The Gehry switch
There were a few tidbits of news and context. Given the departure of starchitect Frank Gehry and the plan for a much more pedestrian arena, was this the project that was sold by the developer?
“It’s certainly not the project the public was sold on,” Schuerman responded, but he noted that no government documents require Gehry’s participation, and government agencies still back the project.
That’s true, but I’d add that the Empire State Development Corporation, in its 12/8/06 press release, described "The almost $4 billion Atlantic Yards project designed by world-class architect Frank Gehry..."
Even though the Independent Budget Office has concluded that the arena would be a money-loser for the city, in terms of new tax revenues, Mayor Mike Bloomberg still supports AY. Lehrer asked why.
Schuerman pointed out that city officials expect their own cost-benefit analysis—I think it’ll be a fiscal impact analysis, without costs—to say the project as a whole is a net positive.
I’m sure it will, but there’s a lot of reason to doubt that the city’s projections about the timing of AY. I think Bloomberg, like many elected officials, wants a ribbon-cutting.
Schuerman noted that city officials have changed their tune: “However, that wasn’t really the perspective the city was taking five years ago, six, when this deal was originally struck. They thought the arena was going to be the money making deal. They actually tied their subsidies to the arena.”
In discussing the reported—but not confirmed—plan by Forest City Ratner to pay $20 million down for the MTA’s Vanderbilt Yard and the rest of the owed $100 million over time (with interest), Lehrer commented, “Like The MTA can afford to give concessions to developers right now, will this make the subway fare go up?”
“In and of itself it won’t,” Scheurman said. “It does put a little pressure on the capital plan.” (Actually, it looks like some capital monies will be shifted to operating costs.)
(Perhaps we'll learn at the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn community meeting Tuesday night about further responses to the MTA plan.)
Lehrer said that Gov. David Paterson last week fired ESDC CEO Marisa Lago--though there’s more evidence she left on her own. “Did her release have anything to do with this project?” he asked.
“Not that I know of,” Schuerman responded. “All I can say, Brian, on that, I saw her at the [state Senate oversight] hearing [May 29]. This was a little more than a week ago. She was sweating bullets. In fact, she ran through a couple of bottles of water there when she was on the stand. It may have been that the pressure got too much for her, but then again, her decision may have had nothing to do with it.”
I don’t think it did—Lago may have been nervous, but she got far more gentle questioning than she deserved. Maybe she was prepping for a much tougher hearing.
I suggested that her deceptive testimony at the hearing could not have impressed her superiors--and maybe gnawed a bit at her conscience.
(At right, New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, regarding the hearing.)