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March 29, 2011

Would putting the MTA’s 8,881 properties on the market help plug the budget gap?

City Hall
by Laura Nahmias

But the MTA's finances are already under investigation, and state comptroller's office says the beleaguered authority ($900 million operating deficit, $2.1 billion projected deficit over next three years, $31 billion in capital debts) needs to find ways to generate revenue.

Last summer Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office audited the MTA's real estate department, which is in charge of finding ways to market and sell the agency's holdings. Di- Napoli determined the agency should find a way to unload many of its buildings, offices, easements and air rights to offset the tremendous debt.

"Our audit made very clear that the MTA must make the most of its revenue streams by maximizing the value of its real estate holdings," said Eric Sumberg, spokesperson for DiNapoli. "The MTA is not in a position to ignore potential cost savings, and our audit found that the MTA has done just that."

The MTA says work is underway to determine what can be sold.

"We are in contract to sell the development rights over Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, two of our biggest and certainly most valuable properties," said Aaron Donovan, a spokesperson for the MTA. "In addition, we are in the midst of a systematic investigation of our office space needs. We've issued a request for proposals to solicit the help of brokers who may be able to help us identify the sales potential of some of our office sites."

The what Yards? We thought the Atlantic Yards project was being built in part on the Vanderbilt Yard.

The renewed push to identify saleable properties came shortly after Jay Walder was appointed chair of the MTA, according to the audit report. Walder has since pledged to step up the efficiency within the $5.2 million real estate division.


NoLandGrab: Some ways to "step up the efficiency" might include not ignoring better bids, not selling properties for less than half of their assessed value, and not giving away sweetheart payment terms when your deadbeat buyer can't come up with the cash.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Victory for the "Atlantic Yards" meme: even MTA spokesman inaccurately uses term to describe Vanderbilt Yard

Actually, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority property, 8.5 acres, is called the Vanderbilt Yard.

By contrast, Atlantic Yards is the brand for a 22-acre site that includes formerly public streets, formerly private property, and some private property that neither the state nor developer Forest City Ratner controls.

Posted by eric at March 29, 2011 10:26 PM