City budget whiz says Bruce’s Yards deal needs retooling

Independent Budget Office Deputy Director George Sweeting offered a dim view of Atlantic Yards at a Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Tuesday.
Jill D’Amico

Add another voice to the chorus of city officials who say that the city should renegotiate its deal with developer Bruce Ratner, whose Atlantic Yards mega-project is in jeopardy due to the economic crisis.

George Sweeting, deputy director of the city’s Independent Budget Office, sent a shockwave through Tuesday morning’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce annual Economic Outlook Breakfast when he stated that “it may be time for the city to take another look at the mix of incentives” that it offered to Ratner’s $4-billion mini-city.

Sweeting said that the escalating costs of the proposed publicly financed basketball arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues — now close to $950 million, from an original pricetag of $400 million in 2003 — might eliminate the supposed benefit to the city coffers.

In 2005, an IBO study found that the arena would net $950,000 in surplus revenues every year during the arena’s 30-year financing period — puny revenue projections in a city whose annual budget is $60 billion.

A more-expensive version of the arena will now require more expensive financing by the public, Sweeting said. In addition, the New York Post reported that Ratner has been negotiating with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to scale back $345 million in improvements that he promised to undertake as part of his winning bid for the Vanderbilt railyard over which he proposes to build the arena.

“If amenities are scaled back, it’s reasonable to look at whether the city’s contributions and the MTA land deal still show a positive in the cost-benefit calculation,” Sweeting said. “Some of the benefits to the public may now be less than originally assumed. A lot has changed since 2005.”

A spokesman for Ratner declined to comment.

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