Pataki’s wall of silence

The Brooklyn Paper
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Got a secret? You can certainly entrust it to Gov. Pataki and the cabal of insiders who pack his lame-duck administration.

Time and time again, these state officials have insisted on keeping secrets that the public has every right to know. Lately, whenever this newspaper wants to know critical details — especially about the Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront development and the Atlantic Yards mega-project — state officials have refused to provide them.

For both projects, the state won’t release key financial information that could show, for example, whether so much luxury housing is really needed to underwrite the maintenance of the “park” on the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront or, for example, how high Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards towers really need to be in order to give the developer a reasonable profit.

And then last week, state Dormitory Authority officials admitted that they signed a deal with Ratner to build a $186-million tower for New York City College of Technology that will include new classrooms and a gym.

As part of the deal, Ratner gets the right to build hundreds of units of luxury housing atop the school’s facilities.

Officials told us that Ratner beat out another developer for the lucrative contract, but would not tell us who the other would-be developer was and why Ratner’s proposal was better.

Considering that the winning bidder gets to sell luxury housing as part of the deal, it’s important to know the details of both parties’ bids.

When this administration doesn’t answer our questions, it is denying you information you need.

The state’s job is to make deals on behalf of the public. But its refusal to answer questions about those deals — or release documents that could let objective experts review the details — makes it impossible for the public to know whether those deals are good ones or bad ones for taxpayers.

In the case of City Tech and Atlantic Yards, the state attitude is simply, “Trust us and trust Bruce.” This newspaper would love to do just that — but we’re not in the business of blind faith. We are in the business of checking out the facts and reporting them.

After all, President Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” Pity that Gov. Pataki — who claims to be such a Reagan fan — has forgotten that lesson.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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