This newspaper asked another in a series of very reasonable questions about the public financing of the Atlantic Yards project this week and was told, yet again, that we don’t have a right to know the full extent of the way taxpayers are underwriting Bruce Ratner’s risk-free $4-billion Xanadu.
This week, we asked city officials why they will spend $100 million to buy land within Ratner’s Atlantic Yards footprint.
It’s a reasonable question, given that Ratner has already bought up most of the land — some of it at a reduced price, courtesy of his state lackeys. Those same supposed stewards of our tax dollars have promised to condemn whatever land Ratner was unable to buy and turn it over to him.
So why is the city — which has already pledged $105 million towards “infrastructure improvements” around Atlantic Yards — buying $100 million in land?
The city officials won’t tell us. And when they won’t tell us, they aren’t telling you — the people whom they were hired to serve.
People who do real estate for a living, however, were happy to tell us what is going on. Such big land acquisitions, a former City Planning commissioner told us, are a shell game in which the city purchases land, transfers it to the state, which then leases it back to a big developer for 99 years at a cost of $1 a year.
The result, the former official told our reporter Ariella Cohen, is a huge savings for the developer.
Now, this newspaper has no problem with the city doing the necessary infrastructure work — laying sewer lines, installing lights, etc. — to encourage private development.
But we don’t understand why it is the taxpayers’ job to cut costs for Ratner’s land acquisition.
In vague terms, the Bloomberg Administration has said that Atlantic Yards will generate so much tax revenue that the city is justified in spending these relatively minor expenditures of taxpayer money — $205 million (and counting, the mayor has said).
But the city taxpayer contribution towards making Bruce Ratner a billionaire is increasingly looking like a sucker deal for us: In less than one year, the city has already allocated $205 million to Ratner (not counting other tax breaks and the cost of mitigating the project’s massive environmental impact) — yet Atlantic Yards will only generate $472 million in tax revenue for the city over the next 30 years, according to Ratner’s own figures.
And they won’t tell us why.
The reason? They’re using your money to save Bruce Ratner his — and they’d prefer that you didn’t know that.