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October 24, 2008

Distrust but verify

The Brooklyn Paper

Bruce Ratner's scheme to use Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) to finance his controversial arena is one of the reasons why a skeptical press is of vital importance to a democracy:

Two years ago, we started asking questions about a city financing scheme that allows developers like Bruce Ratner to avoid property taxes — which rise as land value increases — and instead make “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” that are typically much lower than real property taxes. The Internal Revenue Service looked into it and, lo and behold, ruled that such PILOTs do, indeed, scam taxpayers. The Treasury Department this week threw out the use of PILOTs — but exempted Ratner’s Atlantic Yards because it had preliminary government approval in July, 2006.

Preliminary approval? If that’s the case, why did thousands of people line up on three hot summer nights in August of that year to testify against the project? The answer is clear: those public hearings were a sham.

And lest we forget, when the basketball arena at the heart of Atlantic Yards was unveiled in 2003, Ratner promised that it would cost $400 million and be financed privately, a flat-out lie that was enabled by our elected officials, but challenged by this newspaper. Lo and behold, the cost of the arena is now $950 million — and it will be built entirely by public money. Your money.

More reasons to for healthy skepticism here.

Posted by lumi at October 24, 2008 6:25 AM