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September 4, 2012

Here Comes the Arena! What Happened to the Atlantic Yards Jobs? (10,000 office jobs gone; 15,000 construction jobs lag; arena jobs talked up; existing jobs used for low-cost financing)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder publishes a condensed history of Atlantic Yards' broken promises, a must-read for anyone who's not 100% familiar with the sordid history of Bruce Ratner's basketball-themed boondoggle.

When the Atlantic Yards mega-project was announced in December 2003, developer Forest City Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and their allies promoted “Jobs, Housing, and Hoops,” with bright blue buttons perfect for a local's lapel.

Nearly nine years later, the Barclays Center opens Sept. 28 with a string of Jay-Z concerts. The Brooklyn Nets debut in October. But there's far more hype than evidence of the “jobs” and “affordable housing,” which prompted so much public passion.

Could it be that Atlantic Yards, that 16-tower, borough-changing behemoth, is first about basketball and entertainment? Wasn't the public assistance--the subsidies, tax breaks, override of zoning, eminent domain, and more--justified because of the promises of the full project?

Yes, but for now the big winners appear to be mogul Bruce Ratner, the arena majority owner*, and his partner Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's second-richest man and the Nets' majority owner. They get to milk a new media market for the team and arena, reap rewards from luxury suites and sponsorships, and leave the doldrums of New Jersey behind. The value of the Nets has already boomed, according to Crain's New York Business.

(*Ratner owns 55% of the arena operating company, with Prokhorov the minority partner. The arena is nominally owned by the state, to enable Forest City to get tax-exempt financing, which saves the developer perhaps $150 million.)

Meanwhile, Forest City, with the help of Markowitz and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, has done its best to promote Potemkin successes, while hoping that everyone forgets the promises about jobs and housing, or that the New York City Independent Budget Office called the arena a net loss for the city.

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Posted by eric at September 4, 2012 11:37 AM