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July 22, 2010

NYC EDC cost-benefit analysis emerges: certain costs finally calculated, but fundamental flaws remain, as revenues based on full buildout in 10 years

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, I've finally gotten a copy of the New York City Economic Development Corporation's (NYC EDC) updated Atlantic Yards fiscal analysis (aka cost-benefit analysis) and it's very much a mixed bag.

On the one hand, it's more responsible than the analysis released in 2005, given that it acknowledges a good number of costs. (In fact, the estimated net benefit to the city over 30 years is down more than 20%, from $524 million to $411.3 million.)

But it still suffers from some fundamental flaws:

  • it presumes a ten-year buildout, without assessing alternatives
  • it presumes a full buildout, without assessing alternatives
  • it ignores some opportunity costs and the costs of increased service provision
  • it (apparently) still counts income taxes from new residents

Too short

Moreover, the document, at three pages (versus its eight-page predecessor), is quite thin. While it provides overall calculations, it does not, as per the previous document, provide supporting calculations. (I had to ask to get some of the breakdowns.)

The document does not, for example, explain the difference in fiscal impact between four office towers and one tower. It should, especially since an Empire State Development Corporation analysis drastically lowered the fiscal impact in December 2006 in response to a reduction in office space.

What about no office towers?

Document emerges

Remember, the analysis was cited by NYC EDC President Seth Pinsky at a May 2009 hearing and promised a few days later. I criticized the previous document and asked for the updated version via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request; in December, the request was denied.

Pinsky brought it up the analysis at a March 2010 City Council hearing and again at a hearing in May. (I'll discuss that testimony tomorrow.) His agency finally provided it this week to City Council Member Brad Lander, who passed it on to me.

It's clear that the document was not, in fact, available last June.


Posted by eric at July 22, 2010 11:17 AM