September 28, 2012

Noticing New York Public Comment At Today’s MTA Board Meeting On the Subject Of MTA’s Devoting Public Assets To Advertising

Noticing New York

Following up on three Noticing New York articles on the subject I appeared at today’s MTA board meeting and gave comment about revisions reportedly under consideration by the MTA to revise its policies about how freely its public assets are used to promote or promulgate questionable or embarrassing messages the MTA might not want to be seen as implicitly endorsing.

I was the first of nine speakers this morning, eight of which spoke about the subject of advertising. The other, in a wheelchair, spoke about accessibility of the system to the wheelchair-bound. The subject of the use of the MTA system’s assets for undesirable advertising had been brought to the fore and covered in the press because Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative won a case against the MTA wherein the MTA was recently judicially ordered to run ads from her organization that include anti-Arab slurs and tell subway riders to “Support Israel” in the Middle East conflict. I have made the point in Noticing New York that the MTA’s very costly devotion of assets in the promotion of “Barclays” is comparably, and in several ways more, embarrassing.

The MTA is more intricately involved in the Barclays promotion and, given the record, its complicity is easier to argue and seem to have been more premeditated.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

September 27, 2012

Promoting Obfuscation of What Government Does and Doesn’t Do To Give The Private Sector (Including Ratner) More Credit

Noticing New York

The main problem when government gets enmeshed in advertising, lending out public assets as vehicles for corporate advertising and corporate promotion, is that it obfuscates what government does and doesn’t do.

Notwithstanding how promotional advertising images are seemingly plastered everywhere in the transit system these days, anyone who thinks that corporate advertising and promotions pay for any substantial portion of government services isn’t keeping track of their decimal points. The public pays for virtually all of what government provides; in the MTA’s case that's more than 99%.

Yet the MTA bends over backwards to accommodate the 1%.

. . . Does the MTA endorse promotion of the Barclays Bank, virtually synonymous with the LIBOR scandal in connection with which the MTA, amongst other New York government entities, may be suing Barclays for losses? The MTA has deeply subsidized the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” Center basketball arena that promotes that bank’s name and the MTA has named two subway hub stations in Brooklyn after the bank. No! The MTA says that it similarly disavows such promotion of the bank. . . .

. . . But, if that’s so, why does MTA Chairman Joe Lhota show up at the heavily promotional hoopla event celebrating the opening of that “Barclays” Center arena?


Photo: Tracy Collins

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

September 24, 2012

Clarification From MTA: Despite Furnishing Assets, Subsidy And Subway Station Renaming Transportation Agency Disavows Promotion of Barclays Bank

Noticing New York

[MTA spokesman Aaron] Donovan furnished me with this MTA disavowal of the ongoing media-saturating promotion of Barclays Bank resulting from the MTA’s furnishing of is resources:

The MTA does not endorse the viewpoints expressed in any of the advertisements posted in the system. That applies to issue-oriented advertisements such as the one you mentioned, and it applies to advertisements that propose commercial transactions.

So the promotion of the LIBOR scandalous bank is not endorsed by the MTA, even though the huge amount of promotion the bank is getting is greatly facilitated by the substantial assets the MTA furnished, some would say carelessly, for this purpose.

What I didn’t realize was that at almost the very moment that I was exchanging my communications with Mr. Donovan concerning the MTA’s disavowal of the promotion, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota was arriving that the “Barclays” Center ribbon-cutting event....


Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

September 21, 2012

Post-game specials from the LIRR, but who pays?

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

My unintentional week of coverage concerning the new Barclays Center wraps up today with a look at an announcement from the LIRR. The MTA, as we know, will run extra service along the 2, 4 and Q lines after events at the Barclays Center in order to clear out the crowds, and this week, the agency announced plans to increase LIRR service out of the Atlantic Avenue Terminal as well. With extra train service and a dearth of easy parking in the area, everyone from the MTA to Brooklyn residents are hoping that relatively few people will drive to the Barclays Center.

I was curious about the extra service. Who pays for it all, I wondered. The issue isn’t without controversy as the WMATA and Nationals have run into a dispute this season over service for games that run late. Metro has asked the Nats to pony up nearly $30,000 per hour when the team wants the D.C. subway to run later than normal. In New York, the system’s closing too early isn’t the issue but frequency is.

In New York, the MTA picks up the bill for extra service.

I’ll leave you then with a question: Should the MTA pay for this service? It comes, after all, out of taxpayer and fare-payer pockets, but at the same time, the extra service goes a long way toward keeping cars off the road. One of the reasons why the Yankee Stadium parking lots, for instance, have been so empty is due to the increased Metro-North and subway service. It seems then that the few extra trains are beneficial to everyone. It’s a win-win a relatively marginal cost.


Posted by eric at 1:01 PM

September 20, 2012

Embroiled In Embarrassment of Hosting Controversial Advertisement MTA Considers Banning “Issue Advertising”: What About Barclays LIBOR Scandal?

Noticing New York

You would hardly guess that ads pull so little financial weight when surveying the clamorous melee of advertising cluttering the MTA environment.

Now it turns out that playing prostrate host to advertising can be a headache that’s more than it's worth to the MTA in multiple ways: After objecting and losing in court the MTA has been ordered, on freedom of speech grounds, to run extremely controversial advertisements that, paraphrasing Ayn Rand (of all the gosh-darn times to do so!), equate Arab nations with savages and (of all the gosh-darn times to do so!) instructs New York subway riders to “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

Faced with the dilemma of being between this hard-to-stomach place and the court ruling the MTA accedes it must follow, the MTA is now considering having its board adopt a total ban on future issue advertising. Interesting! What does that mean for the MTA’s advertising promoting the Barclays Bank with the “Barclays” Center and the “Barclays” subway stations? Will the MTA now adopt a policy that would have prohibited its current promotion of the LIBOR scandalous British bank? It will at least have to mull over whether whatever policy it adopts should naturally entail such implications.


Posted by eric at 10:11 PM

September 18, 2012

Videos show short path from subway to arena plaza; straightest shots are Q/B and 2/3 northbound

Atlantic Yards Report

It's undeniable: public transportation is a very good way to get to the Barclays Center arena, and it must be a dream for the arena developers: it will deliver event-goers to the front door.

Below, some videos shot during yesterday morning's soft opening, tracking the rather brief path--at least, without a crowd--from some subway platforms to the surface, and back.

The concourses are wide, and, as Benjamin Kabak points out in Second Avenue Sagas, this will significantly improve pedestrian safety.

There are only two escalators--will they be going in just one direction before events?

Note that there's direct access to the Q/B/2/3/4/5 lines. Those aiming for the D/N/R have to go underground along a platform and then upstairs. Most likely, unless the weather's horrible, they'll take the streets.

Similarly, those heading for the Long Island Rail Road have a more direct route on the street, and would have to pay a fare--or use an unlimited ride MetroCard--to make it through the subway platforms.

Click through for some videos of the new station.


Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

Ahead of the arena, a new subway entrance for Atlantic Ave.

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Subway nerd (and we mean that as a compliment) Ben Kabak reviews the brand-spanking-new Atlantic Av.—Pacific St. subway entrance.

Amidst little fanfare on Monday afternoon, the MTA opened up a new subway entrance. This isn’t just any old subway entrance. Rather, it is the subway entrance that leads to the Barclays Center, an arena that sits atop rail yards handed over by the MTA Board to Bruce Ratner for a well-below market rate of $100 million.

Over the years, the Atlantic Yards debacle has garnered more than its fair share of debate (and a very thorough website devoted to tracking the project in all its glory), but one element that has seemingly flown under the radar until recently concerns traffic, transportation and pedestrian flow around the arena. Simply put, the arena is in a terrible spot for pedestrian safety.

On its north side is a six-lane road that features cars speeding by at all hours of the day, and on the other side is a six-lane road that features cars speeding by at all hours of the day.


Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

The Culture of Cheating: Forest City gets the inside track with the MTA, then gets to revise the deal (though the MTA could have recognized its leverage)

Atlantic Yards Report

The spanking new Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway entrance is an undeniable asset to the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, and the city of New York. But in this public-private partnership, the subway station will serve arena patrons more than anybody--and Forest City Ratner won't pay for additional service.

Moreover, the key parts of the developer's transaction with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), notably the payment for development rights over the Vanderbilt Yard, and the subsequent development thereof, still wait, thanks in part to FCR's ability to get in on the ground floor in 2003 with no competition for years, then renegotiate the deal in 2009.

Did it have to be that way? Maybe not.

Yes, there’s a “fundamental asymmetry” in complex projects that favors a developer, because it “can generally leave the project and even the city while politicians cannot,” as planning professor Lynne Sagalyn warned in Times Square Roulette, her epic 2001 epic analysis of redevelopment.

With Atlantic Yards, however, the public had more power: Forest City was desperate to move the money-losing Nets from New Jersey into a profitable new arena, larded with luxury suites and sponsorships enabled by the country's richest media market, and to get tax-exempt bonds sold by the end of 2009.

Instead, when Forest City asked to renegotiate, the MTA, controlled by the governor and mayor, complied. This is the Culture of Cheating from another angle: less deception than an inside deal from the start.


Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

September 17, 2012

New Subway Exit Opens Near Barclays Center


Subway riders now have a direct route to the Barclays Center in place. A new exit at the Atlantic Avenue subway station opened Monday morning and leads directly to the entrance of the new arena.

The new station includes a 30,000-square-foot plaza lined with paving stones, benches and greenery.

While some locals are excited about the $76 million station, others say they're concerned.

"I live in the neigborhood and I'm worried that with the Barclays Center opening, there's gonna be way more people here and it's gonna be a lot harder for me to get home," said one.


Posted by eric at 9:50 PM

NY Times Runs 3rd Article Mentioning That, Given Scandal, Promotionally Naming Subway Stations & Arena “Barclays” Is Problematic

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White follows up on today's City Room article about the MTA selling ad space — and naming rights.

Today the New York Times ran its third article including a mention of an obvious elephant in the media stream world: That promotionally christening of MTA subway stations and the heavily susbisidized Forest City Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov “Barclays,” the name of the British Bank whose name is virtually synonymous with the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal of which that bank is a big part, could be awkward. See: New Territory for Ads, With a Moving Target, by David W. Dunlap, September 16, 2012.

Barclays may, indeed, go out of business but professor Vaidhyanathan’s other “what if” is just a tad off: Barclays has already entered into a £290m ($450m) fine agreement with the United States and Great Britain for manipulating LIBOR rates. Its manipulation is already acknowledged by that agreement and the payment of the fine, but one purpose of the bank’s payment of that fine was to preclude criminal prosecution and conviction of the bank. Nevertheless, Barclays traders and possibly Barclays executives are likely to be criminally prosecuted, possibly convicted, separately.

Notwithstanding that this is the third Times article with a conceding mentioning that the publicly-financed parading of the “Barclays” name is obviously awkward, the sober observance of that fact in three articles is far outweighed by the many more celebratory articles the Times is running about the opening of the new “Barclays” center including the one featured on the front page of its special-edition Sunday Styles Magazine proclaiming Jay-Z in its front-cover caption to be civic-minded for promoting the arena, scandalous history and scandalous name “Barclays” name notwithstanding.

The Times has launched into its promotions without mention of its business relationship with the arena’s developer. Furthermore, the Times’ relentless promotion of the developer/subsidy collector’s Atlantic Yards from its unveiling forward probably tipped the balance for the materialization of a boondoggle that is costly to the public in so many ways. Such being the “Times Effect” on this issue, the clever casualness of the article’s conclusion equating of the naming of the subway transit hubs after “Barclays” with the naming of “Times Square” could be considered somewhat chilling- because there is less coincidence than implied:

Alternately, however, what if the bank and the new name show some staying power? After all, “Times Square” seems to have caught on.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In Times article on MTA advertising, a willingness to downplay the Barclays taint

The close of a New York Times article today, published online as New Territory for Ads, With a Moving Target:

Professor [Siva] Vaidhyanathan, for one, would like to see some more restraint. He bristled at the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center name. “What happens if Barclays is convicted of massive fraud in the Libor scandal?” he asked. “What happens if Barclays goes out of business?” Alternately, however, what if the bank and the new name show some staying power? After all, “Times Square” seems to have caught on.

That's a little pat, isn't it? First of all, the naming rights agreement is only for 20 years. Second, Vaidhyanathan, despite his criticism, was a little generous: Barclays doesn't need to be convicted to be tainted. It's already paid some $450 million in fines.

Posted by eric at 8:22 PM

New Territory for Ads, With a Moving Target

City Room
by David W. Dunlap

Then there are naming rights: for $200,000 a year, the authority has added the designation “Barclays Center” to the name of the Atlantic Avenue stations in Brooklyn. The measure is one part customer service — the new arena by that name is a block away — and two parts marketing, as the arena and stations now carry the name of a giant international financial services company.

But revenues come with a cost of their own, suggested Siva Vaidhyanathan, the chairman of the media studies department at the University of Virginia.

Professor Vaidhyanathan, for one, would like to see some more restraint. He bristled at the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center name. “What happens if Barclays is convicted of massive fraud in the Libor scandal?” he asked. “What happens if Barclays goes out of business?”


Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

September 6, 2012

The Pacific St. Edition of ‘What’s in a Name?’

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Nothing though has generated more angst than the corporate naming rights deal at the former Atlantic Ave.-Pacific St. subway stop. For $200,000 a year for 20 years, Barclays has appended the name of its sponsored arena to the station, and Transit has dropped poor neglected Pacific St. Although the arena doesn’t open until month’s end, the station signage has been updated, and the IRT FIND displays are sporting some decidedly low tech decals. Even as protest t-shirts spring up, the station is now, for better or worse, Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center.

But is Pacific St. supposed to have been left to the dustbins of history? Tough to say, says Norman Oder in a recent post at his Atlantic Yards Report. Noting that the signage wasn’t supposed to debut until the arena actually opened, Oder questions the MTA’s handling of the name change.

As Oder notes, the signs weren’t supposed to be revealed until the “Beneficial Use of the Subway Entrance is achieved.” In non-legalese, that essentially means that the date of the name change should have been the date the new subway entrance is available for public use. That clearly hasn’t happened yet. The signage, however, has changed, and the pre-recorded announcements trumpet “Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center.” Consider it a few months of free advertising.


Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

August 31, 2012

Expunging Pacific Street from station? It wasn't announced or even in the contract, but the MTA says it was the practical solution; also, new signage wasn't supposed to go up until the subway entrance opened

Atlantic Yards Report

As former Atlantic Yards point man Jim Stuckey once said, "Projects change, markets change."

Or, perhaps, subway naming plans change.

There's a certain resentment about the substitution of "Barclays Center" for "Pacific Street" in the renaming of Brooklyn's most diverse transit hub.

That's indicated in the "I'm still calling it "Atlantic Av-Pacific St" t-shirt produced by designer Deb Goldstein (interview), highlighted in a series of articles in MetroFocus about different ways to wear Brooklyn pride, including Nets t-shirts.

The MTA today not implausibly suggests that the use of two rather than three names is more efficient.


Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

July 30, 2012

Green Roof Crowns Atlantic Avenue Subway Entrance


A reader sent in this shot of the green roof going up over the subway entrance at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues outside the Barclays Center Sunday morning. The roof is planted with sedum and will anchor a plaza that can be used for farmer’s markets and other community events.


Photo: Brownstoner

Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Farewell Pacific St

My Blog

With the Barclays Center in Brooklyn opening soon, the stadium sponsor went ahead and purchased naming rights for the subway station adjacent to it. Actually, they announced this awhile back, but only recently are the signs in the station slowly beginning to show up and subway maps edited.

So what was once known as the "Atlantic Ave-Pacific St" station will now be called the "Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center" station. Pacific St now joins the list of street names dropped off from station names like Lawrence St (now Jay St-Metrotech), Ely Ave (now Court Sq-23 St) and Newkirk Ave (now Newkirk Plaza... still has "Newkirk" in it though!).


NoLandGrab: Technically, Forest City Ratner purchased the naming rights to the station. But regardless, we're still calling it Atlantic Ave-Pacific St.

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

July 24, 2012

Revenge of the Megaprojects


The blind had previously been spared this affront...

First came the subway signs, then came the protesting t-shirts, now comes a new recording from the automated subway lady! The MTA is plowing forward with the name change of the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street stop—today the subway voice told us "This is Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center." Next up: podcasts of the old recordings?


Posted by eric at 8:12 PM

Names, Trains, and Corporate Deals

Why Public Transit Shouldn’t Sell Naming Rights

Boston Review
by Frank Pasquale

The never-ending budget crises of American cities are claiming another victim: public transit. Managers are cutting services and workers. There are longer waits for rides—when they still exist. From the stygian gloom of New York subways to the retro interiors of the Bay Area’s BART trains, public transit appears to be declining as rapidly as the middle class.

The problem has become so dire that even station names are on the table. Transit authorities in Boston, Chicago, and Austin have hired IMG Worldwide to sell their naming rights. (IMG gets a 12 percent cut for its services; apparently the public sector is too depleted to negotiate its own deals.) New York City already shook hands with Barclays Bank, allowing it to christen a massive transit hub in Brooklyn “Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center.”

Barclays also purchased the rights to name the New York Nets’ future home, for more than $300 million. The right to name the subway station next to it cost a mere $4 million, to be paid $200,000 per year for twenty years. There is poetic justice to naming professional sports stadiums after Systemically Important Financial Institutions, to use the Dodd-Frank locution. Both mega banks and mega sports franchises have benefited from sweetheart tax deals, exemptions from antitrust regulations, and other government backing. Both feature immensely overpaid stars.

What Barclays now stands for—rapacious financialization and outright fraud—directly offends the values that public transit represents. Perhaps its yearly $200,000 payments can fund two or three union jobs. But if we were really serious about both raising employment and reducing inequality, we would tax our cash-hoarding corporate behemoths, not beg them for ad money.


Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Naming-rights deals, suggests law professor, are "transparent efforts by dubious enterprises to buy goodwill by permanently associating themselves with famous landmarks"

Norman Oder does some minor fact-checking...

Actually, Barclays did not buy naming rights to the transit hub. Forest City Ratner, the developer building the arena, did.

Why? They didn't explain publicly, but it was likely part of the renegotiations regarding the naming rights deal for the arena.

New York state (nominal owner of the arena) gave away naming rights to Forest City to sell. Forest City made a deal with Barclays for a reported $300 to $400 million. That was for an arena designed by Frank Gehry, and supposed to open in 2009. Ultimately, Gehry was dropped from the project, the arena was delayed, and the naming rights deal was reduced to $200 million (plus unspecified other payments). Forest City brought Barclays in on the arena bond deal (one carrot) and bought the station naming rights (second carrot).

