Sunday, October 03, 2010

Daily News columnist takes skeptical look at project timeline and benefits, but says conclusion is up to "historians of New York" (nah)

In Don't hold your breath for completion of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg does a little homework, likely inspired by some tough reporting by WNYC and the Brooklyn Paper:
There's a spot in Brooklyn where time and money and space seem to twist and wriggle away from anyone who tries to nail them down.

It's the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush - Atlantic Yards.

Developer Bruce Ratner acknowledged last week that his dream of office buildings and apartment towers anchored around a new basketball arena there won't be done in the 10-year time frame he once claimed.

...Don't expect that to change any city leaders' support for the project - or any of the heavy subsidies being poured into it.

The delay is no surprise to anyone who has followed the project's progress through a market crash and legal challenges, and finally its March groundbreaking.

Still, time is key to anyone who tries to estimate how much the city and state will lose in tax breaks and cash payouts to encourage Atlantic Yards - and whether they're worth the new jobs and businesses there.

"If a fiscal impact statement is going to be meaningful, it has to be based on a serious estimate of the timeline," said Doug Turetsky, spokesman for the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office.
Fiscal impact

Lisberg writes:
The IBO tried to measure the long-term impact of Atlantic Yards last year but threw up its hands because there was no realistic plan for when the costs and benefits would start.

Looking only at the Barclays Center arena, which is under construction now to open for the Nets in fall 2012, IBO concluded it will cost the city $40 million on balance.

The city Economic Development Corp. disputed that and put out a revised plan this year, claiming it will have a $411 million positive impact on the city over 30 years.

That analysis assumes the project started three years ago, though - before the crash. EDC insists the numbers are still valid, and that the project will be a boon to New York.

Money? Flexible.

A spokesman for the project didn't return a call for comment.
Um, why does EDC insist the numbers are still valid. They depend on a ten-year buildout.

The conclusion

Lisberg concludes:
Someday historians of New York will decide whether the timeline or the financing or the drawings were accurate. In the meantime, we'll have to live with it.
My comment:
So, Adam Lisberg does some homework and presents evidence that the timeline and thus expected benefits are extremely dubious.

But the conclusion is wimpy: "Someday historians of New York will decide whether the timeline or the financing or the drawings were accurate."

After all, the Development Agreement signed last December (and unveiled in January) gives Forest City Ratner *ten* years to start the third residential tower before penalties kick in. On the overall project, penalties kick in only after 25 years.

More here: http://bit.ly/c49bko

Oh, and the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush is part of the Atlantic Yards site, but a good chunk of the 22 acres is not in the hands of the developer or state.

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