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Support wanes for Atlantic Yards? Maybe, but not at the PACB, most likely

(This is one in an irregular series of articles about issues that a State Senate committee might address when it holds a hearing on Atlantic Yards.)

Just as reports of Atlantic Yards's death are greatly exaggerated, so, I think, is the meaning of the project's decline in political support, as noted in the Brooklyn Paper and Crain's Insider.

Bloomberg says "enough"?

Yesterday the Brooklyn Paper reported, in an article headlined Bloomy to Bruce: Enough already:
Mayor Bloomberg dealt Bruce Ratner a blow on Wednesday, saying that the city would not subsidize the Atlantic Yards project with additional public funds.

The city has already pledged $230 million for infrastructure and land-acquisition costs at the embattled arena and skyscraper project — but Bloomberg dashed Ratner’s hopes for more.

“We’ve done everything,” he said in response to a reporter’s question at his daily availability on Wednesday. “We’re going to have a tough time balancing our budget.”

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn issued a press release, claiming "Ratner Losing Mayor's Support for Atlantic Yards." (The city has pledged $205 million; the Brooklyn Paper apparently calculated $230 million by adding in the value of city land to be transferred.)

Remember, in December, the New York Observer reported on Forest City Ratner's quest for additional indirect subsidies; the developer was not asking the city for more money, just a speed-up in the amount of city money delivered, at that point calculated at $40 million. 

(I suspect the sum is greater, but that should be a question for the oversight hearing held by Sen. Bill Perkins next Friday.)

So Bloomberg could be meeting Forest City Ratner's request for faster payment without violating his pledge to not deliver additional money.

In Crain's

Today's Crain's Insider, under the headline Support wanes for Atlantic Yards, notes:
Political support for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn was nearly unanimous when it was proposed in 2003 and for years afterward. That’s no longer the case—despite a string of court decisions favoring the developer, Forest City Ratner, and its partner in state government, the Empire State Development Corp.

In the past two years, local officials including Councilman David Yassky and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries have done little cheerleading for Atlantic Yards and have periodically been critical. Project booster Roger Green quit the Assembly in 2006, leaving Borough President Marty Markowitz as the only unflagging supporter among local officials. Not one of more than a dozen candidates in two City Council districts near the project openly supports it, according to opposition group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

OK, but at the same time very few in the local political establishment line up behind DDDB, either. John Heyer, who works for Markowitz, does support an arena. And Jeffries certainly would like to see housing at the site.

Keep in mind that the two leading fundraisers in the 33rd District, Jo Anne Simon and Steve Levin, both steer clear of DDDB's opposition, as noted by Noticing New York. The leading fundraiser in the 39th, Brad Lander, seems closer to mend-it-don't-end-it BrooklynSpeaks on his web site but has expressed greater opposition in public, while Josh Skaller, second in fundraising, is an unequivocal opponent of the project.

Waning of support?

Crain's continues:
Initially, the Brooklyn political and nonprofit establishment lined up behind Atlantic Yards and Forest City, while opponents were marginalized and deemed NIMBYists. That made it easy for Mayor Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Govs. Pataki and Spitzer to grant Forest City the funding and approvals it needed. Two exceptions were Councilwoman Tish James and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, who have opposed the $4 billion project from the outset.

The waning of political support for Atlantic Yards could cost Forest City if it decides to seek new approvals from ESDC and the Public Authorities Control Board [PACB] for an arena-only general project plan. The developer has been unable to get financing for the project’s huge housing component—and affordable housing was the major reason it garnered support from elected officials and Acorn, an influential nonprofit group. The developer must break ground on the arena this year to qualify for tax-exempt financing.

The waning of political support should impose some pressure the ESDC and PACB, but I can't imagine there would be an "arena-only" plan, especially since Forest City Ratner has announced at least one tower at the start and surely would promise that a few more are on their way. 

ACORN is indebted to Forest City Ratner and likely could turn out supporters--though that should trigger scrutiny of ACORN's acceptance of a loan and grant from the developer.

PACB issues

The three members of the PACB are Gov. David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Silver is an enthusiastic supporter of AY, and a recipient (via a committee) of $58,420 in Forest City Ratner "soft money." 

Smith is an AY supporter and former business partner of Darryl Greene, who works on AY minority contracting. Paterson hasn't said much about AY, given his preoccupation with other matters, but his hands-off approach is essentially an endorsement of the status quo.

Unless, perhaps, Senator Perkins, at the oversight hearing, raises sufficient questions about the project to make Paterson particularly uncomfortable.


  1. Atlantic Yards has clearly become a radioactive issue in brooklyn and other parts of new york.

    Most of the politicians don't want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

    But among those pols who are making a.y. a significant part of their campaign, the a.y. opponents are dominant.

    The public's opposition to a.y. has apparently silenced most of the pro-a.y. pols.

    I find it very interesting that there haven't been any a.y. public opinion polls taken in recent years.

    Could this be because the pro-a.y. media - which usually conducts the polls - already knows what the polling outcome would be?

    New York voters, both locally and upstate, are overwhelmingly against ratner's $4 billion boondoggle, and the media knows it.


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