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June 23, 2009

Headlines: Acting Governor Bruce Ratner directs MTA to bail out Acting Governor Bruce Ratner

NY Daily News, MTA lets Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner go on the installment plan

"If the MTA is flush with cash to such an extent that they can delay payment over 21 years, then ... there should not be any cutbacks in service. There should not be any discussion of any future fare hikes, said Councilwoman Letitia James (D, WFP-Brooklyn).
"Forest City Ratner has defaulted on this proposal that you all accepted four years ago. Why is he being rewarded with major concessions?" he asked members of the MTA's Finance Committee.


The deal was renegotiated because Ratner is having trouble financing the plan to build an NBA arena for his now-New Jersey Nets and 16 office and residential towers on 22 acres in Prospect Heights.

The rail yard Ratner is supposed to build would be reduced from what was to be nine tracks with a capacity for 76 cars to seven tracks that could handle 56.

The developer, however, is providing the agency a new funding source -- a 20-year, $4 million agreement to add the name of the planned Barclays Center arena to the Atlantic Avenue transit hub.

It would be the MTA's first-ever subway-station naming-rights deal.


Columnist Nicole Gelinas puts it bluntly:

Developer Bruce Ratner wants to renege on his deal with the MTA -- and the MTA is going along with it.
But lots of those "public benefits" have vanished in recent months: The stadium lost its "starchitecture" features; the affordable housing and the office tower have disappeared.

And now the MTA is going to let Ratner get away with not even paying for the site for decades.

This is crazy. The MTA needs this cash now to invest in physical assets like subway cars and signal refurbishment; its budget for these areas already faces a huge cash shortfall.

Remember, the MTA is so cash-strapped that it had to beg the state for a permanent $2 billion-a-year bailout a couple of months back. Yet now, in effect, it's proposing to lend money to a speculative developer at a 6.5 percent interest rate for decades.

That rate is laughable -- market-rate financing is unavailable at even twice that rate.
The board should vote it down and start from square one in finding a responsible deal for its valuable land, as is its legal duty.

Yes, it's hard to do a real-estate deal now. But the MTA can hardly do any worse.

amNY, Ailing Atlantic Yards development seeks revisions this week

Under the revised plan, Ratner would only promise to build one out of the 16 residential and commercial towers. The others will be delayed indefinitely, said Jim Vogul, a spokesman for state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn). “It’s pretty murky,” Vogul said.

Meanwhile, Corporation officials characterized the plan revisions as minor.

MetroNY, MTA to give break to Yards developer

Over cries of a sweetheart deal, the MTA will vote tomorrow on whether to give a break to developer Bruce Ratner on the sale of its portion of the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.

The Architect's Newspaper, Be My Sweetheart Deal

As for the new rail yards, they are expected to cost $147 million, down from an expected $240 million. (Some accounts put the ultimate amount at closer to $340 million in infrastructural and environmental work, much of which is now out of the deal.) The scaled-down seven-track yards will have a capacity of 56 cars, down from the 76 cars allowed by nine tracks. While questions had been raised as recently as a month ago about whether a reduction in tracks would jeopardize the planned East Access megaproject, MTA officials said this was no longer the case.

“Helena is satisfied her usage will not be impacted,” H. Dale Hemmerdinger, the board chair said, referring to Helena Williams, president of the Long Island Railroad, which operates the yards. A number of committee members struggled to grasp how this was possible, repeatedly asking question about it, without ever getting a clear answer. It was also revealed that the developer approached the MTA about value engineering the site toward the end of last year, and worked with Parsons Brinckerhoff on “value engineering” the design of the station.

The NY Times, M.T.A. Sweetens Deal on Atlantic Yards

Without explaining why Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal with the MTA makes good-government watchdogs cringe, the "Paper of Record" wiffed on yesterday's presentation of the new deal by running a short outline which included only a few key points.

Atlantic Yards Report, Contemptible: the New York Times's print coverage of revised MTA deal with (NYTCo business partner) Forest City Ratner
Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder explains what's missing in the Times coverage:

No mention is made, as the Times's CityRoom blog reported, of the complaint by board member Doreen Frasca: “It is one month shy of four years since the board accepted Forest City Ratner, and this committee is being given less than 48 hours to understand a complex transaction... I think that’s pretty outrageous."

Nor does the Times report, either in print or on the CityRoom blog, that Forest City Ratner would save about $100 million on the "changed" railyard.

Nor does the Times report, either in print or on the CityRoom blog, that the temporary railyard, which was once supposed to last 32 months after construction, could now last six years and eight months, or 80 months. It would have capacity for only 42 cars.

No mention is made of the provision that Forest City could walk away from the requirement to build a new railyard by paying $86 million.

Nor does the Times disclose, as it used to do, that the parent New York Times Company built the Times Tower in partnership with Forest City Ratner.

Atlantic Yards Report, Rounding up the coverage: several news outlets get the "sweetheart deal"; Post columnist calls it "outrageous giveaway"

Posted by lumi at June 23, 2009 5:59 AM