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October 31, 2005

DDDb Press Release: In Debate, Mayor Bloomberg Distorts and Misleads on Ratner's Atlantic Yards

Ferrer's Opposition to Atlantic Yards Distinguishes Him From Bloomberg
News Organizations Should Look Skeptically at Mayor's Claim

There are lies, damn lies and made up stuff that Bloomberg rattles off when he hasn't got a clue what he's talking about.

Bloomberg got his facts on Atlantic Yards so unbelievably wrong during yesterday morning's debate that DDDb sent out a press release to set the record straight.

NEW YORK, NY--Over the past week, Bruce Ratner's 9.1 million square foot "Atlantic Yards" development proposal for Prospect Heights, Brooklyn has become a hot potato issue in the mayoral campaign. On Friday, Democratic candidate Freddy Ferrer forcefully announced his opposition to the Ratner plan as it is currently proposed. In the first mayoral debate on Sunday, Mr. Ferrer reemphasized his opposition to Ratner's plan and Mayor Bloomberg reemphasized his support.

Unfortunately, the mayor's supporting comments were incorrect and misleading. In response to Mr. Ferrer's opposition, Mayor Bloomberg said, "Well, I couldn't disagree more. And I think Al Sharpton who supported my opponent said it very well: this is about jobs for people in that community, this is about housing for people in that community. This is a project that has had as much scrutiny as anything: community boards, and scrutiny from the newspapers, and scrutiny from every single state agency thatĂ­s involved. This is the right kind of project for the city, builds houses, creates jobs, helps the spirit of Brooklyn, and takes a place that's been vacant for decades--50 years or more--and does something with it that will help this city."

Mr. Bloomberg distorted the record in the following ways:

1. Jobs:
When announced, Ratner's project promised 10,000 office jobs. As it stands today the project would only create space for about 2,336 jobs and, using the New York Economic Development Corporation's calculations, only about 700 of those jobs would be new jobs--and there is no guarantee that even one of those jobs would go to anybody in the community. It also would produce about 1,200 temporary construction jobs , according to the mayor's calculations, with a stated goal of 35% of those jobs for minorities. Rev. Sharpton had said the project would bring "thousands of jobs" to "communities of color." That's clearly a gross exaggeration. Anyone claiming this would bring jobs must also acknowledge the $1 billion-plus public cost of the project--a very expensive and inefficient way to create jobs.

2. Housing:
Mayor Bloomberg and ACORN Director Bertha Lewis announced a 50% "affordable" housing agreement in May, regarding 4,500 rental units. Since then, Ratner added 2,800 luxury condos to the project. If public financing is forthcoming, the project would include 2,250 so-called "affordable" housing units, or 31% of 7,300 total units. This means that there will be 5,050 luxury units. Of the 7,300 total units, only 12% would be affordable to people earning Brooklyn's median income or less. So, contrary to the Mayor's statement, the project would provide barely any housing for the people in the community.

3. Oversight and Scrutiny:
The Mayor's most out of touch comments concerned oversight, transparency and scrutiny surrounding the Ratner plan. The Ratner plan bypasses all city oversight because the Mayor signed away the City's right to oversight to the state. The community boards have no official role in the project and have provided no meaningful scrutiny; the City Council has no official role, no oversight and no vote when it comes to the Ratner project; there is only one state agency involved in the project (not agencies) -- the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) -- and their oversight and analysis is paid for by Forest City Ratner; the ESDC first appeared in front of the public two years after the project was announced. The ESDC rents space from Bruce Ratner at Ratner's Atlantic Center mall in Brooklyn just across the street from the proposed development--talk about a cozy arrangement.

4. Newspaper Scrutiny: Compare the daily drumbeat of "newspaper scrutiny" of the West Side Stadium to the "newspaper scrutiny" of Atlantic Yards and the Mayor's comment doesn't pass the laugh test.

5. Site Location:
Here the Mayor simply lied. The project does not take "...a place that's been vacant for decades..." The proposed project site would require the use of state condemnation and demolition of about 60 properties through the use of eminent domain. The entire project footprint is 22 acres: 8.5 acres are currently functioning MTA/LIRR rail yards, the other 13.5 acres are comprised of city streets, which Ratner would get at a sweetheart price, along with private homes and businesses.
The MTA's Vanderbilt Yard is little more than one-third of the proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards project site. And, given that this is a crucial place for development, why did the MTA negotiate exclusively with Ratner and accept a bid for less than half the appraised value?
For two years now the Mayor and Mr. Ratner have been portraying the proposed development site as a desolate wasteland. The reality is the project would level an existing mixed-use and multi-ethnic neighborhood.

Develop Don't Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "We are pleased to see that both candidates have made their positions clear on Atlantic Yards. But we are dismayed that the Mayor bases his support on incorrect information and a fantasyland idea of what is going on with the Ratner plan. In the end the project is about luxury housing, the most expensive basketball arena ever built, a paltry fraction of the jobs initially promised, and Mr. Ratner's profits--all requiring an enormous public investment. It is not about the community and it is not for the community.

We support sustainable development and union job creation over the rail yards. But we do not, and cannot, support a secret, taxpayer-subsidized, sweetheart, backroom deal that destroys our communities and displaces our neighbors–all paid for with enormous public subsidies.

We expect that in the second debate on Tuesday night the Mayor and Mr. Ferrer won't get a free ride again when discussing Atlantic Yards."

Posted by lumi at October 31, 2005 9:34 PM