Atlantic Yards Subsidies Might Total $2 Billion


A simulated view of the Atlantic Yards behemoth from the corner Sixth Avenue and Dean Street.
Images Copyright 2006 Jonathan Barkey

The NY Post did the math earlier this week on Atlantic Yards subsidies to developer Forest City Ratner and came up with a remarkable result: the company stands to receive $2 billion of your tax dollars in direct and indirect subsidies.

Atlantic Yards Report gives the detailed breakdown on the issue, dividing out direct payments for development from the variety of tax breaks and ‘sweetheart deals’ given to the project by the city. The $2 billion figure uses an estimate of long term savings netted by Forest City Ratner from under or non-payment of taxes on projects such as the Nets arena, and would cover about half of the projected cost of the project. (Incidentally, with New York City Public School enrollment hovering around one million students, that could also cover a $2,000 increase in services per student) Prepare for more: according to a conference call transcript, Forest City Ratner President Charles Ratner said that “We need more subsidies” to pay for development of Atlantic Yards.

Also, worth a read is a response about the Atlantic Yards from Diana Lind, an author and architecture critic, who is fielding questions from readers of the Times‘s CityRoom blog:

Though the [Atlantic Yards] project has promoted the fact that it’s going to create jobs and housing, the scheme of using public money to finance this endeavor sounds like robbing Peter and Paul to pay Mary (sorry, the pope’s coming to town)….

….Gehry is good at what he does, and as others have noted his voluptuous style would nicely contrast with the phallic bank building, but more than seven million square feet of his outlandish style (of any architect’s style) starts to look pretty tacky and boring, no matter the context.

So, if the project goes ahead as it’s planned now, how this will affect life in Brooklyn? A lot. Irreversibly. It will complete Brooklyn’s transformation from a post-industrial residential borough to a city unto itself and will extend Downtown Brooklyn to Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Boerum Hill.

….Spending time in Brooklyn now, one senses the borough’s promise and mutability. When and if Atlantic Yards is completed, I think many people will feel an enormous opportunity was lost on a not particularly innovative project. If I were in charge of the development site, I’d scrap the plan, build a platform over the railyards, and auction off small parcels of the site to varied developers, cultural organizations and schools. The diversity of approaches to the parcels would mimic the city’s naturally haphazard development process and allow for more community involvement.