Theses Doctoral

The Political Economy of Value Capture: How the Financialization of Hudson Yards Created a Private Rail Line for the Rich

Petretta, Danielle Lucia

Abstract: The theory of value capture is simple to understand and easy to sell, promising self-fulfilling virtuous cycles of value generation, capture, and redistribution. Countless studies document value creation attributable to public interventions, providing guidance on the type and extent of potential benefits. Scholars too have set forth parameters for optimal value capture conditions and caution against common pitfalls to keep in mind when designing value capture plans. But even when utilizing the best advice, equitable redistribution of benefits rarely occurs in neoliberal economies, leaving municipalities struggling to meet the myriad of social needs and provide basic services for all their inhabitants. Invariably, capitalistic real estate states seek to financialize public assets for private gain. Nowhere is this more apparent in New York City today than in the outcomes thus far of one of the largest public-private developments in New York history at Hudson Yards.

This dissertation documents the failure of the value capture scheme put in place at Hudson Yards which neither captured fair market value for the public, nor extracted much public benefit. The scheme aimed to leverage vast tracts of publicly-owned land above operational rail yards at the Far West Side of Manhattan. Instead, public action under the guise of public purpose catalyzed the private financialization of a finite public asset, through the seemingly benign but inherently complex public policy tool of value capture finance. In particular, this dissertation tells the detailed development story of Hudson Yards, where developers reap huge rewards for their risks while the public still waits for what was promised — an all too familiar story.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Sclar, Elliott
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 5, 2020