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September 28, 2010

Ratner Abandons 10-Year Timeline for Atlantic Yards

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

Developer Bruce Ratner said Tuesday morning what many of his critics and even some of his associates have been saying for years: there is no way the entire Atlantic Yards project will be done in 10 years.

He said the 10-year timeline was always misunderstood. It was never meant to be more than a best-case scenario to be used in environmental impact statements.

“That was really only an analysis as to what the most serious impacts [would be], if all the other planned development in downtown Brooklyn happened right away,” Ratner said. “It was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in."

Ratner is either a really bad liar, or a complete idiot. The whole point of the Environmental Impact Statement is to examine worst-case scenarios, not the best case. We didn't think it possible that he could make an even bigger mockery of the entire review process than he already had, but we were obviously wrong.

But the 10-year-timeline was also used by the city, state and Ratner’s own consultant to determine that the financial benefits to the public outweighed the roughly $300 million in direct subsidies the project is receiving. But the longer the construction schedule, the longer it will take the government to accumulate the benefits—in terms of income taxes from people who move into the complex, property taxes on the new buildings and other sources.

Daniel Goldstein, a chief opponent of the project who until recently lived in the project’s footprint said that Ratner’s admission undermines the official reason for state support of the project: to remove the blight on the six Brooklyn blocks that make up the footprint.

“What we have now is a site that was not blighted turning into a dormant site, nearly 20 acres of vacant lots and parking lots for 20, 25, 30, 40 50 years,” Goldstein said. “What was not blighted has become blighted for a very long time.”

The longer construction timetable also affects many of the assumptions the state and city made regarding whether the project is worthwhile for taxpayers to support, according to George Sweeting, deputy director of the city’s nonpartisan Independent Budget Office. That’s because the government is contributing about $300 million in subsidies in today’s dollars — but might not get that amount back for another 25 or 30 years, when that amount will be worth less.

“Those dollars — if you have to wait 15 years for them — are worth less in terms of today’s dollars,” Sweeting said.

The IBO, in conducting a cost-benefit analysis on Atlantic Yards last year, only considered the tax revenues from the basketball arena and ignored the impact of new residents and workers in the 16 other buildings because their construction dates were so uncertain. That analysis concluded that the arena would cost the city about $40 million more in subsidies than it would yield in new taxes. The IBO’s analysis was attacked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ratner’s company, Forest City Ratner.

By contrast, the city, state and Forest City all conducted or commissioned economic impact analyses that assumed a 10-year build out.


NoLandGrab: We, and others, have been calling bullshit on this whole scam for the past seven years, but elected officials, and — even worse — state and federal courts, have aided and abetted Bruce Ratner's Great Train(yard) Robbery at every juncture.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Bruce Ratner 2010 contradicts Bruce Ratner 2008 on Atlantic Yards timetable

In a 5/4/08 Daily News op-ed, Ratner sang a different tune:

Our first goal is to break ground on the Barclays Center later this year. Shortly after that, we will break ground on the first residential building, which includes a significant amount of affordable housing.

We plan to complete and open both of these buildings at the same time. Then we plan to break ground on the next residential tower in 2010, and then on the final residential tower of the project's first phase in 2011.

In these three residential buildings, no less than 30% of the approximately 1,500 units will be dedicated to low- and middle-income New Yorkers. We will then start the second phase of development, nearly a dozen additional residential buildings - including the balance of the 2,250 units of affordable housing.

We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018.

Posted by eric at September 28, 2010 10:48 PM