Saturday, September 26, 2009

To The Brooklyn Paper: Yes, the Atlantic Yards Arena Will Cost the City, But the REAL Story Is That It Will REALLY, REALLY Cost the City

We watch for the weekly Thursday publication of the print edition of the Brooklyn Paper to see what shows up in its mailbag. We watch with special interest if we have comments on a Brooklyn Paper article that might show up there. This week we were disappointed and a little surprised that the mailbag didn’t include what we thought was our timely submitted and crucial correction to the paper’s article on the projected financial damage to the city if the proposed Nets arena goes forward.

The paper’s mailbag this week did include interesting and worthwhile letters. At least two of them are about Atlantic Yards, perhaps a third if one includes the letter of admonition to Steve Levin. Mr. Levin is the candidate who won the Democratic nomination for the 33rd City Council seat being vacated by David Yassky. The letter admonishes Mr. Levin to live up to his pledge to be a fighter independent of “Brooklyn Democratic Party leadership” by which the writer probably meant Assemblyman Vito Lopez, for whom Mr. Levin used to be chief of staff. Maybe Mr. Levin will be an independent fighter. He told us he had wanted to make it to the September ESDC board meeting to speak against ESDC’s approval of the bagful of giveaways to Ratner- But he didn’t actually make it.

The good thing about Noticing New York is that if we see that Brooklyn paper has not published comments we think it should have, we can publish them right here. So here we go.

(Above: As it appeared, the very misleading headline of Brooklyn Paper article in need of correction.)

This is what we wrote with respect to the paper’s article headlined “Report: Arena will cost city $40M over 30 years” in the print edition and “Report: Yards arena is a money pit,” September 10, 2009, By Gersh Kuntzman, in the on-line edition:
Your article (with the print headline: “Report: Arena will cost city $40M over 30 years”) is inaccurate and misleading. The arena will “cost” the city $40 million over 30 years? No, the arena will cost the city a great deal more, hundreds of millions of dollars. What the City Independent Budget Office is writing about is the NET LOSS to the city and it conservatively calculates that net loss at a much more substantial figure: $220 million ($39.5 million in direct losses and $180.5 million in opportunity losses). Further, if you noticed, that figure, only for the arena, has already begun to rise. This week at its board meeting, ESDC casually shook the advance of another $25 million out of its sleeve. Since the project is unlikely ever to return the accelerated advance of that money, this extra $25 million could well bring the calculated net loss from $220 million to $245 million.

The print headline is particularly misleading ushering in dismissal (i.e. “al pankin” or “Johnny from Kensington”*) that all that is being talked about is a $40 million “drop in the bucket” overall expenditure or “peanuts for the city budget.” Not so. Among other things, per the IBO report, we are talking about $726 million in no-bid giveaways for the developer just for the arena. Ultimately, for the total project, we are talking about more than $2 (perhaps $3) BILLION that could be better spent elsewhere.

Finally, since the as yet UNDESIGNED rest of megadevelopment has been formulated as a multi-decade no-obligation developer monopoly on a swath of valuable Brooklyn real estate, it will allow the developer to blackmail the public into deeper subsidies redoubling ultimate total net losses.
(* See the other comments to the article. These are the names of commenters who misconstrued the article.)

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