Priming the Pump at Atlantic Yards?
February 17th, 2009
Does the economic stimulus package President Barack Obama is signing today include a great big bailout for Atlantic Yards? The idea of federal stimulation for the problem plagued arena and condo project surfaced in the Observer last week, prompted by former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s lobbying for the help on behalf of developer Forest City Ratner.
Experts say the money could come from discretionary funds or money set aside for transit. And in its final form the bill does not specifically exclude stadiums (or include them either), throwing out a previous amendment that would have done just that.
But what about the politics?
Money to Atlantic Yards would come at “the expense of some other projects in the area, the Observer wrote. “If eligible, the question then becomes whether or not Bruce Ratner, Al D’Amato, supportive politicians and groups could push Atlantic Yards toward the top of the stack at the same time that other politicians are fighting for projects of their own.”
No one should underestimate D’Amato’s clout — the former GOP senator is often cited as a mentor to the state’s new Democratic senator, Kirsten Gillbrand — but idea of the aid seems to have few active supporters aside from (are you surprised?) Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. In his State of the Borough address last week, he hinted the project qualifies for Washington’s help: “When it comes to ambitious shovel-ready projects, we say, ‘Build baby build.’ Atlantic Yards? Yes we can, and yes we will.”
In a conference call last week both Gov. David Paterson and Sen. Charles Schumer dodged a reporter’s question on whether to help Atlantic Yards, the Observer noted.
One politician — new U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon — has come out firmly against helping Ratner’s megaproject. “I do not see Atlantic Yards as a priority for the money from this package,” he said.
Many view using stimulus money to help Bruce Ratner as precisely the kind of waste opponents of the stimulus package railed again.
“Bailing out the Atlantic Yards project with federal stimulus funds would turn Ratner’s project into the poster child for misuse and abuse of the recovery bill,” said a statement by Develop Don’t Destroy, which opposes the project.
“Under the banner of ‘doing nothing is not an option,’ how many ill-conceived and economically unjustified “infrastructure” projects, whose consequences will persists for decades to come, will be rushed into construction?” Think Markets wondered. “The Atlantic Yards public-private-mega-project in Brooklyn, even in earlier good economic times, not only raised questions of fairness in the use of eminent domain, but also of the impact it will have on the texture and vitality of a local community. … The current developer is now angling for stimulus money.”
Calling Atlantic Yards “a corrupt real estate land grab,’ Brooklyn Boy wrote on Daily Kos, “There is a rail yard to nowhere in Brooklyn, and the possibility of New York becoming the poster child for misuse and abuse of stimulus funds—pork of the most rancid kind. … The developer wants to abuse the stimulus bill to get a federal bailout for a private professional basketball arena already subsidized to the hilt.” ( According to City Room, Atlantic Yards has already received $300 million in subsidies and tens of millions in tax breaks.)
Looking at Atlantic Yards, Red State sees a whole new realm of possibilities for Washington’s largesse: “With hundreds of billions to spend, the federal government might just buy Los Angeles an NFL team — or help the Nets lure LeBron James to their taxpayer-financed Brooklyn home.”By Gail Robinson on February 17, 2009, 2:38 pm
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