Friday, January 30, 2009

IBO official: time for another look at AY incentives (but not for a cost-benefit analysis, yet)

The Brooklyn Paper quotes George Sweeting, Deputy Director of the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), says, according to the Brooklyn Paper, "It may be time for the city to take another look at the mix of incentives.”

He elaborated: “If amenities are scaled back and the overall scale of the project is reduced, it’s reasonable to stop and look at whether the city’s contributions and the MTA land deal still show a positive in the cost-benefit calculation. Some of the benefits to the public may now be less than originally assumed."

In fact, once the city's contribution was quietly doubled, Sweeting acknowledged that the revenues to the city might not offset the expense.

The implication of his more recent remarks is that the city should reduce rather than increase subsidies.

Second look?

Still, it doesn't look like the IBO is ready to perform another cost-benefit analysis. (The initial one had its flaws, since the IBO mainly focused on the arena.) In September 2007, Sweeting told me, "It remains unlikely that we will re-work the entire fiscal impact analysis, given other demands on our resources."

When I queried Sweeting yesterday, he responded, "We don’t have anything underway on Atlantic Yards at this time. As the plan evolves we may take another look--but we have to consider that in light of our own limited resources and other demands on them."

Indeed, the plan is hardly firm. However, that hasn't stopped Forest City Ratner from pursuing additional indirect subsidies. Shouldn't someone be calculating how this cuts into the originally promised benefits?

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