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January 30, 2007

City Hall, obfuscatorily, admits doubling AY funding

Atlantic Yards Report

CapitalBudget.gifHere's the latest installment from Norman Oder on the increase in public money for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan and the explanation from the Mayor's office:

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's capital budget, released last Thursday, includes $205 million designated for Atlantic Yards, though the city had earlier agreed only to $100 million.

The news didn't generate much scrutiny until I raised the issue on Saturday and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) sent out a press release yesterday declaring the increase part of the "blank check" known as “extraordinary infrastructure costs.”

In a nutshell, NYC promised $100 million in the Memorandum of Understanding, but another clause in the same document left the door open to provide more money. How much more? It doesn't say and no one knows.

One thing is clear: with each increase of public money going to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, the net benefit to the city decreases.

[NYC Deputy Press Secretary John] Gallagher ended his brief message with some boilerplate: "This project will create jobs, provide affordable housing and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and represents a solid investment of taxpayer resources."

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Whatever the tax revenue, the net new revenues, previously estimated at $944 million, apparently just went down more than ten percent.

What about the fact that this story was broken by an independent journalist and, only after Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn made a big stink in a press release, was picked up by a mere two of four paid-circulation daily papers?

Could you imagine if cities like Houston (fourth-largest) or Philadelphia (fifth-largest) quietly planned to double their contribution to the most ambitious development project in their city's history?

Surely, a reporter at the Houston Chronicle or Philadelphia Inquirer would've noticed the numbers in the mayoral budget. In New York, however, the mayor's office is covered by reporters for the dailies who don't know much about a project in Brooklyn, and the reporters in those dailies' Brooklyn bureaus are often stretched too thin to dig.

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Posted by lumi at January 30, 2007 7:27 AM