Friday, August 25, 2006

The Times on AY: skepticism about construction jobs, but not about revenue

From the New York Times story yesterday, headlined Raucous Meeting on Atlantic Yards Plan Hints at Hardening Stances:
The $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project is intended to generate more than 1,500 construction jobs during the 10-year building process, plus hundreds of permanent jobs afterward and $1.4 billion in tax revenue.

1500 construction jobs? Forest City Ratner has long promised 15,000 construction jobs, though construction jobs are calculated in job-years, so that would mean 1500 jobs a year over ten years. And FCR's Jim Stuckey recently began estimating 33,000 direct and indirect construction jobs, based on some more generous Empire State Development Corporation projectings.

I've long urged the media to report the construction jobs figure more accurately. (The point was first raised in the 6/26/04 Brooklyn Papers and was made last December in the New York Observer.)

Rowback?

However, the Times hasn't reported that number before, instead choosing to report the cumulative figures issued by the developer or government supporters. (See my report.) Is the more precise figure a response to the analysis that recently appeared in New York magazine?

Either the Times is wrong, and project supporters should demand a correction, or the Times is slipping in a change without acknowledging it. That's called rowback, which former Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent described in his 3/14/04 column as "a way that a newspaper can cover its butt without admitting it was ever exposed."

Note that the Times practiced rowback on the "Downtown Brooklyn" error before finally publishing a comprehensive correction.

Tax revenue

Atlantic Yards may be intended to produce $1.4 billion in tax revenue, but that's net, not gross. As I've written, there's ample evidence that the net gain would be much lower. The organization doing the intending is the Empire State Development Corporation, which has refused to release documents to back up the claim.

It's irresponsible to use the $1.4 billion figure without adding major caveats or doing some additional analysis.

1 comment:

  1. You wrote:

    "1500 construction jobs? Forest City Ratner has long promised 15,000 construction jobs, though construction jobs are calculated in job-years, so that would mean 1500 jobs a year over ten years. And FCR's Jim Stuckey recently began estimating 33,000 direct and indirect construction jobs, based on some more generous Empire State Development Corporation projectings."

    The preceding seems to suggest the construction site should employ 15,000 workers from the day of groundbreaking until the day it is completed.

    Before construction starts, engineers will have a big job designing the cover over the railroad tracks. That portion of the project will require steel and cement workers. Others will handle various land-moving functions.

    After the ground is prepared, other sets of workers will arrive. Electricians and plumbers, for example.

    The construction of the exterior will reach a point when interior work can begin. That will bring in a whole new crew. Sheet-metal workers, for example.

    Then there's the Heating, Ventilating and Air Concitioning guys.

    At some point the window specialists will go to work. Then sheetrockers and painters. Kitchen and bathroom specialists will do their part.

    But they won't all start Day One and they won't all be there in 2016.

    But I have no doubt 15,000 people will receive checks for working on this project between its start and its completion in 10 years.

    After the project is completed, it will require maintenance and repairs for as long as it stands. A complex as large as AY will have many permanent employees. Meanwhile, the businesses and residents will seek many local services. The creation of opportunities will last as long as the buildings stand.

    You wrote:

    "I've long urged the media to report the construction jobs figure more accurately."

    In other words, local news reporters don't know construction.

    You're stating that it is the reporters who have failed to understand the language of construction and convey the facts to readers.

    I think that's the case. But that is world's away from claiming Ratner is hoodwinking the public.

    If you want to know what's what, find articles in building and construction trade journals about this project. I'm sure some have been written.

    Find a stock analyst who follows the construction industry. The best choice would be an analyst who follows Forest City Ratner. See what that analyst has to say.

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