Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Accountability at the BTM

In reference to our post on yesterday's NY Sun article it is instructive to use the BTM as an example of how a development project needs to be examined using economic development parameters and not just environmental indices. A key aspect of the analysis, especially if a project involves public land, is a proper evaluation of the sale or lease of the property in question.

This is precisely what was avoided in the BTM lease transfer and, notwithstanding the indefensible decision by Judge Cahn, it needs to be a crucial variable in the City Council's evaluation of the Gateway Mall application. This has nothing to do with the employment practices of potential tenants like BJ's, although we feel that these practices can't help but be germane to the economic assessment of the development's worth to the city.

Even if the mayor had the authority that is fantasized by the judge in his decision it doesn't take away from the fact that the city's failure to appraise the BTM properties and put them up for competitive bidding is, in this particular case, a malfeasant act. It is so because even EDC's Andrew Alper has admitted that if the property was bid the city would have "probably" gotten a better price for the land.

Not only that. If the city had followed Section 384 of the Charter it would have initiated an open and transparent process that would have undoubtedly yielded greater community input and accountability, as well as a set of competing visions for the property in question. This, unlike the hot-wired favoritism that characterized the BTM deal from its inception, would have been good public policy. It is precisely what the City Council needs to insure never happens again. The denial of the BTM application is that insurance.