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

July 17, 2012

Will The MTA Sue Barclays Bank Over LIBOR Rate Manipulation Scandal? MTA Says It Will “Vigorously Pursue All Available Legal Actions”

Noticing New York

In follow-up to my story about which state and city agencies and governments will possibly be suing Barclays Bank in connection with the LIBOR interest rate manipulation scandal and mentioning a long list that are possibilities it is interesting to note that, when contacted, the MTA being on the ball had already given some thought to this subject, enough to have a statement prepared and ready in advance.

Here is the MTA’s comment from MTA Media Liaison Aaron Donovan:

“The MTA has asked its legal counsel to review its options in relation to the LIBOR scandal, and will vigorously pursue all available legal actions. We are outraged about the apparent market manipulation, and will always do everything possible to protect the MTA.”

I have asked the MTA a series of follow-up questions, mostly susceptible to simple YES/NO responses. I will supply readers with the MTA’s response as soon as appropriate.

I have also made similar inquiries to other government agencies which probably have reason to sue Barclays (there are quite a few) and am in the process of putting these inquiries to still more. One agency that has yet to provide any response is the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) which, tomorrow, Wednesday at 1:00 PM, is holding a hearing on the first issuance of bonds for the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly since the issuance of bonds for the Ratner/Prokhorov (“Barclays”) basketball arena. A prompt response from HDC would surely be relevant to that hearing. The Hearing is at 110 William Street. For more information click on the link.


Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

July 12, 2012

BK designer creates shirt in protest of Barclays subway name

News 12

A Brooklyn shirt designer has unveiled a new shirt in protest of the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station changing its name to reflect the arrival of the new Barclays Center.

Deb Goldstein is selling shirts that read "I'm still calling it Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street," as a way of showing that she won't forget the original name of the subway station.

Click the link to watch the story (Cable TV subscription may be required).


Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

June 27, 2012


Brooklyn Magazine
by Henry Stewart

The MTA recently renamed the "Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street" subway station, where nine train lines cross, "Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center" after a deal with developer Forest City Ratner, which pays $200,000 a year for the rights. But nativist activists unhappy with the coming stadium now have a t-shirt to display their outraged pride, the Atlantic Yards Report reports. Deborah Goldstein, sister of Develop Don't Destroy founder Daniel Goldstein, designed the shirt, which reads, "I'm Still Calling it Atlantic Pacific."


Related coverage...

Can't Stop The Bleeding, An Alternative Birthday Gift For Deron Williams

Posted by eric at 5:22 PM

June 26, 2012

Your Ad Here, on a Fire Truck? Broke Cities Sell Naming Rights

The New York Times
by Michael Cooper

Speaking of still calling it Atlantic Av—Pacific St.

Should this city’s red fire trucks be transformed into rolling billboards?

After Baltimore officials made the wrenching decision to close three fire companies later this summer, the City Council initially sought to avert the cuts with a new money-raising strategy: it passed a resolution this month urging the administration to explore selling ads on the city’s fire trucks.

Pizza chains now advertise on some school buses, as a growing number of states consider allowing school districts to sell ads. The Baltimore City Council member who wrote the legislation urging the city to sell ads on fire trucks, William Welch, said he was simply trying to find a way to help the city meet its growing needs in a time of dwindling revenues and support.

The downturn seems to have prompted more public entities to sell advertising or auction off the naming rights of public places, said Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, the campaign coordinator for the Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert project, which works to curb the spread of commercialization. “We are bombarded by ads everywhere we go, and these are public spaces meant to be reflective of the values of our society, co-opted by the private sector,” she said.

Transit systems across the nation have been particularly aggressive in recent years in trying to sell the naming rights of stations. They are struggling with an estimated $77.7 billion shortfall just to get to a state of good repair, at a time of growing ridership, shrinking state support and budgetary shortfalls.

In Brooklyn, new signs went up last month at the Atlantic Avenue subway stop bearing a sponsored addition to its name: Barclays Center, for which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is being paid $4 million over 20 years.

NoLandGrab: One reason transit systems are struggling so mightily is that some of them give away property for a fraction of its market value. And if corporations are the only entities that can ably pay for this stuff, perhaps we need to increase taxes on those corporations — rather than allowing them to keep the naming-rights revenue for allegedly "public" sports facilities.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM


F'd in Park Slope

Were you also a bit miffed to hear that the linkATLANTIC/PACIFIC SUBWAY STOP WAS RENAMED THE BARCLAYS CENTER STOP? Now you can wear that big eye roll on your sleeve with an link"I'M STILL CALLING IT ATLANTIC/PACIFIC" T-SHIRT via Miss Witt Designs.


Related coverage...

2nd Ave. Sagas, T-Shirt of the Day: A Brooklyn subway landmark

Miss Wit Tees is selling these for $14 a pop. That’s one way to fight a Bruce Ratner-inspired naming-rights deal. The protest language:

You can tear the buildings down, and run folks out of town, and spin your tales of heroism. Billionaires come, and billionaires go. Names change, streets are bulldozed, neighborhoods divided, but these coordinates remain the same. Change is great, destruction ain’t. When the name becomes Atlantic/Housing Way we might sing a sweeter tune. You can call it the Barclay’s whatever, but I’m Still Calling it Atlantic Avenue Pacific Street!

This ain’t the first time I’ve heard these sentiments. Based on the city’s collective experiences with the Triborough Bridge renaming, I have a feeling the discarded Pacific St. moniker will live on well beyond its elimination from the subway map.

From Russia With Dunk, Barclays Center Opponent To Distribute T-Shirts

I think the opposition to the Nets’ move to Brooklyn puts more pressure on the team to succeed quickly. If the Nets continue having losing seasons and attracting few fans, Barclays Center opponents may be more justified in claiming that the Nets wasted a Brooklyn neighborhood.

NoLandGrab: Whether the Nets go 82-0 or 0-82 doesn't change anything. A corrupt land grab is a corrupt land grab.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

June 25, 2012

Behind the revision of the railyard deal: MTA says it leaves agency whole, won't try to put a dollar figure on work so far, says disruptive work to meet deadline not expected

Atlantic Yards Report

As noted on June 7, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that developer Forest City Ratner, which successfully revised the Vanderbilt Yard development rights deal to build a smaller, cheaper replacement railyard and to attenuate payments, has managed to save cash flow by renegotiating another aspect of the schedule with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Instead of beginning the permanent railyard this June 30, as indicated in an MTA Staff Summary dated 6/22/09, the official start date has been moved back 18 months to 12/31/13, with terms disclosed to the MTA board members on June 4.

Now that I have the underlying documents and posed questions to the agency, I can attempt answers at some of the lingering questions:

  • Does Forest City save money? Probably.
  • Does it leave the MTA where it wanted? Yes, but thanks in part to the agency's own delays.
  • Will a concentrated schedule mean noisy late-night work? No, they say.
  • Can the schedule be extended/relaxed again? Surely.
  • Does Forest City have the upper hand? Looks that way.


NoLandGrab: Next time you curse the fact that the bus you used to take no longer exists, or wait 30 minutes for a subway, or find yourself in a filthy '60s-era subway car, don't curse the MTA — they're just following orders from their parent company, Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Hey, Wait a Second...

The Ballclub

I was knocking around Brooklyn a few weeks ago when I chanced upon this service advisory and did a double take.

So, the MTA wouldn't call the 7 train stop "Willets Point - Citi Field," but they have no problem re-naming the Atlantic Avenue stop in Brooklyn to "Atlantic Avenue - Barclays Center."

Back in 2009, I believe the MTA refused to re-name the Shea Stadium stop to Citi Field because they wouldn't give a station a corporate name. After some sleuthing, I found that Bruce Ratner, the man responsible for the Barclays Center and also the displacement of innumerable people through Eminent Domain for his Atlantic Yards Project that is currently still a hole in the ground, threw $200,000 a year for 20 years at the MTA in order to make this change.

So, I suppose, a station name can be bought for the right price.


NoLandGrab: Well, we're still calling it Atlantic Av-Pacific St.

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

June 11, 2012

A successful private-public partnership and one less so

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

And the MTA giveth to Bruce Ratner, and Ratner keeps takething away — over and over again.

In New York, one of the more problematic public-private partnerships has concerned the Atlantic Yards project. While more of a direct sale, Bruce Ratner’s obligations involved transit. In a nutshell, the MTA gave Ratner a sweetheart price for the air rights to the Vanderbilt Yards in Brooklyn with the original promise of a new nine-track train yard for $225 million. In 2009, the MTA agreed to a reduction in the size of the train yard. Ratner would have to build only a seven-track facility instead. A sweetheart deal had just gotten sweeter.

Now, we learn that despite a guaranteed delivery date of 2016, Ratner is facing delays in the construction of the train yard. As The Wall Street Journal reported last week, the delays are due to “higher-than-expected costs and a sluggish economy.” These same excuses have been percolating around the Vanderbilt Yards for years.


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

June 7, 2012

Another Delay at Atlantic Yards


Forest City is going to miss the June 30 deadline it initially agreed to for commencing work on the MTA train storage yard it is committed to building as part of its Atlantic Yards Project, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more of the same,” said Democratic district leader Jo Anne Simon. The MTA doesn’t seem upset though. “From our perspective, very little is changing here,” said a spokesperson for the Transit Authority. FCR says it will break ground by the end of the year and still meet its 2016 deadline for completion.


Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Forest City Ratner admits to more delays for Atlantic Yards benefits

Posted by eric at 6:45 PM

LIRR Faces New Delay: Brooklyn Train Yard

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

The developers of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn have delayed construction on a new train storage yard, one of the many public benefits that had been promised in order to win public approval for a professional basketball arena and housing development at the site.

While the storage facility for Long Island Rail Road trains is still required to be completed by 2016, the delay comes as developer Forest City Ratner Cos. has struggled with higher-than-expected costs and a sluggish economy that have slowed other portions of the project.

"It's more of the same," said Jo Anne Simon, a Democratic district leader in Brooklyn who is a critic of the project. "There's a whole host of things that are problematic and have been delays in benefits."

Forest City spokesman Joseph DePlasco said the yard will still be completed on time. The developer has already built a portion of the yard, he said, and other related work will continue.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said the developer has agreed to do $10 million of additional work in the interim, and the LIRR is using a temporary rail yard meanwhile.

"From our perspective, very little is changing here," Mr. Lisberg said.


NoLandGrab: From our perspective, too — it's just one more in an endless parade of examples of broken promises that ultimately screw the taxpayers. We're guessing the MTA won't be delaying fare hikes, right?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, WSJ: Forest City gets MTA to accept start date on permanent railyard moved back 18 months; finished yard still due by September 2016

Developer Forest City Ratner, which successfully renegotiated the deal for Vanderbilt Yard development rights to build a smaller, cheaper replacement railyard and to attenuate payments, has managed to save cash flow by renegotiating another aspect of the schedule with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to the Wall Street Journal.

By building the arena, Forest City Ratner had to move the railyard functions (storage and cleaning) to a smaller temporary yard east of the arena block, and to build a larger--though not as large as originally promised--upgraded yard by 9/1/16.

As the screenshot above indicates, construction of the larger yard was supposed to begin this June 30, as indicated in an MTA Staff Summary dated 6/22/09.

The Journal's Eliot Brown reports that the start date has been moved back 18 months to 12/31/13, with terms disclosed to the MTA board members this week.

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

June 5, 2012

Uncertain Fate For Existing Signage at Renamed Atlantic Av.-Barclays Center Station

If history is any guide, at least some of the soon-to-be-obsolete signs will end up for sale.

Park Slope Patch
by Paul Leonard

Goodbye, Atlantic Av.-Pacific St. station. Hello, Atlantic Av.-Barclays Center.

With little fanfare, the Metropolitan Transit Authority put up signs last week informing riders that the station connecting nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road would be renamed for the 19,000-seat mega-arena quickly taking shape overhead.

Less clear, however, was the fate of dozens of existing (and now obsolete) signs throughout the transit complex.


Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

June 1, 2012

The Day: The New Signs of the Times

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

More like a sign of the apocalypse.

Our eagle-eyed scribe Erin Horan spotted new signs in the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street station, alerting riders to what has long been promised, but slow to roll out: The station is now officially “Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center.” The name change will take some getting used to, but Barclays Center supporters say that having the name of the arena in the station itself will encourage more mass transit use.


NoLandGrab: No, disincentivizing car travel will encourage more mass transit use.

Photo: Erin Horan

Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

May 16, 2012

Barclays Center Signage Now Underground


There goes the neighborhood.

A reader sent in the photo above, as well as the following note: “I noticed this on my commute in this morning — It looks as if some of the new “Barclays Center” signs are up and uncovered — at least at the far end of the Q/B platform at Atlantic Avenue (or I guess I should say Atlantic Ave / Barclays Center). It looks as if the signs are up for the length of the platform, but the rest are covered.”


Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

May 15, 2012

MTA updates subway maps to include Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Blog []
by Rich Calder

Next stop, Barclays Center!

The MTA has quietly updated subway maps on its Web site by slapping the name of the Brooklyn Nets’ new arena onto all listings for the busy Atlantic Avenue stop.

The transit hub — which connects to the under-construction arena set to open in September and serves nine subway lines plus the LIRR — was revised online to “Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center” as part of the agency’s first naming-rights deal approved in 2009.

Printed subway maps and station signage won’t be updated until the summer, said officials yesterday.

Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner has agreed to pay the MTA $200,000 over 20 years for the name change.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Sloppy! MTA updates subway maps to include Barclays Center--and excises Pacific Street

Well, the MTA was a wee bit sloppy. After all, the subway hub is known as Atlantic Av/Pacific St. The entrance to the N/R/D lines running along Fourth Avenue originally had both names, as indicated in the screenshot from a May 2011 map, below.

By that logic, the station along those lines should be renamed Pacific St-Barclays Ctr, not Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr. Was the MTA so concerned about getting the arena mentioned that they'd mislead straphangers?

Brownstoner, Barclays Center Makes it to the Map

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

April 24, 2012

NYU, NYC, MTA reach deal for 370 Jay Street

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA’s headquarters at 370 Jay Street will be a blight no more upon Downtown Brooklyn. After a decade of wrangling, political proclamations and unfunded plans to renovate the building, the MTA has agreed to surrender its lease on the building to the city, and in return, the city will provide NYU with the opportunity to turn the building into an applied sciences center in the heart of a rapidly growing neighborhood.

According to the Mayor’s Office, NYU will pay the MTA $50 million relocation expenses. The NYPD, another tenant, will receive $10 million. The university will then pay $1 per year in rent while receiving a series of tax breaks as well. That’s quite the deal for the city.

When NYU first announced its plans to open a science center in Brooklyn, the university originally offered the MTA $20 million to vacate its premises. The authority, no longer willing to roll over and die as it did with the Atlantic Yards air rights, dug in and asked for $50 million. With prodding from the Mayor, NYU gave in, and the MTA will begin to move out later this year.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Learning from the Vanderbilt Yard: MTA does not "roll over and die" when it makes Brooklyn deal with NYU

So, it looks like (too late) the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is doing better at negotiating than it did with Forest City Ratner.

I commented on Second Avenue Sagas to clarify that the MTA sold air rights to its Vanderbilt Yard, which were air rights for (part of) the Atlantic Yards project. Some people reading “the Atlantic Yards air rights” might think that the MTA property (8.5 acres) represented the entire 22-acre project.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

January 17, 2012

New MTA Chairman: New Ideas Or Same Old Politics?

Sheepshead Bites
by Allan Rosen

The answer is that, rather than having a rational planning process, we have decisions made on a purely political basis. We have a #7 being extended to the Javits Center at the same time Governor Cuomo announces plans for a new convention center near JFK with the Javits Center proposed for demolition.

Now this week we learn that Mayor Bloomberg had considered a site near Willets Point for a new convention center. So, why did he insist on extending the #7 to the Javits Center? Was it to make the land more valuable for residential development which will replace the Javits Center so the “one percent” can get richer? Why was there controversy over the payment terms the MTA agreed to when leasing the Hudson Yards, and allegations that Atlantic Yards was sold by the MTA for below market value? Are the mayor and the MTA serving the public or the real estate industry? The fact that most Board members come from the real estate and banking industries rather than being transit experts should provide a clue.


NoLandGrab: We're going to go out on a limb and guess B.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

August 30, 2011

Bollard backtrack! MTA reverses course on Atlantic Terminal security sarcophagi

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

It's getting increasingly difficult to keep track of the bollards around here. The Barclays Center, which the NYPD in 2007 said wouldn't require bollards, is going to get more than 200 of them. And now, less than two years after NoLandGrab broke the story of the Atlantic Terminal's massive, tomb-like bollards, the MTA says it's going to downsize them.

The MTA has agreed to tear out the massive granite barricades ringing the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Terminal, finally admitting that the concrete coffins at the borough’s largest transit hub were excessive and ugly.

Starting in February, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will rip out the 14 stone sarcophagi and replace them with a series of short metal bollards at the entrance to the $106-million Atlantic Terminal, which opened to immediate criticism in January, 2010.

Actually, they pre-opened to our criticism on December 7, 2009, to be precise.

MTA spokesman Sal Arena acknowledged that the stunning reversal was a response to outcry over the massive security perimeter.

“The new, smaller bollards are less intrusive and more acceptable to the community,” Arena said.


NoLandGrab: And in a landmark deal, Barclays has purchased the naming rights, and the MTA spokesman will now be known as Sal Barclays.

Photo: Barry Shifrin/The Brooklyn Paper

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

August 7, 2011

Commentator Marshall on New York vs. Hong Kong: "I suspect there is pressure on the MTA to lowball properties."

Atlantic Yards Report

The departure of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's CEO, Jay Walder, to lead the transit agency/company in Hong Kong led journalist and urban Alex Marshall to write an op-ed in the New York Daily News about how the MTA too could operate like a profit-making company.

On the 8/5/11 Brian Lehrer Show, on WNYC, Transit Systems That Make Money, Marshall amplified his thoughts in an interview with guest host Andrea Bernstein.


"Why is the Chrysler Building next to Grand Central Station?" Marshall asked rhetorically. "Why is Macy's next to Penn Station? Because it's an incredibly good location. And the only reason these giant buildings can exist is because they have these transit lines underneath them that can pump thousands of workers and shoppers into them."

Unlike in Hong Kong, where new lines are being built out, allowing for new development, such as shopping malls, New York mostly lacks such opportunity, Bernstein suggested.

