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Would the city and state pay for school and community arena use? That was the plan

One controversy regarding the Atlantic Yards arena concerns how much it might serve nonprofit organizations, schools, and colleges. The opportunity now seems limited; early on, there was a proposal to guarantee more use, but it would've cost the city and state $18 million a year.

The Atlantic Yards web site states:
At least ten events a year will be set aside for multicultural, recreational and nonprofit uses, with proceeds from those days going to benefit local nonprofit community groups.


Another document, released to the Department of City Planning, stated that, out of 226 annual events (plus ten community events), Forest City anticipates hosting 19 graduations eight basketball games, and two to five high school sports events. (There was no mention of Hasidic weddings, a use Borough President Marty Markowitz once suggested.)

Also, a KPMG report suggests that it would cost $100,000 to rent the arena for graduations and the like, though the developer has since said that's not so.

Paying for the opportunity

There was once a plan to guarantee more public use--but it would've cost the city and state $18 million a year. Over 40 events, that would be $450,000 an event. Over 80 events, that would be $225,000 an event.

A 10/22/03 presentation by FCR to the Empire State Development Corporation, unearthed via Assemblyman Jim Brennan's lawsuit, sets out a plan in which the Local Development Corporation running the arena would offer three leases, two to government agencies and one to the developer. The developer would pay just $1. (The nominal rent is a thank you for the increased tax revenues the arena should generate, though it doesn't take into account, say, the developer's $400 million deal with Barclays Capital for naming rights.)

The document states:
One lease will be from the LDC to the City and one to the State (the "Public Party Leases") to use the arena facility at specified times for indoor state-of-the-art amateur sporting events of the Boards of Education and Higher Education, private secondary schools and colleges and community organizations. The term of the leases will be equal to the term of the LDC bonds. The City and the State would each pay $9 Million per year for a total annual rent of $18 Million for the Public Party Leases. It is anticipated that these payments would be offset by the new incremental sales and other taxes generated by the arena.

That, apparently, didn't fly. Government negotiators must have recognized it was not exactly a good deal.

On the other hand, the failure to guarantee use by nonprofit entities would make it harder to argue that the arena, in fact, is a "civic project," an issue in dispute in the pending lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

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