Despite being widely considered dead after the state Public Authorities Control Board failed to approve it in October, the proposed $900 million Moynihan Station has popped onto the PACB agenda for the body’s Dec. 20 meeting.
The upcoming gathering of the tiny yet powerful board already was drawing attention because political observers were expecting the PACB to vote on Atlantic Yards, the proposed $4 billion development in Brooklyn. That project, too, is now on the agenda.
And since the PACB never held its scheduled meeting for November, other items may be up for a vote Dec. 20 as well. The upshot could be a mega-agenda for the PACB's final meeting of the year, where the board votes on billions of dollars in funding and decides the fate of two of the most consequential city building projects in recent years.
Gov. George Pataki was pressing his support for Atlantic Yards, the 22-acre mixed-use development in Brooklyn, and Moynihan Station, the new train station in the Farley Post Office building across from Penn Station, with state legislators this week, according to news reports. But word of the agenda’s content provides the first indication that both projects could be decided by the PACB before Pataki's term ends Dec. 31.
The two large projects are up “for possible inclusion on the final agenda for the Dec. 20 meeting,” according to Scott Reif, a spokesman for the state's Division of the Budget, which handles administration for the PACB. Reif said “there's no final agenda for” the meeting. But both projects are in fact on the Dec. 20 agenda as it now stands, according to a source close to the matter.
PACB action on the station would be a surprise to Friends of Moynihan Station, whose founder Maura Moynihan — the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's daughter — has been promoting the project for years. Friends spokesman Jeremy Soffin said Thursday that he didn't expect any action until the new year when Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer takes the helm.
The PACB has the final say on financing for many public projects in New York City and throughout the state. It’s controlled by Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; their representatives hold the board's three sole votes.
The board has been criticized by elected officials, including Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards supporter Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for its non-deliberative, high-speed meetings at which millions or billions of dollars of funding are approved in minutes, and for its unanimous votes to approve resolutions, which are required by law. (See 'Public' Board Shapes City in Private Albany Huddles, City Limits Weekly, Oct. 30, 2006.)
Defenders of the PACB say the board serves its function, which is to vet the financing for projects directed by public authorities.
Squeezing Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards onto one agenda highlights what some consider a major lapse in accountability at the PACB: approving huge amounts of money with little or no discussion in public. At the October meeting, the PACB approved $4.52 billion in bonds, grants and loans in 12 minutes. The board also took just 12 minutes to discuss and vote down the Moynihan Station resolution.
The total funding tab for the Dec. 20 agenda is unclear, but in addition to the two major big-ticket proposals, “there could be an effort to get some of those [November] items onto the December agenda,” Reif said. In past months, typical PACB items up for approval have ranged from hundreds of thousands to billions of dollars.
Spokespeople for the PACB's voting members – Silver, Bruno's proxy to the board, and Pataki's proxy – did not return calls for comment.