Doubts from Crain's
So what about that prediction by Crain's New York Business that Atlantic Yards has only a 50% chance of being built? On reflection, I think that number is off in two ways.
First, I think that Atlantic Yards has a much less than 50% chance of being built as proposed, and in the announced ten-year timetable. If the project goes forward, it's already delayed significantly, and the difficulty in getting housing bonds, for example, would limit the delivery of affordable housing.
However, I'd bet that the Atlantic Yards arena has a greater than 50% chance of being built. The arena is developer Forest City Ratner's priority, since its construction offers an enormous upside: $400 million in naming rights, "14 totally integrated partners," 130 suites, and tremendous television revenue, all boosted by a very advantageous financing scheme, as Michael D.D. White describes on Huffington Post.
While legal and financing challenges have delayed the project, the developer and state have not yet lost in court. Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprises have a reputation for being "very disciplined" in moving forward. So it could be that Brooklyn (actually Forest City Ratner) "gets" an arena "from" Barclays long before many or any of the other promised project benefits surface.
Due diligence, benefit guarantees?
And that would raise some questions: if the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in its cursory deliberation over the project, didn't consider such things as the paucity of housing bonds, could it really be said to have performed sufficient due diligence?
And should the ESDC be allowed to sign off on any financing for the project without a reasonable guarantee that the benefits beyond the arena (publicly owned but "generously leased," in the words of a federal appeals court) would arrive in a timely fashion?
On Tuesday, reporting on the resignation of ESDC Downstate Chairman Pat Foye, the Times described the agency as "riven by disputes between its top three executives and was regarded as dysfunctional by many real estate developers and business executives."
Such criticism hadn't publicly surfaced previously, however. Was it that the reporter finally felt comfortable providing that information, or was it that the sources finally opened up?
Upon the announced departure of Governor Eliot Spitzer, Atlantic Yards opponents reminded us of his severely unsympathetic posture, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal chair Candace Carponter explained to the Village Voice:
She recalled a particularly rancorous meeting over two years ago, when Atlantic Yards opponents including herself, Goldstein and James met with the then-Attorney General and gubernatorial contender to present their community’s opposition to the project. Although Spitzer had not yet publicly expressed his support for Atlantic Yards, she says the son of a real estate developer belittled their concerns in a shouting match that ran over 20 minutes.
“I have never been berated the way we were in that room,” remembers Carponter. “He was so condescending and so dismissive – I think dismissive is probably the best word –but in an incredibly rude way.”
The story first surfaced in Ben Smith's Daily News coverage in June 2006, but everybody instead focused on Smith's revelation of DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein's intemperate "wealthy white masters" e-mail. Maybe the press and everyone else should've been paying more attention to Spitzer.
Though new Governor David Paterson has expressed support for AY, it's hard to imagine he won't be a little nicer toward critics and opponents. Then again, that was a big difference--along with increased transparency--between Spitzer's ESDC and the predecessor agency under Governor George Pataki.