Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ratner, in Times Sports section portrait, admits, “when a developer speaks it’s not always believed”

A one-source New York Times Sports section portrait of Bruce Ratner, headlined Ratner Content to Succeed in the Shadows, offers the message that Ratner still can make a bunch of money from Atlantic Yards:
As the owner of 55 percent of the planned arena, Ratner will have a sizable stake in what could become a fascinating battlefront — downtown Brooklyn against Midtown Manhattan, or the Barclays Center versus Madison Square Garden.
(Bonus: the photo by Richard Perry shot from the top of the Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall is very similar to the shot by Ruby Washington the Times ran 9/10/08, below.)

Defensive Bruce

Ratner sounds a tad defensive:
“There’s a bittersweet feeling in having a majority owner in Brooklyn not be us,” he said, acknowledging his many critics will scoff because “when a developer speaks it’s not always believed.”
Maybe there's good reason for that. The chairpersons of three community boards criticized Forest City Ratner for "overstating" the CBs participation in "crafting" the Community Benefits Agreement.

Forest City Ratner told prospective renters that half the affordable units--rather than half the square footage--would be two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.

Or the $6 billion lie.

Or the no-towers brochure.

The list could go on.

Civic venture?

The article continues:
Ratner conceded that he would continue to be assailed as a franchise snatcher and team destroyer, all for the sole purpose of constructing a small city of residential towers, while insisting that bringing a major professional sports team back to Brooklyn was always his first priority. The residential component, he said, was necessary to finance an arena on a railyards site that was going to require extraordinary infrastructure costs the city would not incur.
Ratner last month told radio host John Gambling that Atlantic Yards was more of a civic venture, really."

That's very, very doubtful.

Remember, Chuck Ratner, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises (and Bruce Ratner's cousin), on 9/9/05 told investment analysts: I will confess that it was less than two or three years ago we were sitting around in New York wondering where the next deals were going to come from. We had finished a whole bunch of office and we completed MetroTech and we didn't have the next great site in Brooklyn. That was one of the reasons we got so aggressive and creative, Bruce and his team did in this Atlantic Yards project. We saw that land sitting there for this last 10 years, realizing it would be a great opportunity if somebody could turn it on.

Sure, development was needed to finance the project but Bruce Ratner left out such things as the giveaway of arena naming rights (worth more than $200 million), a non-competitive deal for the Vanderbilt Yard (and then a sweetheart renegotiation), subsidies for land ($131 million), and the advantage of eminent domain.

FCR and the IBO

It's worth taking another look at Forest City Ratner's response last September to the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) report that found a net loss to the city from the arena.

(It found a modest net gain to the state, though it ignored the giveaway of arena naming rights. Here's the IBO's response to the Empire State Development Corporation.)

The Times reported that Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said in a statement:
The Independent Budget Office’s analysis is wrong. Their assumptions are widely off mark, including for sales and other tax revenues. Also they are conveniently applying the state and city subsidies to the arena while ignoring the benefits of the larger project. A large portion of the public benefits are also realized through the development of the housing, office and other uses, creating jobs and tax revenues to both the city and the state.
I commented:
Keep in mind that, in 2005, Forest City Ratner had no problem with the IBO’s methodology, praising it for concluding that the arena was a “win-win” situation for the city and the state.
Indeed, as the graphic from the defunct AtlanticYards.com page shows, Forest City Ratner was happy to list the IBO study without any criticism.

Also note that sports economist Andrew Zimbalist was described as an "independent expert," rather than a paid consultant, the man responsible for the $6 billion lie--and who has been significantly discredited in recent court cases.

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