Any analysis is speculation, and it's too soon to tell. The scandal might slow down the machinery of government in analyzing and responding to the project, which began under Gov. George Pataki and has generated no criticism from his successor, who pointedly ignored calls from civic groups to delay consideration until the new administration. Then again, it also might mean Spitzer's successor lets the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) proceed as before.
In the longer term, the occupant of the Governor's Office might have the opportunity to affect Phase Two of the project, which might be long delayed.
Governor politically doomed?
For those who've been living under a rock, Spitzer is alleged to be a client of a "high-priced" prostitution "ring." He made a contrite public statement about violating his obligations to his family, but didn't answer questions about resigning.
He could be plea-bargaining a resignation in exchange for no or light prosecution. Though Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, caught in a not dissimilar scandal, didn't resign, the consensus in the press coverage I've read suggests that Spitzer can't continue. (Some questions about the scandal from Jane Hamsher.)
While the "Client 9" allegations have generated a tremendous amount of ink, Spitzer's failure to live up to the "Day One, everything changes" pledge he made to voters is undermined far more by his effort to skirt the standard he set for campaign contributions, instead directing large donations to the state Democratic Party (as the Times reported March 4), and his unwillingness to stop "the Atlantic Yards carve-out" that gave a special tax break to Forest City Ratner.
The next governor
What about the next governor? If Spitzer leaves, he'd be replaced by Lieutenant Governor David Paterson. Here's a New York Observer profile of Paterson, which described him as having "a complicated relationship with the truth." Then again, it's as unlikely he's as driven by ego as Spitzer, which suggests he's more amenable to compromise.
Though Paterson has not expressed any public stance on Atlantic Yards, he did give $1000 to Atlantic Yards opponent Bill Batson's unsuccessful 2006 campaign for the State Assembly. (The winner was Hakeem Jeffries.)
Given that Batson was a former Paterson staffer, the contribution signaled loyalty more than policy. And Batson's been away from Atlantic Yards issues recently. That said, let's assume that Paterson might at least take a phone call from Batson about AY.
Then again, Paterson is a champion of minority- and women-owned businesses, according to his web site, and Forest City Ratner has strongly promoted the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) as helping such businesses. (Exactly whom the CBA helps is murky, as I'll explain shortly.)
Though Paterson, unlike Spitzer, does not come from a real estate family, it's unlikely that Paterson would make an agency like the ESDC a priority during the remainder of the term, which ends in 2010.
An AY cameo
WCBS-TV, in a breathless piece of sloppy journalism, sent a reporter to Brooklyn's Fulton Ferry, with a view of Lower Manhattan, billed incorrectly as "live from Brooklyn Heights... where some of the people arrested in connection with the Emperor's Club live." (Actually, just one of the four lived in Brooklyn, and not Brooklyn Heights.)
"Right now you're looking at us at the St. James Street home of [Temeka Rachelle] Lewis, an alleged booking agent for the club," we were told, but Lewis doesn't live there any more.
Actually, there's no "St. James Street" in Brooklyn Heights, let alone Brooklyn, but there is a "St. James Place" in Clinton Hill.
If you look closely, you'll see a current resident has affixed a "Stop Atlantic Yards" sign to the door.
If Paterson takes over, he'd have to stand for election in 2010. As a not-quite-incumbent, he'd have a significant head start, but he also might be vulnerable to a challenge. Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, who lost badly to Spitzer in the Democratic primary in 2006, opposes Atlantic Yards, and just might run again.
An even stronger candidate than Suozzi would be one with a statewide profile and, other than Paterson, that means Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. I don't know anything about his views on Atlantic Yards and development issues.
Then again, there's a formidable potential candidate (and Atlantic Yards supporter) who will have just been out of office for one year: New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Influence from the top?
It's not always easy to stop the machinery of government, so, assuming Atlantic Yards is not blocked altogether in court or by the credit markets, Phase One, including the arena, might be well underway by 2010.
So, even if an Atlantic Yards critic gains office, he might have little influence on the arena block. It's more likely that a new governor might influence the design and configuration of Phase Two, which would contain eleven towers east of Sixth Avenue and might take decades to build. The governor also might prospects for a new governance entity, perhaps along the lines suggested by BrooklynSpeaks.
Spitzer & Gargano
I spotted one comment on the Times's City Room blog semi-related to AY:
I knew Spitzer was wrong because in eight years, he never found a reason to prosecute Charlie Gargano. I'm a lifelong Dem who chose not to cast a vote for governor rather than vote for Spitzer.
Now I wonder if Gargano had something on Spitzer.
- Posted by Mrs Panstreppon
That pseudonymous commentator has been going after Gargano, chairman of the ESDC under Pataki, for a while, including on my blog.