Marshall agreed, but pointed to MTA projects that pose opportunities, including "Atlantic Yards here in Brooklyn," Hudson Yards, and the Second Avenue Subway. (He used the unfortunate but common shorthand of "Atlantic Yards" for the MTA property, the Vanderbilt Yard, which represents less than 40% of the Atlantic Yards site.)

In addition to direct ownership of a mall, Marshall suggested joint partnerships, and value added taxes around stations to capture wealth generated from development. "This is our public money that's helping generate this wealth," he observed.

The implication: the MTA should have held an open bidding process for the Vanderbilt Yard, rather than indicate repeatedly that Forest City Ratner had the inside track, then issue a belated Request for Proposals that generated only one response--and that because Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reached out to dozens of developers.


Posted by steve at 10:40 PM

July 29, 2011

What Jay Walder's new city, Hong Kong, can teach us about transit: Make money, don't just spend it

NY Daily News
by Alex Marshall

The Regional Plan Association's Marshall wonders why Bruce Ratner should get a discount, and then get to keep the change.

The impending departure of Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Jay Walder for the more lucrative shores of Hong Kong to lead its metro and commuter rail system has one silver lining: It has brought our attention to a top-notch metro system that not only can pay its chief a million-dollar plus salary, but which doesn't need public money at all. In fact, the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corp. actually makes money.

As the MTA worked this week to make up billions of dollars in shortfall in its capital budget, despite having cut thousands of jobs and vital services over the last few years, the question screams out: How does Hong Kong do it?

The answer is that Hong Kong's MTR also acts as a real estate developer and business company. It owns 12 shopping malls built around its stations, as well as residential and office properties. The primary goal, of course, is to move people; but actually making a profit is a huge added benefit - one that the MTA must consider.

What if the MTA had chosen to develop the land around the Hudson Yards in Manhattan instead of effectively selling it off to a developer? Or take Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn: Why should the private sector reap most of the benefits from track and station improvements?


NoLandGrab: And let's not forget the state's giveaway of lucrative arena naming rights, too.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

July 27, 2011

New York’s MTA: It’s Not What You Think It Is

NY Gritty
by Mike Vogel

In 2005, the same group of politicians and real estate types that praised Walder’s sterling stewardship of the MTA conspired to build a $2 billion dollar stadium for Johnson & Johnson magnate Robert Wood (“Woody”) Johnson’s New York Jets football team on the West Side of Manhattan–most of it with taxpayer money.

Guess who owned the development rights for the land? You got it–the MTA. And while this prime property was appraised at just under $1 billion, the goodfellas on the MTA board offered it to their Jet cronies for the bargain basement price of $300 million.

The MTA, then run by real estate mogul Peter Kalikow, couldn’t wait to privately work out this deal with the low-balling Jets (it eventually fell apart), while simultaneously pleading poverty and preparing to raise the subway and bus fares.

At about the same time, real estate magnate and co-owner of the NJ Nets basketball team Bruce Ratner announced his latest extravaganza: The Atlantic Yards. This grand development was to encompass office buildings, residential towers, a hotel and a new home for the Nets in downtown Brooklyn.

Take three guesses who owned a vital chunk of this real estate. The first two don’t count.

In 2005 the MTA struck a secret deal to sell crony Ratner the valuable property without opening it up to competitive bidding. When the media caught wind of this scheme, the MTA reluctantly gave other bidders a short window for bids.

Real estate firm Extell bid $150 million. Ratner bid $50 million (eventually raised to $100 million). Guess who won the rights?


Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

July 8, 2011

MTA says upgraded Vanderbilt Yard is on schedule, but won't specify whether Forest City completed required construction documents by June 2011 deadline

Atlantic Yards Report

So, is the replacement Vanderbilt Yard--smaller, but modernized, and part of a 2009 deal to save Forest City Ratner significant sums--on schedule?

Yes, says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), but it looks like there are some question marks.

The requirements

According to page 7 of the MTA Staff Summary regarding the revised 2009 Vanderbilt Yard deal, Forest City Ratner was supposed to complete "100% Improved Yard construction documents by June 2011."

"Do you know if that has occurred?" I asked the MTA. "And, if so, does that mean that the permanent railyard is on schedule?"

"The project is on schedule," MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan responded. "Design and construction are being fast-tracked in stages, with North Portion of Permanent Yard already in construction."

Lingering questions

That didn't quite answer my question, so I followed up two days ago by asking if the documents had been completed. I also asked yesterday if there was a timetable for finishing the upgraded railyard.

I didn't get an answer, which leaves me wondering: Is Forest City changing the rules? In other words, is it moving ahead with the railyard but has not completed the construction documents?

I'd say it's a reasonable bet.

Updated: I got an answer this morning from Donavan: "I don’t know about the documents. The overall status is that permanent yard design and construction are being fast-tracked in stages to advance the overall development. The north portion of the permanent yard design was completed and construction started in January 2011, ahead of the required construction commencement deadline of June 30, 2012."

That's pretty confusing. The MTA should know.


Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

July 5, 2011

Revisiting that 7/4/04 Times editorial, The Brooklyn Nets, seven years later: parking, subsidies, cost/benefit analysis, and the dubious promise of 3,000 cheap seats

Atlantic Yards Report

Seven years ago, in a 7/4/04/ City section editorial headlined The Brooklyn Nets, the New York Times published its first, and most skeptical, editorial about the Atlantic Yards arena and project.

The editorial begins:

The idea of bringing a professional sports team to the city almost always sounds great - and then the calculation of cost versus benefits begins. It seems a new team requires a new sports facility, and for some reason, owners of these lucrative franchises are seldom willing to build anything without enormous infusions of public money. That is one of the major concerns about the proposal to place the Jets football stadium on Manhattan's far West Side at a cost to taxpayers of $600 million. It is also an issue when it comes to the Nets and Brooklyn. While the plans to bring professional basketball to Atlantic Avenue are in many ways more attractive than the football proposal, the scale of public investment needs closer examination.

The amount the city and state will be asked to contribute to help the developer Bruce Ratner build the arena as part of a $2.5 billion, mixed-use 21-acre complex over Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards and on adjacent land is still being negotiated. But the public may be asked to guarantee hundreds of millions of dollars in bonded debt if the government helps pay for the arena and for significant infrastructure improvements to allow construction - including moving Long Island Rail Road tracks two blocks. The tab also could include some 3,000 new parking spaces, which will help, if only a little, to manage the influx of cars in an already-clogged corridor.

Such new parking would less likely manage the influx of cars as enable it.

The public was not asked to guarantee bonded debt for the arena, but the state contributed $100 million and the city contributed at least $179 million in direct subsidies.

But the costs to the city, state, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority would be much higher if opportunity costs are factored in, as the Independent Budget Office (IBO) calculated in September 2009.

Such opportunity costs--foregone gains thanks to tax exemptions and other below-market benefits--were not fully calculated in the IBO's 2005 report.

Beyond that, the IBO calculated (graphic below) that developer Forest City Ratner would have total savings of $726 million from "the mix of special government benefits." Consider, however, that that calculation was very conservative, given that the IBO focused on the arena, not the project as a whole. Also see the Empire State Development Corporation's response to the IBO, and the IBO's response

Fair market value

The editorial continues:

Both proposed sports facilities in Brooklyn and Manhattan would be built over rail yards owned by the cash-short and debt-ridden Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which should not be pressured to give away its assets. The state-run authority - which lacks other new sources of revenue - should demand and get a fair market price for any land and air rights the developers at either site need.

A study commissioned by Mr. Ratner (who is a partner of The Times in constructing its new headquarters building) shows that the government would more than get back its investment in the Brooklyn project, based on 30 years of projected new tax revenues from team salaries and new office and residential occupants, among other factors. Another study, endorsed by opponents of the development, maintains that taxpayers could lose half a billion dollars in the deal. We would like to see a third, truly independent examination.

However, no Times editorial has addressed the IBO's second study.

A November 2005 editorial mentioned the first one, arguing against direct subsidies (a position the Times later ignored) and concluding, gingerly:

The Nets arena is not destined to be a cash cow, but the borough deserves a sports team, so long as the price is not too high.

That price has not been addressed.

Local objections

The editorial continues:

Local objections to the Atlantic Yards development need to be addressed, particularly concerning the thousands of additional cars and cabs that can be expected on game nights. While some residents will be dislocated and inevitably wind up feeling pushed around, the mere threat of change is not a reason to oppose the project. Neither is the use of the state powers of eminent domain, as long as the people involved are compensated fairly. Mr. Ratner seems to have been generous in buying out homeowners and moving renters.

Sure, "the mere threat of change is not a reason to oppose the project," but many other things--from environmental impact to an undemocratic process--animated opposition. Does "feeling pushed around" include the "rat tsunami"?

As for eminent domain, the requirement is not merely just compensation but also "public use," long redefined as "public purpose." The Times could have done a much, much more stringent job assessing the public purpose of the project.

Ratner's seeming generosity, of course, was funded in large part by city taxpayers, we since learned. And the Times could have mentioned at the time that the buyouts were accompanied by gag orders (see graphic at left).

Promises of public benefits

The editorial continues:

Community residents have also been promised that the development around the arena will include 4,500 housing units, half slated to go to low and moderate income earners and the elderly.

Those promises need to be unpacked. Half of the 4500 housing units--now 6430--would go to "low and moderate income earners and the elderly," but only half of those 2250 units, or 1125 units, would go to the working-class constituency represented by ACORN, which signed a housing agreement with Ratner.

And only half of those 1125 units, or 562.5, would go to "community residents," of those are defined as residents of the three surrounding community boards.

How many cheap seats?

The editorial continues:

To address another longstanding complaint about sports projects, Mr. Ratner says 3,000 of the 19,000 seats for Nets games at the new Frank Gehry-designed arena will be sold at levels many neighborhood residents could afford - around $15.

As for 3,000 low-priced seats, that promise didn't last long. Usually the developer was vague, for example promising at a 5/4/04 City Council hearing the "maximum number of affordable tickets." However, in a September 2004 Urban Land article, Forest City executive Bruce Bender claimed "we’ve got 3,000 to 5,000 cheap seats selling for $15 to $20."

In a 5/26/05 presentation to City Council, Forest City promised "approximately" 3,000 such seats.

A month later, a 6/27/05 city press release, upon signing of the Community Benefits Agreement, promised at least 2,000 such seats, not 3,000. (The arena would now hold 18,000 people, not 19,000.)

Who's in charge of the jump-start?

The editorial continues:

A basketball arena near downtown Brooklyn is basically a more attractive proposition than a football stadium in Manhattan. The building is less overwhelming and more likely to see regular use. Both the proposed sites need economic development, but the most important need of the far West Side of Manhattan is a subway line, not a monstrous sports center. The proposed Brooklyn site, at Flatbush and Atlantic, is already perhaps the best transportation hub in the city, but the area clearly needs an additional jump-start if it is going to thrive, and Mr. Ratner's project might provide that.

Sure, the arena looks better than the West Side Stadium, but maybe that's not the best comparison. It's specious to call Brooklyn a better transportation hub than Times Square or Grand Central Terminal, but that's no the issue.

The issue, as the Times should have suggested, is whether the city and state should have embraced Ratner's take-it-or-leave-it project, or actually put the valuable railyard out to bid, as it never did.

Brooklyn's luster?

The editorial concludes:

There is also, of course, the dream of giving back to Brooklyn some of the luster it lost when Robert Moses killed Walter O'Malley's vision of building a domed stadium for the Dodgers at the same site nearly 50 years ago. That dream, the housing, the cheap tickets and all the other good things are not worth risking hundreds of millions of dollars in public money and dooming Brooklyn to impassible streets on every game night. But if those issues can be properly addressed, the idea of the Brooklyn Nets is tantalizing.

Brooklyn had and has generated all sorts of luster on its own since then. O'Malley did not seek the same site, but the Times hasn't corrected that error.

So, it it worth "risking hundreds of millions of dollars in public money"? The Times in November 2005 actually opposed direct subsidies, saying "those costs should be absorbed by the builder. Since then, the Times has forgotten that critique.

What about addressing the issue of impassible streets? That hasn't been done, either, but the Times hasn't kept up with the issue, for example not covering a contentious meeting last week on traffic and parking.

Meanwhile, the Times did cover another meeting on the "rat tsunami," but did not see fit to put it in print. By contrast, a Ratner-fed press release about programming help from the Brooklyn Academy of Music made the front page of the Arts section.


Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

May 23, 2011

Take the train to the game — and then inside

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gary Buiso

Some day, a train ticket may not only take you to a Brooklyn Nets game, but get you inside, too.

Developer Forest City Ratner told the Post last week that it is working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to devise a MetroCard that can be swiped for entry into the $1-billion Barclays Center arena, or a game-day ticket that can be used to enter the subway system.

The goal is to cut down on car traffic that critics fear will overwhelm the residential neighborhood near the rising arena at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street.


“Forest City should honor its commitment to make a project that is transit-oriented, as opposed to a massive parking lot in the community,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene). “I don’t think it’s too early to talk about it — we need to begin discussions now. The façade of the arena is almost completed.”


Posted by steve at 4:53 AM

May 18, 2011

Fernando Ferrer to replace Doreen Frasca on the MTA Board

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named Fernando Ferrer, the one-time mayoral candidate, to the MTA Board. The one-time head of the Drum Major Institute for Public Affairs and current lobbyist will replace Doreen Frasca, whose term expired in 2010. Ferrer, the Bronx Borough President from 1987-2001, will have to be confirmed by the State Senate, but he likely won’t face a significant opposition in Albany.

Interestingly, this move could have an impact on the board’s makeup. Frasca, an expert in the financing of complex transportation infrastructure projects, has been one of the more outspoken members of the MTA Board. For instance, she has long cast a wary eye toward the Atlantic Yards deal.


NoLandGrab: Frasca's "wary eye" didn't prevent her from voting in June of 2009 to approve the MTA's outrageous sweetening of Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal for the Vanderbilt Yard.

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

May 17, 2011

Pondering political priorities as transit withers

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Let’s talk about priorities. New Jersey doesn’t have enough money for the ARC Tunnel, but it can find funds for the Xanadu project or road expansion. Nassau County can’t afford the fund Long Island Bus service, but it can fork over significant tax subsidies for a new sports arena. New York City can’t afford more money for student fares or a subway station at 41st St. and 10th Ave., but Bruce Ratner doesn’t have to pay even market value for the rights to develop the area above the Vanderbilt rail yards.

Right now, New York is at a juncture. Its politicians can continue down a path of ignoring transit problems and solutions in exchange for quick and obvious fixes such as arenas and malls. Else, its leaders can actually lead. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of the former and very little of the latter, and the millions of people who need public transit are going to continue to suffer.


Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

May 10, 2011

The MTA’s Top 5 Botched Real Estate Deals

Sheepshead Bites
by Allan Rosen

The MTA is short of cash. That is no secret. Albany is partially to blame for that, as Ben Kabak has written about endlessly in But have the MTA’s real estate deals been in the best interest of the public or in the best interests of the real estate industry? Over the years real estate and banking interests have been the most prevalent occupations of MTA Board members. At the Brooklyn Public Hearing for the service cutbacks held in March 2010, a small group of protesters raised signs critical of the MTA’s deal to sell Atlantic Yards for below market value. In 2009, a lawsuit was filed to that effect. But it was hardly the only questionable land deal under the MTA’s watch.


Posted by eric at 7:27 AM

April 24, 2011

MTA Looks to Unload Midtown Headquarters

This story about the MTA's plan to sell or lease its midtown headquarters contains a reminder of how the MTA screwed itself and the public by selling the Vanderbilt rail yards to developer Bruce Ratner for an amount well below their assessed value and and later restructuring the deal so that it accepted $20 million up front when the original deal called for $100 million.

Gene Rusianoff, staff attorney for transit advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign, tells that he’s concerned that the MTA find the money it needs to fund its rebuilding program. “They need the dough,” Russianoff says. “They have a five-year rebuilding program and only funding for the first two years.” Russianoff’s main concern, he says, is that the organization not cheat itself on any property it sells. “We don’t think the MTA got a very good deal for the West Side Yards or the Atlantic Yards.”


The MTA agreed to sell development rights for the West Side Yards and Atlantic Yards properties to Related Cos. and Forest City Ratner Cos., respectively. Related deposited $21.75 million in May of last year to execute a binding contract with the MTA and has since added to that amount. Under a payment plan approved by the MTA Board in June 2009, FCRC paid $20 million, with an additional $80 million to be delivered over the next two decades, according to published reports.


Posted by steve at 5:13 AM

April 22, 2011

Another victory for the "Atlantic Yards" meme, as MTA critic uses term to describe Vanderbilt Yard

Atlantic Yards Report

From a article yesterday headlined MTA Looks to Unload Midtown Headquarters:

Gene Rusianoff, staff attorney for transit advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign, tells that he’s concerned that the MTA find the money it needs to fund its rebuilding program. “They need the dough,” Russianoff says. “They have a five-year rebuilding program and only funding for the first two years.” Russianoff’s main concern, he says, is that the organization not cheat itself on any property it sells. “We don’t think the MTA got a very good deal for the West Side Yards or the Atlantic Yards.”

(Emphasis added)

Russianoff was using shorthand, but, as I wrote 3/29/11, 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 11:07 AM

April 21, 2011

Unpacking the "restructuring" of the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard deal mentioned in today's Times

Atlantic Yards Report

In an article today headlined M.T.A. Is Planning to Sell Its Midtown Headquarters, the New York Times reports:

In recent years, the authority agreed to sell the development rights over its West Side Yards for $1 billion to Related Companies and the rights over its Brooklyn property that forms part of the Atlantic Yards project for $100 million to Forest City Ratner. But the money has been slow to come because of the recession and a restructuring of the deals.

(Emphasis added)

For the record

Just for the record, let's deconstruct that vague language.

Forest City Ratner initially bid $50 million in cash for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard, while rival Extell, the only firm to respond to a belated RFP--18 months after Atlantic Yards was announced, with FCR anointed the public property--bid $150 million.

The MTA, pressured by its political patrons, chose to negotiate solely with Forest City Ratner, which contended--as the MTA agreed--that the overall value of its bid was higher. (Then again, Extell was not allowed to fully develop its bid, nor was there an assessment--as seems necessary in retrospect--as to whether which bid was more likely to come to fruition.)

Forest City Ratner in 2005 then bid $100 million. But the MTA never got the money. In 2009, the developer, arguing that its bottom line had been hurt by the recession, requested a restructuring of the deal.

The MTA, again pressured by its political patrons, agreed to take $20 million down, with the rest delivered over 22 years at a gentle 6.5% interest rate. It also agreed to accept a smaller replacement railyard, saving the developer $100 million.

