Skip to main content

Bloomberg may be pro-development, but it's much more than that: it's an idée fixe

Former New York Times columnist Joyce Purnick, the author of Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics (PublicAffairs, 2009), the first book-length biography of Michael R. Bloomberg, has been asked twice about Atlantic Yards and/or development, and her answer deserves scrutiny.

From the New York Times's CityRoom blog

Question: Why does Mayor Bloomberg continue to support Atlantic Yards when the supposed public benefits, especially the affordable housing will not be available until decades in the future, or never?

— Posted by SteveFtGreene


Answer: His argument: Economic development is good for the economy. It puts people to work, it generates tax revenues so the city can build more moderately priced housing and spend on other services. That is what he would say if you asked him. Others, and not only opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, don’t see it that way, to put it mildly.

Bloomberg's idée fixes

But Bloomberg's posture goes well beyond a basic philosophy; it entails (take your pick) loyalty to a certain developer class, unswerving support once he's announced it, and an unwillingness to do the math you'd think a billionaire businessman would feel comfortable doing.

When confronted with evidence from a New York City Independent Budget Office report that the Atlantic Yards arena would be a money-loser for the city, Bloomberg said, according to the Observer:
“I don’t know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park or Prospect Park or anything else,” he told reporters. “These are the kinds of projects you have to do because without that we don’t have a future, and we’re going to get this one done.”

In a January 2004 radio interview, he claimed erroneously that "any city monies of any meaningful size will be debt issues financed by the extra tax revenues that come from this."

As it happens, the IBO, whatever the limits of its report on AY, has done a far more thorough and honest job than the New York City Economic Development Corporation or Empire State Development Corporation, which have produced economic benefit studies that ignore or downplay subsidies and public costs.

On Brian Lehrer

The issue came up yesterday during an interview with Purnick on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, at about 21:58.

JP: There is no question and, he would be the first to say it, that Mike Bloomberg is pro-development.

BL: And what you wrote in the book is that he sees development as a developer would see it, not as an urban planner would see it.

JP: Precisely. He is a businessman. He looks at the bottom line. I said to him: so much development, when do you say it's overdevelopment?... He wasn't too happy to answer... He said: Who do you think--how do you think we pay the teachers? Where do you think we get that money from? As he sees it, it's cause and effect. You hire more teachers, you want to improve the schools, you gotta pay for it. How are you going to pay for it? It's going to be taxation and it's going to be letting developers develop. That is how he sees it. And pay taxes.

Presumably Purnick's last sentence was a reference to increased taxes from development. Except projects like Atlantic Yards are so larded with tax breaks that a candid analysis calls the benefits into question.

Mayors and real estate

JP: Let me also say that... this is an evergreen in New York. I do not remember a mayor... who was not challenged on this issue.

BL: Or a development project that the neighbors liked.

JP: Exactly. Every mayor I could think of has been charged with being pro-developer... it's a forever question.

Fair enough--though surely the balance has shifted among mayors.

The issue's inevitable because real estate is to New York what oil is to Texas. Mayors in other cities can survive without being deemed pro-developer.

The curious thing is that Bloomberg, as a billionaire, was the first New York mayoral candidate who was not beholden to the real estate industry. A maverick billionaire might be aloof from the real estate industry. Not this one.

Comments

  1. It seems to me that an important distinction is being overlooked in this conversation (at least the one between Purnick and BL):

    It's one thing to be pro-development, in the sense of being in favor of doing away with overly restrictive zoning rules, etc., and it's another thing to be pro-development in the sense of being in favor of providing public subsidies for certain select private developments.

    The former is pro-marketplace (and is how NYC became a great city), and the latter is a corruption of the marketplace and is likely to be an eventual drag on the NYC economy (due to the political nature of the way such a process works).

    Jane Jacobs talks a lot about this kind of corruption in her book "Systems of Survival." As I read it, she is saying (very roughly summarized here)businessmen should stick to being businessmen (and should not try to unduly influence gov't functions) and politicians should stick to running the gov't (e.g., police, fire, schools, roads, etc.) and not get overly involved in private businesses. The best way for government to help the economy is doing a good job of government: good roads, good schools, etc.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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…

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 …

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…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …