Sunday, May 18, 2008

ESDC in disarray, says NYT; AY "not a done deal," says Barron

In a news analysis today, headlined State Development Agency Buffeted by Slowing Economy and Internal Rifts, the New York Times reports that the agency in charge of Atlantic Yards is in trouble. The article, however, doesn't give us any new clues about the state's posture toward the project.

The article states:
For more than a year, the state’s main economic development agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, has been in disarray, plagued by turf battles, poor management and the political collapse of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, business leaders and state officials say.

...Now with the economy slowing, credit markets tightening and tax revenues shrinking, the agency must make some hard decisions about its priorities. But at this important juncture, it remains rudderless.

...Moreover, the governor has sent conflicting messages, preaching fiscal austerity while suggesting that the state can move forward on a host of costly projects, including the Second Avenue subway, the extension of the No. 7 line, the $14 billion redevelopment of the West Side railyards, the $14 billion Penn Station project and the $4 billion Atlantic Yards basketball arena and residential complex in Brooklyn.

A senior adviser to [Gov. David] Paterson rejected the idea that the administration had sent mixed messages, saying the governor would not commit to projects that the state cannot afford.


What does that mean for Atlantic Yards? It's unclear. Paterson has expressed his support for the project, which likely requires less state funding than some of the other projects, and he left it out of a major speech on development last month.

The Assembly on Friday will hold a major hearing on the progress of several development projects on Manhattan's West Side. Perhaps some clues about AY will emerge then.

Barron on AY

The annual convention of FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), held Saturday at P.S. 67 in Fort Greene, concerned such issues as gentrification in Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene and regulations regarding child care providers, but Atlantic Yards was on the mind of one invited guest.

City Council Member Charles Barron, a candidate for Brooklyn Borough President and a champion of the poor, got his own slot on the dais, preceding a panel featuring four elected officials who represent the immediate neighborhood. The one-time Black Panther began with a call and response, first “Black Power,” then “Latino Power.”

Then he declared, “Atlantic Yards is not a done deal.” The statement generated a moderate amount of applause, even though AY was not on the agenda. “We’ve got a whole new [city] administration coming in 2009." Some 150-200 people were in the audience at the time.

Barron prefaced his AY comment by allowing that City Council Member Letitia James might have said it first. She hadn’t spoken yet, and during her time at the microphone, she didn’t mention AY, though she did acknowledge a couple of members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn in the audience.

"More with less"

Barron suggested there were better uses for city money than “$100 million to [Atlantic Yards developer Bruce] Ratner” or “$100 million to the Yankees.” (Actually, both figures would be greater, with $205 million in direct city spending for AY.)

Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Barron said, “says we have to do 'more with less.' Tell [Yankees owner George] Steinbrenner to do more with less. Tell Ratner to do more with less.”

Bloomberg's quote came in a May 6 press release regarding salary increases for employees at human service providers.

(I'll have a longer report on the FUREE convention published later in the week in the Brooklyn Downtown Star and on this blog.)

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