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January 30, 2005

Ratner: City Playing Ball

Park Slope Courier: City fianancing for the Ratner arena project is is cited as reason for NYC being added as a signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding with the State, MTA and Forest City Ratner. Tthe state's Empire State Development Corporation will still be the lead agency, which will keep the project from going through the city's Uniform Land Use Procedure.

Atlantic Yards Kingpin Confident Deal Is Near By Stephen Witt

Forest City Ratner Companies officials confirmed last week that the city will be one of the signatories on the memorandum of understanding (MOU), paving the way for the Atlantic Yards arena project.

“It was always undershoot that the MOU would include the city, state and Forest City Ratner’s Companies,” said FCRC spokesperson Barry Baum.

FCRC spokesperson Joe DePlasco said the city would sign the MOU because they will contributing money to the project, as will the state.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which DePlasco said would represent the city in the MOU, refused comment.

Previously, the thinking was that the state’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the MTA and FCRC would be the only signatories to the MOU.

This raised eyebrows from some in the community, who want the entire 22-acre project to go before the city’s ULURP (Uniform Land Use Procedure) process.

While the city is expected to sign on to the MOU, the state will continue to be the lead agency through the ESDC, and therefore the project will continue to come under the state review instead, according to sources.

According to published reports, the city will contribute $100 million to the project and the state will put in the same amount, mainly to cover infrastructure costs.

Originally, FCRC wanted $450 million from the city and state for the project, according to published reports.

An ESDC source said the MOU is still being stalled while the financing for the project is put together and FCRC completes a binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with neighborhood groups.

“Once all allowances are made and the people [signing the CBA] are satisfied, I think there’s no stopping the project. People are understanding the economic benefit and the housing in particular,” the source said.

FCRC has previously said they will pay market value for the rail yards.

As for further government subsidies on the project, DePlasco noted these would come from standard subsidy programs that already exist for developers who agree to also building low-and middle-income housing.

In principle, FCRC has agreed to half of the proposed 4,500 units of rental housing going for low- and middle-income residents. This principle will become legally binding once the CBA is signed, which is expected to happen next month, said DePlasco.

DePlasco said the MOU would also trigger the city’s Independent Budget Review Office to study all the financing.

Baum also said FCRC is considering adding more housing to the proposed $2.5 billion project.

“There is a shortage of housing in Brooklyn, as there is throughout all of New York City, and we are considering the possibility of increasing the housing component of Atlantic Yards, which would decrease the number of office building,” said Baum.

Baum said if the housing component is increased, the plan to keep 50 percent of the rentals earmarked for low- and medium-income residents with the other 50 percent leased out at market rate will stay in place.

Meanwhile, about 50 people attended a special Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association meeting at the Belarusian Orthodox Church, 321 Atlantic Avenue, to hear an alternative plan for the Atlantic Yards site.

Marshall Brown, an urban design architect, designed the proposal, dubbed the “Unity Plan.” It calls for dividing the 11-acre MTA-owned Atlantic Yards into 1-acre parcels and issuing 11 separate Request for Proposals (RFP’s) to develop the site.

The plan would include 2,300 unites of mixed housing with local non-profits such as the Fifth Avenue Committee or the Pratt Area Community Council overseeing this component.

Brown also proposed that a Local Development Corporation (LDC) be created to oversee the entire plan, which does not include an arena.

“The arena is a Trojan Horse that doesn’t make that much money,” said Brown. “That’s why he [Bruce Ratner] wants all this other stuff in addition to this arena.”

Brown said the MTA property is extremely valuable, sitting between the Fort Greene and Prospect Heights neighborhoods, where real estate is skyrocketing in value.

Brown said his plan is not so much about opposing FCRC’s plan as it is about creating an alternative plan.

Once you take out the developer’s profit, you can use that to spread the wealth around, he said.

“I think It’s a myth developers have created that things cannot be done without them, which is how they get properties in the first place,” said Brown.

Posted by lumi at January 30, 2005 9:08 PM