DDDB says the planned "ground breaking" in December is "absurd, and impossible, unless they plan some nonsense ribbon cutting kabuki of shovels and fanfare signifying nothing meaningful about actually constructing their arena and skyscrapers." Yes, there's an outside chance current legal challenges will be dismissed by then, but other cases could be filed.
Other factors cited by DDDB, including the current financial crisis, credit market, and office vacancy rate, certainly cast a shadow over parts of the project, notably the planned office tower. An "extremely skeptical State Court judicial panel" included two of five judges clearly skeptical, so it's not clear how many of their fellow judges are on board--though even a 3-2 loss for the plaintiffs means an automatic appeal.
Yes, construction costs are escalating and plans for the arena are delayed. And, yes, Phase 2 is no longer pictured in the project renderings. (I'd add that there's new skepticism about the exercise of eminent domain, as well.)
Yes, there's new scrutiny of federal tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities. And City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson has said he "doesn't even know what that project is any longer."
Do the dots connect?
However, the dots don't necessarily connect. Three top officials, Governor David Paterson, new Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) CEO/President Marisa Lago, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, speaking generally, have expressed caution and skepticism about governmental overreach, without citing Atlantic Yards.
The project has been approved by the ESDC and the state Public Authorities Control Board. To such officials, that indicates a certain amount of momentum and inevitability, not to mention the institutional investment in the project within the state and city governments.
Several questions arise:
- what is the project?
- what is the timeline?
- how much would the project cost?
- will the city commit to not providing additional subsidies?
- what are the factors regarding the building of affordable housing?
- has the project (and timetable) changed so much it merits another round of environmental review?