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Gimme five: 39th District showdown

The five Democratic candidates for City Council in the 39th District picked over details regarding transportation planning and development issues in a largely civil debate moderated by CNG’s Gersh Kuntzman and Thomas Tracy at BCAT TV studios (57 Rockwell Place) in downtown Brooklyn Monday morning.

Candidates Bob Zuckerman, Josh Skaller, Garry Reilly, John Heyer and Brad Lander expressed similar positions regarding traffic calming around Prospect Park and the need for more bicycle lanes, while trading soft blows on the consequences of over-development on commercial streets in the district, currently represented by Councilmember Bill De Blasio, which encompasses Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill.

“I think streets are big enough, but I think the city can do a better job in offering courses for training people,” said Zuckerman, responding to a question about bicycle lanes.“We need to make sure cyclists know how to ride safely.”

Most candidates, including Skaller, Lander, Zuckerman, and Reilly, stated a desire to eventually close traffic through Prospect Park, though not in the short term.Zuckerman and Heyer called for a study of traffic use of park streets, while Lander and Skaller said there should be more focus toward reducing truck traffic in Kensington and Windsor Terrace.

“The long-term goal is to have a car-free [Prospect Park], but we can’t just open up Windsor Terrace to traffic,” said Skaller. “I would support a car-free park, as long as we make sure we’re not dumping all that traffic into residential neighborhoods.”

Lander and Skaller also shared opinions over the Atlantic Yards project but pointed out nuances, in an attempt to make the development a wedge issue for the campaign.Lander challenged Skaller about how long he has been an opponent of the Atlantic Yards plan, though Skaller said the community plan should receive a second look.

“Your earliest public statement was in 2007 but you made no public statement three years after the plan was announced,” said Lander.“How can you be one of the earliest when there was no public statement?”

“In 2005, as leader of CBID (Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats), I was against the plan when [Borough President Marty] Markowitz came to the club and in 2006, my name was used as a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit,” said Skaller, who stated he was against the proposal from its earliest stages.

Lander said that he opposed Atlantic Yards, though he was not a die-hard opponent of the project. He said he wanted to give developer Forest City Ratner time to respond to public criticisms about the design throughout the planning process, but said they had failed to do so.

When asked their opinions about the Atlantic Yards project, Zuckerman, Reilly and Heyer stated their displeasure with the project.

“I would send [Forest City Ratner] packing,” said Reilly.“Giving eminent domain to a private developer illuminates everything wrong with this process.”

Zuckerman went so far as to say he would not take a meeting with Ratner, calling the project “a boondoggle from the very beginning” and that it “needs to die a quick death.”

“Coney Island would be a perfect place for an arena to be,” said Zuckerman.“But if he wants to keep them in Newark, they should stay in New Jersey.”

Heyer said that while he would be disappointed if the Nets did not come to Brooklyn, he believed Forest City Ratner would do what they wanted to do with the site.

“I think that time has past where we would not be advocating additional funding, but we need to do something with the site which is best for the entire community,” said Heyer.

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