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Doing Ratner's Bidding
June 22nd, 2007

UPDATE: After passing the bill yesterday, the Assembly voted on an amended version today — that still includes the Ratner subsidy. Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries called to tell us he was one of six members who voted against that bill (A. 9293). “There is absolutely no justification for treating the Atlantic Yards better than any other development project in the city, particularly when Forest City Ratner has already rceived $300 million in government subsidies,” he said. For more on Jeffries positions, see Atlantic Yards Report.

People in government cannot seem to help themselves when it comes to doing favors for Bruce Ratner, developer of Atlantic Yards — whether its ousting members of community boards who dont endorse the megaproject or upping the government subsidy for it.

And now the state is about to hand Ratner a deal that, according to Juan Gonzalez in the News, is worth at least $100 million in real estate tax exemptions and possibly as much as $170 million for the market-rate condos Ratner plans to build on the site. And Gonzalez continues, it will allow Atlantic Yards to charge higher rents for its so-called affordable apartments than any other developer can.

The deal is reportedly the work of the new Brooklyn Democratic Party boss (some things never change, do they?) and State Assembly housing committee chair Vito Lopez and came out of negotiations on the 421-a program, which subsidizes housing construction in New York City

In many ways, the states version of the overall program goes far beyond the City Councils version passed in December by expanding the number of communities where builders would have to include affordable housing in order to get tax breaks (rather than getting money for building any housing at all), reports The Real Estate Blog.

There is one big exception: Atlantic Yards. For example, the state measure provides property tax abatements to developers in certain neighborhoods if 20 percent of the apartments in any building are priced for people who make 60 percent of the areas median incomes. But for Atlantic Yards, the City Room explains, the apartments could be aimed at a more affluent clientele those making 80 percent of the areas income. And the requirement will have to be met in Atlantic Yards as a whole, rather than in each of its 16 buildings, giving Ratner the taxpayers money for four buildings with absolutely no subsidized housing whatsoever.

The bill was crafted in typical Albany style. Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, listed as a cospon sor of the original 421-a bill, told The Real Estate he knew nothing about the special provision. He voted for the bill anyway.

But as word of the deal spread, so did the objections. There is no valid justification for this favoritism, and clearly there has been an utter lack of transparency. Is there any end to the favoritism and backroom dealing that consistently benefits Bruce Ratner? said Develop Dont Destroy Brooklyn spokesman, Daniel Goldstein.

I dont think there should be special side deals for developers, Brad Lander, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development said. If the point is to use tax policy to encourage the production of affordable housing, then the rules ought to be clear and common.

Even some Atlantic Yard backers have their doubts. Bertha Lewis of ACORN, which has backed the project on the ground that it would provide affordable housing, called the deal a “special carve-out” for Atlantic Yards and “bad public policy.”

The bill, with its gift to Ratner, requires approval by Governor Elliot Spitzer. Reflecting his ideals, writes Atlantic Yards Report, the governor could take a stand against the process that led to such special pleading. Then again, Spitzer has long supported Atlantic Yards, so this might not be the time to expect him to act on principle.

The Albany Project summed up the situation: Everything wrong with New York City and New York State politics is represented in the Ratnerville project. Influence peddling, crony capitalism, back room deals, shady legislation, lack of any meaningful public participation, overt favoritism to monied interests – it’s all there. Stories like this make a mockery of the entire system.

By on June 22, 2007, 1:11 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Housing,Land Use | 8 Comments »

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8 Responses to “Doing Ratner's Bidding”

  1. z. Says:
    June 22nd, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Vito Lopez is my assemblyman. How embarrassing. I’ve already contacted his office to show my displeasure at this.

  2. anon Says:
    June 22nd, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    vito lopez is my assemblyman too and i called his office to tell them how much i appreciate the fact that they put such a progressive bill through albany. big deal, forest city got their exemption, they already have a more aggressive deal with acorn right? also, its the biggest development in the city and has been treated like a unique project since its inception. don’t blame vito lopez for that. he put serious legistlation through gridlocked albany.
    in my opinion, this was a pretty progressive bill, and its a little stupid that everyone is just covering the ratner business. again, i live in his district and i have voted for him proudly since i’ve lived in the city. i think he’s a great assemblyman.

  3. anon Says:
    June 23rd, 2007 at 7:33 am

    Lopez is also my assemblyman and I am not surprised at all at this carve out deal for Ratner. Look carefully and you will see that all over Bushwick, and now all of Brooklyn, Lopez and his girlfriend are gaining from development deals like this one. Lopez is a genius because he moved into Bushwick, gave his little token handouts to his voters, then quietly pushes them out of their neighborhood through development deals. It’s happening people…just wait, this is only the beginning.

  4. Daniel Millstone Says:
    June 23rd, 2007 at 8:21 am

    I neither love Atlantic Yards not Vito Lopez. The Bloomberg-Quinn deal on 421(a) which Lopez put into law is flawed and it’s payout to Mr. Ratner is only one of the flaws. Nonetheless, this 421(a) is a significant improvement over the prior incarnation of the developers’ incentive.

    Therefore, while I deplore special benefits designed make Mr. Ratner project float on a sea of public money (and it is a revolting payout), the improved 421(a) is a good step. This deal was brokered by Mr. Bloomberg & Ms. Quinn between developers & advocates of lower income housing. While the developers brought their checkbooks to the table, the advocates of affordable housing never brought their power — citizen support– to bear. Wait ’till next year is a painful slogan which some of us remember from before 1955, but I think it suits our circumstances.

  5. porky Says:
    June 23rd, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    What is the defense of the Ratner carve out? there is none, it’s indefensible. So pull that pork out of the bill and pass it. but as long as the pork stays in, the bill is self-defeating.

  6. Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Albany Post Mortems Says:
    June 24th, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    […] And the News aims its ire at a bill passed in the closing hours of the session that puts limits on the tax abatement for developers who build housing in the city. While most coverage of this has focused on the gift the bill bestows on Bruce Ratners Atlantic Yards developments (see our earlier posting), its the rest of the measure that the News doesnt like. Contrasting it with the version of the so-called 421-a program passed by City Council late last year, the News claims this bill, intended to encourage construction of affordable homes, will stop production of middle-class housing in neighborhoods across all five boroughs. The requirements the bill sets are, in the News eye, wonderful [but] economically impossible. Compiled by Gail Robinson […]

  7. Jack Says:
    July 1st, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Jack…

    Never put your money you can’t afford to lose. What hyip monitor…

  8. Peter Soehl Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Wow!! Thank you for such a good article. It is so great! Peter Soehl

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