Atlantic Yards a losing bet

The Brooklyn Paper
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If there was any doubt that Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development would be a bad investment of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, it was wiped away this week by new revelations that the project will generate far less tax revenue than promised just five months ago.

As The Brooklyn Papers reports this week, buried — not announced, but buried! — in a 2,000-page state document is the news that Ratner’s much-touted “economic engine for Downtown Brooklyn” is now projected to create $944 million in city and state tax revenues over the next 30 years.

Do the math: That means that the city and state — whose annual budgets are tens of billions of dollars — will see just $15 million a year in new revenues from Atlantic Yards.

And at what cost? The city and state each coughed up $100 million this summer to boost Ratner’s project — a tiny down-payment on the billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies that will help Ratner acquire land cheaply, finance his project with low-interest bonds, and make a nice profit thanks to deferred taxes.

Three years ago, when Mayor Bloomberg and Borough President Markowitz signed onto this bad investment, Ratner was promising $6 billion in public benefit from the project. That dropped to $1.4 billion this summer and is now $944 million.

The state says that the revenue shortfall is a result of a trim in Atlantic Yards’ overall square-footage. But that, too, is a lie: the Atlantic Yards approved last week by the Empire State Development Corporation is the same size as the original project (which later grew so that Ratner could then “downsize” it and say he was “listening” to the “community”— only the New York Times, which put the “news” of the Ratner “downsizing” on its front page, bought that lie).

Ratner has trimmed the commercial component of his project — which means fewer new jobs and, therefore, less tax revenue — but that was his plan all along. From Metrotech to Atlantic Center to Atlantic Terminal, Ratner has a track record of promising lots of new office jobs and then not delivering. His three office complexes are filled with public, taxpayer-funded offices — the ESDC itself is housed in Atlantic Center! — guaranteeing Ratner’s profit.

Bruce Ratner’s goal all along has been to float fantasy revenue projections so that politicians and the public would be wowed. But his shock and awe campaign has failed.

If Atlantic Yards is approved next Wednesday by the state’s Public Authorities Control Board, all taxpayers will pay the price.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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