New Atlantic Yards Study Should Cause State to Reorder Priorities: Accelerate Affordable Housing, Brennan Says

September 10, 2009
Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Bklyn) is demanding that the State take a fresh look at the Atlantic Yards project in light of findings by the NYC Independent Budget Office (IBO) that the arena will be a net loss to the taxpayers of the City and State. Brennan calls on the State to require Ratner to accelerate the construction of affordable housing as a condition for ESDC approval of the new project plan, in return for enormous property tax waivers worth millions of public dollars that Ratner will receive over the next three to four decades.

The IBO’s updated study of the economic impact of the Atlantic Yards arena, released today, has found that, even over a thirty-year period, the arena will be a financial loss to the City and State. The City and State governments will spend millions of taxpayer funds for infrastructure and property acquisition for the project while the arena pays no property taxes for thirty to forty years. According to the IBO, revenue from jobs created in the construction and operation of the arena will not be sufficient to cover outlays by the City and State. The IBO estimates that the mix of government benefits will save Forest City Ratner over $700 million.

“Community residents are appalled by the special preferences being given to Forest City Ratner,” Mr. Brennan said. “The State has asked for nothing in return. As a result, Ratner has been able to put on the back burner 90% of the promised affordable housing, the major public benefit remaining as a result of the recession-induced collapse of the commercial office real estate market,” Brennan continued.

The current plan contemplates construction of the arena followed by two residential towers around the arena within five years. Two other towers follow with an uncertain time frame and only then would Forest City proceed into the rail yard for the main affordable housing component. As a result, the main affordable housing component starts nearly ten years from now with a timetable nearing twenty years for completion.

“From the beginning of this project, the public process, excluding community boards and city council, has been grossly unjust to the public. Now the community is looking at a construction timeline extending out twenty years because of the recession and the general uncertainty, with absolutely no public benefit and, in fact, according to the IBO, at public cost due to the extraordinarily generous property tax waivers. At a minimum, the State should obligate FCR to proceed with affordable housing construction as soon as the arena is built as a condition of approval of the modified project plan.

“The State government has yet to make a serious effort to address the community’s concerns regarding this project. Now is the time,” Brennan concluded.