Monday, July 06, 2009

Who didn't show up at the MTA meetings? State Senator Carl Kruger and his topsy-turvy view of Atlantic Yards

I can't believe everyone missed this. More than two weeks before the state Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards, where state Sen. Carl Kruger, oddly enough, was accusing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of intransigence as Forest City Ratner tried to reduce its obligations to pay cash and provide and upgraded railyard, Kruger telegraphed his stance in a press release.

The press release issued May 13 (though I'm not sure when it was actually posted), is headlined DON’T STAND IN THE WAY OF ATLANTIC YARDS, SEN. KRUGER TELLS MTA . It's notable for its bizarre inversion of reality and Kruger's assurances, since demolished, that the project would be built as promised with benefits as promised.

Kruger, a Democrat with an untouchable seat, has been a recipient of Forest City Ratner campaign contributions and comes out of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, which produced Forest City Ratner aide Bruce Bender.

The press release

The press release begins:
Senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) is demanding that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hand over its financial records concerning the Atlantic Yards project in the wake of the MTA’s “apparent refusal to move forward on a project that is critical to New York City’s economic future.”

Atlantic Yards’ developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, has requested permission from the MTA to undertake the project in two steps instead of one.


That's hardly all Forest City requested. As we learned, the developer got to put only $20 million down, pay the rest of the promised $80 million at a low interest rate, build a smaller permanent yard worth $100 million less, and to keep a smaller temporary yard twice as long as originally intended.

Ironically enough, the MTA has been unresponsive--not to Kruger but to state Sen. Bill Perkins, who sent the agency numerous questions that were not answered.

Trusting the developer

The press release continues:
Sen. Kruger noted that “all of Forest City’s project obligations will be honored – the affordable housing commitment, plans for a new permanent Long Island Rail Road yard and subway entrance, the eight acres of open space – and there are no new or significant adverse impacts.”

“Forest City wants to see this project built and is committed to seeing it built. It’s the MTA that’s standing in the way of progress,” he said.


What planet is Kruger on? The revised Modified General Project Plan issued by the Empire State Development Corporation on June 23 asserts that the project would be built in ten years as scheduled, but leaves open the option for significant delays. Most of the affordable housing and all the open space would come in Phase 2, which could take at least 25 years.

Good of the public?

The press release continues:
In a letter to the MTA today co-signed by other legislators, Sen. Kruger said, “The MTA’s refusal to act on Forest City Ratner Companies’ revised agreement, and, in fact, to completely ignore the plan that FCRC presented to you, succeeds in fulfilling the MTA’s widely-held image as a secretive entity that works not for the good of the public but for its own financial benefit.”

Kruger is so concerned about the good of the public that he neglected to attend, or send a representative, to the June 22 MTA Finance Committee meeting or the June 24 MTA board meeting.

Going after the MTA

The press release continues:
Sen. Kruger has asked for a meeting with the MTA where he plans to see the financial records pertaining to Atlantic Yards. He said that if the MTA fails to produce the necessary documentation, he’ll take the matter to the next step. “If these records are not produced, I will immediately call for a Senate hearing and invoke the authority of the Finance Committee to investigate this matter fully and exhaustively,” he said.

"At the moment, the MTA’s dismissive attitude and infuriating inaction will mean that the Barclay’s Center might not be built, that the Nets might not come to Brooklyn, and that the many thousands of New York City residents who have invested their hopes and dreams into the jobs and affordable housing units that will result from Atlantic Yards might see their future go up in smoke – or, more accurately, lying dormant in land that sits, unused and fallow, like so many MTA real estate holdings,” Sen. Kruger said. “This is unacceptable.”


Of course, the MTA real estate is being used--as a railyard. The question, unresolved, is whether the agency got a decent price for its prime real estate.

Note that a search on the Senate web site shows no other legislators announced that they had co-signed the letter.

Golden's press release

Kruger's ally at the May 29 hearing and in Albany--though they're ostensibly from opposing parties--is state Senator Marty Golden, who issued his own bizarre press release after the hearing.

The press release begins:
State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), strongly advocated for ending the government generated delays that have prevented the Atlantic Yards project from moving forward at a meeting of the New York Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions held this past Friday.

Funny numbers

The press release continues:
Senator Golden, speaking at the hearing stated, “The Atlantic Yards project will go a long way in helping Brooklyn recover from the current economic crisis this City, State and Nation is facing. When completed, this project will create 2,250 units of affordable housing and create thousands of jobs, including 17,000 construction jobs of which 8,500 will be permanent. Additionally, this will create $6.5 billion in total economic output during construction and $5.6 billion in new tax revenue for the City and State for more than 30 years into the future. Why is the government holding this project hostage? It is surely going to be beneficial now and in the long term.”

Golden needs a fact-checker. No, there wouldn't be 8500 permanent construction jobs. No, there wouldn't even be 17,000 jobs--ESDC CEO Marisa Lago said 12,000.

The tax revenue figures are a fantasy, from Forest City Ratner. Golden apparently saw Lago's statement that the numbers were unchanged as including tax revenue figures the ESDC didn't produce.

The press release concludes:
Golden continued, “The Atlantic Yards Project, when completed, will include more than 8 million acres of new open space and $3 million dollars for our local parks. And of course, the New Jersey Nets, a major professional basketball team, will relocate to Brooklyn. This Arena will serve as the site for more than 200 events each year, including the circus, family shows, concerts, and more than 10 community events such as local college graduations. This project would be the real stimulus that Brooklyn needs to turn our economy around. It’s time we see action on this plan.”
(Emphasis added)

No, Atlantic Yards would not create 8 million acres of public space, it would create 8--that's off by a rather large factor--and that could take at least 25 years.

It's too bad that neither these legislators, nor Forest City Ratner, had the guts to make these claims in public at the MTA hearing.

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