Thursday, May 11, 2006

"Olympic Sites Become Topic Of Hot Debate" The Sun, 5/11/6

Here's is the juicy bit (click the title for the complete article):

Critics say it is wrong to give credit for the city's booming growth to the failed Olympics bid. Pointing to the approval of plans for new Yankees and Mets stadia, the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and a mall at the site of the Bronx Terminal Market, critics say that an Olympics obsession led the Bloomberg administration to negotiate development terms that were overly generous to private developers.

The author of the Web site, Brian Hatch, an advocate of the Olympics who has been critical of the Bloomberg administration's bid, said most of the development on or near the planned Olympics venues would have happened anyway in today's booming development environment. Instead, he said, the administration's rabid interest in the Olympic sites had a negative effect for taxpayers.

"The deals got better for the developer in most instances," Mr. Hatch said.

Last year, the Bloomberg administration negotiated a deal with a developer, the Related Companies, to acquire a Harlem River waterfront site slated to house an Olympic velodrome. The administration pushed hard for the approval of the developer's project - a shopping center - over the objections of local tenants and some government watchdogs who said the city was giving away too much.

Watchdog groups also criticized the amount of city and state subsidies that are being handed out to build new homes for the Yankees and Mets, charging that the cost to taxpayers outweighs the potential economic benefit. Mr. Hatch pointed out that the mayor announced his backing of both projects, which were to house Olympic events, as the city was waiting for a decision from the International Olympic Committee.

"They got a big boost, and then there were months before anyone questioned them," he said.

"This is an administration that wanted to come in and do real estate deals," Mr. Hatch said. "It's sad that the bid failed. Real estate came first."


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