Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

This week's lies from Bruce

As The Brooklyn Papers reports this week, buried — not announced, but buried! — in a 2,000-page state document is the news that Ratner’s much-touted “economic engine for Downtown Brooklyn” is now projected to create $944 million in city and state tax revenues over the next 30 years.

Do the math: That means that the city and state — whose annual budgets are tens of billions of dollars — will see just $15 million a year in new revenues from Atlantic Yards.

And at what cost? The city and state each coughed up $100 million this summer to boost Ratner’s project — a tiny down-payment on the billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies that will help Ratner acquire land cheaply, finance his project with low-interest bonds, and make a nice profit thanks to deferred taxes.

Three years ago, when Mayor Bloomberg and Borough President Markowitz signed onto this bad investment, Ratner was promising $6 billion in public benefit from the project. That dropped to $1.4 billion this summer and is now $944 million.

The state says that the revenue shortfall is a result of a trim in Atlantic Yards’ overall square-footage. But that, too, is a lie: the Atlantic Yards approved last week by the Empire State Development Corporation is the same size as the original project (which later grew so that Ratner could then “downsize” it and say he was “listening” to the “community”— only the New York Times, which put the “news” of the Ratner “downsizing” on its front page, bought that lie).

Ratner has trimmed the commercial component of his project — which means fewer new jobs and, therefore, less tax revenue — but that was his plan all along. From Metrotech to Atlantic Center to Atlantic Terminal, Ratner has a track record of promising lots of new office jobs and then not delivering. His three office complexes are filled with public, taxpayer-funded offices — the ESDC itself is housed in Atlantic Center! — guaranteeing Ratner’s profit.

I don't know what to add to that, except to note that thanks to New York's lovely three-men-in-a-room system of governance, the entire decision basically comes down to Shelly Silver.

The state’s Public Authorities Control Board is expected to consider the project on Wednesday. That obscure body is controlled by just three men: Gov. Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Silver did vote against the West Side Stadium project, but it's generally believed he was pissed that his downtown backers weren't getting their slice of the graft. Which means the essential hope here is that Ratner didn't learn anything from the Jets. Which seems to me unlikely. Bruce is pretty good at payoffs.

One last lie: Just last week Charlie Gargano (ESDC Chair) said there were no plans to use eminent domain within the project's footprint. This week?

More than 30 property owners within the footprint of the developer’s Atlantic Yards project were told this week that state officials had commenced eminent domain proceedings — beginning the condemnation of private property for the $4-billion residential, office and arena project before it even wins final approval.

The jargon-heavy letter — whose salutation was “Dear interested party” — told owners they had until only Jan. 11 to seek “judicial review” of the “determination” that the state could take their property and turn it over to Ratner.

You know what frustrates me the most about this whole sad parade of obvious lies and their inevitable exposure met with shrugs? That Brooklyn/New York politics are so goddamn corrupt that ultimately, I don't believe anyone will pay the price. Every palm will get to keep its grease, no one will lose his office, and we will all pay exorbitantly so Bruce Ratner can get even richer.

UPDATE: (via NoLandGrab)

Mike Lupica points out one more lie:

You know what else was in the new plan approved by the ESDC?

Language that wasn't in there before about what happens to the project if Ratner sells the Nets.

According to Ratner and Markowitz of Brooklyn, head cheerleader for the project from the start, this was supposed to be all about sports.

Sports was just a way to get Ratner's foot in the door.

This was always about the real estate.


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