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April 7, 2012

Does the NYC EDC's Seth Pinsky deserve credit for the Atlantic Yards arena? Not quite (but he does for other things)

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Observer article, headlined online as Let’s Make a Deal! How Mike’s Mild-Mannered Closer Seth Pinsky Got the City Building Again: Dan Doctoroff's protégée picks up the mantle for PlaNYC., in print, as noted below, suggests that New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) President Seth Pinsky also deserves credit for Atlantic Yards.

Here's the lead-off to the article:

Imagine, if you will, the landscape of New York City 15 years hence. A drive to Citi Field in Willets Point takes you past a pleasant if overpriced cluster of residential buildings, rather than seedy chop-shops. Roosevelt Island is home to a sprawling $2 billion applied-sciences campus spinning out an army of developers to populate ping-pong-table-clad start-up clusters from Dumbo to Union Square. On Manhattan’s far West Side, the rezoned stretch of Hudson Yards offers millions of square feet for office space, housing and retail and 14 acres of open public space. You can already see traces of a more built-up, scrubbed-down New York in Luna Park’s freshly-painted Scream Zone, the first new roller-coasters Coney Island has seen in 80 years, and the rapidly-metastasizing arena at Atlantic Yards, which will soon play home court to the rebranded Brooklyn Nets.

It’s hardly a scenario Seth Pinsky could have imagined in September 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed just seven months into his tenure as president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), a not-for-profit arm of the Mayor’s office charged with fostering economic growth across the five boroughs.

...Under Mr. Pinsky’s leadership, however, observers say the EDC has transformed itself from a real estate matchmaker for companies seeking office space into a policy-setting organization, spearheading diversification away from the finance, insurance, real estate economy (also known by the unofficial acronym, FIRE, which had rarely seemed more apt). Thanks to what one former employee called Mr. Pinsky’s “savant”-like facility with financing and structuring deals, a number of projects first proposed in the ambitious early years of the Bloomberg administration have begun making real progress. Some of the projects, like Willets Point, have “bedeviled administrations for decades,” noted Mr. Pinsky. And then there’s the EDC’s ultimate sleight of hand: convincing Cornell and Stanford to engage in a bitter rivalry to build a $2 billion tech campus, all by waving a $100 million grant and a swath of land on a sleepy East River isle.

Does Pinksy deserve credit for that "rapidly-metastasizing arena" (which strikes me as a rather poor choice of words)? The article actually doesn't make that case, though NYC EDC did, from the beginning (and before Pinsky's presidency) coordinate the role of other city agencies.

NYC EDC did, however, recommend the use of EB-5 immigrant investor money, in which Forest City Ratner raised more than $200 million of low-interest financing from foreign (mostly Chinese) who were told they were investing in an arena. That may be crafty tactics, but I'm not sure Pinsky should be too proud of it.

link

Posted by steve at April 7, 2012 3:03 PM