Thursday, September 20, 2012

Will Gov. Andrew Cuomo attend Barclays Center ribbon-cutting tomorrow? At very least, a Cuomo bobblehead at counter-ceremony (and maybe a housing announcement)

The Governor of New York State is the key public official in charge of Atlantic Yards: because it's a state project, overseen and promoted by Empire State Development, the gubernatorially-controlled state authority, the buck stops at the governor's desk.

Gov. George Pataki was a crucial early booster, attending press conferences in support of the project, Gov. Eliot Spitzer maintained support, and Gov. David Paterson attended the March 2010 arena groundbreaking and famously pronounced that Atlantic Yards would have "job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen."

In the media advisory announcing the official arena ribbon-cutting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not listed as among the attendees, which include Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz. I queried the Governor's office and got no response.

That doesn't mean he's not coming. Cuomo's schedule seems to be updated day-to-day. He's in Albany today. I'd bet he wants to make it; elected officials tend to think such events provide good publicity.

Then again, given that Cuomo is ultimately responsible for the very limited oversight of Atlantic Yards, he couldn't be thrilled about facing questions about reforming project governance--or seeing himself as one of the two officials targeted as responsible for the project's failure to deliver promised benefits. And maybe he has an inkling about Atlantic Yards and the Culture of Cheating.

A counter-ceremony

A Barclays Center Alternate Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Press Conference will be held at 8:15 am Friday at: 669 Atlantic Avenue at S. Portland and Atlantic avenues, across from the press entrance for the official event.

Special guests will include "giant bobbleheads of Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Cuomo, BEEP Markowitz, Bruce Ratner, Mikhail Prokhorov, and Sen. Schumer." Sponsors are Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Brown Community Development Corporation, BrooklynSpeaks, Fifth Avenue Committee:
At the ribbon cutting the dignitaries will highlight the troubled history of the Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards project and ongoing unfulfilled promises, among them affordable housing and local jobs.
Housing announcement coming?

Given that project protesters are stressing the failure to deliver promised affordable housing, I wouldn't bet against a small or even large new announcement regarding the housing.

Remember, at the arena groundbreaking in March 2010, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the city had "secured an additional commitment from the developer to ensure that at least 50 percent of the units in the first residential building will be affordable to a mix of low-, moderate- and middle-income families."

As I pointed out in my analysis in City Limits' Brooklyn Brueau of plans for the first tower, that seemed a strategic move; moreover, the commitment went in the other direction, for the city to fund the tower.

That first tower has been repeatedly delayed, though the New York City Housing Development Corporation in July held the only hearing necessary regarding bonds for the building. Forest City has said it will decide by December whether to build the tower using promised modular technology; that depends on union buy-in, a successful prototype, and a new factory, likely at the Navy Yard.

Such announcement would challenge one significant criticism by the protesters and could put them in a bit of a bind: after all, a promise to build modular housing would deliver the promised affordable housing on a speedier schedule than currently believed.

Then again, a court also has ordered a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement regarding the second phase of Atlantic Yards, the project east of the arena block. Shouldn't that come before any plans for overall project housing are set in stone?

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