Today’s news:

City doubles down on Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project, many cry foul

Call it mystery money. Couched in Mayor Bloomberg’s capital budget, released last week, is $205 million earmarked for the Atlantic Yards project. The line item more than doubles the $100 million that the city has already given toward the Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) project for infrastructure costs. It also is on top of the $100 million the state has given for infrastructure costs towards construction of 16 skyscrapers and the arena which will house the Nets basketball franchise. “The additional funding is for infrastructure improvements, several of which would have been required with or without the construction of the Atlantic Yards Development and others that are necessary regardless of what is built on the site,” said Bloomberg spokesperson John Gallagher in an e-mailed statement. “This project will create jobs, provide affordable housing and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and represents a solid investment of taxpayer resources,” he added, refusing to comment or answer any questions further. FCRC refused comment on the money. However, opponents of the project were quick to jump on the money as an indication of the escalating public costs. “The public costs keep rising, and yet we have a paltry amount of housing that is affordable to the average Brooklynite, and no agreement with the construction trades union to work with local residents who need jobs,” said City Council member Letitia James. “I’m distressed to learn there is even more of a direct subsidy for Ratner than had been previously disclosed. No one in the Mayor’s office has answered the question of where the additional $100 million will go,” she added. James said the mayor’s office should make this information available to the city council as soon as possible. “In addition, the developer’s profits should be disclosed immediately so we can assess the costs and benefits of this $4 billion boondoggle,” James said. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesperson Daniel Goldstein called the $205 million only part of the city’s subsidy package to developer Bruce Ratner, which also includes several [as-of-right] tax abatements and credits, and housing subsidies. “This doubling of the city’s taxpayer cash subsidy to $205 million for Ratner’s project is just the first blast of helium into a very large balloon of public money,” said Goldstein. “There will be many more installments made to Ratner under a blank public check euphemistically called ‘extraordinary infrastructure costs.’ Who will put a stop to this?” he added.

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