Forest City Ratner's long-delayed, dramatically altered Atlantic Yards project faces two key votes this week on its latest changes. Critics say the modifications will dilute—or erase—the plan's pledged public benefits.
On Tuesday, the Empire State Development Corp. board is expected to weigh in on a timetable that would put the completion date for the $4 billion, 22-acre project far past the original 2014 target. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will probably vote the next day on a proposal allowing Forest City to delay delivery of a $100 million lump-sum payment to the MTA for development rights, and possibly reduce the payment amount.
Despite fierce opposition to the shrinking project, bets are running heavily in favor of state officials' reaching the necessary compromises to push it along. Far too much time and money has been invested, officials say. It's also unlikely that another developer could be found to take over in this economic climate.
“Too much has happened on this project,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association [RPA]. “The horse is out of the barn on this one.”
As DDDB and NLG point out, the horse isn't exactly out of the barn, because the project has changed so much, with the promised benefits far attenuated.
What's driving timetable?
As for finding "another developer," the question is a false one. There indeed might not be another developer to build Forest City Ratner's project, but there might be other developers to build on the MTA-owned land, and at a faster pace than Forest City Ratner and the ESDC are willing to project.
What's driving the timetable is the need to issue tax-exempt bonds for the arena by the end of the year, and Forest City Ratner's aim to reverse losses on the Nets by moving them to a new building in Brooklyn.
The RPA conveniently forgets its endorsement of Frank Gehry's arena block and its dismay over the process.
Critics vs. reality
The article does give state Senator Bill Perkins and City Council Member Letitia James the opportunity to question the MTA deal and the affordable housing promises, and cites the Independent Budget Office's conclusion that the arena would be a net money-loser to the city.
In response, it cites the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC), which still predicts a positive fiscal impact.
So that's summarized as "Critics say the modifications will dilute—or erase—the plan's pledged public benefits."
However, if the reporter for Crain's was "calling bullshit," she might have recognized that the NYC EDC's methodology isn't credible.