So the restructuring of the deal not only promised the MTA less money upfront and, arguably, less than it might have gotten had there been a fair RFP. It also promised a lesser package of benefits.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, M.T.A. Is Planning to Sell Its Midtown Headquarters

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

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 10:26 PM

March 28, 2011

Behind the Bloomberg administration's CityTime scandal: budget director Mark Page (who helped steer the revision of Forest City Ratner's MTA deal)

Atlantic Yard Report

Mark Page, the Bloomberg deputy most responsible for the CityTime scandal, has a bit of Atlantic Yards history.

Page, it should be remembered, was one of the two Bloomberg appointees on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who pushed hard against any skepticism toward Forest City Ratner's requested June 2009 revision of the September 2005 deal for Vanderbilt Yard development rights, allowing the developer to save on upfront cash and a smaller replacement railyard.

As I wrote 6/25/09, as for the last-minute character of the deal, which had been aired only two days earlier, Page claimed unrealistically that, because MTA staff had been busy working on the deal, “it’s not as though it’s something that’s been dropped in our laps suddenly to consider.”

“I think that realizing value from railyard property that we own is something that we have learned over the last number of years, much of which has been in a boom real estate cycle, is extraordinarily difficult,” Page said. “Because we require the railyard function... we’re selling the space above it. To have an opportunity to actually realize value for the space above our land requires a tremendous upfront investment by the buyer to actually build the platform, an upfront, major investment before the buyer can then move on.”

However, I pointed out, there's no obligation that Forest City Ratner build the platform on the majority of the Vanderbilt Yard site.


Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

February 15, 2011

Flashback, 2005: “We don’t know when this [Vanderbilt Yard] sale will close," warned one dissenter on MTA board

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper, in a 9/17/05 article headlined RATNER GETS SITE: With MTA’s blessing, Bruce leaves $10 million deposit on rail yards, reported on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's acceptance of Forest City Ratner's $100 million cash bid--double the original, though less than the $150 million cash offered by rival bidder Extell--for the Vanderbilt Yard:

The vote followed hours of public testimony at the Sept. 14 hearing in Manhattan, both for and against Ratner’s plan. The only MTA board member to question the deal at the hearing was Mitchell Pally, a Suffolk county appointee.

Pally said he was baffled that the board didn’t insist on getting more money, or arrange a deal whereby Ratner had to pay the full price up front.

...Pally also questioned why the MTA was making its own transaction contingent upon the actions of other state authorities.

“Why is the MTA making closing contingent on these other bodies?” asked Pally. “We don’t know when this sale will close. It could be two years, it could be five years, it could be 10 years,” he said, pointing out that the MTA faces incredible demands in their current capital budget.

Indeed, four years later, Forest City Ratner renegotiated the deal and put down only $20 million for the segment of land needed for the arena block.


Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

November 20, 2010

Transportation, MTA funding in trouble due to focus on short-term fixes, according to Ravitch report (which doesn't mention Vanderbilt Yard)

Atlantic Yards Report

A new white paper issued by Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch (embedded below, via Capital Tonight) sets out a sobering portrayal of the transportation challenges faced by the state Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), suggesting that the daily trials faced by MTA commuters may increase:

The $28 billion, five-year MTA Plan set out in October, 2009 faces a gap of at least $10 billion for its final three years. The MTA is in the middle of its largest system expansion in more than four decades, and there is now legitimate worry that the MTA will have great difficulty in finding resources sufficient to complete its current slate of mega-projects, including the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway and the Long Island Railroad’s East Side Access Project. On these two projects alone, the MTA is short $3.5 billion. Should the MTA fail to fulfill its local funding obligations for these projects, the federal grants that the MTA has received for the projects would need to be fully repaid--$284 million for the Second Avenue Subway and $1.25 billion for East Side Access. Given the prohibitive amounts of these repayment obligations, the part of the MTA capital program that is at most risk of non-funding is the MTA’s “core program,” which funds state-of-good-repair and normal replacement projects for New York City Transit and the commuter railroads—rebuilt tracks, upgraded signals, new subway and rail cars.

Unmentioned in the report: the MTA's willingness to sell capital assets, like the Vanderbilt Yard, in processes that privilege a single developer, like Forest City Ratner.

Follow the link to an in-depth review of the Ravitch white paper that indicates a transportation system about to go into decline and portrays an agency that is over-extended financially and in need of greatly improved management.


Posted by steve at 8:34 AM

November 3, 2010

Rider Rebellion and Reverend Al Tell Albany to Stand Up for Transit

Streetfilms via Streetsblog

Rev. Al Sharpton got religion, and a little case of amnesia, at a rally last week protesting MTA fare hikes and service cuts and Albany politicians' predilection for raiding transit funds. The segment begins around the 2:15 mark.

Streetfilms Shortie: Vote Transit! Rally from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

"The question is, who in Albany's gonna vote for the people? Everyone has got slick commercials; not one commercial explains how we have a state that can find money to build stadiums and developments, but can't find money for people to ride to work and to school every day on mass transit."

Say what, Reverend Al? You support Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn basketball arena "100%" (and you supported the West Side Stadium, too), but we don't remember you ever complaining about Ratner's sweetheart deal for the Vanderbilt railyard, or the re-sweetened payment terms.


Posted by eric at 9:59 PM

October 29, 2010

Apple’s money renovates a Chicago subway station

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Steve Jobs & Co. have funded a nice station renovation in Chicago, while New York's transit riders have been jobbed by Bruce Ratner.

For a cost of $0 to the CTA, the North/Clybourn station in the city’s Near North Side area received a full overhaul. A private partner picked up the $4 million tab.

In exchange for the advertising space inside the station, a right of first refusal should the CTA sell the naming rights and use of a nearby bus depot, Apple paid for the station renovation.

All of this leads me to the same question I had when the project was first announced almost a year ago: When will the MTA hop on board with these types of partnerships? It’s true that the authority will append the Barclays Center name to the Atlantic/Pacific subway stop when the Nets’ new arena opens, and it’s true that Forest City Ratner is funding some transportation upgrades to that busy Brooklyn hub. But Ratner purchased the Vanderbilt Yards air rights well under market value. The least he could do is fund some transit upgrades.


Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

September 1, 2010

Quote of the day: "The M.T.A. does not think of its real estate as either an investment opportunity or a development opportunity”

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's New York Times article, headlined Above Ground, a 2nd Ave. Subway Plan Attracts Critics:

The Second Avenue subway, finally under construction on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is of course a vast underground project...

But the project will also include construction above ground — not just station entrances but also a half-dozen boxy buildings on corners along Second Avenue that the transit agency acquired through condemnation. These so-called ancillary buildings, ranging in height from five to eight stories, will house ventilation equipment. They are also intended to disperse smoke and allow for evacuation from subway tunnels in the event of an emergency.

To the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York, the proposed buildings, designed by DMJM+Harris and Arup, part of the team that designed the Jet Blue Terminal at Kennedy International Airport, are “handsome in proportion and detail, while simple and straightforward in design.”

But to some real estate specialists, the structures represent a missed opportunity or an unwelcome industrial intrusion into a residential neighborhood, or both. Richard Bass, the chief planning and development specialist for Herrick, Feinstein, a law firm based in Midtown Manhattan, said that at three of the sites — on 97th Street, 72nd Street and 69th Street — the M.T.A. could have worked with private developers to incorporate the ancillary buildings into residential towers.

...On each of the corners cited by Mr. Bass, the developers could have sought development rights, known as air rights, from smaller adjacent residential buildings, Mr. Bass said. He said taller apartment buildings would have been more in character with a residential neighborhood and would have helped fill a need for moderately priced housing. In addition, the M.T.A. could have had the developers share in the cost of the subway structures, Mr. Bass said.

For those of us who remember the charges about how the Vanderbilt Yard site just "sat" undeveloped for years, here's the money quote:

But transit-oriented developments can also be used to defray construction costs. Julia Vitullo-Martin, director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Regional Plan Association, said the M.T.A. typically had not engaged in strategic thinking when it came to its real estate. “The M.T.A. does not think of its real estate as either an investment opportunity or a development opportunity,” she said.


Posted by eric at 11:21 PM

Black swans over Long Island

Cap'n Transit Rides Again

Here's a week-old commentary on the Long Island Railroad that somehow snuck past us.

Last week Planet Money had a great "Deep Read" with economist Nassim Taleb. Taleb's major point is that when you're vulnerable to "black swans" - rare and unpredictable, but high impact events - you need to invest in reserves and redundancy to be able to survive them.

It's an argument that all transportation providers should pay attention to, but railroads in particular are dependent on linear infrastructure. The current mess with the Long Island Railroad's switches in Jamaica show that at least one railroad isn't getting it.

The vast majority of train trips on the LIRR go through Jamaica. That's great for transfers, but it sucks for redundancy. You would think they'd have a backup plan, but apparently the MTA prefers to let the riders - and the taxpayers - bear the full brunt of any black swans that affect Jamaica.

Yup, that's the kind of perverse thinking the public authority structure encourages. If we had a sane system, Helena Williams' head would already be on a pike for giving public property to Bruce Ratner for nothing. Well, if we had a sane system, Williams would probably never have been allowed anywhere near the top post, and maybe we'd have someone competent actually running the railroad.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

August 25, 2010

Decades of neglecting mass transit led to the LIRR mess

NY Daily News, Editorial

Mass amnesia causes the News's editorial board to forget years of fluffing the MTA's sweetheart giveaway of the Vanderbilt Yard to Bruce Ratner.

There's a lesson in the nightmare that Long Island Rail Road commuters are suffering because an electrical fire knocked out signals at Jamaica: This is what happens when officials starve transit systems of the money necessary for basic upkeep.


NoLandGrab: And that lesson is... don't believe anything you read on the editorial pages of the New York Daily News.

Posted by eric at 7:54 PM

August 23, 2010

LIRR Crippled by Small Fire

The Wall Street Journal
by Andrew Grossman and Kavita Mokha

Take heart, stranded Long Island Railroad commuters! While you were standing on the Ronkonkoma train for three hours with hundreds of other sardines, or scouting for a nice patch of floor on which to spend the night in Penn Station, you could take solace in the fact that we taxpayers gave Bruce Ratner a 22-year-mortgage for 80% of the already-more-than-half-off sweetheart deal the MTA gave him on the Vanderbilt Yard. So what if they're still using pulleys and levers to switch trains from one track to another?

The Long Island Rail Road planned to cancel a one-quarter of its usual Tuesday morning service after a small electrical fire in an outmoded control tower paralyzed the nation's largest commuter railroad Monday, stranding thousands for hours before limited service was restored.

About 100,000 people use the LIRR during the morning and evening rush hours. The railroad planned to run about 60% of trains during the Tuesday evening rush hour. The delays and cancellations could last for much of the week as workers repair the control tower, the railroad said late Monday.

The fire broke out just before 11 a.m. when a power cable that feeds the third rail near Jamaica station shorted out—possibly because of Sunday's heavy rains—sparking a blaze in a nearby control tower. The tower, a relic of the early 20th century that featured pulleys and levers that switch trains from one track to another, is at a key junction just east of Jamaica where city-bound trains on 10 of the railroad's 11 branches converge. Only the Port Washington branch was unaffected.

The railroad halted all service on those 10 branches. Most trains pulled into stations, where passengers waited for hours. There, many said, confusion reigned. Rick Jerothe's 10:11 a.m. train from Ronkonkoma—which was supposed to meet a connecting train at Jamaica that would take him to Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal—instead stopped at Floral Park, on the Nassau County/Queens line.

Mr. Jerothe, a 45-year-old executive at a medical transportation company, had an important meeting about generators at ambulance depots that he needed to attend. Instead, he said he heard conflicting announcements about possible bus service that never came and got little help from the train's crew.


Posted by eric at 11:10 PM

August 18, 2010

Task force on public authority reform says those appointing board members also owe fiduciary duty; warns boards against reliance on senior staff

Atlantic Yards Report

As I reported last month, despite the expansion of the Authorities Budget Office (ABO) as part of 2009 public authority reform legislation, corporate governance expert Ira Millstein, who led the development of the law, thought the ABO was woefully understaffed.

This week, the Governor’s Task Force on the Implementation of the 2009 Public Authorities Reform Act (PARA), chaired by Millstein, issued a report (embedded below) calling for “substantial increases to the funding and staffing of the ABO.”

But it also called for several other reforms, a few of which seemed to be a response to situations like Atlantic Yards.

Notably, the Task Force wants:

  • those who appoint board members to face a fiduciary duty (which means they'd owe loyalty, for example, to transit riders rather than real estate developers)
  • board members limit reliance on senior staff (who, in the case of AY, run Empire State Development Corporation policy)
  • boards to implement risk management polices (which might lead the ESDC to produce an cost-benefit analysis that allows for delay)

Expanded fiduciary duty

As a main recommendation, the Task Force asks that “the ABO take action to ensure that the individuals responsible for appointing and designating directors to the boards of public authorities respect the fiduciary duty owed by their appointees and designees; and that the Public Authorities Law be amended to establish a fiduciary duty owed by the individuals holding appointing and designating powers.”

In other words, just because (for example) Mayor Mike Bloomberg appoints members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, he should recognize his appointees should be responsible to the interests of the MTA, not the interests of the mayor.

That would be a significant change, given that Bloomberg's appointees led the justification of the MTA's June 2009 renegotiation of the Vanderbilt Yard deal.


NoLandGrab: The horses left the barn last year, and Albany just remembered, "hey, we have a barn."

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

August 17, 2010

Political Meddling Harms Public Authorities, Albany Panel Finds

The New York Times
by Danny Hakim

Governors and mayors should stop meddling in the affairs of public authorities, according to a new report from a state task force reviewing the state’s sprawling authority system.

The report proposes that the law be amended to make explicit that politicians who appoint board members have a fiduciary duty that precludes them from improperly influencing their appointees. And it proposes giving state regulators enforcement powers over politicians who appoint board members, including referring violations to the attorney general or a local district attorney.

“The law has always required board members to do what’s right for the public, not what’s right for the elected officials,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who championed the 2009 authorities law.

“Think if it was a judge,” he added. “Should the governor be able to call a judge on the Court of Appeals and tell them how to decide a case? The same should be true of the M.T.A. These are independent agencies with an independent mission.”


NoLandGrab: It's going to take a lot more reform than that, folks. As Atlantic Yards court cases have demonstrated, an allegedly "independent" judiciary can make plenty of bad decisions all on its own.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

July 25, 2010

Fightback grows against NYC transit cuts

Workers World
By Dee Knight

The MTA's sweetheart deal is questioned by the “Campaign to Take Back Our Transit System” (TBOTS) in light of service reductions.

The MTA says it has an $800 million deficit. The TBOTS campaign says the MTA has plenty of money. The MTA continues to drain revenues with a multibillion-dollar, 20-year construction of the Second Avenue subway to serve Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side and with the gargantuan Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn to serve the developers of a new profit-making sports complex. And the $2.5 billion extension of the midtown 7 line fosters commercial development on the West Side. None of the profits of these developments will go back to the MTA or the riding public.


Posted by steve at 7:57 AM

July 21, 2010

Eliminating Station Booth Agents Still a Bad Idea, Says Millman

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Eagle republishes 52nd District Assemblymember Joan Millman's July 14th testimony on the MTA's pending token-booth closings and station-clerk layoffs.

While we are in the midst of the worst recession this country has faced in over 75 years and the state must make difficult financial decisions, safe and affordable public transportation is an absolute necessity. We must look at every available option to sustain mass transit, including East River tolls, because a properly funded transit system provides intangible long-term benefits to the overall health and growth of our city. We must find a balanced approach which combines a reasonable amount of state funding with other funding sources.

Unfortunately, the MTA’s financial mismanagement does not stop here. I am still stunned that the MTA sold the Atlantic Yards property for less than half its own appraised value of over $200 million. What did the MTA get in return for this sweetheart deal? Not enough! The MTA ought to be acting in the best interests of the public, not subsidizing deep-pocketed developers.


Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

July 19, 2010

Consensus, trust and bad faith

Cap'n Transit Rides Again

Part of the problem is simply that so many of the actors are obviously acting in bad faith. Marty Golden sits by and watches as the MTA fails to get proper funding, votes for the budget that strips $143 million from the agency, and then attacks Janele Hyer-Spencer for voting for that same budget. The TWU leaders make a mockery of the overtime rules that earlier labor leaders worked so hard to establish. Real estate mogul Bruce Ratner milks the MTA for all it's worth, even as it's preparing to cut subway and bus service.

Ultimately, the thing to do is to reform the system so that dishonest politicians like [John] Sampson and Richard Brodsky can't get the kind of power that they currently have, and so that greedy unelected business owners like Ratner have limited influence.


Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

July 17, 2010

Millman to MTA: Hearings a “Sham”; Restore Agent at High Street

Brooklyn Heights Blog

At a public hearing, Assembly Member Joan Millman questions a some of the MTA's dealings, including how the MTA gave developer Bruce Ratner a sweetheart deal on the Vanderbilt Yards.

She addressed the question of additional funding for the MTA by noting that the state needed to increase its contribution. She also faulted the MTA for hanging on to unused buildings the sale or lease of which would bolster its coffers (”What is the MTA doing with 370 Jay Street?”, she asked, “Storing tokens?”), failing to get contributions from developers along the Fourth Avenue corridor, and selling its Atlantic Yards property in a “sweetheart deal” for less than half its appraised value. She advocated using some federal stimulus funds for MTA operating expenses rather than capital projects, and said the federal government had approved this, but the MTA had yet to agree.


Posted by steve at 8:14 AM

July 7, 2010

MTA sells off subway name rights for cheap

Metro NY
by Carly Baldwin

Look who just caught on!

What a deal! Developer Forest City Ratner is only paying the MTA $4 million to add the Barclays Center name to the Atlantic Terminal station for 20 years.

It’s a bargain compared to the $5.4 million AT&T will pay to turn Philadelphia’s Pattison Avenue SEPTA station into the AT&T station for five years.

“The MTA doesn’t seem to drive a hard bargain,” said Daniel Goldstein of Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an opponent of the arena. “Barclays is getting their name spread across the subway system and to get only $200,000 a year out of it is offensive.”

Atlantic Terminal will be a gateway to the Barclays Center, future home of the Nets. SEPTA is renaming a station entirely after a corporation, said an MTA spokesperson, while the MTA will merely tack Barclays name onto the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. station in 2012.

Barclays hasn’t said what it is paying the Nets — hundreds of millions, according to reports — for naming rights to the sports complex. But Forest City Ratner, on behalf of Barclays, will only give the cash-strapped MTA $200,000 each year.

