Thursday, March 06, 2008

In Alberta arena debate, the AY story gets mangled

In a March 2 article headlined Stickhandling a hot debate, the Edmonton Journal described the efforts of phys ed professor Dan Mason of the University of Alberta to bring a new hockey arena in Edmonton. Atlantic Yards came up as a positive example, but the facts were mangled.

The article states:
Mason is convinced there's a right way and a wrong way to go when it comes to planning for a new arena, and it's his goal to make sure Edmontonians take the proper steps, whatever the final outcome is.


Does public pay?

The article suggests that sports facilities may not need public subsidy:
Money doesn't have to come from general civic revenues, but can come from a surcharge on tickets or parking, so only those who use the arena end up paying for it. This is what happened in Glendale, Ariz., to build the new arena for the NHL Coyotes.


That decidedly would not be the case with Atlantic Yards.

Mixed-use muddle

The article almost suggests that Atlantic Yards would be a Jacobsian mixed-use project:
It's important that all citizens benefit from the project, Mason says, and the city can ensure this by using its power to push for public spaces and parks to be included in the project, as well as other housing and commercial development.

For instance, in the new $4-billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn for the NBA Nets, half of the 6,000 condo rental units are earmarked for low- and middle-income residents, Mason says. The developer is building an elementary school and day-care centre out of his own pocket as part of the project. The state of New York is helping to subsidize the rental units as part of a broader low-income housing initiative.


Well, half of the 4500 rentals are subsidized; there would be some 1930 on-site condos, of which 200 would be subsidized; the developer says it will built a total of 600 to 1000 for-sale affordable units, but that's not memorialized in any government document.

Only 900 units would be low-income, so AY is not a low-income housing initiative.

Who's paying?

According to the Community Benefits Agreement, a child care center, youth center and senior center "shall be housed within a free standing building at the Project... at reasonable rent and terms to be agreed upon." While the developer will provide the initial tenant build out at its own expense, that will be recovered "upon the providers obtaining sufficient public or private funds for the purpose of repaying build out costs, or during later lease years, to the extent that such remuneration is not detrimental to the operation of the center." The developer also will support efforts to seek funding from various foundations and elected officials, but will not be obligated "to provide on-going funding assistance."

And it's hardly clear that the developer is building a school out of his own pocket. Rather, as the Final Environmental Impact Statement said: "At the request of the New York City Department of Education (DOE), the project sponsors would convey or lease to DOE space within one of the Phase II development sites (Buildings 5 through 15) for the construction and operation of an approximately 100,000-gross-square-foot (gsf) elementary and intermediate school.

(Note: Mason gets the rental ratio right in his own column, but still says FCR is building a school and a day care center, without providing the details. In this comment he quotes Andrew Zimbalist, author of the not credible AY cost-benefit study, as an expert.)

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