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January 12, 2011

Atlantic Yards cited in Competitive Enterprise Institute report as example of bad public-private partnerships

Atlantic Yards Report

On the heels of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's cautions on public-private partnerships comes The Limitations of Public-Private Partnerships: Recent Lessons from the Surface Transportation and Real Estate Sectors, by Marc Scribner of the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Notably, Scribner suggests that the two categories are very different beasts, and that real estate projects should be avoided. Atlantic Yards is one of five examples in that sector.

His summary:

One has long been dominated by government monopolies and the other has been largely free of political forces. In the case of surface transportation infrastructure, innovative new private-sector financing, management, and ownership regimes have much to offer in terms of minimizing taxpayer exposure to risk, capturing user revenues, and creating an efficient transport network. In contrast, government’s recently expanded role in real estate development has increased taxpayer exposure to risk, socialized costs, and concentrated the benefits into the hands of select private developers and special interests.

He recommends that partnerships in the real estate sector be avoided, "[o]utside of limited instances such as the Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program."

The examples, including AY

The 30-page report cites five examples of dubious real estate deals, including:

  • downtown Minneapolis’ Block E
  • downtown Pittsburgh's Fifth and Forbes corridor
  • New Jersey's Xanadu (recently renamed The Meadowlands) megamall
  • Navy Yard development, including a new stadium, in Southeast Washington, DC

The fifth is Atlantic Yards, which "required extensive use of eminent domain—both the threat of condemnation and condemnation itself," relied on "hired-gun" Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist, and involved “community activists” Al Sharpton and Bertha Lewis.

Whether the taxpayers will be "on the hook for at least $1.6 billion" is hard to ascertain, but the developer will be saving a bunch. (And that's before Chinese money for green cards, even.)

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Posted by eric at January 12, 2011 10:19 AM