After hearing two major lawsuits — one challenging the state’s unjustifiably lax environmental review, the other decrying the state’s use of its condemnation power to hand privately owned property over to the profit-making Forest City Ratner — judges have turned a blind eye to egregious misuses of state power surrounding the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.
With judges punting, the most potent challenge to Ratner’s taxpayer-funded payday rests in the legislatures, which have the power to turn off the torrent of taxpayer dollars.
For Ratner, Atlantic Yards has always been about the money — not jobs or housing, not urban design or athletic excellence, but the massive sums expected to flow from the public trough.
As it becomes increasingly evident both how costly this boondoggle will be in the end and how little the public will benefit given the cost, it will be increasingly difficult for elected officials to hide behind Ratner’s lies (see page one of this week’s Paper for proof of the most recently documented Ratner lie).
Councilmembers Letitia James and David Yassky have put forward a resolution that asks the state legislature to withdraw $700 million in subsidies to Ratner’s Nets basketball arena.
The James-Yassky resolution is modeled on a similar resolution, which recently passed the council, that asked the state to curtail a 25-year-old, $300 million, tax subsidy to Madison Square Garden.
The council is vengefully pursuing the Garden in retaliation for the Garden’s successful opposition to another government giveaway — to the owners of the New York Jets, who hoped to build a stadium on Manhattan’s West Side. If the council was acting out of real concern for taxpayer resources, it would turn its attention to Ratner instead of the Garden, since Ratner’s windfall far outdistances the Garden’s.
The smokescreen behind which so many pro-Atlantic Yards legislators have been hiding was the central lie that the project would bring in $4.4 billion in tax revenues to state and city coffers over the next 30 years. Lies about the extent of job creation were exposed early on.
As we’ve pointed out many times, Ratner’s public revenue estimates are a fantasy. In fact, the state admitted as much last year, when it downgraded the revenue projection to just $944 million over the same 30 years — a mere $15 million per year, a drop in the bucket for a state and city whose annual budgets are in the tens of billions.
But you don’t have to believe us or the state. For the first time ever, Ratner has finally admitted that he was lying all along.
As the Atlantic Yards Report first reported this week, buried in a footnote in a recent legal filing is this admission from a Ratner lawyer:
“[M]y statement in my prior affirmation that the ‘environmental impact statement for the project estimates that the project will create ... $4.4 billion in net tax revenues for the city and the state over 30 years’ is mistaken, because ‘[t]here is simply no projection at all regarding the net tax revenues contained in the EIS.’”
At long last, an admission that the original sin of Atlantic Yards — the inflated tax revenues that so many elected officials used to cover their tracks — was a lie.
It’s time to stop this charade. Our elected officials — and everyone with open eyes — should know now that they’ve been lied to. It’s time for them to respond in the only way they can: Stop this sweetheart deal before Ratner formally acquires the state-owned rail yard on which he hopes to build, and before Ratner and other state agencies ink the subsidy deals that prop up this oversized white elephant of a project.