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"Atlantic Yards"

Did a Blogger’s Big Scoop Stall “Atlantic Yards?”

12:24 PM EST on December 19, 2006

NY1 is reporting a rumor that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will not vote to approve Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development project at tomorrow's three-men-in-a-room meeting of the Public Authorities Control Board. (Amazingly, this one meeting constitutes the only legislative "debate" and vote that this massive project will ever see). NY1 reports:

According to a source briefed on the matter, as of now, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will not give final approval to the project before January 1st. There's word he still has financial questions about Atlantic Yards, which includes office and apartment towers and a sports arena for the Nets basketball team. Officially, a Silver spokesman says the speaker hasn't decided.

Financial questions about the project have escalated since the discovery by Norman Oder, author of the Atlantic Yards Report, that nearly half a billion dollars in projected public revenues had simply vanished from the Empire State Development Corporation's project plan. Oder reported:

The revised Atlantic Yards General Project Plan (GPP) issued last Friday by the ESDC contains one very significant change from the document released in July. Projected net new tax revenues have plummeted by $456 million. That's almost a one-third decline from the $1.4 billion figure announced five months ago. That's much more than a rounding error.

Oder was the only working journalist in New York City to notice the half billion dollar revision (though, apparently, Brooklyn Papers reporter Ariella Cohen was also working on the story which came out two days after Oder's). His scoop was significant enough that even the New York Times deigned to give the blogger credit. In an article titled "Agency Cuts Atlantic Yards Revenue Estimate," the Times reported:

The new estimate was included in a statement and other documents issued by the development agency on Friday, but the difference went unremarked in both the brief board meeting that preceded the approval vote and the news conference that Charles A. Gargano, the agency's chairman, held shortly afterward. Norman Oder, a journalist who has a blog devoted to the Atlantic Yards project, noticed the change later and wrote about it yesterday.

Granted, DDDB, community organizations and good government groups have been putting lots of pressure on Silver to delay the approval. And they cite a litany of reasons why the project needs a closer look. But you've got to hand it to Oder. If Silver does choose to delay approval of the project, Oder's $456 million scoop may be a reason why.

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