Thursday, December 03, 2009

When it comes to tax-exempt bonds (for BALDC and WTC), the ESDC shows inconsistent transparency

The New York Liberty Development Corporation, another special-purpose subsidiary (more or less) of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), is having a meeting today at 9 am (webcast) regarding $2.6 billion in tax-free bonds for the use of World Trade Center (WTC) developer Larry Silverstein.

Except the bonds were already approved yesterday. Reuters reports:
Following its "common practice," the board approved Silverstein's Liberty bonds one day before holding a public hearing on the offering, she said.

"In case there is a large amount of public testimony, then the board is asked to meet again to review the testimony and the board will deny or affirm the sale," the spokeswoman said.

Bettina Damiani, project director for Good Jobs New York, an advocacy group, criticized the state agency for not waiting until after the public had a chance to comment.

"For the corporation to approve the bonds before a public hearing is the height of hypocrisy," she said.

Compared with BALDC

That seems both worse--and better--than the process last week by which the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) approved tax-exempt and taxable bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena.

However much the decision was preordained, the BALDC did not meet a day ahead of time. On the other hand, no testimony was allowed; it was a public meeting, not a public hearing.

More notice

Earlier this week, Damiani pointed to ways in which the process behind the New York Liberty Development Corporation offering was more transparent than the BALDC process.

For example, the ESDC distributed a description of the project, the financing terms, and the application in advance of the hearing. In 2005, she said, materials regarding the Goldman Sachs application for such bonds included a paragraph on the “social and economic impact” of the project.

That's not in the more recent materials--nor, I'd add, in the BALDC materials.

"By comparison, the New York City Industrial Development Authority has a more systematic and transparent process (which didn’t hold up egregious tax-free financing to the Yankees or Mets, TWICE!) that make public copies of application and a cost-benefit analysis in advance of hearings," Damiani said.

"I’m confused why the ESDC believes the various public hearings on the Atlantic Yards project are a suitable replacement for a proper hearing when basic information like the terms of the bonds, economic and social impacts were never made public at those hearings," she observed.

"Which of these projects deserves more transparency than the other?" she said, contrasting today's hearing with last week's meeting. "How does the ESDC quantify the value of a community’s input? Who decides where that line is drawn? Inconsistent policies, like what we’ve seen the past several days, do little to boost New Yorkers confidence of the state’s public authorities or the projects they aim to develop."

1 comment:


    AD 1 decision on eminent domain, blight, underutilization.