeline via hearings has “rigged from the get go.” Check: That's what we also pointed out about Atlantic Yards- See: Monday, June 22, 2009, Plus Ça Change, (The More Things Change,) Plus Une Chose En Particulier Ne Change Pas: La Transaction Fixée (The Wired Deal)!

• Money (and the hiring of flunkies) was flung around to ensure that the AstroTurf of bussed-in “orange t-shirted, pro-pipeline union workers” were in the spotlight to testify at the hearings. Sounds like Atlantic Yards: Friday, May 29, 2009, Today’s State Senate Hearings on Atlantic Yards and Noticing New York Testimony.

• The developer launched an expensive media campaign promulgating fictional job-creation figures (a promoted myth of 13,000 to 20,000 jobs versus only 3,500 to 4,200 indicated by filed documents). Same with Atlantic Yards: Saturday, March 26, 2011, The American Jobs Creation Act, Job Creation That Wasn’t: What Happens When Government Doesn’t Manage Its Programs.

“In a shocking conflict of interest, Cardno Entrix was also hired by the State Department to help conduct its cursory `environmental review’ of the pipeline.” That’s just what happened with Atlantic Yards and the AKRF Environmental Impact Study and the study whereby it was commissioned to find “blight.”

• A revolving door between industry and staff working for public officials where you find that “Cardno Entrix’s chief lobbyist on behalf of the pipeline is Paul Elliott, who served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s national deputy campaign manager in 2008.” Through all its initial phases the executive in charge of Atlantic Yards for Forest City Ratner was Jim Stuckey. Stuckey’s qualifications were that he was formerly a city official responsible for city urban renewal projects including the “ATURA” (“Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area”) that intertwined with Ratner’s manipulations to seize land from neighboring private owners through the abuse of eminent domain.

• Mindlessly “cloned messages” scripted by the developer from those signed on to support the development, including politicians at high levels such as U.S. Senators.

• Deprecation of alternatives and phony ad hominem attacks on those speaking against the development.

• Facing what looks like a `done deal’ where the political representatives supposed to be making impartial decisions on the public’s behalf are taking a lot of money from the developer:
Hillary Clinton stated months ago that she is inclined to urge Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Over the years she and Bill have been the grateful recipients of a great deal of largesse from Big Oil.
(See the subheading of “Campaign finance, State Ethics and Lobbying Reform?”)
Read Ms. Kidder’s article and, kidding aside, you may be able to spot more parallels. Thank you to our reader for directing our attention to these. And it may please our reader to know that, tough to keep ahead of, Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder, as of yesterday, also mentioned the eerie parallels in Ms. Kidder’s account.

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