Thursday, August 20, 2009

AY is the great unmentionable in the argument for revising the public authorities reform bill

Today, Richard Anderson of the New York Building Congress, who had no trouble last month testifying in favor of Atlantic Yards, penned an op-ed in the New York Post (DON'T CRIPPLE STATE AUTHORITIES) arguing for rejection of the pending public authorities reform bill.

He writes:
The bill would eliminate each authority’s flexibility to sell properties for less than market value even when there’s a defined economic-development/urban-planning objective to be achieved. Both the city and state have sponsored a number of essential projects — including the Hudson Rail Yards, East River Science Park and Willets Point — that have relied on the government’s ability to negotiate the terms of a sale, rather than being forced to blindly accept the highest bid. Rather than encouraging such long-term thinking, the bill would eliminate opportunities to leverage billions of dollars in private investment and achieve far-reaching economic-development objectives.

What's missing? Atlantic Yards.

A rebuttal

Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute offers a rebuttal:
The Atlantic Yards deal is one of those “economic-development/urban-planning” projects Anderson wants to protect — but the public purpose of the project is not actually clear.

A contradiction

As with the New York Times editorial earlier this week, Anderson supports the provision in the bill "to hold board members more accountable to their fiduciary responsibilities."

However, enforcing the fiduciary duty inevitably militates against selling land at below-market rates.

A chimera

Anderson writes:
Our state adopted the use of authorities to handle certain tasks that serve the public interest, but are better done at arms-length from politics and the usual restraints on government. Most notably, they're funded with dedicated revenue sources, rather than relying on annual appropriations through the highly politicized budgeting process.
(Emphasis added)

That may be true of some authorities, but the whole point of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's objection is to ensure not that they are at arms-length but that they are under his control.

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