The PFNYC is essentially the city's Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit membership organization with some 200 CEOs (“Partners”) from New York City’s "top corporate, investment and entrepreneurial firms."
Given that Forest City Ratner, Nets Sports & Entertainment, and Barclays Capital are among the partners, it's hardly surprising that the PFNYC supports Atlantic Yards, but testimony from PFNYC President Kathryn Wylde opening the June 22 Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Finance Committee meeting was notably thin, clocking in at half the allotted two minutes.
We understand and have reviewed some of the re-designs in the project. The changes in terms which I think are reflective of the realities of today's economy but keep this quality project and will bring the Nets to Brooklyn. We see something that can help further diversy our city's economy and create a new source of revenues and jobs that goes well beyond Wall Street. We think it's an important project and we hope you're able to support it.
Wylde chose to disregard Independent Budget Office testimony at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing that the arena would be a money-loser for the city. And, while implying that Atlantic Yards would be part of a new business district or at least bolster a significant sector of the economy, her testimony disregarded the fact that no office space is currently planned.
You notice the economy has changed. In a situation like this, this is the time we look to get better deals from the developers and contractors that we deal with. It's something that Forest City Ratner is reportedly doing with its own contractors. We hope you are aware that other state and local governments are finding ways to get more for their money when dealing with developers in this economy. And yet, we are proposing a bailout for a financially weak developer, a deal that is in every way worse for the public and in every way better for the developer.
A project of less value under the rubric of value engineering. Less money from the developer for the MTA in its time of financial need. Less will be done by the developer up front. And the delivery of public benefit is being postponed. So much has changed... Kathy Wylde says she's been supporting this project from the beginning. Not this project, I'm sorry. But one thing has not changed. The idea that, no matter how much about this project changed, it still needs to be voted for, because this is a wired deal.
As I wrote Friday, the MTA has revised and reduced the goals of the project, dropping a "state-of-the-art" arena and railyard, and no longer describing housing as "critically needed."
PFNYC testimony 2006
In testimony at the 8/23/06 Empire State Development Corporation hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Wylde offered more extensive testimony, citing three reasons for support.
Second, Atlantic Yards provides desperately needed new housing at a scale that will have a meaningful impact on redressing the imbalance between housing supply and demand that has sent Brooklyn rents and home prices through the roof. Over the past 25 years, the Partnership sponsored development of several thousand of affordable homes and apartments in Fort Greene, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Windsor Terrace and Bedford Stuyvesant. These were low-rise developments that stabilized fragile neighborhoods and allowed working people to contribute to and enjoy the benefits of Brooklyn's renewal. The density of these developments, however, was never great enough to impact a tight housing market in a meaningful way. Atlantic Yards will do that.
Finally, the Nets and the Nets Arena are important new assets that will greatly contribute to the city's sports and entertainment industry — an increasingly important source of jobs, tax revenues and diversity in the city economy... New York City tends to have a boom and bust economy, but an attraction like the Brooklyn Nets is one of those investments that will attract fans and stimulate business activity even during the down times, helping to insure Brooklyn's long term economic vitality.
First, we want to congratulate the project developer, Bruce Ratner – who is a member of the Partnership – for his successful effort to win a major league franchise for Brooklyn. The acquisition of the Nets is a big deal for the city and a substantial contribution to the borough. The presence of an NBA team will help to galvanize additional private investment in economic development, housing and badly needed recreation facilities throughout Brooklyn.
Second, we want to express confidence that Forest City will do the right thing by the neighborhoods surrounding Atlantic Yards and the residents and businesses located on the site itself. This is a developer who has remained dedicated to Downtown Brooklyn for more than two decades, long after he could have pulled up stakes and focused exclusively on Manhattan projects.
Atlantic Yards will create the critical mass of housing, commercial and entertainment activity needed to firmly establish Downtown Brooklyn’s status as a pre-eminent urban center. The project is a great example of what urban design experts label “smart growth” – that is, a development that capitalizes on the public transportation hub and other urban infrastructure to create a vibrant live-work community. Atlantic Yards will be a destination for residents, visitors, sports fans and workers – not just a bedroom community. It is an example of how we can diversify our city’s economy beyond the Manhattan business districts. And it should be a model for similar projects in Queens, the Bronx and Upper Manhattan.
No one's calling Atlantic Yards a model any more. In fact, former Municipal Art Society president Kent Barwick wondered if Atlantic Yards will be "this generation's Penn Station," an event which galvanizes a more rational and transparent process for development.