Hey, remember back when I did some quick-and-dirty estimates that showed that the New York Islanders were getting a hugely discounted deal from New York state on land for their new arena, and then Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report did his own estimates that came up with similar numbers? I finally got my Freedom of Information Law request back from the state-run Empire State Development agency, and as I write for this morning’s Village Voice, it turns out that the state never bothered to even do as much as Norman and I did to see if $40 million was a reasonable price for the land or a massive public giveaway:
In response to a Voice Freedom of Information Law request for any land value assessments provided by or to ESD for either the Islanders plot or any neighboring parcels, the agency has replied: “Please be advised ESD has no record responsive to your request.” In other words, Cuomo’s development agency has agreed to lease a prime piece of development land to a consortium of sports developers — and didn’t even check to see how much it could charge in rent for the public property.
The best way to guess at land value, according to property experts, at least when you’re looking at a unique parcel like a giant chunk of state-owned (so not subject to local zoning) racetrack parking lot land, is to look at per-square-foot prices for other vacant land in the vicinity. That method currently comes up with a value of New York state’s giveaway to the Islanders of between $74 million to $300 million — this at a time when the state is grappling with a $4 billion budget deficit. State senator Liz Krueger, who has annually introduced a bill to require improved reporting on all state corporate subsidies, told me she finds it “disturbing” that the state “would go into a 49-year lease with no evaluation of equivalent land lease or sale deals in the same area/county.” I asked ESD for a reason why the agency didn’t do any due diligence in this case, and didn’t hear back; if I get a belated response, I’ll update both here and at the Voice site.