Monday, April 05, 2010

That outrageous claim from the groundbreaking: "We did not at the time appreciate that Atlantic Yards would be such an important economic engine."

An outrageous claim from the press release (below) issued with the March 11 groundbreaking deserves another look:
“When we announced Atlantic Yards in December 2003, we anticipated that this project would create buzz and excitement for the borough and the City as well as needed jobs and affordable housing,” said Mr. [Bruce] Ratner. “We did not at the time appreciate that Atlantic Yards would be such an important economic engine. The fact that we can start construction in this financial environment is testament to the lasting appeal of New York City. We are a City that continues to grow and prosper and Atlantic Yards will for many years stand as a reminder that we can build and create jobs and homes and dreams even during the most difficult of economic times.”
Oh, come now.

The fact that they can start construction in this financial environment is less "testament to the lasting appeal of New York City" than the lasting appeal of Brooklyn and New York for Barclays Capital and Mikhail Prokhorov to gain entry to the American market--and a testament to Forest City Ratner's ability to wrangle additional subsidies and sweeteners.

And Forest City Ratner was making the "economic engine" claim early on, however dubious it was then and it remains now.

Zimbalist on board

The day after the project was announced, in a 12/11/03 article headlined Plan for Nets Arena To Get Hard Review, New York Newsday reported that Forest City Ratner had already hired sports economist Andrew Zimbalist to review the project:
But Zimbalist says the Brooklyn project is different because it would incorporate both residential and commercial components, including 4,500 housing units. "This is not a stand-alone arena," said Zimbalist. "It's a real estate development project."What's more, he said, the complex would be attracting a new team and new money to the region, instead of just rebuilding an arena for an existing team.

...For example, Zimbalist said, the Nets have a payroll of roughly $50 million. The players have to pay income tax to the State of New Jersey. "If they came to Brooklyn they would pay $5.5 million or 11 percent of their income to New York State and New York City," he said. If the arena hypothetically took $4 million of public money to fund part of the project, the state would still end up netting a profit.
Hard review? Field of Schemes author/blogger Neil deMause commented, "Zimbalist's eye looks less than jaundiced."

And we all know what happened with Zimbalist's June 2004 report: a claim of $6 billion in new revenues, the $6 billion lie, one casually accepted by the New York Times.
Barclays Center Groundbreaking Press Release

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