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August 20, 2009

Yes, observers see the MTA deal regarding Atlantic Yards as a trigger for public authorities reform

Atlantic Yards Report

Congratulations Bruce Ratner! Your sweetheart deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for development rights over the Vanderbilt Railyards is the poster child for the need for Public Authorities reform, at least during yesterday's discussion on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show:

Danny Hakim, the New York Times's Albany bureau chief, noted that the law emerged from concern that oversight of the state's more than 700 authorities has been essentially ad hoc.
...
Hakim explained that [NYC Mayor Mike] Bloomberg objected to the requirement that "board members have a fiduciary responsibility to the authority they serve and also the mission of the authority as opposed to having a duty to the politician who appointed them.... He's been very clear that he expects his appointees to do what he wants them to do. The tension there is—these are supposed to be independent bodies. We do have agencies of both the city and the state government that are directly controlled by the mayor or the governor."

Guest host Andrea Bernstein followed up: "Let’s give an example of that, the MTA when they engaged in the deal to approve the Atlantic Yards development, there was a lot of question about whether they were actually getting the best deal or whether the board members were just doing what the mayor and the governor at the time wanted them to do."

It was unclear whether she was referencing the 2005 deal for the Vanderbilt Yard or the 2009 revision of the deal.
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[Executive director of the Citizens Union Dick] Dadey gave partial agreement to Bloomberg's concern that authorities would be straitjacketed by having to sell property only at market rates. But if Bloomberg was suggesting that the Atlantic Yards deal was a justification, Dadey wasn't buying it.

"I think [the bill] has good protections in the sense that it does prevent, like the MTA in the Atlantic Yards thing, from giving sweetheart deals to the developers," Dadey said, "but it could add to the cost of developing parcels of land that need to be developed and should be developed."

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Posted by lumi at August 20, 2009 5:52 AM