Adding yet another delay to the Atlantic Yards process, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered all work stopped at the future Barclays Center Arena site after research scientists identified seven rare, endangered, or threatened plant and animal species there, or about 5.5% of the plant population and 1.9% of the fauna.
Forest City Ratner's planned $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project includes a basketball arena plus a number of high-rise buildings.
A two-year study of the site, required by environmental laws but overlooked as developer Bruce Ratner successfully fought off a series of lawsuits centered around eminent domain and other legal issues, came to the surprising conclusion that the immediate area provides critical habitat for several unique wildlife species such as the Chittenango ovate amber snail, in addition to other documented rare and threatened plant species.
"Frankly, we were pretty shocked," said Dr. Fran Milsner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“We knew this was a special property,” she said. “But we had no idea how many critical species would still occur here after all these years. This research is important because it identifies critical natural resources and makes recommendations for managing the property to protect them.”
Dr. Kim Barrington, Ph.D., Curator of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Herbarium, conducted research for more than a year along the overgrown areas surrounding tracks and right-of-way. She discovered two plant species known only from historical records, and said BBG’s botanists will spend at least the next two years diligently researching these species. "It's a botanist's dream," she said. "Within a stone's throw of each other we found Asclepias rubra – red milkweed -- and Lobelia canbyi – Canby’s lobelia."
Dating back to 1870, botanists had reported that the general area contained numerous rare plant populations, but for almost half a century research was not possible because the area was operated as a train terminus.
"This is totally ridiculous," said Robert Pragnetti, one of developer Bruce Ratner's lawyers. "It's a blighted area. We blighted it ourselves. There's no way in the world anything's going to be living there."
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who backs the planned mega-project but who also recently came out against Governor Paterson’s proposed cuts to zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums, had no comment at press time.
But Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov, majority owner of the Nets basketball team slated to move to the new arena upon its completion, told the Downtown Brooklyn News that he hoped to apply "Russian business methods" to "solve the problem."
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- Nature Raw on Pacific Street
Top photo by MK Metz
Snail photo courtesy of the Seneca Park Zoo
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