“They should have gotten more money for what they’re doing,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Metro discovers the subway naming rights deal is a bargain

Norman Oder, of course, was way out ahead on this story.

You read that here two weeks ago, though without the quotes from Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

Posted by eric at 8:35 AM

July 2, 2010

State Comptroller's audit slams MTA's real estate stewardship, omits Vanderbilt Yard; MTA claims success in AY deal, Barclays station naming rights

Atlantic Yards Report

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in an audit report [PDF] issued yesterday, slammed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) stewardship of its real state portfolio, including the failure to claim what the New York Post termed "a whopping $9 million in back rent" from commercial tenants and the failure to sell $12 million worth of air rights.

Curiously enough, the audit (embedded below) omits any mention of the controversial 2005 deal to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner, which had such an inside track all but one other bidder was deterred (though that bidder offered more in cash).

Nor is there mention of renegotiation of the Vanderbilt Yard deal in 2009, with the MTA leaving $80 million of the originally pledged $100 million to instead be paid over 22 years, and accepting a replacement railyard smaller than promised and worth $100 million less.

(Could there be any connection to a campaign contribution from Bruce Ratner to DiNapoli?)


NoLandGrab: If you've ever wondered why New York State is virtually broke and no one in Albany seems the least bit interested in actually fixing the problem — this is why.

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

June 29, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! Transit Riders, NO!!

Bus and subway riders who woke up yesterday to find that their regular buses and subways no longer exist can take solace in the fact that the deficit-riddled MTA gave Bruce Ratner a giant discount so he could build a shiny new basketball palace.

The Brooklyn Paper, MTA service cuts make it a Monday from hell

Mass transit became mass confusion on Monday, as the most severe service cuts to the city’s transit system in 30 years took hold in Brooklyn, where 26 bus lines were restructured or eliminated, a subway line vanished, and service became slower and more crowded.

Riders across the borough endured 90-degree heat as they made a sweaty trudge to new bus stops, where they deciphered new maps, grew frustrated by outdated information, and ultimately threw caution to the wind.

“I’ll take the B61, and hopefully it will work — but I’m not really sure where it goes,” admitted Richard Isaacson, a Park Slope resident who would normally hop on the B71 or B75 at Smith and Ninth streets, but can’t anymore because the two lines were eliminated in an effort by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to close an alleged $800-million budget shortfall.

The B64 bus used to stop right outside Vinny Galbo’s Bath Beach bakery on Harway Avenue and Bay 50th Street. But service south of 25th Avenue was cut, leaving Galbo without customers — and with a new job.

“I have to go outside every five minutes and tell people that there is no longer a bus stopping here,” he said. It’s like another job all in itself.”

It’s also disappointing considering that all these people paid their taxes, all for what?

NoLandGrab: For what? For Bruce Ratner's bottom line, of course.

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

June 28, 2010

The Destruction Of NYC Mass Transit Commences

WOR Producer Writes

You may have noticed something: As of today a lot of the subway and bus service in New York City has been destroyed or radically cut back. If you haven’t noticed it today, then tomorrow in your Monday commute. Further cuts seem assured in the future, combined with ever-increasing fares that will eventually put what service survives out of the reach of the poor, the working class and even some of the middle class. This in a world of diminishing oil and increasing global warming, where mass transit is needed more than ever.

We’re told this act of vandalism– which carried to its conclusion will, for New York City, be an act of economic suicide– is needed to close an $ 800 million MTA budget gap. $800 million – oh boo-hoo. That’s less than the amount that was given in city and state subsidies to Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase to build new offices in lower Manhattan.

The MTA– the same MTA that sold the Atlantic Yards to power broker/ultimate insider Bruce Ratner to develop, even though another developer offered them three times what Ratner did– and then, when Ratner hit cash-flow problems, sweetened the deal for him– they too never explored fiscal alternatives to what they’re doing. And all this in addition to $ 511 million in tax-free bonds for a Nets arena for Ratner (and new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Russian mega-billionaire, whose source of colossal wealth has never been satisfactorily explained [you better not try]). And…

Oh, why go on?


Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

June 23, 2010

In Philadelphia, naming rights for transit station near sports facilities is worth three times more (per year) than MTA/FCR deal for Brooklyn's hub

Atlantic Yard Report

While the bumbling MTA cuts subway, bus and train service while even-more-inept Albany "legislators" feign concern, Philadelphia's transit agency is cutting a deal that will bring it three times the amount the MTA secured in giving away selling Atlantic/Pacific Station naming rights to Barclays and Bruce Ratner.

Here's some more evidence that Forest City Ratner (on behalf of Barclays) got a very nice deal from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on naming rights for the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street station.

For a similar deal in Philadelphia, the local transit authority is about to get three times as much: $600,000 a year, vs. $200,000 a year.

(The deal must be approved tomorrow. Here's a tough editorial from the Philadelphia Daily News warning that "taking corporate money in this way leads to less, not more, public commitment to the so-called social contract.")

The deals aren't directly comparable. In Philadelphia, the AT&T Station deal with SEPTA lasts only five years, worth $3 million, while the deal with the MTA is $4 million over 20 years.

MTA opacity

How did the MTA set a price? The agency's then-CFO Gary Dellaverson had said, "We've never successfully completed a naming rights before.... I don't have a nifty little spreadsheet to show you how we came up with $200,000. Our real estate division did review some naming rights that had been done by transportation and other entities. But y'know, we kinda felt our way into it."

I asked for information about that review, but my Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request was stonewalled, as I wrote last July.


Posted by eric at 10:57 PM

June 7, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! MTA paint NO!!

What's a fresh coat of paint when we're getting a shiny new basketball palace?

The Brooklyn Paper, MTA’s Jay Street paint chip disaster

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is spending $110 million to rehabilitate the bustling Jay Street subway station, but it is content to treat the hub’s entryway as an ugly stepchild.

The transit agency said this week it will not repaint the peeling ceilings on either exit on the west side of Jay Street between Willoughby Street and Myrtle Avenue, leaving a moonscape of potentially toxic paint chips raining down.

The ceiling work is not included in the current rehab plan, which will be completed by August, 2011. Transit officials said that intra-agency discussions are underway to try to secure funding for the paint job — but could not provide a cost estimate or a time frame for the work, vexing area business leaders.

“If this was Midtown Manhattan, I’m not sure we’d be having this conversation,” said Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a quasi-governmental group.

“The MTA has to stop blighting the neighborhood through its neglect of this building,” Chan said, adding that the investment the agency made to rehabbing the station justifies cleaning up the exterior. “Saying this sticks out like a sore thumb is a huge understatement.”

NoLandGrab: Perhaps if Chan, whose "quasi-governmental group" has been a big supporter of Atlantic Yards, had spoken up about the MTA's giveaway of the Vanderbilt Yard for a fraction of its value, there might be enough money to paint the ceiling. Or maybe he could cough up some of that $6 million no-bid contract from the city to buy some paint.

Photo: The Brooklyn Paper

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

May 25, 2010

Dellaverson, ex-MTA CFO, joins a law firm, and the Times discreetly ignores the Vanderbilt Yard deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Gary Dellaverson, former Chief Financial Officer at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, lands at the law firm Proskauer Rose, and gets some positive words from the Times:

In 19 years at the transportation authority, the mustachioed, cigarillo-smoking Mr. Dellaverson took on some of the toughest assignments at a notoriously tough agency. As chief labor negotiator, he did battle with the Transport Workers Union during the 2005 transit strike. The headache-inducing complexity of the Hudson Yards development deal was his doing (after the first developer fell through, he nailed down another in five days).

Selling "Atlantic Yards"

Reuters reports:

The law firm hired Gary Dellaverson as special counsel in its labor and employment department. Dellaverson joins from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where he was most recently chief financial officer. He was previously the MTA's chief labor negotiator, overseeing such matters as the 2005 transit strike and efforts to sell the West Side Rail Yards and Atlantic Yards.

I don't know whether that summary came from a law firm press release or Reuters shorthand, but nobody sold the "Atlantic Yards." It's a project, not a place.


Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

May 24, 2010

Brutally weird: There's a monitoring plan to ensure arena construction doesn't damage subways. But it's illegible. Ask for legible copy? Unavailable.

Atlantic Yards Report

The construction of the Atlantic Yards arena, according to a Subway Indemnity Agreement signed by Brooklyn Arena LLC and the New York City Transit Authority, not only must proceed "in a good and workmanlike manner" but also must be subject to a monitoring plan, thus protecting critical transit system assets.

The monitoring plan begins on the 29th page of the document below.

But you can't read it, as the two sample excerpts below show.

It's illegible. [Click for a larger, though no more legible, version.]

So I asked the MTA press office for a legible copy.

My request was ignored.

I filed a request with the NYCTA FOIL officer.

I was told to file with the MTA.

I refiled the request with the MTA FOIL officer and got the following response: In response to your May 20, 2010 [request], please be advised that the MTA does not have a more legible copy of Exhibit A of the Subway Indemnity Agreement. This completes the MTA's response to your FOIL request.


Well, if the MTA doesn't have a more legible copy, then how do we know what's supposed to be in the monitoring plan?

Answer, we don't.

Perhaps some of our elected officials might want to check into this.


NoLandGrab: "Brutally weird?" Norman Oder's too kind. More like completely moronic. But that's our tax dollars at work.

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

April 27, 2010

Surprised? MTA Restructures the Hudson Yards Deal; Developer Cherry Picks More Benefit While Public Keeps the Risk

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White is back, with a look at how the MTA is following the proven-unsuccessful model it developed with the Vanderbilt Yard giveaway in its negotiations with developer Related Companies over Manhattan's Hudson Yard.

In light of the New York Times report today about delays and proposed developer-favorable modifications with respect to the West Side’s 26-acre Hudson Yards Project we would like to note how it confirms and hearkens back to concerns we raised a long time ago. (Railyards Deal May Still Be Weeks Away, by Michael M. Grynbaum, April 26, 2010.) Are we really that much smarter than the MTA’s board? Or are we just more attentive to protecting the public interest?

So the MTA is structuring a new plan. As is typical with so-called public-private partnerships where what is public and what is private is confused and up for grabs, the public is taking all the risk and the private developer (now getting a lower price and having less obligation) is cherry-picking to get all the benefit.

Here is some advice for "frustrated" MTA board members: You wouldn’t be getting in these kinds of binds if they abandoned the ill-advised practice of doing these single developer mega-deals and you wouldn’t be surprised with so little time to think about things if you were reading some of the Noticing New York articles where we consider these critical issue ahead of time.


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, First the Vanderbilt Yard, then Hudson Yards; the MTA seems ready to cave to a developer's revised deal

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is still at the mercy of developers who (apparently) have the ear of the governor and mayor who control the authority.

Now the issue is a revised deal for the Hudson Yards, which gets far more incisive treatment from Michael D.D. White, as described below, than from the New York Times.

The "bum's rush"

From a Times article today headlined Railyards Deal May Still Be Weeks Away:

Members of the authority’s board, who received details of the deal on Sunday, expressed frustration that they had no time to review the plan before being asked to approve it. “I really feel that in these big developer deals we get the bum’s rush,” said Doreen Frasca, a board member. The finance committee issued no recommendation on the plan.

And last June?

When the revised Vanderbilt Yard deal was revealed last June 22, Frasca said, "This is just an observation, and I know staff has worked very long and hard on this, including into this weekend, but I note that it's one month shy of four years since the board accepted the Forest City Ratner proposal, and this committee and this board is being given less than 48 hours to understand the complexities and vote intelligently... I think that's pretty outrageous. Why do we have to vote on Wednesday?"

"Well, of course, you don't," MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson responded. "It's entirely at the board's discretion to accept or reject or send back to the negotiating table... I think that, in terms of why must it be now in the summer versus in the fall, I think it really relates to Forest City's desire to market their bonds as a tax-exempt issuance [by a December 31 deadline]."

Two days later, Frasca, saying she'd studied the deal intensely, signed on. Maybe she'd gotten a phone call, as well.

Posted by eric at 11:28 PM

March 24, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! Transit riders NO!!

Finally! Someone inside the MTA has spoken out about the foolish giveaway of valuable assets to Bruce Ratner for a fraction of their value, while the transit system is sliced and diced for want of money.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn’s Not on Board With Bus, Subway Cutbacks

Unfortunately, he's just a conductor — and the board wasn't paying attention.

John Ferretti, an MTA conductor, wondered aloud why the MTA had given control of the Vanderbilt Railyard site to Bruce Ratner, “a developer with a penchant for spending public money,” while the competing Extell Development bid, which would have paid the MTA $100 million more than Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan, was rejected.

Meanwhile, the usual numbskulls were out in force, decrying the cuts while conveniently ignoring their roles in bringing them about through their unflagging support for the cut-rate sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner.

On Tuesday, Borough President Marty Markowitz hosted a press conference outside Borough Hall to denounce the cutbacks. On the subject of the bridge-bus cutbacks, he said, “The B51 is the only bus that takes riders from Downtown Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, and the B39 is the only service for passengers from Williamsburg to the Lower East Side.

“These routes may not be the most heavily used, but they are absolute lifelines for riders with disabilities or who are elderly.”

Maybe those old folks can skip visits to Manhattan and join the Netsational Seniors instead!

[State Senator Marty Golden] continued by saying, “My community can not accept the complete elimination of evening service on the only bus into and out of Gerritsen Beach, the B31. There are no trains in Gerritsen Beach. How can you have an entire community with no overnight public transportation?”

Good question, Marty. Here's another one: how are your constituents going to get to Nets games when the bus doesn't run after dark, thanks to your support for hundreds of millions in subsidies for Bruce Ratner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov?

Albany and Gov. David Paterson have said they do not plan to bail out the agency. The shortfalls stemmed from reduced financing last year by state lawmakers. In addition, tax revenues from real estate transactions, which once financed the bulk of the authority, have tanked during the recession.

The Brooklyn Paper has a run down of the service cuts, brought to you courtesy of Bruce Ratner, Marty Markowitz, Marty Golden et al.

Posted by eric at 9:42 PM

March 23, 2010

Paper trail shows a lack of LIRR openness on bollards

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

Newly obtained blueprints reveal that city officials were considering building the tomb-like bollards at the Long Island Railroad terminal at Atlantic Avenue and Hanson Place in 2005 — though at least two renderings were subsequently released to the public without those drastic security measures.

The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Law, show that the architectural firm on the project, John di Domenico and Partners, along with the Long Island Rail Road, were exchanging plans for the large security barriers and stone benches in May, 2005 — almost five years before those much-criticized barricades would be unveiled to the public.

Renderings of the Barclays Center variously indicate small bollards or a complete absence of bollards — and the NYPD told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 2007 that they didn't "foresee any street or land closures, sidewalk widening around the arena or the instillation of bollards."

But the blueprints also contradict a statement made by LIRR President Helena Williams to a Brooklyn Paper reporter on the day of the terminal’s opening this year, when she said that the bollards were not part of the design when construction began in earnest in 2005.

One rendering, which first surfaced in 2008 — though sources say it predates the summer of 2006 — depicts a gorgeous LIRR terminal without any bollards at all.

Another, released in 2007, depicts an entrance ringed by knee-high benches.

The reality at the entrance is quite different: The actual bollards are 50 to 52- inches high, and in some places, a mere 36-inches apart. They are massive and resemble ancient Egyptian sarcophagi.

The security measures — as well as the lack of clarity about how the measurements of the bollards were determined — have raised concerns that the nearby Barclays Center will also be ringed by mega-bollards without any public input.


Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Int’l terror expert speaks: LIRR bollards are ‘overkill’ and ‘ugly’

A counter-terrorism expert who has instructed police officers and the U.S. military on security tactics has joined the chorus of critics complaining that the mega-bollards in front of the new Long Island Rail Road terminal are “overkill,” and “excessive and ugly.”

Lionel Rawlins, a former Marine and criminology professor, took a moment from his consulting duties in Afghanistan to give The Brooklyn Paper his opinion on the tomb-like bollards at the new station at Hanson Place and Flatbush Avenue.

“I have been in counter-terrorism for a long time and have never seen such monstrosity — anywhere,” he said.

Posted by eric at 9:42 AM

March 22, 2010

Bruce Ratner's salute to Helena Williams and the MTA, Forest City Ratner's subordinate in a private-public partnership

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his series on the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, today reporting on Bruce Ratner's shout-out to one of his favorite government enablers — Long Island Railroad President Helena Williams.

Williams, on the stage, smiled and took in the applause.

She didn't have to do so.

She could've called in sick and skipped sharing the stage with paid supporters and compromised politicians.

The MTA and the developer

For whom does Williams work, the public, the developer, or, most likely, a governor who agreed from the get-go to support this project?

Last spring, acting MTA head Williams, presumably under pressure from her board, agreed to a smaller replacement railyard worth $100 million less.

The MTA also agreed to only $20 million down for the railyard segment needed for the arena, rather than $100 million for it all, with the remaining $80 million option on the remaining parcels to be paid at a generous 6.5% interest rate. (Eliot Brown of the Observer called the renegotiation "not the agency's finest hour.")

In other words, Forest City Ratner saved $180 million in cash flow, and at least $100 million in total--plus the difference between the MTA's interest rate and a bank's interest rate.

Essentially, Williams and the MTA board turned the public agency into Ratner's bank, giving him financing when there was none to be had, as the Real Deal noted, classifying the deal as one of the best during the credit crunch.


Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

March 20, 2010

MTA Restores Some Planned Service Cuts


"Kathy", a commenter for this story questions the MTA's dealings with developer Bruce Ratner.

I'm surprised that the sweetheart deal Ratner made with the MTA over the Atlantic Yards has never come up. He is getting something like 50 million dollars in breaks, so that was 50 million that could have been in the MTA's pockets from another developer, which would have gone a long way to prevent these cuts. Sounds like the MTA needs new management, and let the people who are doing the real work keep their jobs and keep the buses and trains running.


Posted by steve at 7:45 AM

March 4, 2010

Irony Watch (MTA Hearing Edition): A Tale of Two Marties

While there was surely a veritable parade of blowhard politicians monopolizing the microphone at last night's Brooklyn hearing on planned MTA service cuts, the outrage of Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is especially ironic, given their outspoken support for the MTA's giveaway of the state-owned Vanderbilt Railyard to Forest City Ratner for a fraction of its value, and with sweetheart payment terms, to boot. They may as well have been cutting student MetroCards in half themselves.

NY1 News, MTA Hearing Turns Rowdy In Brooklyn

Golden, who disrupted a hearing on Atlantic Yards last May, appears around the 55-second mark in the NY1 report.

"You understand what we're doing here? We're hurting people's lives. It's wrong," declared State Senator Martin Golden at last night's Brooklyn hearing.

