Friday, May 29, 2009

The myth of construction jobs: it's not AY or nothing

Given that there are no plans for office space, the major source of jobs--as of now--should Atlantic Yards be built would be temporary construction jobs. So supporters like Errol Louis, in touting the project, should acknowledge that.

Also consider economist Brad Humphreys, who testified skeptically at a Congressional hearing last September concerning Yankee Stadium, noting that the alternative to the new project was not zero construction jobs but, instead, jobs elsewhere.

The same would apply to Atlantic Yards, so that's important to remember if, for example, construction workers show up en masse at today's oversight hearing.

Humphreys' testimony

“The key to determining the actual net economic benefits generated by sports stadium construction projects is to determine how many jobs are created that would not have existed if the project did not take place, and also to determine how many of the workers filling those jobs would have been unemployed if the project had not taken place,” he said. “According to economic theory, only this small subset of the total number of jobs created by a stadium construction project can be counted as part of the economic impact of the project.”

“The net economic benefit created by stadium construction projects is much smaller than the total economic benefit (which can be easily found by simply adding up the total amount of spending associated with the project) because of the presence of opportunity costs, and the double counting that typically takes place when non-economists attempt to estimate these benefits,” he observed.

“Opportunity cost is the cost of forgone alternatives. In the case of the New Yankee Stadium, the facility generates significant opportunity costs for the City of New York and in the local community," he said. "The City could have issued a billion plus dollars of tax exempt bonds to finance any number of alternatives.”

“The materials and supplies that are going into the construction of the new stadium could have been used on other construction projects,” he said. “And most importantly, the construction workers employed on this project could have worked on other projects.”

As I wrote, while supporters often suggest it’s AY or nothing, others point out that an alternative, albeit smaller project, could be built on the Vanderbilt Yard, and subsidies and incentives deployed elsewhere.

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