Friday, November 06, 2009

On Brian Lehrer, caller asks about "enormous" AY subsidies; Liu says he will ensure benefits; why not look into PILOTs and naming rights?

New York City Comptroller-elect John Liu was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show this morning, and he gave a somewhat vague answer when asked about Atlantic Yards by "Lenore in Brooklyn." The action begins at about 10:20.



"In these difficult times, how are you going to use your office regarding Atlantic Yards and the enormous subsidies of taxpayer money that are going towards private developer profit?" asked Lenore. "The Independent Budget Office [reported] the area for Atlantic Yards as clearly a money-loser for the city. We've also given away 400 million dollars in naming rights for the first subway station in the New York City system; we gave that away for free."

Yes, the IBO reported the arena would be a money loser, but her other statistics were off. The state gave give Forest City Ratner naming rights (which it sold for a reported $400 million over 20 years) to be used as "financing" for the project. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority sold station naming rights for a cumulative total of $4 million over 20 years.

Liu's response

Liu sidestepped the question somewhat, given that it was premised on the notion that the government has given away too much for the project to be worthwhile. Instead, he talked as if he could ensure that benefits would be delivered.

"Large developments like the Atlantic Yards," Liu responded, "have used up quite a bit of taxpayer subsidy in exchange for promises. The promises have been slow to materialize. I will use the full audit powers of the Comptroller's office to take a look at what in fact has transpired and set each one of these projects on a timetable to actually deliver those promises."

To deliver the promises without additional subsidy? Given Forest City Ratner's ability to gain additional subsidies and/or benefits from the city and state, Liu should keep watch. And, remember, as Forest City once said, "we control the pace."

Some tasks for the comptroller

Better yet, he should take a look at the Department of Finance's arena block assessments and gauge whether the agency has, as with Yankee Stadium, stretched credulity with its numbers.

And why can't he recommend a city policy regarding the selling of sports facility naming rights, which most jurisdictions simply give away (but shouldn't)?

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