Our Time Press

Public Oversight Demanded for New York Development

By planning to circumvent the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) in the proposed West Side Complex in Manhattan and the Nets Arena in Brooklyn, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and financial-driven interests, are conspiring to deny not only New Yorkers in general (a voice in the future of the city), they are specifically targeting the black and brown majority by ensuring that white- male controlled entities will continue to receive black and brown tax dollars for generations to come according to the New York City Independent Budget Office. 
As the report states, ” HYIC approach leaves three-fourths of the debt service for the Phase I infrastructure investments to be paid after 2020, long after the subway extension and the platform are built and beyond the useful life of some of the assets being financed. Some payments will continue through 2054. By comparison,
43 percent of GO debt service would be paid by 2020. When using long-term debt to finance infrastructure, the public sector is responsible for safeguarding the welfare of future generations as well as the current generation. Under the HYIC plan, because much of the debt service costs from 2005 to 2019 will be borrowed and then refinanced in 2020, users of the new infrastructure in the first decades of the project will enjoy the benefits of the investment while leaving much of the cost to be borne by future taxpayers.”
We contacted Bonnie Brower, executive director of City Project, who said that future taxpayers are going to have a lot of paying to do. “There is an increasing proportion of every new revenue dollar that is going to pay off old debt.”  Municipal Assistance Corporation bonds, which would have been paid off in five years, have been extended for 30 years.  “This refinancing of old operating debt is especially appalling,” “This plan means it will have taken.three and a half  generations to pay off the 70’s fiscal crisis.”  
With the approval of the NBA to the sale of the New Jersey Nets to Bruce Ratner, Mr. Ratner has crossed one hurdle on his run for a 24-acre Nets arena and housing/commercial complex.   But local politicians and community groups came up with ten more at a press conference on the steps of City Hall last month.  Declaring that the NBA “blew the call” in approving the sale of the New Jersey Nets to Bruce Ratner, City Councilmember Letitia James and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) called on the city government to scrutinize the developer’s $2.5 billion plan, which they characterized as a “secretive, taxpayer-subsidized, sweetheart arena deal.” 
Defining the nature of the conflict, Councilwoman James declared, “I didn’t get elected to serve the interests of big developers and corporations.  I was elected to serve the interests of the people and that’s why I’m here.”
James and DDDB were joined for the first time by City Council Members Larry B. Seabrook (Bronx) and Deputy Majority Leader Bill Perkins (Harlem), as well as by Christine Quinn (West Side), whose district faces the proposed Jets stadium, Francis Byrd (57th AD, Assembly District Democrat Committeeman) and Scott Turner, coordinator of Fans for Fair Play.
To ensure  public oversight and accountability, they demanded the following:

Step #1: Immediate implementation of the city’s standard Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) to allow community review of the Ratner Plan. The city council must demand that the mayor and governor ensure that this plan goes through ULURP.

Step #2: As part of the ULURP process, open public hearings to explore and establish (a) the best development plan for the MTA/LIRR’s Atlantic Yards and (b) the best and most appropriate location for a proposed Nets arena (possible alternative sites to be considered — Coney Island, East New York, Brooklyn Navy Yard, sites to be determined in Queens).

Step #3: Full public disclosure of all city and state subsidies being requested by the developer, including but not limited to:  True cost of the rail yards, based on intended use; moving and/or platforming over the rail yards; true cost of the city streets to be acquired and demapped; development and improvement of infrastructure, including (but not limited to) new and/or upgraded roadways and transit facilities, schools, police and fire services, sanitation, water, power, etc.; subsidies to incorporate tenants to induce them to occupy the office space; rent paid by city or state agencies to occupy the office space.

Step #4: Open bidding process to determine true value of the MTA/LIRR’s Atlantic Yards site – which Ratner is proposing to use for his development – including an independent, verifiable, published appraisal based on the intended future use of the site, not its current state.

Step #5: Formal analysis by NYC’s Independent Budget Office, the State and City Comptrollers, the City Council’s Economic Development Committee and the State Financial Control Board to establish the economic impact of the Ratner Plan on the taxpayers of New York City and State.
Step #6: Eminent domain and the threat of eminent domain must NOT be used for this project. Therefore, full public disclosure of the exact boundaries of the Ratner Plan footprint to determine which residences, businesses and community resources will be directly affected, must be forthcoming immediately.
Step #7: Public Scoping Hearing to determine which elements of the Ratner Plan requires an environmental impact study and how that study will proceed.
Step #8: Signed, legally binding guarantees from the developer (or developers) regarding pollution, noise and rat abatement if and when construction begins.
Step #9: Signed, legally binding contract with the City committing to publicly promised job creation and affordable housing targets based on Brooklyn’s median income with clear definitions and specific numbers for all categories.

Step #10: Approval by City Council, State Assembly and State Senate of any Memorandum of Understanding executed by unaccountable state corporations and/or authorities (MTA, ESDC) and a private developer that commits any city or state subsidies to the project.
“We are willing to go to court on any and all of these items,” Goldstein said.  “If Mr. Ratner thinks that Brooklyn is going to roll over and play dead the way the NBA did, he’s got another think coming.”
“They tell me this is all about money,” said Councilmember James.  “They tell me money will win the day.  But people will win the day.  Taxpayers will win the day.  They will not separate us by race, by class.  We all stand together.”

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