Stimulus for Atlantic Yards? New Depression Suggests Not

Stimulus for Atlantic Yards? New Depression Suggests Not

New York state will get some kind of stimulus money, but as a final bill hasn't been written yet, sources vary on how much assistance we'll get. Newsday says "at least" $20.5 billion; the Times says "more than $21 billion." The Jamestown Post-Journal says "$12.6 Billion in Direct Budget Relief," reminding us that some of whatever goes to us will be devoted to the state's Medicaid obligations, and some, under the unusually targeted nature of the provisions, will be directed to specific regions of the state.

Of course a lot of individuals have their hand out for that money, and one of them is Atlantic Yards perpetrator Bruce Ratner, says the Observer. The stadium, housing and shopping project is running low on money and slowing down its work. Ratner is hustling for more funds, but local politicians who have of late been showering him with it have been reluctant to mention Ratner in relation to the stimulus windfall; asked in a phone conference if Atlantic Yards was eligible for the bucks, Chuck Schumer said he thought Governor Paterson knew, and Paterson said he thought Schumer knew.

They have reason to be cagey. Bad publicity, the slow rate of progress, and especially the recession may have soured the public on Atlantic Yards. Back in September 2006*, a Crain's poll of New Yorkers showed 60 percent approval for the project (with 60 percent also having "doubts about the cost to the city"). But when the Brooklyn Paper recently advocated using stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards, the paper admits, "most comments were negative."

Players like Al D'Amato and Marty Markowitz are less circumspect than Schumer and Paterson, and loudly bang the drum for the project. But patronage and boosterism are their respective jobs; politicians in a position to be associated with, and get blamed for, bad decisions are keeping their mouths shut, and when they do open them, it's not such good news for developers. In her State of the City speech yesterday Christine Quinn talked about boom-time construction projects that now stand empty as "tarnished trophies" of greed and false hope. Does that sound encouraging? As it stands, Ratner doesn't even have a trophy.

(*Update: The date of the Crain's poll was originally and erroneously listed as September 2008.)

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