Another Bump in the Road for Atlantic Yards

        Today’s New York Times reports that what has been anticipated, has actually occurred. “Citing fiancial concerns, the developer of the long-delayed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn has scrapped plans fior a Frank Gehry-designed $1 billion glass-walled basketball arena for the Nets in favor of a less expensive arena.” Charles V. Bagli, Developer Scraps Gehry’s Design for New Arena, N.Y. Times, Jun. 5, 2009, at p. A17. The new design will cost “only” $200 million.

          Evidently, to take advantage of tax-free bond financing, the project must break ground by the end of the year, which means that there is some architectural hustling to be done to meet that deadline. The new design won’t accommodate a professional hockey team as well as the Nets, as was the case with the old one. So stay tuned on that one.

          So here we go again. Another project that is grandiose on paper and is sold as such to the courts in justification of the use of eminent domain for redevelopment. But what eventually comes out of the municipal sausage machine may be quite different than what was blessed by the courts. In other words, those municipal plans, just like the plans in the Kelo case, may turn out not to be worth the paper they are written on. You’d think that after a while the courts would recognize that, instead pretending that those plans are “well-nigh conclusive”

          Vin Cipolla, president of the New York Municipal Art Society, is quoted by the Times as saying “The current Atlantic Yards plan bears increasingly less resemblance to the project that was approved in 2006.”  Yeah, Vin. Welcome to the real world.

         And speaking of changing things, the Atlantic Yards developer is  supposed to pay the New York Metropolita Transit Authority $100 million for a nine-acre railyard that is part of the Atlantic Yards project. But guess what? The Times reports that the developer is asking the Authority to accept a $20 million down payment at this time, so he can delay payment of the rest “at least for several years.” The article says nothing about payment of interest on that $80 million balance. You don’t suppose this is an interest-free transaction, do you? Nah, couldn’t be. But then again, who knows?

          And so it goes.

Update. For a more detailed discussion of the ongoing problems of this project, see Rich Calder, Questions Hold Up Atlantic Yards Project, N.Y.Post, June 21, 2009.