Markowitz, who prioritizes a pseudo-replacement for his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers above all else, doesn't appear in the video, but he did speak at the hearing (click here for a transcript), saying:

"The MTA has a decision to make — it has to decide whether it is appropriate in this crisis to fund flashy "cosmetic" mega-projects in places like lower Manhattan while starving the system as a whole."

Yes, he actually said that, forgetting, we guess, his cheerleading for the public funding of a flashy, money-losing mega-project in Prospect Heights.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Markowitz discovers fiscal prudence regarding MTA megaprojects and property

Posted by eric at 4:58 PM

Despite eerie parallels, more outrage over Queens video casino deal than Vanderbilt Yard bids; however, FCR, not AEG, had an 18-month head start

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Battle of the Boroughs, Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn's Boondoggle is still the heavyweight champ.

What's the difference between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) questionable procedure for disposing of the Vanderbilt Yard--the key public property inthe Atlantic Yards project--and the state's recent selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to run a video casino at Aqueduct Raceway?

Well, there are several similar red flags, and the Vanderbilt Yard deal is clearly more of an outlier regarding one fundamental issue.

But the press and politicians are far more exercised about AEG.

Norman Oder brings us the tale of the tape:


Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

February 23, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! Subway Station Agents NO!!

Next time you have an emergency in the subway and can't find a station agent or any other MTA employee, you can take comfort knowing that Bruce Ratner has 22 years in which to pay off his more-than-50%-off deal for the Vanderbilt railyard.

NY Daily News, MTA to cut 1,000 jobs in 'painful' bid to cope with mounting deficits

The MTA plans to hand pink slips to more than 1,000 employees as it struggles to rein in ballooning deficits, the Daily News has learned.

An additional 450 subway station agents are expected to lose their jobs, saving millions more, under cuts already approved, sources said.

Pink slips will be going out as soon as next month.

The MTA is being "penny-wise and dollar-foolish," Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen said.

"Their proposed reduction of station staff amounts to less than 1% of their multibillion-dollar budget," Samuelsen said. "The value of a human presence in the event of a human catastrophe in the subway is absolutely priceless."

Further layoffs, including hundreds of bus drivers, could take place this summer as part of a slew of service cuts.

Posted by eric at 11:31 PM

January 27, 2010

The MTA’s big bollards are an affront to Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

The Brooklyn Paper is no fan of the Atlantic Terminal's massive, ugly, sarcophagus-like security perimeter, and is afraid we can expect more of the same when Forest City and the MTA team up on another nearby project.

Worse, the same pattern is playing out at the state’s Barclays Center across the street. In this case, the architecture firm SHoP has presented dramatic designs for the basketball arena — renderings that show a line of thin, architecturally reasonable bollards.

But will those renderings be tossed away in a closed-door meeting, just as the original Atlantic Terminal renderings were? We’ve asked the Empire State Development Corporation repeatedly, but the agency won’t answer.

As a result, we’ll likely get stuck with another Flatbush fortress — one that gets sprung on us at the last minute without any prior discussion with, or concern for, the public.

That’s unacceptable.


Posted by eric at 11:51 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! State-of-the-art Transit Security Measures NO!!

While the MTA apparently had enough money to defer an $80 million payment from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard over 22 years, it doesn't seem to have the cash to implement anti-terror security measures intended to keep subway and bus passengers safe.

The New York Times, M.T.A. Short on Security System Cash

After the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority pledged to enact state-of-the-art security measures throughout the New York City transit system, widely considered a potential target for terrorism.

But many elements of the program, including the installation of digital surveillance cameras and motion detectors, have yet to be completed, and the authority no longer has enough money to finish them, according to a report released Tuesday by the state comptroller’s office.

“The M.T.A. is struggling to bring the security of its system into the 21st century,” the comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said in a statement. “The project is taking too long, costing too much, and there is no end in sight.”

Has DiNapoli bothered to take a look at the massive waste of money otherwise known as "Atlantic Yards?" Of course not.

Norman Seabrook, an authority board member and chairman of its safety and security committee, said he was worried that layoffs and service cuts could jeopardize customers’ safety. “We don’t have enough manpower to cover the system,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to respond properly.”

Mr. Seabrook didn't bother to show up for the vote at which the MTA's board overwhelmingly approved a sweetened sweetheart deal for Bruce Ratner.

NoLandGrab: "If you see something, say something" — unless the crime benefits Forest City Ratner.

Related coverage...

2nd Ave. Sagas, Subway safety suffering, says DiNapoli

As part of his ongoing series of progress reports into the MTA’s attempts at beefing up its security, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has released his most scathing indictment of the transit agency so far. A new report, released yesterday, says that the MTA is years behind implementing its planned post-9/11 security upgrades and may very well run out of money before completing the project.

Still, the MTA plans to spend what little money it has left on incremental upgrades and has defended its efforts in a statement. “Ensuring that Bruce Ratner's basketball arena gets built the safety and security of our customers continues to be the MTA’s top priority...."

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

January 15, 2010

Brodsky seeks investigation of "shady, inadequate, unfunded" MTA agreement on tunnel repairs associated with Atlantic Yards (fake)

Atlantic Yards Report

Since thing are a bit slow over at AYR (only five other posts today), Norman Oder imagines the kind of press release New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky might issue if he wasn't mysteriously AWOL on the matter of Atlantic Yards.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the watchdog of public authorities, leader on public authority reform, fierce after-the-fact critic of the Yankee Stadium deal, and putative Attorney General candidate, has chosen not to look closely at Atlantic Yards (despite occasional swipes at the MTA's failure to fulfill its fiduciary duty), so the below press release is only what Brodsky might have said.

Click through for the goods.

Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

January 9, 2010

Millman Challenges MTA Cutbacks

Brooklyn Heights Blog

Assemblywoman Joan Millman takes an opportunity to remind us of the sweetheart deal between developer Bruce Ratner and the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

State Assemblymember Joan Millman, whose district includes the Heights, attended a public hearing on the MTA’s proposed service reductions, at which she ” urged the MTA to reconsider its plans to cut funding for student Metrocards, reduce Access-a-Ride service, lay off MTA employees and decrease bus and subway service.”


Assemblywoman Millman pointed out that “the MTA has significant real estate assets, many of which are underutilized. At 370 Jay Street, in my Assembly District, a building owned by the MTA is vacant, its valuable office space unused. Vacant MTA facilities throughout the city could be rented or sold as office space. Another example is the sale of the Atlantic Yards property to a private developer for less than half of its own appraised value”


Posted by steve at 9:07 AM

January 7, 2010

Brooklyn BackBroadside Double Dose

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

New Atlantic Avenue LIRR/Subway Entrance Fits the New Brooklyn

The decision by the MTA to finally bring the complex into the new century was not made in isolation. As has frequently happened in recent Brooklyn history, Bruce Ratner influenced matters. After the Atlantic Center was built, he made plans to build what we now call the Atlantic Terminal Mall. Then, after 9/11, he decided to build a new office building for a displaced company.

The patriotic Bruce also saw an opportunity to get his hands on a pile of federal subsidies.

And then came the master plan for Atlantic Yards across Atlantic Avenue, and independent of Ratner, the concept of a new cultural center, in and around BAM.

One did not have to have a degree in urban planning to realize that a lot more people would be coming that way, everything would be new, and it would make no sense for people to get off at a station that looked like a dump.

Moreover, Ratner, with the MTA’s hearty endorsement, planned to link the station underground with the new sports arena, and the MTA concluded it was time to get cracking. While they were at it, someone decided, why not build a whole new entrance to go along with all the other jazzy stuff coming to the neighborhood?

Only problem is, the ESDC says it won't be "feasible" for LIRR passengers to get from the train to the arena underground.

New Talent to Match Old In City Government Posts

These are [Bloomberg's] visions for the city in the decades to come — big goals supported by big development projects.

Atlantic Yards and the West Side Rail Yards will not be finished in four years, but should be far enough along to assure completion. And Bloomberg will not be content to coast along — he will want to see his Coney Island plan in movement.

Actually, it's very likely that only the arena, and maybe one of Atlantic Yards' planned 16 buildings, will be finished by the time Bloomberg leaves office (assuming he doesn't try to buy a fourth term). But Prospect Heights will have acres of surface parking lots as his monument.

Posted by eric at 4:42 PM

January 6, 2010

A terminal opens in Brooklyn, over two years late

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

More coverage of the grand opening of another Bruce Ratner/MTA collaboration, Brooklyn's Long Island Railroad terminal pavilion.

In 2004, the glaringly suburban and sterile Atlantic Terminal Mall complex opened as the first part of Bruce Ratner’s plan to take over a little corner of Brooklyn that doesn’t really want him there. Yesterday, after $108 million and over 30 months past due, the LIRR’s new Atlantic Terminal Pavilion finally opened.


NoLandGrab: Actually, the first salvo in Ratner's takeover plan was the Atlantic Center mall.

More coverage...

City Room, After a Delay, New Atlantic Terminal Pavilion Is Open

The terminal connects directly to the four-story Atlantic Terminal Mall, which opened in 2004 and is home to stores like Target and Old Navy. The developer of that $150 million project, Bruce C. Ratner, is also behind the controversial plans for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development, which would include a new basketball arena that would house the New Jersey Nets.

NLG: Commenter Norman Oder points out that City Room failed to disclose its parent company's relationship with the developer. It really shouldn't be so hard at this point, should it?

Gothamist, Critics Say Bollards At Atlantic Terminal Are Bollocks

Speaking of pointing things out, no one has mentioned that NLG broke the bollocks bollards story a month ago.

Posted by eric at 4:24 PM

Atlantic Yards revisionism and the belated LIRR pavilion at Atlantic Terminal

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on the Long Island Railroad pavilion/Atlantic Yards story with a visual examination of just how far the arena would be from the terminal entrance, and points out how some Brooklynites have a poor sense of direction:

The New York Times's CityRoom blog quoted Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, "Someday soon, this terminal will play host to the hordes who will stream in from miles around to watch the Brooklyn Nets mop up the floor with the Manhattan Knicks.”

Actually, it's in the complete opposite direction of the arena site, which is why Forest City Ratner is supposed to build an entirely new transit entrance well to the southeast, across broad Atlantic Avenue.

It's unlikely that LIRR commuters would be able to zigzag underground and exit at the arena block, as opposed to going in the opposite direction and then walking back at street level. In fact, Markowitz himself criticized the transit plan, stating in his comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:

The FEIS should examine the creation of a thru-ticketing arrangement for LIRR riders which enables them to pass through the paid zone for the subway to reach the Urban Room without payment of a subway fare. Otherwise, project generated trips via the LIRR would be required to use the existing entrance to LIRR’s street level concourse on Flatbush Avenue.

The Empire State Development Corporation responded that that wasn't feasible.


NoLandGrab: The ESDC and MTA have twisted themselves like pretzels to accommodate Forest City Ratner in every way imaginable, but an accommodation for LIRR riders? Not feasible.

Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

MYTHS & BARRICADES: Grand opening of the Atlantic Terminal entrance

AtlanticTerminalComp.jpg It took the Metro photographer's wide-angle lens to get a clear shot of the façade of the new Atlantic Terminal entrance, which the photo from the Brooklyn Paper shows is defended by a barricade of granite coffins that were deemed necessary by the MTA, even though they add a touch of hostility to Brooklyn's newest public space.

Meanwhile, the MTA is doing its best to sell the entrance as the gateway to Atlantic Yards., New LIRR Atlantic Terminal Pavilion Opens

From the MTA press release:

Work on the project, begun in 2002, was done in two phases in order to coordinate improvements with MTA New York City Transit work on their subway facilities and a private developer, Forest City Ratner.
The new Atlantic Terminal building marks an early milestone in the overall effort to transform this area of Brooklyn. A recent court decision cleared the way for a new sports center that is to be the new home of the Nets basketball team. Additional residential and commercial buildings also are planned nearby.

NoLandGrab: To call this a milestone related to the new arena is folly. The Terminal project was started in 2002, Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003.

The Brooklyn Paper, Pols say ‘All aboard’ at new LIRR gateway

According to security experts at the NYPD, bollards would not be necessary at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, though details have not been released to the public. In light of the sarcophagus-like bollards at the new Atlantic Terminal entrance, the public should be skeptical:

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams agreed with James that the bollards are unattractive, but said that they are necessary “in this day and age.”

“We worked with the NYPD and the MTA police, who assess the risks and tell us what kind of security we need,” she said. “Do these bollards lack elegance? Yes. But they are necessary.”

NoLandGrab: Interesting that "in this day and age," the MTA head acknowledges the necessity of increased security, though these measures do not need to be identified in the formal assessment of megaprojects like Atlantic Yards.

AP, via, Brooklyn has new transit terminal near Atlantic Yards project that will host N.J. Nets

Here's a fascinating bit of revisionist history:

The neighboring 22-acre Atlantic Yards project would include a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. The pavilion would better accommodate a surge in riders for the arena.

NoLandGrab: The planning of the new terminal did not take into account a new arena and surge in ridership.

MetroNY, Riders hail new Atlantic pavilion

City Councilmember Letitia James combats the revisionist myth:

“This area has been scheduled for renovations for years,” said James. “This has nothing to do with the possibility of that project that will overwhelm us.”

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

December 30, 2009

New Long Island Rail Road Terminal draws raves

Park Slope Courier
by Stephen Witt

Speaking of upside down things at the Atlantic Terminal, the notorious Steve Witt heaps praise on the new LIRR terminal design, completely ignoring the god-awful Sarcophagi ringing the entrance.

Rays of daylight cascaded through the glass ceiling of the new Long Island Rail Road Terminal as Brooklyn resident Krystle James leaned against the twin staircases leading from the sub-ground level upto either Flatbush Avenue or Hanson Place.

“This is really nice,” said James, who was waiting for her train to Long Island to visit friends.

After nearly six years of construction, the $116 million project is expected to officially open next week.

The project brought together the resources and coordinated planning of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city’s Economic Development Corporation and developer Forest City Ratner to revitalize Brooklyn’s major transportation complex, according to a 2004 press release announcing the project.

FCR owns the Atlantic Terminal Mall, which leads into the new transit entrance.

If it took six years for Forest City, the MTA and the EDC to build a $100 million station entrance, how long might it take Forest City, the MTA and the ESDC to build the $4.9 billion-plus Atlantic Yards?

Oops, time to cue gratuitous Nets plug:

“I’ve seen them making this for a long time,” said Shatasha Brown of Flatbush as she walked through the new concourse with a friend and a young child in a stroller. “This is looking really cute, and it’s good they’re bringing a basketball team here. Brooklyn should have its own team like every other city has its own team.”


NoLandGrab: While the headline promises raves, the article delivers "really nice" and "really cute." Wait 'til they see the Sarcophagi.

Posted by eric at 10:03 PM

December 21, 2009

How Atlantic Yards impacts the MTA’s bottom line

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Late last week, amidst all of the talk about the MTA’s budget crisis, State Sen. Pedro Espada nearly made a good point. In a letter to MTA CEO and Chairman Jay Walder, Espada urged the authority head to examine the state of the MTA’s real estate holdings. His point though was a bad one.

“MTA budget gap needs must be measured against real numbers, and the MTA must prioritize fiscally prudent lease and sale of assets before deciding to leave children, seniors and hard-working citizens stranded without a safe, reliable and affordable means to get to and from work, school, grocery shopping and doctor’s appointments,” Espada wrote. “I would like to hear from you as soon as possible regarding the MTA’s real property holdings as a solution to the Authority’s serious budget concerns.”

Now, it doesn’t take an economic genius to understand the folly of Espada’s remarks. First, he is urging the MTA to sell its real estate holdings during one of the greatest periods of market depression in U.S. history. Second, MTA real estate sales are simply another one-off quick fix and provide no long-term secure solution to the agency’s financial problems. To sell now, in other words, would be folly.

Unfortunately, for transit advocates, Espada missed an opportunity to make a point. He could have used the MTA’s summertime decision to accept just $20 million up front from Bruce Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yards land rights to question whether the MTA is fiscally smart enough to take advantage of its real estate holdings. Originally, in 2005, the MTA extracted a promise for $100 million from Ratner, and even then, the price was a below-market rate. Today, the deal looks even worse.

At a time when the agency must maximize its revenue potential, the authority — and the state along with it — is simply handing over free money to Bruce Ratner while the rest of us face the specter of service cuts. A full market rate payment for the Vanderbilt Yards land wouldn’t close the 2010 gap by itself, and since the MTA can sell that land only once, it wouldn’t help the future. But a better deal would benefit both the authority and its riders.


Related coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn Broadside: MTA Cutbacks: Why a Sudden Budget Shortfall?

Dennis Holt, on the other hand, sees no connection between Atlantic Yards and the MTA's budget woes.

The hullabaloo and horror stories now begin as the Metropolitan Transit Authority fires the shot heard ’round the town. One hundred and seventy fingers are pointing in every conceivable direction in an attempt to find fault.

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn even blames Bruce Ratner for the whole mess. Most other statements are more rational.

So, here we go again: Profound public policy should be combined with practical common sense; but one can bet that no one will make that ideal merger permanent.

NoLandGrab: "Common sense" might dictate that the blatant giveaway of MTA-owned land for a fraction of its value might relate in some way to the agency's ever-widening budget gap, but Holt won't take his own advice.

The Brooklyn Paper, Rejection! Court turns down Yards foes in suit over MTA’s sweetheart deal

A state court has once again rebuffed an effort to throw a wrench in Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards machine, rejecting a lawsuit that accused the MTA of improperly selling its Vanderbilt rail yard by not seeking new bids after reopening the original 2005 deal with the developer this summer.

The suit, filed by panoply of elected officials and opposition groups, claimed that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority broke a state law that was passed in the wake of Atlantic Yards to curb abuses by state authorities through stricter transparency and ethics guidelines.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

December 20, 2009

Big Picture Questions: Does MTA Chairman Jay Walder Comprehend Atlantic Yards Link to MTA Cutbacks?

Noticing New York

This past Wednesday, the MTA board voted to approve service cuts. Public testimony was allowed before the vote. Michael White was there to condemn the sweetheart deal/development monopoly granted by the MTA to Bruce Ratner.

Our message was that the MTA’s giveaways to the proposed Atlantic Yards Forest City Ratner mega-monopoly are probably the most prominent example of why the MTA is was having to vote to implement these cutbacks. After we and the rest of the public spoke, MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Jay Walder made a statement that sounded uncannily as if he had listened to and taken to heart what we and others said that morning about the drain on the budget due to Atlantic Yards. Maybe it sounded that way until you remember how politicians and political appointees with an idée fixe about the Transaction Fixée (The Wired Deal) can mouth all the words of good, responsible government without meaning any of them.

