Lately, it seems that no matter which development story we cover — Atlantic Yards, the so-called “Brooklyn Bridge Park,” the redevelopment of Coney Island — one common theme emerges.
Developers don’t tell the truth.
And the simple reason is that they don’t want you — the taxpayers who subsidize most development going on today — to know how much of your money they’re taking.
We write about this subject a lot, but it bears repeating because the lies and subterfuge blinds many of our readers to the hidden costs of some of Brooklyn’s biggest projects.
With Atlantic Yards, developer Bruce Ratner once boasted that his project would generate $100 million in tax revenues for the city every year for 30 years. That figure is now down to $15 million. Fifteen million! That’s coffee money for a city with a $57 billion annual budget.
The city once said it would only spend $100 million on “infrastructure improvements” at the Atlantic Yards site. That figure is now $205 million — and the mayor told our reporter this week that the final figure will be higher.
It’s things like this that they don’t want you to know.
In Coney Island, developer Joe Sitt has a nifty plan to create a year-round amusement attraction. Part of the plan would be underwritten by luxury residential housing he also wants to build. But that’s the part he won’t tell you about (his spokesman dodged our calls again this week). In renderings of the design, the residential buildings are barely even drawn in, the better to downplay their significance.
In this case, at least, the city is standing up to Sitt — for now.
Meanwhile, at the waterfront condo-and-open-space development commonly referred to as Brooklyn Bridge Park, state officials (who abandoned the notion of a real park in favor of an open space filled with luxury housing and other revenue-producing facilities) have allowed private developers to hide financial data to prevent taxpayers from determining whether so much development is actually needed to maintain whatever park-like amenities might eventually be put there.
As a result, local elected officials, and even some supporters of the scheme, are howling.
Our bet is that the information will remain hidden. Everyone knows that if the taxpayers truly had all the data in front of them, they wouldn’t allow these well-connected developers to bilk them.