Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On NY1, Markowitz practices Atlantic Yards revisionism, FCR cheerleading: "they have every intention of keeping their word"

For a preview of Atlantic Yards revisionism, take a look at Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's appearance last week on NY1's Inside City Hall.

The high points:
  • Half of the housing will be affordable (no, just the half the rentals)
  • "Seven years of lawsuits" delayed the project (the first lawsuit began in 2006)
  • "Atlantic Yards" is the railyard (no, the Vanderbilt Yard is less than 40% of the 22-acre site)
  • the railyard was "totally empty" (no, it was a working railyard that only in recent years became attractive to developers, as with Hudson Yards)
  • "they [developer Forest City Ratner] have every intention of keeping their word" (shouldn't Markowitz have gotten a little skeptical after promises, for example, that architect Frank Gehry would remain on the job?)
(Note: To reach the Atlantic Yards segment, you must cycle through the first loop of the interview, which lasts 8:26.)

Host Errol Louis (a noted Atlantic Yards cheerleader when at the Daily News) pretty much let Markowitz speak, not challenging him.

AY as "economic development"

"Let's take a quick trip around the borough, in terms of economic development, we'll start with Atlantic Yards," Louis began. "I see it rising up over the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush."

Whether the arena constitutes economic development is an open question; after all, the New York City Independent Budget Office called it a net loss to the city.

"A beautiful sight, a beautiful sight," Markowitz interjected, gushing.

"But there's talk the developer has still got a credit crunch, that there's still a problem, that it still might not get completed," Louis continued, "and that the housing is receding in the distance."

Markowitz on the arena

"First off the arena will be built, and will be built on time," Markowitz responded.

"Built on time" refers to the latest prediction on timing: fall 2012. For years, Forest City Ratner and its allies were predicting 2009, 2010, and 2011.

"We will welcome in the Brooklyn Nets, next fall, of 2012," Markowitz continued, revving up into some practiced shtick. "The Manhattan Knicks are so nervous, you notice, they went out and bought the best players they could. Why didn't they do this in previous years? Here's the answer: they're worried about losing a fan base to a Brooklyn team. That's what it's all about. There's no question about it. And also, the competition that will go on between Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center. So they're doing a smart marketing thing, but we're going to show 'em."

Note how Markowitz conflated the operators of the arena, sports entertainment corporations, with "we."

Money in the housing?

"But in terms of Atlantic Yards, it'll go on, the housing part, there is no question that the developer, the money--what I've been told, that the money of the investors and the developer is in the housing, that's the money, not the arena. It's in the housing," he continued. "So they want to build the housing, we need the housing. Half of it'll be affordable. And shortly around the time or right after the arena is completed, I believe the first building will go up. And they have pledged, publicly, that the first building, half of it will be affordable, which is phenomenal. So they have every intention of keeping their word."

Beyond clarifying the numbers--2250 of 4500 rentals would be subsidized, but there would be another 1930 market-rate condos--this would have been an opportunity for Louis to point out the developer's shifting pattern of predictions on the housing timetable, or the recently surfaced possibility of modular construction.

The money may be in the housing, but housing depends on cutting construction costs and, quite likely, increased subsidies.

Waiting for "great things"

Markowitz then upshifted, and started waving his arms. "Now listen, if we didn't have seven years of lawsuits against it, seven years of lawsuits, of every imaginable type, the worst economy--the economy tanking, everything happened within those seven years, I believe that they would've been on target, on timetable. So it may take a little longer, but sometimes, for great things, you have to wait."

Did he give an example outside Atlantic Yards? Nope. He simply conflated the project and the railyard.

"Good example, Atlantic Yards, over the railroad pit, there was a pit for over 100 years, empty, totally empty," Markowitz said misleadingly. "It's going to be unbelievably beautiful."

Winning over opponents

"And I truly believe, in fact what I am hoping for and expecting is that the folks that oppose Atlantic Yards, once it opens, and they see what it means to the families of Brooklyn, the economic benefits, the jobs created, the housing that's affordable, they're going to say, Alright Marty, we weren't with you originally, but you were right," Markowitz said, repeating a practiced pitch. "And that would be to me the crowning achievement."

Louis interjected, with a chuckle, "Don't hold your breath waiting for that, Mr. Borough President."

"Y'know what, hope springs eternal," riposted Markowitz.

Keep watching

Also keep watching for Markowitz's over-the-top defense of drivers and reiteration of his bike lane opposition.

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