Monday, February 09, 2009

Atlantic Yards and the stimulus bill: many questions pending

Despite a New York Post article that reports "City and state officials say they expect developer Bruce Ratner to lobby hard for a piece of the federal pork" for Atlantic Yards, the evidence so far is sketchy.

The most voluble person in the article is someone who has no role in the pork process:
Borough President Marty Markowitz, the project's biggest cheerleader, said yesterday that funds from the stimulus bill should go to offset arena construction, and especially aid Ratner in a revamp of Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt rail yard.

"This project is shovel-ready, and the jobs it would create are needed now," said Markowitz, adding Atlantic Yards would also boost businesses nearby.


Of course, the project is not fully shovel-ready, given that lawsuits preclude full demolition and construction, but it could be at some point. (But couldn't the railyard be relocated right now?)

The difference between using federal funds for transit projects that the city/state/MTA have on the table and using them for Atlantic Yards is that the former, unlike the latter, would not relieve a private developer of a previous commitment.

Markowitz did not mention the logical conclusion: federal aid to a private developer that relieves the developer of its costs and boosts the value of the team should mean federal ownership of the arena and/or team.

Moreover, federal taxpayers would already be subsidizing the arena for perhaps $165 million if, as planned, it's built with tax-exempt bonds.

The Post repeats the message of this weekend's Courier-Life article:
State officials say the project would qualify for New York's share of stimulus funds, but no distribution decisions have been made.

Affordable housing

The Post reports:
Local politicians say they expect Atlantic Yard's transit improvements to become a likely target for funds, but Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said Ratner shouldn't get aid unless he guarantees "there will be substantial affordable housing" built early on.

I'm not sure if Ratner can guarantee that, given that bonds are needed from another agency, the New York City Housing Development Corporation. Jeffries has long stressed he favored affordable housing rather than the arena, but is willing to accept the latter if the former is built.

However, Jeffries also has publicly opposed the use of eminent domain to build a basketball arena, and eminent domain is still on the table.

1 comment:

  1. In which case, Jeffries's "opposition" to eminent domain seems nothing more than posturing. Since the arena can't be built without its use, and he's willing to accept the arena if it comes along with affordable housing, then he doesn't really "oppose" it.

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