It’s All About the Arena
Early this week, Forest City Ratner unveiled new designs for the Atlantic Yards project, showcasing a public plaza in the middle of Flatbush and Atlantic. Aesthetic considerations aside, this space was originally supposed to be the site of an office tower. How quickly, and unsurprisingly, plans change.
Developer Bruce Ratner finally admitted what has been all too clear—that many of the project’s key selling points have been delayed, indefinitely. Out of the 16 proposed residential towers, only one is currently in the works, while the rest have been made contingent on housing market conditions. Ratner has also acknowledged that the development cannot be completed within the original 10-year timeline, arguing that the time frame was never meant to be taken seriously. Beyond the sheer absurdity of this statement, this claim runs directly counter to Forest City Ratner’s repeated use of the timetable to promote the project. More significantly, it was on the basis of a 10-year plan, and on the assumption of the economic benefits to the public that would follow, that the city and the state contributed $300 million in direct subsidies. Now that Ratner has conceded that the development may not move forward for years, all the public benefits that the Atlantic Yards was supposed to bring have been made dependent, as he says, on the market. The thousands of construction jobs have yet to materialize, affordable housing is on the backburner, and the promised tax revenues, contingent on the construction of the office tower and residential complexes, are nowhere in sight.
In fact, the inclusion of affordable housing has always been neglected, and the Independent Budget Office calculated back in 2009 that the project would be a money-loser for the city. Ratner’s recent statements should be no surprise, but just another in a string of failures.