Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wrongheaded on Brian Lehrer: guest suggests de Blasio might be courageous in supporting Atlantic Yards, host suggests mayor will "pressure" developer

Atlantic Yards came up, in a dismayingly wrongheaded way, during a discussion yesterday about development in the waning days of the Bloomberg administration, on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, about 12 minutes in.

"We know he supported Atlantic Yards, that was controversial, he's not anti-development," declared host Lehrer. "Do you think he's going to be a development mayor?"

"Yes, on one level, I think he is going to encourage development," responded New York Times reporter Charles Bagli. "For one thing, it's exactly how he's going to get to building perhaps 200,000 units of affordable housing... Now, he may extract more in concessions from developers, and we'll see."

"But I don't think you can portray him as anti-development, not by a long shot," Bagli continued. "Some people could even argue it was a profile in courage for a Park Slope resident to support Atlantic Yards. I can't say he was very loud in his support, but he did support a project that was fairly unpopular."

Except de Blasio owed Bertha Lewis, ACORN, and the Working Families Party, so his support needs to be seen in that context. See WNYC's 9/5/13 report on de Blasio and ACORN/WFP.

"And he did it for the affordable housing component, which has yet to be realized," Lehrer followed up, "and that'll be another challenge for him, to keep the pressure on the developers there to actually make good on that promise."

Yes, there's a logic to supporting big development if it provides some spinoff benefits. De Blasio has suggested he prioritized benefits over project impacts. OK. But he ignored another tension: good government vs. sweetheart deals.

Indeed, the benefits, like the commitments purportedly "guaranteed" by the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) de Blasio has rhetorically championed, were always in doubt.

Look at de Blasio's record on Atlantic Yards: he has not criticized developer Forest City Ratner for failing to appoint the Independent Compliance Monitor promised as part of the CBA.

Nor has he said anything about how there are very few family-sized subsidized units in the first tower, and the distribution is skewed to middle-income households. Can you say $2740 for an "affordable" 2BR?

So it was uninformed of Lehrer, who should know Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin is on de Blasio's transition team, to suggest the new mayor will be challenged to "keep the pressure on" the Atlantic Yards developers. More likely de Blasio will speed the affordable housing by providing more subsidies or tax breaks.

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