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August 6, 2009

CONVERSATION: THE SPORTS RECESSION

NewYorker.com
by Avi Zenilman

[NYer:] If I had, say 500 million or a billion dollars, and I wanted to buy a sports team, would it be worth it? Where do you think I could find value?

[Zimbalist:] Bruce Ratner wants to sell a piece of the Nets. Want me to call him up? I’ll tell him you’re interested.

article

There's actually much more to the interview, and we happily leave it to Norman Oder to dissect.

Atlantic Yards Report, The $6 billion lie goes unchallenged: forgetful sports economist Zimbalist gets gentle treatment in the New Yorker

A seemingly defensive Andrew Zimbalist, Forest City Ratner's paid consultant, gets gentle treatment from the New Yorker, which should've enlisted Neil deMause as the interviewer.

The online-only interview is headlined CONVERSATION: THE SPORTS RECESSION.

Q. You were a consultant to Bruce Ratner on the Atlantic Yards project—

A. I haven’t consulted with him since I wrote my last report, which I think was in 2004.

Zimbalist issued his main report in May 2004, just in time for a City Council hearing, then updated it in June 2005.
...

Most importantly, Zimbalist's report relies on a bogus methodology: counting the incomes of new residents in a housing development. That methodology, coupled with Forest City Ratner's willingness to distort estimated tax revenues by adding them cumulatively as opposed to calculating present value (as is standard), contributed to the $6 billion lie.

Blatant hypocrisy

Zimbalist describes how stadium proponents distort the public debate:
One of the things that happens during a stadium drive is that the proponents go out and hire a consulting firm to come up with a predetermined conclusion that the stadium will be the cat’s meow for the local economy.

They hire this company, and then they publicize the results of the study, and there might be three or four or five per cent of the community, swing voters, that say, “I might not like baseball or basketball or football, but there’s a hard study that says this will help the local economy.” Those studies are used to get the people sitting on the fence, but most of the people are voting yes because they love sports and want a team.

Other than the absence of an actual vote in New York, that's exactly what Forest City Ratner did. They hired the world's most famous sports economist, who still gets a pass, even though, putting Atlantic Yards aside, there's ample reason to be skeptical of his work: three times in one year his testimony was tossed out of court or disallowed.

Posted by eric at August 6, 2009 10:36 AM