Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bill de Blasio's evasiveness on Atlantic Yards (and opposition from Public Advocate candidates Siegel and Gioia)

DDDB's unofficial transcript of the Atlantic Yards portion of the recent Public Advocate debate shows Brooklyn City Council Member Bill de Blasio, currently second in the polls to former Public Advocate Mark Green (and gaining thanks to a New York Times endorsement), continuing his ignorance and obfuscation on Atlantic Yards.

Meanwhile, candidates Norman Siegel and Eric Gioia expressed opposition to the project, while frontrunner Mark Green, a former Public Advocate, wouldn't criticize it. Even the supporters, de Blasio and Green, agreed there should be no more subsidies for the project, but they haven't exactly criticized increased subsidies in the past two months.

The AY piece somehow didn't make the print coverage in the Times, which called the debate "light on policy" even though there was a lively discussion about the City Council "slush fund" scandal, with Siegel and Green landing some blows. For those who remember, the Times in 2005 ignored Siegel's challenge on AY to incumbent Betsy Gotbaum.

(Note that the ABC video can be balky. I've cleaned up the transcript slightly.)

Questioning de Blasio

COBBLE HILL VOTER QUESTION (by videotape): I'm very concerned about development going on and a lot is not being finished because of the economy. Especially Atlantic Yards and how it has changed and how much taxpayer money has gone into it.

DAVE EVANS (WABC): On Atlantic Yards for just a second Mr. de Blasio, you were an early supporter of that project, but as we've seen the IBO (the Independent Budget Office) has doubted whether we'll see any profit at all from the arena—that it will likely be a money loser for the city. I think there is a lot of serious doubt that a lot of New Yorkers have about whether we are going to see the affordable housing that was promised in that development project. So, given all that, do you still support this project?

DE BLASIO: I support the 3,000 units of affordable housing, I support hundreds and hundreds of jobs at a living wage and I think we still have a chance at achieving that. But no more subsidies. That project has gotten all the subsidy it deserves. And they either have to figure out a way to make it work or we should pull the plug.

It's not 3000 units of affordable housing. (Or low-income housing, as he once said.) The affordable housing guarantee is very much in doubt.

And de Blasio has come a little late to "no more subsidies," given his silence when the developer gained more than $100 million by renegotiating the Vanderbilt Yard deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

And it’s never been about the arena; the arena to me is a sidelight. The issue is about the creation of affordable housing and the creation of jobs in a neighborhood that was rapidly gentrifying. We need to make sure there is an opportunity for people to live in this city. So many people have been forced out by the incredibly rapidly rising cost of housing. We want a New York City that is going to be diverse and available to all the New York City we've always known. If we don't create new affordable housing it is not going to be the same city.

Sure, but is this even the best bang for the buck? De Blasio has never tried to find out.

EVANS (WABC): But I think a lot of people, though, have serious doubt about the affordable housing and that we are going to be stuck with this behemoth, this huge arena and nothing else.

DE BLASIO: It's a fair concern, but I think the bottom line is this is the moment of judgment. We have to get evidence from the company involved that they're going to be able to create the affordable housing they committed and the jobs they committed. If not as I say, pull the plug; if yes, carry forward but no more subsidies—

Evidence? They don't have any.

Others weigh in

Siegel pointed out that de Blasio ignored the eminent domain issue and criticized Mayor Mike Bloomberg for demonizing Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn--which he represented in the early years--for its opposition.

Gioia agreed with Siegel and recalled how he stood with Siegel in early opposition to the project.

Green said he was long an enemy of corporate welfare. He didn't disagree that he supported the project but agreed on "no additional monies for Atlantic Yards."

It's highly unlikely Mayor Bloomberg will be deterred.

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