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In radio interview, Paterson hedges on AY, whiffs on naming rights

Governor David Paterson answered questions on WCBS radio during an interview yesterday afternoon, and Atlantic Yards was one of the relatively few topics that came up. His answer was an unsurprising hedge, but his comment about naming rights elsewhere during the interview was a dismaying whiff.

AY was a legitimate topic; four critical questions on AY were among the 31 posted on the WCBS web site before the 4 pm interview.

One question posed online was:
With the state in dire fiscal straits, why are you supporting the costly Atlantic Yards project, which may end up costing the state and New York City as much as $2 billion dollars in subsidies and tax breaks? Since many fiscal experts believe that sports facilities return little in economic benefit to the taxpayers, why not scrap the arena in favor of more needed projects?
(That $2 billion figure is highly debatable.)

On the air

A variant of the question was asked (about 11:15 into the program): "With the state in such dire fiscal straits why are you supporting this costly project, which according to this writer may end up costing the state and New York City about 2 billion in subsidies and tax breaks?"

Paterson's response: "There is a point that the listener correctly has addressed, that if it starts to become too costly, a lot of these projects that we were for, we might have to change our mind. To this point we don't think that we are there with the Atlantic Yards and continue to try to help them."

Does continuing to try to help mean simply moving ahead or does it mean additional subsidies, which Forest City Ratner seeks?

Whiffing on naming rights

During the interview, Paterson said he was opposed to selling state assets but not averse to leasing them. Asked about naming rights, as in “the Company Y state office building," Paterson responded, "Well, we’ve got [the new Mets stadium] CitiField"--he chuckled—“and that might be a way to do it, but I wouldn’t want to change the names of any of the facilities that we have honored great New Yorkers in the past…”

Still, the governor said, he was open to more options than previously.

The fact is, “we” don’t have CitiField, nor the Barclays Center, the corporate name of the planned Atlantic Yards arena. The naming rights go to the team owners.

But why? In an interview published last month, author Neil deMause observed, "There’s no reason for this to be private money. If the public is building the stadium, if the public is owning the stadium, why should the team get to slap a name and get the money from it, or consider the money from it that pays off the stadium as paying off their share?"

Maybe it's time to reconsider.

[Update: A reader suggests that Paterson's "we" was merely a reference to the concept of naming rights, not a claim that the state was benefiting from CitiField. Well, the governor probably does know better. However, I'd still contend that his formulation--without the acknowledgment that the public doesn't benefit--was misleading to listeners.]

Other AY questions

Among the questions posted online, five were about Atlantic Yards:

1) What about Atlantic Yards?
With the severe fiscal problems facing the city and state; with the developer unable to put together financing and scrapping all the public benefits; and all the serious unanswered questions about the approval process for Atlantic Yards, will you have the PACB review this project's approval?

3) More Money for the MTA
The MTA has an agreement to sell their 8-acre rail yard in Brooklyn to developer Bruce Ratner for 100 million, even though the MTA appraised the land at $214.5 million. that deal has not actually closed. Wouldn't it make sense for the Governor to have the MTA void that deal and put the rail yard out for bid to multiple developers and get at least $100 million more for the supposedly cash strapped MTA?

6) Atlantic Yards
With the state in dire fiscal straits, why are you supporting the costly Atlantic Yards project, which may end up costing the state and New York City as much as $2 billion dollars in subsidies and tax breaks? Since many fiscal experts believe that sportsfacilities return little in economic benefit to the taxpayers, why not scrap the arena in favor of more needed projects?
29) Do you like the UNITY plan for Brooklyn?
An alternative to the stalled Atlantic Yards boondoggle has been endorsed by many of the area's city and state representatives for many reasons, including that because many developer would be involved it's actually more likely to get built. Your officehas been studying the plan; what do you think of it and the recommendations of the city and state legislators?

35) Vanderbilt Yards
FCR's Atlantic Yards project will forever be known as a project that came out of three men in a room. You are now one of those men. How can you support the poster child for cronyism and corruption?

I'll point out that final question was posted long after Paterson had left the air.

Is Atlantic Yards the most important issue facing Paterson? No, and there were even more questions about the fate of the MTA.

There was only one question about Moynihan Station, which, though less controversial--though hardly less complicated--than Atlantic Yards, is probably more important. Then again, it's AY that may be the Penn Station of our generation.


  1. I beg to differ on the analysis that there was only one question about Moynihan Station or that Moynihan Station could possibly be more important than Atlantic Yards, because Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards are inevitably linked- A question about Atlantic Yards is, per se, a question about Moynihan Station.

    What is needed for a proper outcome with respect to Moynihan Station is simply a proper amount of public investment. What is sopping up the money that we should be investing in Moynihan Station is Atlantic Yards. There is no project that represents a greater misinvestment of New York’s public resources than Atlantic Yards and there is no project currently more ripe for a pruning with a quick triage than Atlantic Yards. The money it would free up would be everything needed for Moynihan Station and then some. That “then some” could fund a slew other favorite and worthy projects.

    Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards also represent the two sides of the mirror Alex Garvin referred to the other day when he made the distinction between public investment in `transit-oriented development’ vs. `development-oriented transit.’" He said that we should be doing a lot more of the latter (Moynihan Stations) and not putting resources into the former, and specifically as an example, Atlantic Yards. (See: the comment at:

    To quote part of what Mr. Garvin said, “. . . stop having this ridiculous argument that we constantly have about the government going to get involved in developing property on its own. I think the government should be not developing real estate. The government should be doing its investing in its infrastructure and its own property.” “"If we stopped talking about developing Atlantic Yards or developing these things and left private property to the private owners to develop and instead spent our money on the public realm, I think we’d get a lot of work [done].” (AYR notes that this “drew significant applause”).

    Lastly, Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards are linked because it was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan our senator who, in 1986, sponsored the insightful law that bans the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance sports stadiums and arenas. It is this legislation that the Michael Bloomberg administration and the State ESDC want to circumvent to finance the proposed Nets arena as a hook for Atlantic Yards together with the $2-3 billion in subsidies the megadevelopment is proposed to receive overall. It would be an irony if Moynihan Station is not built or if it otherwise suffers because of Atlantic Yards and this kind of circumvention.

    Moynihan Station is to be named in honor of Senator Moynihan because of his honest, insightful and excellent governance. At the moment, given their conduct on Atlantic Yards, I can think of a lot of politicians like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver whom I would not nominate for such an honor.

    I draw and reinforce the links between Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards because those who do not think of these things as closely interrelated are doomed to getting their priorities wrong.

    Michael D. D. White
    Noticing New York


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