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Brennan’s bonehead bill

The Brooklyn Paper
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Assemblyman Jim Brennan certainly picked an odd time to become engaged on the topic of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development.

The Park Slope lawmaker, who has been shockingly silent about the largest development project in his borough’s history, entered the fray last week with a bizarre piece of legislation that would actually reward Ratner for proposing a 17-skyscraper complex that could devastate two highly desirable low-rise neighborhoods.

In short, Brennan’s all-carrot, no-sticks bill would cut the size of Ratner’s development to 5.85 million square feet from the roughly 8.7million square feet it is today.

In exchange for losing some of his cherished bulk, Ratner would get hundreds of millions of dollars from the state. First, he’d get the Atlantic Yards site — which the MTA appraised at $214 million, but sold to Ratner for $100 million — for free. Also, he’d be relieved of his contractual obligation to renovate the rail yards, which Brennan estimated would save the developer $200 million — $200 million that each of us, as taxpayers, will now have to swallow.

In addition, Brennan’s bill would require the state of New York to give Ratner $15.4 million per year to build 2,200 affordable rental units. Currently, the state is not subsidizing the affordable apartments in the Ratner proposal.

Lest we forget, Bruce Ratner did not have a gun to his head when he made the promise to set aside half his project for affordable housing (since downgraded to half the rental units, by the way).
He was not obligated by the state or city.

He made the vow in a deal that he voluntarily entered into with eight community groups.
His underlings have said repeatedly that Ratner made the deal out of love for the community and to meet the needs of Brooklyn. Ratner’s latest Atlantic Yards mailings even tout the 50-percent affordable housing promise as “legally binding.”

But Brennan would not only allow Ratner to reneg on that promise — but pay him to do so!

Brennan, a man said to be considering a run for city comptroller, should be ashamed of this bill. The Atlantic Yards project still needs state approval, where it could still be changed or even killed — on its own merits and without a ridiculous “bailout.”

If Brennan and his Albany colleagues are so concerned about the scale of the project, perhaps they can show real leadership during the coming public-approval process.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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