Sunday, June 24, 2007

Will the Times advise Spitzer to veto 421-a?

Will Gov. Eliot Spitzer veto the 421-a reform passed by the legislature, one that includes some worthy reforms as well as a handout to developer Forest City Ratner? According to NY1:
The governor tells us he needs time to review the legislation before he decides if he will sign it.

A veto shouldn't kill the measure for good. If there's to be a summer session to deal with outstanding legislation, there's no reason the legislature couldn't revisit 421-a.

In an article Friday headlined 421-a extension will spur construction, Crain's New York Business reported that the six-month extension contained in the 421-a reform will lead to a surge in condominium and apartment construction, as developers will rush to build market-rate projects before a lucrative tax break expires.

Here's the key paragraph:
The bill approved by the legislature has the support of the Real Estate Board of New York, the powerful lobbying group that represents developers. Insiders say it is unlikely that Gov. Eliot Spitzer will veto it.

Now why is that? Could it be that Spitzer, via his surrogates, already gave his blessing to the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" contained in a reform bill that otherwise spreads broad benefits and costs? That would be curious, indeed, given that legislative supporters of the broad reform, such as Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, were not told of the special provision.

The Times opines

The New York Times has taken some strong stands against pork-barrel legislation--but not regarding legislation that would help its parent company's business partner, Forest City Ratner, even though the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" that is so egregious that Ratner and Assemblyman Vito Lopez are unwilling to defend it.

(Remember how the Times punted when Atlantic Yards was before the Public Authorities Control Board?)

In an editorial yesterday headlined Mr. Spitzer’s First Round, the New York Times criticized special deals but omitted the one benefiting Ratner:
Mr. Spitzer insists that for all of the fighting over campaign finance, the real problem has been the Legislature’s, and particularly the Senate’s, insistence on pushing through a capital spending plan heavy on pork — “dripping with fat,” in his words. He is right to try to hold the line on the worst of these old-style handouts.

The Legislature will almost certainly be back in a few weeks for a special session on congestion pricing and possibly campaign finance. That would be a good time to winnow out the unnecessary items now packed into the capital spending plan.


The Times, should it choose, could focus on one specific beneficiary of legislation. After all, the newspaper on Friday did so regarding a federal bill. In an editorial headlined Home Depot Amendment, the Times opined:
Squatting beside the bulk of the Senate immigration bill — a once-in-a-generation attempt to change millions of lives and the direction of the nation — you will find a squalid little amendment. It was placed there by Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia to benefit an Atlanta-based corporate constituent, Home Depot.

The amendment would prohibit state and local laws that required big home-improvement stores to provide rudimentary shelter for day laborers. There aren’t any such laws yet, but the City Council in Los Angeles, where Home Depot wants to open 13 stores, is considering one. Mr. Isakson’s pre-emptive strike would be an extraordinary intrusion of federal power into a local land-use matter.


The AY carve-out

It would be a no-brainer for the Times to criticize the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" in an editorial; all it would take would be some cutting and pasting. It will be their shame if they take a pass.

The Daily News and the larger issue

Today's Daily News, in an editorial on 421-a headlined A threat to N.Y. nabes, takes a pass on the carve-out (who would guess?) but declares the expansion of the Geographic Exclusion Area--where developers would be required to build affordable housing--a threat to middle-class housing. (More likely, it's a threat to luxury housing.)

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, noting that the city approved a more narrow exclusion zone, thinks the bill should be vetoed. Now there's room for debate about the scope of the zone--surely it should be larger in Queens than approved by the City Council--and the Daily News is right that the state law was approved with limited public discussion. (There was a hearing, as I wrote.)

Perhaps Governor Spitzer will exercise some leadership on the micro and macro issues.

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