Read the rest of the post to see how the deal given Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yards is hurting the MTA and how the bidding process was rigged so that only Ratner can have sole ownership of the Vanderbilt Yards at far below their value.


Posted by steve at 6:22 PM

December 17, 2009

Our cartoonist’s take on the MTA service cuts

The Brooklyn Paper


Posted by eric at 10:08 PM

Judge, deferring to MTA version of the case, dismisses lawsuit challenging revision of Vanderbilt Yard deal

Atlantic Yards Report

We already knew that private property in New York State is only "private" to the extent that somebody richer and more powerful than you doesn't have designs on it, but now it seems that it's okay for government bureaucrats to give the rich and powerful our public assets, too.

Norman Oder reports on yesterday's court decision.

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman, in a ruling issued yesterday, dismissed the case. He wrote that not only did the plaintiffs--AY opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, joined by four elected officials and the Straphangers Campaign--not have standing to challenge the alleged violation of the Public Authorities Accountability Act (PAAA), even with standing they couldn't make their case.

They charged that the PAAA, passed in 2005, requires an independent appraisal of the property and that a seller seek out competitive offers.

DDDB said it was considering an appeal and pointed to the MTA's willingness to leave $80 million on the table--money the agency asserts it will ultimately get--at a time of severe service cuts.

Stallman, in deferring to the MTA's version of the case, agreed that the limited response to the original 2005 RFP--only Extell responded along with Forest City Ratner--was due to "the unusual nature and scope of the project" rather than FCR's inside track.

Agreeing with the MTA

Stallman agreed with the MTA that the original plan and revised deal were essentially the same, subject to two modifications: the $100 million price would instead be $20 million down for the arena block, with the rest paid over 22 years, and the replacement railyard was value-engineered.

He also agreed that the process by which only two developers answered the RFP in 2005 was fair.

He left out the generous 6.5% interest rate granted Forest City Ratner and the extended time to operate a temporary railyard. He didn't comment on the rather surprising suggestion, by MTA CFO Garry Dellaverson, that FCR had the MTA over a barrel, rather than vice versa, given the developer's need to get the deal done in order to reap tax-exempt bonds by the end of the year.

Read on for more of Judge Stallman's rationalizations, including his ruling that the public has no standing to sue to stop the giving away of public assets.


Additonal coverage...

The Brooklyn Blog [NY Post], Courts drop MTA Suit by Brooklyn arena opponents

A state judge today sided with the MTA in a lawsuit challenging a "sweetheart deal" it gave developer Bruce Ratner to bail out his controversial Atlantic Yards project that includes an NBA arena for Brooklyn.

The suit, filed by several lawmakers and other project opponents, sought to annul the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s revised deal with Ratner in June that allows the developer to pay off $100 million he owes the agency over 22 years for the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt rail yard site in Prospect Heights and also shave off more than $100 million of the $345 million in transit improvements he had promised there.

It also alleged the cash-strapped agency violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act by failing to obtain an independent appraisal of the site or solicit competitive offers before agreeing to a new deal.

But Judge Michael Stallman in his decision wrote the petitioners didn’t prove the revised plan "gives the MTA less than the estimated market value" or that the MTA "did not attempt to obtain competitive offers."

Reason Hit & Run, Another Loss in the Atlantic Yards Fight

More bad news on the Atlantic Yards front. Today a New York court upheld the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) controversial deal allowing Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner to acquire a crucial 8-acre rail yard for just $20 million upfront and $80 million due over the next 22 years. Remember that the MTA first struck a deal with Ratner for the property back in 2005—but without first opening the land up to competitive bidding as state law requires.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

December 16, 2009

MTA Approves Severe Service Cuts
Court Rules MTA-Ratner Sweetheart Deal Lawful

(Deal Left At Least $80 Million on the Table)

NEW YORK, NY — On the same day that the MTA Board approved severe service cuts—including Access-A-Ride and discounts for school kids—a New York State Supreme Court ruled against petitioners who challenged the MTA's sweetheart deal for the Vanderbilt Rail Yards with developer Bruce Ratner.

This past summer the now "unexpectedly" cash-strapped MTA left $80 million on the table when it "negotiated" a new deal with Ratner for the 8-acre yards. Instead of paying $100 million as he had agreed in 2005, Ratner would now, after Board approval, pay only $20 million.

The lawsuit (Montgomery et al. v. MTA et al.) brought by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Councilmember Letitia James, the Straphanger's Campaign and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, charged that the MTA violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005 when it did not test the market for competition for the Yards or issue an independent appraisal for the piece of valuable central Brooklyn real estate.

The MTA's deal also clearly violates the letter and the spirit of the new Public Authorities Reform bill signed last week by Governor Paterson. As The Times reported, "…authorities will no longer be allowed to sell real estate for below-market value, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did when it sold rights to build over railyards in Brooklyn to the developers of the Atlantic Yards project."

Just last week New York City announced that it has 29 developers interested in "redeveloping" the 62-acre Willets Point, Queens district it wants to take by eminent domain. Yet the MTA claimed that it was impossible to find any interested developers, besides Ratner, for the 8-acre site in the heart of Brooklyn. Not one.

"The MTA has no shame—while giving a sweetheart deal to billionaire developers, leaving at least $80 million on the table and widening its budget gap, its Board gives a big lump of coal to school kids, disabled New Yorkers and all transit riders. It's disgusting," said DDDB's spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "It's just one more plaque for the Atlantic Yards hall of shame, in the no-bid wing. MTA gives it away, Ratner wins and the public loses. For what? A money-losing arena in the middle of a fiscal crisis. We'd like to hear Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn justify this. While the Court has ruled, these leaders can do the right thing by New Yorkers, and collect the full $100 million Ratner reneged on."

The petitioners will review the decision and decide whether or no to appeal the Court's ruling.

The ruling is at:


Posted by eric at 4:03 PM

TISH JAMES PRESS RELEASE: Save student Metrocard program, crucial service, and MTA jobs — Cancel the Atlantic Yards sweetheart deal for Forest City Ratner!

(December 15, 2009) -- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's latest doomsday budget cuts include a proposed cut of the student Metrocard program, which provides full and half fare Metrocards to over 550,000 students who commute to school each day. Also, numerous service cuts are proposed on routes where bus and train services are over-crowded, and waiting times are long. Lastly, severe layoffs and salary cuts within the MTA are proposed.

The MTA says these cuts will help alleviate a massive budget deficit and maintains that these proposed service cuts are for underused routes already serviced by other trains and/or buses. But, riders say they will be inconvenienced, especially because of the recent fare increase and reduction in service this year already. Some students have expressed expectations of having to choose between paying the Metrocard fare, or buying a meal for themselves. It is unacceptable that riders, specifically youth, who depend on the student Metrocard program for educational needs be subjected to unsafe walks, and/or possibly not being able to travel for classes at all.

An obvious questions for residents of Downtown Brooklyn then comes up - why is Forest City Ratner, the multi-million dollar developer of the Atlantic Yards project not paying upfront for what he has purchased from the MTA? If Bruce Ratner paid upfront what he owes to the MTA for use of the MTA's Vanderbilt Yards, then the doomsday budget cuts could be significantly reduced.

"Cancel the sweetheart deal for Forest City Ratner," said Council Member James. "Forest City Ratner should pay the $100 million owed now for the purchase of the Vanderbilt Yards. I also question why Forest City Ratner is not being made to pay the millions of dollars owed for the naming-rights deal upfront? And, had the MTA accepted a higher bidder, they would have received their funds upfront and their current budgetary gap could have been cut almost in half."

The MTA's deal with Forest City Ratner simply does not make sense. Many are questioning why the MTA, who is facing a potential budgetary gap of $615 million next year, and today faces a $343 million massive budgetary gap, is able to accept a $20 million payment towards a $100 million dollar property deal. This purchase and construction of the Atlantic Yards Development by Forest City Ratner was also given the option of spreading the balance of $80 million owed in payments over a 21 year period.

Community advocates suggest that another means of closing the budget gap would be for the MTA to do a new appraisal of the railyards valued at $271.5 million, and open up bids to other developers who would pay more of the cost upfront. Severe cutbacks in service, layoffs and especially cuts to the student Metrocard program appear unconscionable in light of the MTA's business agreement with Forest City Ratner.

Critics and opponents of Atlantic Yards have continued to argue that rival developer Extell, who submitted a bid that offered $150 million in cash, was a far better plan. For unclear reasons, the MTA board negotiated solely with Forest City Ratner. Extell head Gary Barnett in a December 2007 interview with the Observer said he was shocked that he bid $150 million, and Forest City Chairman Bruce Ratner bid $50 million, yet Ratner was offered the deal.

"Something simply doesn't sit right with the community about the preferential treatment that Forest City Chairman Bruce Ratner has received from the MTA. Now it appears as though MTA customers and specifically our youth - the future of the City - may pay dearly to support the project of a multi million dollar developer that the community doesn't want to begin with," said Council Member James.

Posted by eric at 1:35 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Bruce Ratner Has the MTA’s Money

Sweetheart Deal With Developer Is Large Part of MTA Budget Gap

New York, New York—Cutting the MTA student Metrocard?! You can blame Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal.

The MTA board meets this morning to approve drastic service cuts because of an "unexpected" budget gap. How could that be, where did that shortfall come from?

In large part this gap is because the MTA expected to receive $100 million in cash by the end of this year from developer Bruce Ratner for rights to the Vanderbilt Yard—8 acres of the proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards project. That is until the MTA, with Ratner over a barrel, approved a deal where the developer would only pay $20 million by the end of the year.

"Transit riders should recognize that the MTA cuts are in large part due to this sweeter, sweetheart deal the authority needlessly cut with Bruce Ratner this past summer. Both Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg wanted the MTA to approve that deal, now paying negative dividends for riders," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "Everyone has got their ideas of how to close the budget gap, by either cutting student cards or taking money earmarked for other purposes, but how about this: It is not too late for the Governor and Mayor to make the MTA strike a new deal with Ratner that requires him to pay what he committed to paying—$100 million at closing, rather than $20 million."

Some simple math explains how Ratner got a sweetheart deal while transit riders now get a lump of coal…

In 2005 the MTA appraised the 8-acre Vanderbilt Yards at $214.5 million. They then undertook a sham RFP process. Extell Development Company bid $150 million and Forest City Ratner (which wanted the Yards for its 22-acre Atlantic Yards project) bid $50 million. The MTA told Ratner that bid was too low and after six weeks of "negotiating" Ratner upped it to $100 million.

Ratner was then supposed to pay the MTA $100 million cash at closing. They didn't.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009. The MTA announces that it has "negotiated" a new deal with Ratner. Despite having Ratner over a barrel the MTA strikes a deal where Ratner pays only $20 million at closing. The rest would be paid over a 22-year period. The MTA and Ratner expected to close in 2009. But they haven't.

$100 million minus $20 million is $80 million. At minimum the MTA shortfall should be $80 million smaller. Of course had the MTA had a competitive bidding process for the Vanderbilt Yards there is a reasonable chance they'd have no shortfall this year.

The culmination of the "negotiation" with Ratner this past year was at the MTA Board meeting to approve the new lowball deal. The MTA did not seek any other bidders when they understood that Ratner was no longer willing to fulfill his financial commitments. They are being sued for that.

So why did they rush to screw transit riders? They had to help Ratner. MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson explained: "It relates to Forest City Ratner's desire to market the tax-exempt bonds. That's the primary driver of the timing."

Now, according to the NY Times, Dellaverson says he is "shocked." Shocked!

And that is the primary driver of the bulk of this shortfall. The math is simple.

Posted by eric at 1:23 PM

Russianoff on MTA land sales: "they decided that it was a higher value to help the mayor and the governor"

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's Brian Lehrer Show, in a segment on MTA cuts, Gene Russianoff, staff attorney at NYPIRG Straphangers campaign, at about 11:50, described how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can use capital funds funds to stave off service cuts. (The Regional Plan Association disagrees.)

"The MTA is pretty resistant to this idea. They argue that it will send them down a slippery slope of cutting their capital program. But they're already on that slope. For example, they sold Atlantic Yards"--actually, the Vanderbilt Yard--"and Hudson Yards to developers for way less than their full market value, and that was a capital asset that helped pay for fixing things, and they decided that it was a higher value to help the mayor and the governor."


Posted by eric at 12:06 AM

December 15, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Espada: "We did not confer upon [MTA] to be a house of real estate"

Atlantic Yards Report

State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada may be widely and legitimately criticized for his self-interested behavior, like switching parties and throwing the Senate into gridlock, but sometimes he does make sense.

During an interview on yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show, at about 18:45, host Lehrer asked Espada how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) could avoid service cuts.

"We're going to look at ways they can have the money," Espada responded. "We're going to look at how their spending priorities are ranked. We're going to look at the vast real estate holdings that the MTA has. We did not confer upon them to be a house of real estate--a holding company for the state of New York. They have billions in assets and we need to look at where the money is... Certainly the first course of action cannot be to penalize the ridership."

Of course he hasn't tried to look into the MTA's controversial willingness to renegotiate the deal for Vanderbilt Yard.


NoLandGrab: We'll give the last word to AYR commenter "George": State Senator Espada helped to kill major tenant legislative reforms this past summer. He stands for nothing other than his own personal benefit. He's just discovered that the MTA owns real estate? That his constituents take the subway?

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

December 14, 2009

F, C and R YES! W and Z NO!!

While the MTA is giving Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner a deep, deep discount and sweetheart payment terms on the Vanderbilt Yard, it's planning draconian service cuts, including the total elimination of the W and Z lines.

The New York Times, Drastic Cuts Are Expected as M.T.A. Unveils Budget

Fewer subway trains will run in the middle of the day, late at night and on weekends. Two lines will stop running altogether. And New York City’s students may soon be expected to pay a full fare to ride on the city’s public transit system.

These are among the drastic recommendations expected to be revealed on Monday by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as the beleaguered agency unveils a newly austere budget meant to address a sudden financial shortfall of more than $400 million.

Under the plan, service on dozens of bus routes will be cut back or eliminated, off-peak trains will run less frequently, and the W and Z subway lines will disappear, a move that includes the overnight closing of several stations along Broadway in Lower Manhattan.

Those cuts were approved late last year when the authority first faced serious financial problems. The package of service reductions seemed to be off the table after a last-minute bailout from state legislators in May, but officials expect to revive nearly all of them in the new budget being presented on Monday.

In addition, Access-a-Ride services for disabled riders would be scaled back, and free bus and subway rides for the city’s students could disappear, officials said. State and city contributions to the program have flat-lined since the 1990s, and the authority may no longer be able to afford the difference.

“To have this situation in the most transit-dependent city in the country is a complete failure of government,” said Andrew Albert, chairman of the New York City Transit Riders Council and a member of the authority’s board.

NoLandGrab: Andrew Albert is right, but where was his outrage when the MTA board (he's a non-voting member) voted to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to Bruce Ratner for a fraction of its value, and then voted to radically sweeten Ratner's payment terms? The best Albert could muster was "I am torn" at the outrageous giveaway of public assets.

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

December 12, 2009

Atlantic Yards YES! Transit-riding city school kids NO!!

While the MTA is giving Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner a deep discount on the Vanderbilt Yard, it's considering taking away free and discounted passes from the half-million-plus students who use transit to get to school.

NY Daily News, MTA bigwigs may cut free passes for students to ride subway and busses

The cash-squeezed MTA is considering eliminating free MetroCards for the hundreds of thousands of students who use the passes to get to school, the Daily News has learned.

Under a possible budget-saving measure, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would charge students half-price fares next year - and full fares starting in 2011, sources told The News.

About 550,000 schoolkids get free or discounted bus and subway passes under a program the state and city once fully funded.

Meanwhile, the MTA, which had already agreed to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to Ratner for less than half its appraised value, is also allowing Ratner to defer 80% of that payment over 22 years at a sweetheart interest rate.

Here's the pot calling the kettle black:

Last night, a member of the Bloomberg administration said City Hall is upset about the student MetroCard proposal and blamed state government officials for cutting transit funding.

"We're extremely concerned about this and have serious problems," the City Hall staffer said. "We very angry with the MTA and furious with Albany for creating a situation where this option is a possibility."

The duplicitous Bloomberg, as Atlantic Yards watchers know, is one of the project's biggest backers, and his appointees to the MTA board (he has four) have approved both the lowball price and the sweetened payment terms.

And then there's the Governor:

Gov. Paterson, asked in general about MTA funding Friday in Albany, said the state has no more money to provide.

"We had to cut the budgets of all agencies and entities and still wind up ... short of our goal," Paterson said. "New York is running out of money."

There is, of course, one pile of state money that's in a lock-box — the hundreds of millions in state welfare for the Atlantic Yards project.

The Mayor and the Governor should be deeply ashamed, but all we get is business as usual. Get angry, people.

Photo: Florescu/Daily News

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

December 9, 2009

Bloomberg Remark Excludes Self from MTA Mess

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The Mayor never fails to entertain with his (choose one): a) duplicity, b) total lack of self-awareness or c) both of the above.

The Daily News captured this comment from Mayor Bloomberg on Albany's "sudden" failure to deliver more than $350 million to New York's transit system:

"I don't know why anybody is surprised at what is happening to the MTA," [Bloomberg] said. "It's a piggy bank that keeps getting raided."

Yes, the out-of-touch Mayor is correct: raided under the direction of the Mayor and his developer cronies.


Posted by eric at 3:40 PM

As challenge to MTA deal awaits a judge, did Forest City Ratner really have the MTA over a barrel, or was it the other way around?

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a must-read piece from Norman Oder on the lawsuit challenging the giveaway sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner.

All the legal papers have been filed in the case challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's revision of the Vanderbilt Yard deal with Forest City Ratner. As we await a decision by the judge--no oral argument is expected, and a decision could take weeks--two things must be kept in mind.

First, as the MTA reminds state Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman, the standards of review in such an Article 78 proceeding is "highly deferential to agency action."

So, no matter the facts, it's an uphill climb for the plaintiffs, AY opponent Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, joined by four elected officials and the Straphangers Campaign, in charging that a state law (the Public Authorities Accountability Act, or PAAA) passed in 2005 requires an independent appraisal of the property and that a seller seek out competitive offers.

If successful, the lawsuit (which also names Forest City Ratner as a defendant) could force the MTA to seek a new bid for the railyard. But the lawsuit is not seen by state officials as stopping either the bond sale or the pursuit of eminent domain.

Who's over a barrel?

