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July 23, 2009

ESDC, FCR face, answer, evade tough questions (subsidies, cost-benefit analysis, etc.); meeting marred by heckling and chaos

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder gives the blow-by-blow from last night's "informational meeting" on Atlantic Yards.

Despite the heckling, chanting, and chaos that marred last night’s informational meeting on Atlantic Yards, the session may have been the most enlightening—in terms of questions asked, answered, and evaded—of any in the history of the Atlantic Yards project.

Representatives of Forest City Ratner (FCR) and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) got thrown some hard questions—about the total amount of subsidies, the details of a cost-benefit analysis, and the absence of any site plan or arena renderings--and managed to evade or deflect many of them.

Other answers were telling: FCR’s MaryAnne Gilmartin gave a long and convoluted answer to a question about affordable housing rents while avoiding the opportunity to state the monthly rent for an apartment. ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin asserted--for the first time, I believe--that the arena naming rights bestowed on the developer were considered part of the financing of the project, a statement that I don't think has been part of any fiscal analysis of AY. ESDC dismissed but did not dispute a New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) report saying the arena would be a net money-loser for the city.

And Gilmartin said FCR "expected" not to seek more city or state subsidies--a pledge put into question by her acknowledgment of and justification for the developer’s pursuit of federal stimulus funds.

She also acknowledged, for the first time, that Forest City Ratner has funding commitments for all of its Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) partners. Several of those groups, such as Brooklyn Endeavor Experience and Public Housing Communities, and the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, have resisted answering questions about their funding.

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NoLandGrab: It's impossible to summarize Oder's entire story, which paints a very full picture of the event, so we suggest you at least scan the piece. Did we learn much new, however? Unsurprisingly, not really.

Posted by eric at July 23, 2009 11:05 AM