Tuesday, September 02, 2008

City finally responds to FOIL request, but doesn't answer "how and why" extra $105 million was provided

I finally got a response to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request that the mayor's office seemed inclined to ignore, but the answer wasn't exactly informative. So we still don't know exactly how Forest City Ratner managed to get the city to more than double its direct subsidy of $100 million for Atlantic Yards.

On July 17, I wrote how I was still waiting for a response to the FOIL request filed on May 8, which had drawn a response dated May 19, indicating that I would get a response "within twenty days or less informing you of the status of your request." (Actually, I'd previously filed an email FOIL request that was completely ignored.)

Well, after publishing that piece, and writing directly to the mayor's office, I got a response (right) August 5 to my request for "documents, including but not limited communication between and among government agencies, developer Forest City Ratner, and lobbyists, that explain how and why the $105 million request was made and how and why the City agreed to it."

This wasn't a fishing expedition. After all, executive Chuck Ratner of parent Forest City Enterprises told investment analysts in April that the developer had been successful in its lobbying efforts: [J]ust in these past six or eight months, we got the various governmental agencies, state, city, borough, in New York, to increase their commitments to Atlantic Yards by 105 million dollars on top of the 200 [million] they committed. We still need more.

City's response

In its belated response to me, the city provided an itemized list of capital and infrastructure projects released by the Office and Management and Budget (OMB). That was it--no further explanation.

The city stated that the additional $105 million "represents capital projects to support infrastructure and other capital needs in the area, some of which are independent of, but in the area of the planned Atlantic Yards project."

As far as I can tell, most of those capital project are not independent of the Atlantic Yards project. For example, the two bridge overpasses are clearly not independent. The MTA infrastructure almost certainly isn't independent, and the "transportation infrastructure" likely is not independent. The "water main improvements" most likely are related to the size of the AY project. As for "Atlantic Ave. Corridor," that's vague.

Bottom line

The fact remains that the city didn't answer "how and why" the request was made, and that Chuck Ratner thinks that entire $105 million goes to the Atlantic Yards project.

So too does the Atlantic Yards web site, which states:
The City and State of New York have agreed to contribute a combined $305 million to Atlantic Yards.

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