Borough President Markowitz’s call for Bruce Ratner to cut costs at Atlantic Yards is a shameless attempt to provide cover for his political patron.
Markowitz, of course, is Atlantic Yards’ single greatest cheerleader — and, as such, has done nothing but salute Ratner every step of the way, even as the project’s cost to taxpayers has grown, even as Ratner’s own studies revealed huge environmental and traffic flaws and, yes, even as the cost of the publicly financed basketball arena has gone from a then-unthinkable $450 million in 2003 to the positively obscene $950 million today.
Last week, Ratner said that he would scale back the grandeur of the Frank Gehry-crafted arena — whose design was a main selling point for the entire $4-billion white elephant that is Atlantic Yards.
Predictably, this week, Markowitz put out his own press release, calling Gehry’s design no longer “economically feasible.”
And there you have it, folks: the Atlantic Yards bait-and-switch is complete.
It started near the very beginning, back in 2003 when Ratner promised that the basketball arena would be funded entirely with private money.
Almost immediately, the public was asked to front the cost of the building.
Next, Ratner promised a grand public park — with an ice rink and running track — atop that arena.
Soon after, he pulled that grand urban rug out from under us.
What followed were more promises — thousands of units of affordable housing, a Gehry-designed hotel and office tower called “Miss Brooklyn” at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, massive economic benefits for taxpayers — all of which are shelved.
Anyone who knows Bruce Ratner’s history in Brooklyn isn’t surprised. Here is a developer who always promises the stars, shoots for the moon, gets his political allies to approve the clouds — then builds a project that barely gets off the ground.
At the Metrotech office complex, for example, Ratner promised a thriving, bustling Downtown befitting a borough that would be America’s fifth-largest city. Instead, we got a quiet office park more suitable for a Midwestern backwater.
At Atlantic Yards, Ratner promised a break from this sorry past, and brought in legendary architect Frank Gehry as his calling card.
Gehry’s innovative designs dazzled state officials and local rubber-stampers like Markowitz, none of whom bothered to peel back the architect’s trademark metallic skin to see that Atlantic Yards was never “economically feasible,” even under the best fiscal conditions. Indeed, last year, Ratner admitted that he had scrapped Gehry’s “Miss Brooklyn” office tower because he had failed to line up an anchor tenant during what had been a long Brooklyn boom.
Now Ratner wants to save money by watering down the look of the Atlantic Yards arena.
Yet again, Ratner fails to deliver.