July 18, 2006
DDDB Press Release: Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner Release Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Three Years into Ratner’s Brooklyn Proposal and Still Nobody Knows the Developer’s Profits or the True Public Cost
Project Balloons to $4.2 Billion from $3.5 Billion Financial Benefits for State Substantially Lower Than Promoted by Developer
Public Process Timeframe is Unacceptable
NEW YORK, NY – Two days after thousand attended a rally in favor of sane development and against Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) proposed 16-skyscraper, extreme density development proposal in Brooklyn, the developer and the State’s lead agency on the project-the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)–released a 15 inch thick Draft Environment Impact Statement (DEIS) and announced a public hearing on that review in the dead of summer–August 23rd. Also announced was a "community forum" on September 12th..
"Sixty days to review a 15 inch thick document, requiring the input of numerous experts, for the largest project ever proposed by a single developer in the history of New York City and a project that would be by far the densest residential community in the United States is a contemptible slap in the face to the people of Brooklyn and the taxpayers of New York State. The ESDC is making a mockery of what has already been a completely flawed process," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The news today is that this bloated and reckless overdevelopment scheme has become even more bloated at a total cost of $4.2 billion up from $2.5 billion and then $3.5 billion. We still don’t have accurate figures for the public cost of the ‘Atlantic Yards’ proposal, and three years into this development struggle the public, and presumably public officials, have yet to see the developer’s profit estimate. What is clear is that the project, if built, would cost New York taxpayers somewhere between $1.1 and 2 billion, and now possibly more."
At the ESDC meeting the agency announced that the project would bring $1.4 billion (net present value) in new tax revenue to New York City and State. Two years ago, FCR’s economic analyst, Dr. Andrew Zimbalist, had found that the project would bring $1.6 billion (net present value) in new tax revenue to the State of New York. The developer has been promoting and selling that number to City and State officials, in seeking subsidies, for the past two years. The $200 million deficiency in claimed tax revenues was left unexplained at the meeting.
Candace Carponter, legal team member of Develop Don’t Destroy, Brooklyn, noted, "Releasing this hugely important document and holding a hearing in the heat of summer when community experts and residents are preoccupied with family obligations, vacations, and child care is another sign of this public agency’s complete disregard for the public it is supposed to serve. There is simply no reason that the ESDC could not have waited a few weeks to release the DEIS for public review by both project supporters and opponents to afford the affected communities a meaningful opportunity to respond. It is clear that the environmental consultants were given a great deal of hard time to preparing this massive review of the Ratner plan; unfortunately, the ESDC apparently does not believe that Brooklynites should be afforded the same opportunity to study and respond to the claimed impacts of this huge development on their communities."
Sewage, traffic, public transportation, asthma–to name just a few of the impacts–will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to mitigate. Remarkably, the DEIS claims that there will be no adverse impacts from this mega-project on, among other things, police and fire protection, emergency services, libraries and hospitals, nor on the ability of the subway system to carry the anticipated 40, 000 to 50,000 additional riders on arena event days. And completely ignored in the DEIS is the major issue of security and terrorism planning for a project that proposes a glass walled arena, surrounded by glass walled towers, over a major transportation hub, at one of the City’s most problematic and congested intersections, with 225 proposed scheduled events at that arena. The subway hub was the target of a thwarted terrorist plot in 1997.
More fuzzy numbers were announced at the ESDC meeting including that the project would create 7,300 new jobs and 15,433 construction jobs. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) had previously said the project would create 700 new jobs and the developer itself put the number at 2,300 jobs (not new jobs). As for the construction jobs, any project would create construction jobs and this number is bloated. The accurate number would be about 15,000 jobs per year–meaning 1,500 jobs for construction workers each year over an approximate ten-year period. Only if each worker were fired or left the job each year would the number total 15,000. And these are temporary jobs.
The triple tax-free bond arena financing is set at $637 million, by far the most expensive arena ever built, with costs sure to go up.
"Why are we throwing mega dollars to a hulking building that will sit empty most of the time, when our true needs in Brooklyn and the city are affordable housing and education spending? Imagine the land and financing freed up if we removed that boondoggle from the picture," queried Mr. Goldstein.
"This is not a cost-effective project and the DEIS review will bear that out. There are far better ways to create jobs and housing in our City," said Goldstein. "Having said that, we are excited for the release of this document as it will provide, or should provide, a lot of disclosure and non-disclosure for us all and our lawyers to consider in charting the course for challenges to the inadequacies of the EIS and the proposed illegal use of eminent domain. In a way it makes sense that this document comes out in a heat wave, as we are ready to turn up the heat on the ESDC’s already flawed process. We and many community organizations will be studying this thick document over the coming weeks, in order to ensure that the true negative and unacceptable impacts of this project are disclosed.
Posted by lumi at July 18, 2006 6:33 PM