Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Boosting the Wilpons?

You gotta hand it to the NY Daily News, when it comes to using the power of government to take away peoples' property, the paper has a great imagination. This time it's bringing the NY Islander hockey team to Willets Point: "Mets owner Fred Wilpon has been talking to Islanders owner Charles Wang about moving the hockey team from the dilapidated Nassau Coliseum to an arena that would rise near Citi Field. This would be a win-win-win-win. Win No. 1: The Isles, a storied but money-losing franchise, would get a showcase location with a broader fan base."

Has the News forgotten the most salient fact in this fantasy discussion? You know, the point about how the land in question still belongs to its rightful owners. And one other important point-the bringing in of a sports franchise, and the building of an arena would necessitate an entirely new land use review-and call into question all of the economic rationales for evicting the property owners in the first place.

The reason why? It has to do with the economics of sports franchises. As one expert has pointed out: "Local political and community leaders and the owners of professional sports teams frequently claim that professional sports facilities and franchises are important engines of economic development in urban areas. These structures and teams allegedly contribute millions of dollars of net new spending annually and create hundreds of new jobs, and provide justification for hundreds of millions of dollars of public subsidies for the construction of many new professional sports facilities in the United Sates over the past decade. Despite these claims, economists have found no evidence of positive economic impact of professional sports teams and facilities on urban economies."

So, by all means, offer a spot in Willets Point to a dying hockey franchise-it makes as much sense as NYC spending billions to evict existing business owners and their thousands of employees in order to house the largest car dependent shopping mall in NYC. And as far as Atlantic Yards is concerned, where thousands of units of housing give the development a greater economic rationale, that might actually make some sense. The arena is gonna get built and the Islanders would be value added to the arena.

But a hockey team for Willets Point? As Brooklynites would say, "Fuhgettaboutit!"