Angry New Yorker

Thursday, July 15, 2004
[Ed. note - The Trojans were warned of Greeks bearing gifts. They didn't listen. Tragedy befell. While New York isn't in a siege situation, at least not yet, as Steven Malanga makes clear in the following essay the reliance on consultants bearing gifts of bountiful returns on projects should give us pause.]

Consultant Humbug

Steven Malanga says to beware ‘studies’ promising payback from tax-funded development

Steven Malanga Mr. Malanga is a contributing editor at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, from whose Summer 2004 issue this article is adapted.

Government officials,lobbying furiously for taxpayer-supported projects on Manhattan’s far West Side — including an expanded Javits Convention Center, a new
hotel, and a vast new stadium for the New York Jets — are waving around studies that promise thousands, even tens of thousands of new jobs and a massive boost in tax revenues, if only Joe Public will lend a generous helping hand. New Yorkers should be deeply skeptical of these kinds of “studies” — and the projects they’re promoting.

Over the last decade, an entire industry of consultants has sprung up to churn out similar reports for pols around the country, advocating public subsidies for one big building project after another. Many of the projects, it turns out, have actually been built, and they’ve proved colossal duds, leading a growing chorus of critics to question the studies’ methods.

One reason the studies are so misleading in touting the future economic benefits of publicly subsidized projects is that they frequently ignore what the private sector might do with the property instead.

* * *

Anyone who wants to know what the consultants really think can just check out what they’re telling the competition. Mr. Sanders relates the tale of twin studies done by Coopers & Lybrand in 1997 for officials in Washington, D.C., and New York, when each city was thinking of using public money to expand convention facilities.

For the Washington study, the consultants polled meeting planners across the nation to rate eight large cities as convention sites. New York finished dead last. Coopers & Lybrand conveniently left this key detail out of their New York study, which of course called for the city to expand Javits."

Read the entire piece here.

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