Sports, Jobs, and Taxes

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

When the City Council’s Economic Development Committee convenes this morning for a public hearing on the Forest City Ratner Company’s proposed $2.5 billion development of a sports arena to house the Nets basketball team at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal, an all too predictable ritual will unfold. A contingent of residents who live in and around the development have vowed to descend on City Hall with placards, slogans, and the sort of anti-development sentiment that has kept the proposed site an unsightly, unused scar in the ground for the last half century.

We don’t begrudge any citizen his right to be heard at the seat of government, particularly on the thorny issue of eminent domain, which threatens to displace about 100 families from homes near Atlantic Avenue. But while the usual cast of characters in the not-in-our-backyard crowd is playing to the cameras, the thing for the committee members to do will be to look closely at a report released yesterday by Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College.

Mr. Zimbalist is the nation’s leading expert on the financing of sports arenas and co-author of the bible on the subject, a report issued by the Brookings Institution called Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums. He has a national reputation for arguing against the use of public dollars to pay for sports arenas. But even Mr. Zimbalist likes the proposed Brooklyn arena deal.

As reported by our David Andreatta at page one today, Mr. Zimbalist has concluded that the arena plan, which includes more than 2 million square feet of commercial office space and 4,500 units of housing, will generate $2.82 billion in city and state taxes over the next three decades, an amount equivalent to $818 million in current dollars.

The report appears to be the latest example of the savvy that Forest City’s CEO, Bruce Ratner, has displayed in getting the arena proposal moving.

To counter complaints that an arena would be unsightly, Mr. Ratner commissioned Frank Gehry, an architect of world renown, who delivered an inspired design; to silence critics of the plan’s financing, Mr. Ratner retained the nation’s leading skeptic and scold, and secured a clean bill of health.

Mr. Ratner’s project requires little in the way of public subsidy or zoning changes. Most of the estimated $1.29 billion the city and state would pay in connection with the project over the next 30 years would be for infrastructure upgrades, such as a sewer system and mass transportation links.

To the extent that a private developer is prepared to invest more than $2 billion in job-strapped Brooklyn, our belief is that the city government should be as helpful as it can. It deserves more than the usual grandstanding by politicians at the City Council.

The New York Sun

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