Monday, June 22, 2009

More on Planning in Advance to Bail Out Forest City Ratner Upon the Inevitable Arrival of an Economic Downturn

Norman Oder pointed out in his Atlantic Yards Report that “Forest City Ratner started renegotiating the deal before the economic downturn” and, just this morning, he linked back to our last Noticing New York post to point to our observation that, given Atlantic Yards’ multi-decade time frame, its encounter with economic downturn was inevitable. (See: Monday, June 22, 2009, Why an economic downturn should have been factored into AY plans.)

We are now happy to add one more reason why the economic downturn should always have been factored into Atlantic Yards plans from the beginning.

We spent the greater portion of our day today at the MTA, sitting through its committee meetings in order to be there when the MTA’s Finance Committee heard new information about Atlantic Yards. And we even testified. Mr. Oder noted that we “reprised” our post about how it was a `wired deal.’” Indeed we did and we led with something that was in direct opposition to the nonsensical notion that was being peddled as a reason to revamp the degenerating project, that the `deal’ with Forest City Ratner should be renegotiated in the developer’s favor because of the economic downturn. Au contraire (to stick with our recent theme of speaking French), in an economic downturn the ability to negotiate a better deal should be in the public's favor, not the developer's! (See: Thursday, April 16, 2009, The Great Recession: A Stimulus to Get Our City Back to “Bidness?” and Monday, June 1, 2009, Negotiating With Your Contractor: The Atlantic Yards As Kitchen Renovation Metaphor.)

We testified right after Kathy Wylde of the Partnership for New York City, so we were able in our testimony to say that her testimony that the partnership had “always supported” the Atlantic Yards project now being considered by the MTA was hokum because that would involve a blatant disregard for the slew of changes now being foisted on the public by means of the ongoing bait and switch. The Partnership always supported the Atlantic Yards project now before the MTA? Seriously, that makes it sound rather like the Partnership was in cahoots with and a part of the bait and switch from the beginning. We won’t accuse the Partnership of that but we do think that highly paid professionals should have seen all this coming from the outset. Nor do we think that the Partnership should have supported the original Atlantic Yards: The partnership is supposed to support what is good for New York, not what is destructive of it.

(BTW: Not that we have hard feelings about it but Kathy spoke before us because somehow she jumped the line. We signed in first and were called up first and then somehow the MTA staff switched over to Kathy instead. Can’t guess what that was all about.)

While Kathy preceded us, Joseph Chan of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership spoke after us so we didn’t have a chance to testify about what he said but this is where planning in advance for economic downturns comes up again. We’ll comment here instead. Most of the eloquence from those speaking about the project came from the project’s opponents (yes, we are partial to their point of view), but Mr. Chan and Ms. Wylde have their jobs because they are expected to be able to be reasonably persuasive. They were, in fact, the best of the lot in terms of speaking in favor of the project even if what they said was dry, canned and bit divorced from actual appreciation for the real saga and true flavor of things.

Mr. Chan said that he actually thought that the new switched Atlantic Yards would be good for Downtown Brooklyn (of which Atlantic Yards is not a part, though it is within walking distance). Please do some more homework, Mr. Chan: Even the original Atlantic Yards would have been destructive and a net negative.

Mr. Chan also spoke specifically and favorably about Forest City Ratner as a developer and in doing so he made this claim; that Forest City Ratner is the right developer to hand a project over to at any time in the real estate cycle, in good times and in times of economic downturn! Good sales pitch, but if Forest City Ratner is specially suited to working on projects during economic downturns (and should be even be awarded a large-scale monopoly with that in mind) why then was the very purpose of the scheduled MTA and ESDC meetings to bail them out financially because of the unforseen economic downturn?

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