Skyway Myths

Common Myths pertaining to the Skyway $1.3/1.4 million subsidy.

 Myth 1:  This route has been analyzed and determined to be the best route.

This is false; no group has ever been tasked to determine what downtown connections most benefit the public.  The RDA and its director only allowed their development subgroup to comment on the aesthetics of this project.  Further, this discussion took place with the developer in the room.  I would contend that if we wanted to connect this building, this is not even the direction to do it from.  Because we have an unwilling partner in the Holiday Inn Express we have turned a short connection into a long, complex connection that is vastly more expensive and potentially destroys public space.  I suspect that an independent group would verify that this is not where or how we should build this connection.  But we are willing to spend $1.4 million with out studying what is best for our citizens.

 

Myth 2:  There is a precedent that should guide us in paying for this connection.
I suspect that in the 1880’s we had a precedent of equipping police officers with horses, but we do not consider that as a precedent.  10 years ago we had options available to us for funding projects like this, which we no longer have.  In today’s climate we can not afford to make these kinds of subsidy payments and low interest rate loans.  We have never before done this in this financial climate.

Myth 3: There is a public benefit to building this skyway.

There is a private benefit to City Centre LLC to building this skyway. There is no significant public benefit to this. We are not bridging a difficult crossing; we have not built skyways to help out other vacant buildings. If a skyway is required for this project to be successful, the private developer should have factored that in and built it. If the contention is that later this will connect to something that actually benefits the public, we could wait and build it at that point.

 

Myth 4: This money could not be used for other more worthwhile projects.

 

This money is absolutely competing with dollars for things like public safety, parks, library, and programs like Boys & Girls Club, the Senior Center, or the arts. This is because abatement dollars could b eused to pay the public portion of othe rcore projects like the 2nd Streed rebuild, which would then free dollars for other items that actually benefit the public.

 

Myth 5: This bridge should be built for purposes of improving handicap mobility.

 

Councilmember Snyder suggested, and I strongly agree that the mobility of citizens with a physical handicap could benefit from an expanded skyway system. I would that children and seniors and children would as well. However, the street being crossed by this massively expensive bridge (3rd St SE) is one of the more easily crossed in the core of the city. The crossing of Broadway would be a far better investment. If 3rd St SE is our standard for building skyways to aid access, we will be building more than $100 million in new skyways.

 

Myth 6: We should build a skyway because otherwise the building may sit empty.

 

There are beautiful historic buildings on the other side of Broadway from City Centre that are also vacant. We have never discussed building them a skyway immediately. So, why are we concerned about bailing out this particular building?

 

Myth 7: We can not control the interest rate applied to this skyway.

 

Really Myth 7A is that this project is not risky to us, if it wasn’t, any bank would be loaning the money. They are not because this is very risky. That is why we are being asked to pretend that we are a bank again. Myth 7B is that we can not charge a higher rate on this loan. Staff informed the council that we could not charge a fair interest rate in order to properly compensate the city for its risk. This in not ture because we could modify the principle amount of the loan to synthetically create any rate we felt was appropriate.

 

Michael Wojcik

Rochester City Council (and now Lender of Last Resort)

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