The BrooklynSpeaks initiative launched in September of 2006 with the announcement of a set of principles for development at the Atlantic Yards site. The principles included:
1). Respect and integrate with surrounding neighborhoods.
2). Include a transportation plan that works.
3). Create affordable housing that meets the community's needs.
4). Be truly accountable to the public.
In late December 2006 the project was approved without these principles being addressed. Of greatest concern, the so-called private/public partnership was led on the public side by a New York State public authority with substantial power and little transparency, and the project agreements included no defined oversight structure.
After project approval, BrooklynSpeaks sponsors proposed an oversight structure with teeth and defined modes of community participation, and attempted to pass legislation toward those ends. It also worked to develop a way for the community, Community Boards and elected officials to assist in the oversight of the project on an ongoing basis, in part through the use of the Borough President's District Service Cabinet, and also through Atlantic Yards Watch, a community-led form of public oversight.
In 2009 BrooklynSpeaks, (along with fellow Atlantic Yards advocate Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn), filed litigation against Empire State Development and the project developer because they failed to conduct an environmental analysis of a change in the construction time-frame of the development. BrooklynSpeaks eventually won and an SEIS was issued in 2014.
Before the SEIS was approved by Empire State Development in 2014, BrooklynSpeaks reached agreement with the state, the developer and the city to no longer proceed with politically charged litigation directed toward the discriminatory affect of project delay, in exchange for an agreement for the project's affordable units of the project to be delivered by 2024, (at project approval they were promised by 2016). The agreement did not define degrees of affordability of those units. It also created an advisory board with the majority of its members appointed by the Governor that would report to Empire State Development's own board, also appointed by the Governor.
Immediate neighbors of the project have a heightened need for transparency and accountability from state and city government, and room made for the involvement of the public in government decision-making processes. The public more broadly requires transparency in relation to both the costs and benefits of development. For those reasons DSBA left PHNDC, and by extension BrooklynSpeaks, in June of 2014.