Though it wasn’t announced by the ombudsman, a tiny piece of actual news did come out of Wednesday night’s Atlantic Yards gripefest: the state Senate is actually going to hold a hearing on the stalled mega-project.
Irene Van Slyke, an aide to Yards-opposing Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Fort Greene), announced that the Committee on Corporations, Public Authorities and Commissions — now controlled by Democrats — would hold a hearing in Manhattan on April 24 to figure out “who is really in charge: is it the developer, or is it ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation]?”
The hearing could also look at the project’s financing and future. When approved by the Public Authorities Control Board in late 2006, the project called for 16 skyscrapers, 2,250 units of affordable housing, offices, eight acres of open space, a shimmering Frank Gehry–designed tower at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, and a $400-million basketball arena.
With the economy tanking, developer Bruce Ratner has said that the project now consists of just the publicly financed arena — now budgeted at a whopping $950 million — and one or two residential buildings. The vast majority of the residential units are not currently scheduled.
Even the project’s biggest booster, Borough President Markowitz, now says the arena is not “economically feasible” — though he has not called for public hearings to figure out what is.
The change in party control in the state Senate does not fully explain how the corporations committee got an Atlantic Yards hearing on the agenda. After all, as the Atlantic Yards Report pointed out on Thursday, the Democrat-controlled Assembly has yet to investigate the stalled project. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is a strong supporter of Atlantic Yards.