One of the details that Atlantic Yards supporters tend to ignore when ticking off the alleged public benefits of Bruce Ratner’s mega-development is that New York taxpayers are generously underwriting — and, in some cases, outright paying for — them.
•New infrastructure to accommodate Ratner’s proposed 6,800 units? No problem.
•Direct cash grants to get the project going? Fifty-eight million of the promised $200 million have already been handed over.
•Property tax exemptions and affordable housing subsidies? On the way.
•Development rights that were appraised at $214 million? Sold to Ratner for $100 million!
•A publicly financed arena? First it was going to cost us $435 million to build — now it’ll take $950 million of our money.
•A $1-a-year lease on that arena when it’s done? That’ll save Ratner millions more — plus, he gets to keep every dime of the $400-million deal with Barclays to emblazon the bank’s name on an arena that is owned (at least on paper!) by the people of New York.
All together, the financial assistance to Ratner is either $1 billion, according to City Councilman David Yassky, or more than $2 billion, according to the Atlantic Yards opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
And now Ratner wants more.
In a conference call with industry analysts last week, Charles Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of his cousin Bruce’s Forest City Ratner Companies, proudly reported that his company had gotten “various governmental agencies in New York to increase their commitments to Atlantic Yards.”
Then he added four words: “We still need more.”
More? More for what, exactly? New York taxpayers have already been far too generous in propping up this 16-skyscraper white elephant.
And just as the economy starts to dip, Bruce Ratner and cousin Chuck — who are always hailed by our elected enablers as risk-taking visionaries — come to us asking for more money to underwrite their ideas.
It must stop. At this point, only a few members of the City Council, most notably Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), are questioning what their colleagues obviously believe is a done deal.
But this deal is not done because Ratner keeps trying to change it. Let’s not let him get away with it.