Skip to main content

Some "Truth Vigilantism" toward a 2005 New York Times account of AY arena costs

I didn't start writing about Atlantic Yards until late 2005, so I'll apply some retrospective "Truth Vigilante" treatment to Stadium Games: Give and Take And Speculation; What the Teams Want And What the City Gets, a 1/16/05 New York Times articles about the proposals then in play:
Nonetheless, the mayor and Gov. George E. Pataki are on the verge of approving three new sports sites -- a football stadium for the Jets, a baseball stadium for the Yankees and a basketball arena for the Nets -- that will require a combined public investment of at least $1.1 billion.

It is not easy to assess precisely what the taxpayers will get out of their investment, which is equivalent in cost to a major Manhattan skyscraper or 25 schools with 600 seats each. In part, that is because the economic benefits are based on studies commissioned by the teams themselves, and promoted by the government sponsors of the projects.
What about AY?

So, what did it say about Atlantic Yards?
The Nets arena in Brooklyn will require a public investment of about $200 million and the condemnation of several blocks of housing and stores. New York will get a basketball team back from New Jersey and an arena with a public garden on top that is intended to serve as an anchor for a residential and commercial development. The arena could also be used for high school or college games.
Well, the public direct investment is nearly 50% higher now, while there are numerous other subsidies and opportunity costs, leading the New York City Independent Budget Office, in 2009, to pronounce the arena a net loss for the city.

The public garden? Long gone.

Arena as anchor for residential and commercial development? Not so much. Maybe leverage for subsidies.

The curious Zimbalist mention

The Times's Charles Bagli wrote:
Sports economists have long said that stadiums and arenas often enrich teams but are relatively poor public investments.

''There's no intrinsic economic benefit from building a sports facility,'' said Andrew Zimbalist, a leading sports economist who teaches at Smith College. ''You have to look at the details of the financing, the facility and the location.''
All true, but the Times did not mention that "leading sports economist" Zimbalist was the author of the promotional study regarding Atlantic Yards.

More on the arena

The Times reported:
The Nets' $430 million Brooklyn arena, in the Long Island Rail Road yard at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, is an eye-catching but ultimately modest element of a larger $2.5 billion residential and commercial development next door. The developer Bruce Ratner bought the New Jersey-based team for $300 million last year, intending to use it as a lever to build the arena, 4,500 apartments and 2 million square feet of office space on a 21-acre site in downtown Brooklyn.

The project has won considerable support in Brooklyn, but some local residents and others object to the state's willingness to condemn land on behalf of a private developer, especially in an area that is finally enjoying a revival. They also say that the level of subsidies outweigh the benefits of the project.
OK, were they right? The Times didn't help much.

The article continued:
Mr. Ratner's initial request for $450 million in subsidies and infrastructure work has been whittled down to $200 million to $215 million in negotiations with the city and the state, according to officials involved in the talks.
Whittled down? Maybe Ratner, as is his pattern, started with a simply outlandish request, and then moved closer to a mutually acceptable number. After all, he figured out a new way to save--thanks to federally tax-exempt bonds.

The Zimbalist fig leaf

The article continued:
A newly revised analysis by Mr. Zimbalist, the sports economist, estimated the net fiscal impact of the entire project at $1.06 billion over 30 years. Proponents argue that the principal benefit is the housing, about half of which would be for middle-, moderate- and low-income tenants. Of course, those apartments would benefit from an as yet undetermined level of tax breaks and other incentives.
Um, why does Zimbalist get described merely as "the sports economist" rather than "Ratner's hired consultant"? I don't think the phrase earlier in the article--"economic benefits are based on studies commissioned by the teams themselves"--is sufficient disclosure.

A hint, and a question

The article continued:
Real estate executives in Brooklyn said that Mr. Ratner was considering a sharp reduction in the amount of office space, and an increase in the number of apartments.

Sifting out the value of the arena alone is difficult, but based on Mr. Zimbalist's original analysis, it would appear to be a modest $107.5 million over 30 years, after deducting the cost of the public investment.
Real estate executives in Brooklyn? How about Forest City executives who didn't want to be quoted by name? The implication, which the Times didn't pursue--and not until much later that year--was that there'd be fewer jobs.

And why should Mr. Zimbalist's original analysis be considered credible? Even though there was no IBO report yet, or one from the Pratt Center for Community Development, at the least the Times should at least have taken seriously the Kim/Peebles critique of Zimbalist. Which it didn't.


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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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 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…