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"Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."
Bruce Ratner in Crain's Nov. 8, 2009

A Cautionary Tale for Local Businesses Around the Proposed Atlantic Yards Arena Site

WNYC radio has broadcast a disturbing story for anyone who thinks or hopes that the Barclays Center Arena will be good for local businesses on Flatbush or Atlantic or in Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill or Clinton Hill. It won't be.

As the sports economist Roger Noll makes clear, and the report emphasizes and illustrates, the whole purpose of the modern day arenas, such as Barclays, is to keep its visitors spending and buying stuff inside the arena.

Ailsa Chang reports on WNYC:
Main Street NYC Returns to 161st Street in The Bronx
WNYC. by Ailsa Chang

NEW YORK, NY October 28, 2009 —The first World Series in the new Yankee Stadium begins today. In the third part of our Main Street series, WNYC returns to the shopkeepers on 161st in the Bronx.

They've seen their businesses suffer in the shadow of the new stadium, and the playoffs didn't improve matters much. Many of these shops expected to do better with the new stadium. But WNYC's Ailsa Chang takes a look at how the new Yankee Stadium is getting Yankee fans to spend more money inside rather than outside the ballpark.

REPORTER: Eddie Morrison has been coming to Yankee Stadium for 30 years, but right now, he's chomping on the fanciest nachos he's ever bought at a game. He's sitting next to Gate 6, in the brand new Hard Rock Café.

MORRISON: It should say THE BRONX Hard Rock Café, not just the Hard Rock Café. Because this is the Boogie Down Bronx, so you gotta show respect.

REPORTER: It may be the Bronx, but those nachos just set him back 13 dollars.

MORRISON: That's just a part of the tradition. You have to uphold the tradition of buying very expensive food at the ballpark.

REPORTER: And there are more than a hundred separate spots in this stadium where you can spend lots of money to uphold that tradition. They're mostly big chains – like Nathan's hotdogs, Johnny Rockets and Carvel Ice Cream. Yankee fan George Figueroa says he forgets he's at a ballpark.

FIGUEROA: You walk around and it's like you not even in a game. You walk around and it's like you in a mall. You have whole bunch of stuff you could do. You can buy food, you can buy merchandise – whatever. It, like, takes you away from reality. That's a good thing. I mean, we don't have that in the Bronx. We don't have a big mall to walk around, so this is our mall right now.

REPORTER: But that's the problem. Businesses just a couple blocks down 161st street didn't think they'd be competing against a new mega-mall. Abdul Traore is managing a near-empty store called Jeans Plus. It sells Yankee souvenirs – many of them identical to the ones sold at the stadium, but about 30 percent cheaper. Traore's been sitting on a stool by the door during the playoffs, as if waiting for customers to come in.

TRAORE: This playoff is different. Totally different. Like Saturday, I stay here until two o'clock in the morning – from the time the game start until two o'clock in the morning. I don't even make thousand dollars.

REPORTER: Traore says in the days of the old stadium, he would make about five thousand dollars on a typical game night. His business is down 60 percent right now. And he says it's not just the recession – it's the new stadium. Fewer shoppers walk down 161st Street these days. For a lot of reasons. The new Metro-North station spits people right into the stadium. Fans who drive to games don't park further down 161st and walk up anymore – they have new garages right by the complex. And the new ballpark has 4000 fewer seats. That's a lot less people over 82 home games.

KATSIHTIS: I think the neighborhood in general has lowered its expectations.

REPORTER: Peter Katsihtis is the manager of the Crown Donuts Diner, just two blocks from Yankee Stadium. He says business picked up a little during the playoffs, but they're still dragging compared to past seasons.

KATSIHTIS: I think everyone's scaling back and realizing, it is what it is. This is the new world we live in, and everyone's making the best of it.

REPORTER: Katsihtis says they haven't had to let anyone go, but some waitresses have seen their tips cut in half. He says he and other restaurant owners counted on the new stadium to bring in new, bigger crowds. But ironically, this year, he says his business relies more than ever on regulars – not game-goers.

KATSIHTIS: Like my brother puts it best: Our regulars will fill the place up. It's the street traffic that gave us that overflow.

REPORTER: But why would any of the local businesses have expected more overflow with the new stadium – a stadium with more restaurants, more bars and more shops than the old one? That's what has economists scratching their heads.

NOLL: The whole point of a modern athletic facility – whether it's an arena for hockey and basketball or a stadium for football or baseball – is to get all of the money to be spent inside the stadium.

REPORTER: Economist Roger Noll at Stanford University has looked at every stadium built in the last 20 years. In each case, he wanted to find out whether the new stadium gave a real, substantive boost to neighborhood businesses. The answer? Not a single one did. In fact, many local stores ended up doing a lot worse.

NOLL: For some reason in the last 20 years, people have decided that, as a political matter, it makes sense to try to sell new sports facilities not as entertainment and recreation and fun, that this is something that's nice for a community to have, but instead, as a way to try to make money for an entire city, and that's just completely wrong.

REPORTER: According to the New York City Independent Budget Office, the city forked over more than $360 million in tax exemptions and subsidies to help pay for the stadium. Much of the rationale was that the new ballpark would be good for the city's economy. But Noll says local businesses won't see returns on that investment. The fundamental business model for the modern stadium is to keep shoppers inside its walls. In fact, he says, the fastest-growing source of revenue in professional sports is stadium sales – food, alcohol, clothing.

NOLL: If you compare the size of old parks versus new parks, the new ones are much bigger than the old ones. The size of the baseball field is still the same. The number of seats is, if anything, smaller. But the footprint of the entire facility is usually three or four times as big as a baseball park would have been 40 or 50 years ago. The difference is putting all this concession activity into the new facility.

REPORTER: The Yankees declined to say how much they're making from sales in the new stadium. Yankee president Randy Levine promised before the ballpark was built that no businesses would be displaced. Noll, however, says some of the shops on 161st Street that are competing directly with stadium stores are toast.

REPORTER: Meanwhile, the city says it wants to help prop up the less resilient businesses in the area. So here's what they're doing – they're sending kids to Yankee home games wearing bright white T-shirts that say “161st Street Business Improvement District.” That's the name of the city's economic development program for the area. For WNYC, I'm Ailsa Chang.

(Emphasis added.)

Posted: 10.28.09
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Eminent Domain Case
Goldstein et al v. ESDC
[All case files]

November 24, 2009
Court of Appeals

[See ownership map]

EIS Lawsuit

DDDB et al v ESDC et al
Click for a summary of the lawsuit seeking to annul the review and approval the Atlantic Yards project.

Appeal briefs are here.

Appellate Divsion
Rules for ESDC
What would Atlantic Yards Look like?...
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Before and After views from around the project footprint revealing the massive scale of the proposed luxury apartment and sports complex.

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Isabel Hill's
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Read a review
Atlantic Yards
would be
Click image to see why:

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