THE BLOG

It's Atlantic Yards "Push" Week!

07/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Steve Ettlinger Author, "The Complete Illustrated Guide to Everything Sold in Hardware Stores" and more

The State Senate isn't the only place where leaders are messing with our minds this week.

The notoriously secretive Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) actually let us public folks into their board meeting. Some of us were allowed to speak, though the Board remained mute the whole time, despite
convincing calls for a revised environmental impact statement (EIS) based on the projects immense changes. The "pro" crowd said not one word about cost, which is estimated at nearly $2 billion in public subsidies. I see more lawsuits ahead.

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery pointed out the rather disturbing fact that Forest City Ratner has NOT signed a contract with the MTA nor even made a deposit on its $100 million deal for the air rights to the Vanderbilt Yards--just the kind of problem the ESDC, which is charged with oversight of this kind of thing, should have called out and solved.

I will grant them this: Steven J. Matlin, the ESDC lawyer running the meeting, mumbled something about this being a $5 BILLION project--despite FCR's confirming it as a $4 billion project as recently as March 9th. This dramatic cost increase comes despite the massive scaleback and "value engineering" they made, dropping the much-touted architect Frank Gehry and landscape designer Laurie Olin in the process.

The revised plan is on their site but is dense reading without the perspective of critics

All the supporters I heard either said simply that they support the project (appropriate enough for the venue) or that the project should go ahead because they themselves are Brooklynites (blah), have worked in Brooklyn a long time (blah blah), or because we need jobs and housing (blah blah blah).

As for that last one, it's a mantra so immature it reminds me of some guys' air-tight technique for getting more sex. That should also remind us that someone has to pay for all this, and money is not always free, so to speak. Ask Eliot Spitzer.

If the ESDC had done its job, the MTA would already have cash it so desperately needs. Now, instead, the MTA has decided at its June 24th board meeting to bail out the billionaire developer, giving him 20 years to pay out what was supposed to have been paid up front. And this is despite at least two viable alternatives they completely ignored, one when this first came up (from successful developer Extell) and one from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, at the board meeting, with $5 million of financing already in place . Amazing. We should all get such deals.

For all our subsidies, it looks like we'll get a run-of-the-mill arena and thousands of parking spots on the rubble-strewn lots.

It just doesn't figure right.