Skip to main content

In IRS regulations allowing tax-exempt bonds, no need for messy democracy like an elective body

Anyone watching 12/8/06 meeting of the unelected Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), with all of four board members (of seven, with one vacancy) in attendance could conclude that the project was rubber-stamped. Moreover, some board members had but a vague notion of project details.

But that wasn't the key decision made by the ESDC board. The key decision was made July 18, 2006, when the ESDC announced that it had "adopted" the General Project Plan (GPP) and "accepted" the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). (In December, what the board approved was the Modified General Project Plan, though the press release actually used the word "affirmed.")

In between, in October, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) proposed new regulations to tighten tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities. We learned yesterday that the IRS grandfathered in projects “substantially in progress" by that time. Among the factors:
(i) A governmental person (as defined in §1.141-1) took official action evidencing its preliminary approval of the project before October 19, 2006...

(The Times points out that it still might be tough to sell the bonds, given the current economic turmoil.)

DDDB's contention

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn contends that, because the ESDC web site doesn't say that the project was "approved" (as opposed to "adopted') in July 2006, Atlantic Yards thus shouldn't qualify under the IRS rules.

That's a tough argument to win. (Can they get a tax lawyer to back it up? DDDB didn't merely say that it disagreed with other interpretations of the IRS ruling, but presumptuously claimed victory, despite multiple voices to the contrary, including that of The Bond Buyer.)

I hardly remember the ESDC board vote to adopt the GPP--the big news that day was the content of the documents--but it had to have been routine. Still, it's hard to believe that even a vote with with little deliberation couldn't fit under the generous rubric of "preliminary approval," even if, as No Land Grab points out, that raises questions about why exactly citizens bothered to offer public testimony and submit comments.

(Whether the IRS rules were tailored for this project, despite denials from a Treasury Department spokesman, is another question. The Daily News reports that the Bloomberg administration enlisted Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, to lobby the Treasury Department.)

Not an elective body

Apparently, the regulations don't require action by an elective body.

A "governmental person (as defined in §1.141-1)" of the Treasury Regulations is "a state or local governmental unit as defined in §1.103–1 or any instrumentality thereof."

And what's §1.103–1? "[A]ny division of any State or local governmental unit which is a municipal corporation or which has been delegated the right to exercise part of the sovereign power of the unit."

In other words, a handful of appointees of Gov. George Pataki showed up at a meeting on July 18, 2006 and gave their OK to stacks of documents they hardly read--or didn't read at all. And that meant the project was on its way, even if the chronology sent by the city and state to the IRS was bogus.

Lack of oversight

"This is another example of powerful special interests getting access to public dollars under this administration," Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a critic of the Yankees deal, told the AP yesterday. "The rules don't apply if you've got enough juice."

And Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez reminds us of probes by Brodsky and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), that suggest that the value of new Yankee Stadium was "gamed" by the city Finance Department to achieve inflated PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) and that the stadium's construction cost also has been inflated.

In other words, there were enough reasons, from a public policy perspective, to wait. But the Bloomberg administration, with the help of the Yankees (and presumably Forest City Ratner) got the IRS to move.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…