On Brian Lehrer, Mayor (in clip) disses IBO; Schuerman explains why it’s tough for Thompson; Council candidate Griffith gets a say
The most valuable moment in the segment came at about 13:45, when Lehrer brought up the fact that New York City Independent Budget Office Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in full voice, disses the cost-benefit analysis of the Atlantic Yards arena: “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. 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.”
As Schuerman pointed out, “The funny thing is, he applauded the IBO study when it came out four years ago, showing it was a slight positive net gain for the city.” Schuerman noted that the effort to analyze costs and benefits is “murky,” given that the IBO was able to look only at the arena.
Has the Comptroller reacted to the IBO study? “More than anything, I don’t think Thompson has taken a position on Atlantic Yards,” Schuerman added, noting that Thompson has not chosen to audit the project.
Was Thompson a “late” supporter to Atlantic Yards, as he’s said? After all, on 7/1/05, he wrote a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority supporting developer Forest City Ratner’s bid.
Thompson has a point, Schuerman allowed, in that the Comptroller didn’t sign on in December 2003, as did Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz, but it’s not exactly late.
Challenging the mayor?
Caller Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy suggested that Thompson could challenge Bloomberg on Atlantic Yards, given that it’s “a poster child of all the mayor has done wrong, when it comes to megadevelopments.”
Schuerman gave a cautionary example: Democratic Mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer four years ago. “He tried very late in the game to come out against Atlantic Yards,” Schuerman said. “ He was very quickly denounced by Rev. Al Sharpton, a supporter of his... It’s a very hard thing, Bruce Ratner has really woven such a web of support for this project, it’s very hard for anyone to come out against it. What you see here is Thompson trying to thread the needle” in support of the Community Benefits Agreement or affordable housing.
As I wrote at the time, Ferrer fumbled, but got an assist from the press, which treated Sharpton too unskeptically.
Lehrer pointed to the curious timing of the deal to sell the Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov just a few days after final project approval by the Empire State Development Corporation.
Schuerman wasn't quite as agnostic as the New York Times's Charles Bagli was last week on Lehrer's show, acknowledging, “You have to wonder, in 2003, if a Russian owned 80% of the team, 45% of the arena, would this project have gotten the support that it did? Would people be able to point and say, ‘Here is this man, Bruce Ratner, who has done good things for Brooklyn in the past,’ MetroTech was the example that they used for that… ‘and that’s what why we should support this in the future.’ It certainly came at the end of this whole revision that took place over the summer.”
In the 36th, candidate Griffith
Another segment featured Mark Winston Griffith, who finished second among eight candidates in the Democratic primary for the 36th Council District seat held by veteran (and leading vote-getter) Al Vann, and is running on the Working Families Party (WFP) line.
While Vann still has much institutional support, Griffith noted that 70% of voters chose candidates other than the incumbent. (That’s an argument for Instant Runoff Voting.)
Griffith was the only candidate to be critical of Atlantic Yards, and Lehrer noted that Griffith differed with Vann and ACORN on Atlantic Yards and asked if was a big issue in the district. (Interestingly, ACORN plays a big role in the WFP, and Griffith has criticized ACORN.)
“I think it’s somewhat of a big issue,” said Griffith, allowing that it was “not one people wake up every day and think about.” Rather, people are concerned about development, affordable housing and jobs
But what about the jobs and housing promised by Atlantic Yards? “I don’t like the fact that this one particular developer… should be allowed to dictate the terms of development,” Griffith said.
Lehrer noted that Griffith supports Thompson and Thompson bases his AY support on the Community Benefits Agreement: “Why isn’t that enough for you?”
“I think CBAs are good ideas,” Griffith said. “I think I would quibble with how much integrity this one has.” He noted that “a lot of people were not around the table” and felt that the developer could not be trusted.
(Indeed, the CBA is not valid if Ratner sells the project.)
Griffith also got a chance to mention access healthy fruits and vegetables, local schools, and the importance of a Council Member “who is active and engaged.”