What Will a Governor Paterson Mean for New York Development?

The big question following Governor Spitzer’s resignation announcement today is what will happen to his administration’s agenda for economic development and all the expansive, and in many cases expensive, projects under a Governor Paterson.

Unanswered questions are many. Will he re-review all—or any—of the mega-projects under Mr. Spitzer’s control? How will he alter the budget when he negotiates an agreement with the Legislature (due to happen by April 1)? How will a leadership change on the Capitol’s second floor affect those involved in projects like Moynihan Station?

A new governor, even one with similar priorities, certainly has the potential to delay or alter initiatives mid-stream, as a look at the transition from the Pataki administration to the Spitzer administration suggests. Two different approaches came out of Mr. Spitzer’s office then, with respect to those projects already underway: the rubber stamp and the reexamination.

The World Trade Center is an example of the former, where, despite his reservations with aspects of the project, Mr. Spitzer pushed the development ahead without looking in the rear-view mirror. For the latter, the Javits Convention Center and Brooklyn Bridge Park come to mind as two obvious projects that the Spitzer administration reexamined—spending many months to do so.

Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said in a brief phone call this afternoon that said she’s not all that concerned right now about the state’s big initiatives.

“I expect that it will be a smooth transition,” Ms. Wylde said, back from a trip to Albany yesterday where she met with state officials. “My sense was that there’s going to be an effort to make sure that the important projects continue to move forward, and that I’m sure that, particularly with the economy being as threatening as it is, everyone will want to ensure that development goes forward on the major projects.”

Some, like the World Trade Center, are already well underway and may not see any immediate effect from a new governor. Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein was asked about the transition today at a New York Building Congress luncheon.

“The first thing I would tell Governor Paterson is that all the agreements have been signed, and all decisions have been made,” he said, eliciting a chuckle from the crowd.

A brief list of some other projects to keep an eye on:

  • Moynihan Station – Those involved with the planned redevelopment and expansion of Pennsylvania Station say the project is at a critical point right now as hundreds of millions of dollars in funds are sought for its completion. Governor Spitzer has played a strong role recently, personally coming in to discussions in an attempt to lift the project off the ground.
  • West Side Rail Yards – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority had hoped to designate a developer or developers by April 1, and one would imagine the state agency wouldn’t proceed without approval of the new governor.
  • Javits Center – After a long, jerky, 14-month dance with the Bloomberg administration, convention center users, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and others, the state finally settled on a plan for the facility last month that was palatable to many of those groups: renovation and maybe a modest expansion. The revised plan needs action by the state Legislature, which was included in the governor’s budget.
  • Governors Island – A mixed-use and parkland-intensive redevelopment of Governors Island, a former military base just off the southern tip of Manhattan, would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and has been on the drawing board for years. The slowly-moving project seemed to be gaining some momentum—a park designer was selected late last year—though it requires a substantial financial commitment that does not promise an economic return.
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park – Construction is expected to be way over budget on this project, which would put a sprawling new waterside parkland at the edge of Brooklyn Heights. The Spitzer administration had not yet figured out how to deal with the overruns, at least publicly, and the Post reported recently that environmental concerns could throw a whole new wrench in the project.
  • Atlantic Yards – This $4 billion project was approved in late 2006 by the Pataki administration, and the Spitzer folks left it as they received it. The state still has some money they have yet to give developer Bruce Ratner, though there do not seem to be all that many points of leverage at which the state could force changes if it so desired.
What Will a Governor Paterson Mean for New York Development?