Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bloomberg salutes AY progress, continues to ignore IBO findings on loss to the city

A statement from the mayor:
STATEMENT OF MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON PROGRESS OF ATLANTIC YARDS DEVELOPMENT
“While the rest of the country wrings its hands about the national recession, we’re building our way out of it. The $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project - the most extensive development ever undertaken in Brooklyn - is moving forward, bringing thousands of units of housing and thousands of jobs for New York City’s middle class. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve made major investments or reached critical milestones on development projects decades in the making at areas like the Hudson Yards, Hunter’s Point South, Coney Island, Willets Point and other neighborhoods across the City. This is no time to wait and see what happens with the national economy and just hope for the best. We’re acting more aggressively than ever to create jobs and ensure New York City’s best days are still to come.”
Well, as the mayor conveniently forgets, the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) found the arena--the only part of the project with a design--to be a net loss for the city. As for the thousands of units of housing, they depend on yet-to-be-announced city subsidies.

And while construction of the arena and other buildings surely would bring construction jobs, the number of permanent jobs projected has been steadily shrinking, with the market for office space questionable.

Bloomberg on the free market

"The bottom line is the marketplace is the marketplace," Bloomberg recently said, regarding his opposition to a wage floor at the Kingsbridge Armory, a policy championed by Bronx pols, retail worker unions, and the City Council, but opposed by construction and building worker unions. (There's no such divide on AY, in part because of a lesser retail presence.)

Village Voice columnist Tom Robbins observes:
In fact, the marketplace being what it is, the minute that a gleaming-new, tax-subsidized food store opens at the armory, the longtime merchants across the street are likely to start going out of business. These are firms employing hundreds of local residents, many at union wages, with benefits—merchants who held on through the worst of the "Bronx Is Burning" years.
Bloomberg has similarly claimed that the AY project is a result of a free market, disregarding city subsidies, tax breaks, and the conveyance of streets and city building for a song. And rather than point out the absence of competitive bids for the project/site, he embraced Forest City Ratner's plan.

Robbins on the construction trades

A while back I cited a quote from the late columnist Murray Kempton, cited in Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker: "A construction worker would pave over his grandmother if the job paid $3.50 an hour."

Robbins writes similarly: "[T]he construction trades have never met a project they didn't like. The joke goes that they would build their own gallows if you let them do it union."

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