Skip to main content

ESDC releases fiscal "impact analysis," but it only acknowledges benefits

Can we trust the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) fiscal impact analysis regarding Atlantic Yards? Nope.

For three months, the agency had refused to release the document behind the claim, in the General Project Plan, that the AY project "will generate $1.4 billion in net tax revenues in excess of the public contribution to the Project." In a WNYC TV segment broadcast earlier this month, Chairman Charles Gargano reiterated the refusal.

Today, after queries from the press, Atlantic Yards opponents, and Assemblyman Jim Brennan, the ESDC released the seven-page document.

It's deeply unconvincing. Despite the phrase "public contribution" noted above, there's no reference to public contributions or public costs. In other words, it's a fiscal benefit analysis, not an impact analysis.

[Update: though they're not in the document, some costs are acknowledged by the ESDC.]

The New York City Economic Development Corporation did the same thing, toting up benefits but not costs, while the Independent Budget Office and Andrew Zimbalist, the consultant hired by Forest City Ratner, made some attempt to acknowledge costs, even though they didn't go far enough.

A closer look

Moreover, it's not at all clear how the agency came up with the $1.4 billion figure, since neither the total tax revenues for the city and state under the General Project Plan (above, in graphic) or the Alternative Plan reach that sum.

It's possible that the $1.4 billion is reached by adding the totals ($1.945.5 billion for the General Project Plan) and then subtracting $200 million in city/state contributions and then some other tax breaks. But it's also clear that significant public costs--sanitation, schools, public safety--weren't included.

[Update: the direct subsidies are not included.]

In other words, we need a more honest accounting.

Moreover, the chart shows even more clearly that the Alternative Plan, which would have more than 1 million more square feet of office space (and thus more than 1000 fewer residential units), would create many more jobs and thus more than double the revenues.

So why is Forest City Ratner planning on building more condos and less office space? Probably because the former are more lucrative. But if a real fiscal impact analysis showed that the benefits would be much, much smaller--because of the additional costs yet unaccounted for--wouldn't that point to the Alternative Plan?

To the ESDC's credit, it should be noted that the agency acknowledges a 7% vacancy rate in the office space, just as did the NYCEDC. In the FCR-sponsored study, Zimbalist calculated no vacancy rate, assuming that office space directly translated into jobs--and Forest City Ratner repeated that.

(Note that there's a typo regarding the amount of residential space under the Alternative Plan. It should be at least 1 million square feet less. Also note that the memo is from Program Research Specialist Kathy Kazanas to Senior Vice President Ann Hulka.)

Advisory opinion

Coincidentally, less than an hour after the ESDC released the fiscal impact analysis, I got a copy of an advisory opinion from the state Committee on Open Government. I had forwarded the committee my previous correspondence with the ESDC.

The opinion stated, in part:
It is our position that ESDC is not permitted to deny access to the entire analysis and/or to any statistical documentation which would substantiate the figures presented in Section G of the Project Plan. In this regard, we offer the following comments.

First, irrespective of whether ESDC has "prepared" the record "for release to the public", the record is kept by ESDC in its capacity as a governmental entity. Consequently, we believe that any such documents would fall within the scope of the Freedom of Information Law.

Second, as a general matter, the Freedom of Information Law is based upon a presumption of access. Stated differently, all records of an agency are available, except to the extent that records or portions thereof fall within one or more grounds for denial...

Finally, and with respect to the ESDC's lack of adherence to the statutory time frames by which it is required to respond to requests and appeals, as noted in the September 29, 2006 article, the Freedom of Information Law provides direction concerning the time and manner in which agencies must respond to requests...

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.


Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …