Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sheldon Silver Speaks on Atlantic Yards

We don't generally post a lot of serious items on Sunday, but today's Atlantic Yards Report brought our attention to remarks made by State Assem. Speaker and Public Authorities Control Board Member Sheldon Silver in an appearance on WNBC's News Forum that was streamed live on Friday online and that aired on TV today. (A transcript of the entire Q&A is available here.)

It has long been known that Silver--with his crucial PACB vote--would be the person in charge of the final Atlantic Yards End Game. From remarks that were published yesterday, it's also clear he detests outgoing Empire State Development Corp. chair Charles Gargano. Silver called the man in charge of the ESDC's work on Atlantic Yards "the most corrupt, most corrupt member of this administration." He want on to say:
Take a look what he did to economic development in this state. This--he has no credibility here. He has interests that obviously lie opposite the state of New York during his entire 12 years in this administration.... His gambling interests that he's had over the years, pushing for things that have absolutely nothing to do to benefit New York. So he was selected because he was the governor's fund-raiser, and he continued in that capacity for 12 years...And that's why we are in such a sad economic state in upstate New York, because the governor took his fund-raiser rather than an economic development professional for New York. He has no credibility in this state, no matter what he says. So let's be very clear about that.
On Atlantic Yards, there is rampant talk that Silver is being lobbied to put off a vote on the project until after Eliot Spitzer takes office (Spitzer is very pro, but might tinker with the model) or even until the eminent domain suit is resolved. There is also some thought he will broker some sort of compromise to genuinely reduce the scale of the project (those smaller models that Mr. Ratner and Mr. Gehry are said to have ready) and further mitigate traffic and other impacts. Here's what Mr. Silver had to say:
I can't tell you what Joe Bruno's going to do; I can only tell you what I would consider. One, as an old Brooklyn Dodger fan, I believe professional sports belongs in Brooklyn, as far as that goes. The merits of the project still to be examined; they're still being actually developed on a day-to-day basis. It changes. We have members of the assembly who are for it, members of the assembly who are against it. Unlike the [West Side] Stadium, where every representative of the area and the surrounding area of that stadium, be it Congress, state Senate or assembly, opposed that stadium. I wasn't the only one opposed to that stadium, let's be very clear about that.

In Brooklyn, it's a mixed bag. There are people for it, people against it, and the proposal itself keeps changing somewhat. So we'll look at it in a very favorable light because development is necessary down there, see how the developer responds to some of the criticism, either because of the mass of the project or some of the traffic, and I would say right now, the only vote we've taken is to support the development. We have voted for $100 million as a state component to that project.
So, there you have it. The man with the power to bless or kill the development says he looks at it "in a very favorable light" but in the same breath says he wants to see "how the developer responds to some of the criticism." Mr. Silver may do many things, but one thing he doesn't appear predisposed to doing is rubberstamp the proposal.

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