In the MTA's eyes, Forest City Ratner had the agency over a barrel. That's why the MTA didn't get a new appraisal of the railyard, figuring a new valuation—due to the decline in real estate values and the increased cost of building a platform--would inevitably be less than in 2005, exposing it to a worse deal.

But maybe it was the other way around. Didn't the MTA have Forest City over a barrel?

The developer--well, its principal and its parent--has a major stake in the money-losing Nets basketball team that it wants desperately to move. The developer faces a December 31, 2009 deadline to get tax-exempt bonds issued for the Atlantic Yards arena. In April, in fact, a FCR executive privately confessed to being "a freaked out developer with an arena that must start this year."

As the suit noted, Dellaverson acknowledged that the transaction had to be approved quickly--the board had 48 hours--because, as he said at a June 22 MTA Finance Committee meeting, "it really relates to Forest City's desire to market their bonds as a tax-exempt issuance [by a December 31 deadline]."


Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

December 4, 2009

The temporary Vanderbilt Yard is already in operation

Atlantic Yards Report is reporting that, according to an official statement, dated Decebmer 2, 2009, the Temporary Railyard at Vanderbilt Yards is already under operation.

As of the date of this Official Statement, LIRR has moved operations into the completed Temporary Yard, has de-energized the existing tracks within the Arena premises, and has signed an agreement with RailCo which allows for the cutting and removal of such track by RailCo. Of the budgeted hard-cost amount of $65.7 million, $55.8 million has been expended as of October 31, 2009, with approximately $9.9 million remaining to be expended, of which amount approximately $8.3 million consists mainly of so-called “dead-heading” costs of LIRR.


Photographer Tracy Collins posted this photo on November 23, 2009, along with this comment, "It appears that the MTA is at least testing the new "temporary" railyard that's being constructed for the proposed Atlantic Yards development."

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

December 3, 2009

New Bill Requires More MTA Oversight

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other public authorities in New York will have to operate differently now that the legislature has passed a bill requiring more oversight.

The measure makes many wide-ranging changes to reign in the state's semi-autonomous authorities. It also seeks to discourage those entities from selling their property for below-market value. That provision arose after former Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg prompted the MTA to sell its rail yards on Manhattan's West Side in 2005 to make way for a new football stadium. And critics say the same thing is happening in Brooklyn with Atlantic Yards now.

A version of the bill that passed this summer would have prohibited those deals. But after Mayor Bloomberg objected, arguing the provision would hamper economic development, the state legislature agreed to rework the bill. The revised legislation still allows authorities to sell property below market value, though it gives the governor, the assembly, or the state senate veto power.


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Revised public authority reform legislation passes Senate, should be signed by Paterson

But the language regarding selling assets at less than fair market value was tweaked to allow more flexibility. While such transfers are still allowed, the governor, the Senate, or the Assembly can veto such a proposed transfer.

Should a below fair market value asset transfer be proposed, not only is an appraisal required, but also a description of the expected benefits of the transfer and the names of the private parties participating in the transfer and the private parties who made an offer for the asset.

Also, the board must determine, in writing, that "there is no reasonable alternative to the proposed below-market transfer that would achieve the same purpose of such transfer."

Posted by eric at 9:03 AM

November 18, 2009

Testing is under way, at least, at the temporary railyard

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer Tracy Collins went out to the Vanderbilt Yard today and reports: "It appears that the MTA is at least testing the new 'temporary' rail yard that's being constructed for the proposed Atlantic Yards development."

The railyard is in the eastern third of the Vanderbilt Yard, between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues (and Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue). The longstanding railyard, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, would become part of the arena site. (Photo 1, 2)


Posted by eric at 11:44 PM

Under authority reform bill expected to be passed, below-market land sale by MTA (as in AY?) would be precluded

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Observer reports that Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and state Senator Bill Perkins have achieved success in their effort to reform public authorities, with apparently only modest pushback from Mayor Mike Bloomberg and others resisting the changes.

AY precluded?

While it might sound like it would preclude a project like Atlantic Yards, I'm not certain: it depends on who's doing the accounting, and how.

After all, though Forest City Ratner's cash bid was well below the appraisal, the MTA calculates the entire value of the bid, including transit system improvements, as well over the appraisal. The key is that the MTA apparently believes that its appraiser did not appropriately calculate the cost of a building a deck over the railyard.


NoLandGrab: Regardless of the bearing on Atlantic Yards, Assemblyman Brodsky and Senator Perkins should be applauded for introducing a wee bit of good government into Albany.

Posted by eric at 11:33 PM

Agreement Reached on Authorities Reform

NY Observer
by Jimmy Vielkind

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky just swung by to announce an agreement between legislative leaders and David Paterson to increase oversight of public authorities.

"It's an idea that is about the control of rogue institutions. I've called them Soviet-style bureaucracies. This is the end of that era," Brodsky said. "For people worried about debt reform or who are worried about secretive decision making or who ware worried about people taking political orders and about people lobbying without disclosure."

Both the State Senate and Assembly passed a bill this spring that would have strengthened the authority budget office--it will have subpoena power and will keep on file copies of required documents--create a fiduciary duty for authority board members, sell property only at "fair market value" and require review by the state comptroller of contracts over $1 million.

"The M.T.A., for example, could not longer sell property at below market value for economic development purposes," Brodsky explained. Other authorities whose explicit purpose was economic development--or housing development--could. This would preclude development projects like the Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards. The chapter amendments also reduce the number of contracts the comptroller is required to review.


NoLandGrab: Hold the champagne — we assume that he means "would have precluded developments like the Atlantic Yards" had it been passed three years ago.

Posted by eric at 11:27 PM

November 16, 2009

Ghostwritten letters on health care for elected officials make NYTimes front page; FCR's orchestration of letters for MTA bid got no such scrutiny

Atlantic Yards Report

It was front-page news in yesterday's New York Times. The article, headlined In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’, described how the official record of the House of Representatives's debate on health care contains similar-sounding speeches by many legislators, ghostwritten by lobbyists.

A not dissimilar effort in 2005 orchestrated by Forest City Ratner, in which elected officials sent similar letters to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) endorsing the developer's bid for the Vanderbilt Yard, never generated such skeptical coverage, though the Times covered the issue glancingly, as I'll detail below. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

From yesterday's article:

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

In the summer of 2005, numerous elected officials and civic representatives sent letters to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority endorsing FCR's bid. I was not yet covering Atlantic Yards, and didn't see the letters until the bid surfaced as part of an affidavit in the 2007 challenge to the AY environmental impact statement.

The letters almost surely came from a template supplied by Forest City Ratner. The examples below--from federal, state, and city elected officials--all contain the same talking points, that the development "is part of the borough's ongoing evolution" and that the project is more than a sports arena.

Press coverage

No one, as far as I can tell mentioned the orchestrated letters at the time. However, an 11/6/05 New York Times article (Routine Changes or Bait and Switch?) pointed out that elected officials in letters kept promising 10,000 office jobs even though the developer had swapped office space for condos.

Click through to see a sampling of the letters.


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

October 28, 2009


Looking west over the Vanderbilt Railyard in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Photo, by bigaila, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

Thompson criticizes Bloomberg on MTA, ignores AY

Atlantic Yards Report

From a press release from Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson regarding remarks today on the MTA:

Thompson said, “Our City’s economic health and quality of life depend on leadership at City Hall that speaks up for transit riders. Unfortunately, New Yorkers haven’t had that advocacy under Mayor Bloomberg. The Mayor’s top-down decision-making approach has led to two fare hikes in 15 months, service cuts, and crumbling subway stations. As fares have gone up, the Mayor and his MTA appointees have been largely silent.”
Addressing the MTA’s mismanagement, Thompson said, “I will appoint MTA Board members who are transit activists and more representatives of the riding public—unlike the Bloomberg Administration’s loyalists who have no special knowledge or even prior familiarity with transit. And my appointees will be instructed that raising fares will not be the silver bullet solution to the MTA’s mismanagement and bloated budget.”

Unmentioned: the leadership of Bloomberg's MTA appointees in revising the deal for the Vanderbilt Yard at Forest City Ratner's request--now the subject of a lawsuit.


Posted by lumi at 4:01 AM

October 27, 2009

MTA brake$ on S. Ferry

NY Post
by Tom Namako

Hands off straphangers' wallets!

That was the message new MTA chief Jay Walder had for agency and city officials yesterday when he vetoed any move to spend an additional $2 million in cost overruns at the new South Ferry station.

Walder said he would rather scale down the last part of the project -- an outdoor plaza connecting Staten Island Ferry service to the subway station -- than lay out any more dough.

"If we need to reduce the scope to stay within the budget, then we should reduce the scope to stay within the budget. But there is no more money," Walder told the MTA's head of construction at a public meeting.

MTA board member Allan Cappelli worried that a smaller plaza would leave ferry riders trying to get into the station "out in the rain."


NoLandGrab: While ferry riders might be left "out in the rain," all transit riders are getting soaked by the MTA's re-sweetened sweetheart deal with Bruce Ratner, a major reason that "there is no more money."

Posted by eric at 3:28 PM

October 16, 2009

Jeffries: MTA has breached fiduciary duty, but joining new lawsuit would compromise his advocacy

Atlantic Yards Report

Continuing down the well worn path, which for the past five years has tediously led nowhere, NY State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries tells Norman Oder that he chose not to join other elected officials in the lawsuit challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) re-sweetened sweetheart deal with Bruce Ratner because his "ability to forcefully and candidly advocate on behalf of the community, with the Governor and the MTA on the other side of the negotiating table, would be compromised if [he] were to be a named plaintiff in the litigation at this point in time."

Oder's analysis:

I can only speculate at the additional motives behind Jeffries' decision.
Perhaps Jeffries has calculated that Atlantic Yards is more likely than not, and that, should the project move forward, he wants to make sure that Forest City Ratner, and government agencies that could provide housing subsidies, deliver on the 200 affordable homeowner units the developer promised in December 2006 but which have never been incorporated into government documentation.


Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

October 15, 2009

MTA Faces Atlantic Yards Suit
by Cody Lyon

A group of politicians, activists and transit activists have filed suit in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, saying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005 when it sold the air rights over the agency’s Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner Cos. for development at the Atlantic Yards Project. The latest suit was filed one day prior to Wednesday’s hearing before the Court of Appeals in Albany, which seeks to challenge the Empire State Development Corp.’s use of eminent domain for the same project.

According to the lawsuit, which names the MTA and FCRC as respondents, the MTA violated state law by failing to obtain an independent appraisal for the Vanderbilt Yard property and failing to seek out competitive bids. The group is now asking the court to annul the MTA’s June agreement with FCRC. It’s reportedly the first Atlantic Yards suit brought in part by politicians.

The cheaper selling price came despite previous iterations by MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson, who had earlier valued the property at $240 million to $250 million.

A spokesman for [State Senator Velmanette] Montgomery tells that "all this would be funny if it weren’t the Atlantic Yards project." He adds, "The MTA’s actions are shocking. The fact is that the public is being hit with fare hikes and schedule cuts while giving developers a free ride."

A NYPIRG/Straphangers spokesperson tells that it’s "the riders who are getting it in the neck. They are going to lose out on improvements like new subway cars, buses and track improvements."


Posted by eric at 12:58 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Nets Daily, Procedure, Public Purpose Dominate Eminent Domain Hearing

A missed deadline and public purpose dominated the Atlantic Yards eminent domain hearing at the State Court of Appeals Wednesday. Judges wondered if by going first to federal court two years ago, critics had missed a deadline for challenging eminent domain in state court. They also questioned the state’s lawyers over the project’s public purpose and the extent of blight at the site. A ruling is expected next month., Video Of Atlantic Yards Oral Arguments

Nets Daily, Live From Albany…Goldstein et al vs. Empire State Development Corp.

NJ Condemnation Law, Atlantic Yards Arguments Made to Court of Appeals

The New York Court of Appeals is hearing arguments today about the Atlantic Yards project, where challenges to the right to condemn were filed by several owners and interest groups. Lower courts upheld the condemning agency’s right to condemn.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: Suit Filed Against MTA

While the Atlantic Yards' eminent domain case begins in court today, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and four elected officials filed another suit in the state's Supreme Court yesterday against the Metropolitan Transit Authority, claiming that its sale of land to developer Forest City Ratner violates state law.... According to DDDB, "an annulment [of the sale] would disallow the transfer of the property, which the developer requires for its project, including its proposed basketball arena, until the M.T.A. complied with the law."

The Cross Polinator, Congratulations on your new lawsuit, MTA

Good for you MTA, a little pre-holiday present for you. To call the MTA part of the axis of corrupt New York City bastards would be unkind, so let’s just congratulate you on a job done behind closed doors.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

October 14, 2009

The MTA lawsuit gets mostly ignored in print, though the "pretty rotten deal" (as per Russianoff) affects a lot of people

Atlantic Yards Report

Never mind that financial shenanigans at the MTA affect millions of people:

So, how seriously did New York's major newspapers take the lawsuit filed yesterday that challenges the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's sweeter deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard?

The New York Times relegated coverage to a City Room blog post, with a one-paragraph reference in the print paper. The New York Daily News mentioned the suit in the last two paragraphs of a page 14 article (not yet online) on today's eminent domain suit.

The New York Post took the story more seriously, with six paragraphs in print, on page 2. The freebie Metro gave it five short paragraphs.


Posted by lumi at 6:31 PM

New York MTA Broke the Law: Suit

New Terms for Rail Sale Disputed

Bond Buyer
By Ted Phillips

The Straphanger's Campaign just joined the cast that has been fighting Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, when it filed suit against the MTA. Why join the fray at this time?

“We think the MTA agreed to a pretty rotten deal with Forest City Ratner that produces little money for the transit system and that hurts the riding public,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for New York Public Interest Research Group’s Straphangers Campaign. NYPIRG, a public advocacy group is party to the suit. “They didn’t do what we think state law requires.”
Russianoff said the Straphanger’s campaign doesn’t have a position on the Atlantic Yards project but would like to the land be reappraised and its sale opened to a competitive process. The Straphanger’s main concern is that the cash-strapped MTA get a fair price for the yards to help finance its capital plans, he said.


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

MTA lawsuit, which might affect arena financing, charges that Public Authorities Accountability Act was violated

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews what is at stake in the lawsuit filed against the MTA:

Even a successful lawsuit might not formally stop the project, but it could throw a wrench into Forest City Ratner's plan have the state sell tax-exempt bonds and for arena construction to begin this year.
The suit notes that MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson acknowledged that the transaction had to be approved quickly--the board had 48 hours--because, as he said, "it really relates to Forest City's desire to market their bonds as a tax-exempt issuance [by a December 31 deadline]."

Though this is the first time that elected officials have joined Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn in a lawsuit, there are several who are conspicuously not on the list:

Missing from the lawsuit were City Council Members David Yassky and Bill de Blasio. While de Blasio is the Democratic nominee (and shoo-in) for Public Advocate, Yassky--who testified critically about the land sale at an MTA meeting June 24--lost his bid for Comptroller and will leave office this year. Also missing was Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes the AY footprint.

Also missing were Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and state Senator Bill Perkins, who have led the push for reform of public authorities. A representative of Perkins testified critically about the land sale on June 24, as well, while Brodsky has mostly steered clear of Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: In the case of Brodsky, it is easier to rail against projects that have already been built, than to put up a real fight in the midst of corruption.

Missing from the MTA's approval of the refinancing of the project:

While the MTA claimed it did not need to follow a public bidding process, because the sale was allowed by the PAAA as furthering the public interest, there's no evidence, the suit charges, that the MTA conducted "any actual analysis of the public benefits to be gained by the sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to FCR," nor did it acknowledge the "diminishment of the Project’s anticipated public benefits."

No independent appraisal was obtained, even though the MTA Staff Summary implicitly suggested the 2005 appraisal was outdated, stating that "the Brooklyn real estate market has markedly deteriorated." Nor was the fair market value of the property every discussed.

Check out the rest of the article for the petitioner's argument that they have standing to bring suit.

MetroNY, Another Atlantic Yards suit
The Daily Politics, Odds & Ends: "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and four elected officials sued the MTA over the Atlantic Yards project"
AP, via, Groups Sue MTA to Block Deal for B'klyn Nets Arena

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

October 13, 2009

Straphangers sue to annul sale of Atlantic Yards

Reuters is carrying news of the suit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by the Straphangers Campaign, local pols and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

The troubled Atlantic Yards project, a multibillion-dollar redevelopment in Brooklyn, came under renewed fire on Tuesday as a group of elected officials and consumer advocates filed a lawsuit seeking to annul the sale of the site.
"While the MTA is forcing service cuts and fare increases on the people of New York, they are giving Forest City Ratner just about a free ride," Senator Montgomery said in a statement.

The suit charges that the MTA violated state law that requires it to get an independent appraisal of the site and seek competitive bids.

"The MTA failed to fulfill either of these legal requirements when its board approved its new deal with Forest City Ratner on June 24th, 2009," Montgomery said.
The suit is Montgomery et al. v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority et al. in the Supreme Court of the State of New York


Posted by lumi at 8:34 PM

Atlantic Yards foes land another lawsuit

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

A day before New York's highest court will hear their case to block the Atlantic Yards project, opponents filed yet another lawsuit to stop the massive development in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, opponents, including the nonprofit group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and four elected officials, sued The Metropolitan Transportation Authority over the revised deal it struck in June to sell the 8.5 acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard to developer Forest City Ratner for $100 million.


Posted by eric at 5:07 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (new MTA lawsuit edition)

Field of Schemes, New lawsuit targets Ratner's Atlantic Yards land buy

With just one day to go before New York state's top court holds its hearing on the final eminent domain case against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, another court challenge has emerged: Four local elected officials, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and the ubiquitous Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn are suing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over its agreement this summer to sell land to Ratner for a cut-rate price. (An even more cut-rate price than the MTA originally agreed to, that is.)

The real question now is whether another lawsuit will make it too expensive for Ratner to get bond insurance so he can start selling arena bonds this month as planned.

More on this as it develops. In the meantime, the lesson here may be: If you're going to try a legally questionable move to gain public (and private) land for your arena project, you might not want to choose a site right in the middle of one of the city's highest concentrations of lawyers.


For those hoping that the only court we would be talking about after tomorrow was the basketball court, I am sorry, but that isn’t going to happen. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn sent out a press release this morning stating that they, along with a few elected officials and the Straphangers Campaign have sued the MTA.

This suit is yet another case that the Nets are going to have to deal with and resolve before they can put the shovel in the ground. This might not be the last one either as Mark has alluded to, there’s buzz that they want to sue the Empire State Development Corp. as well. This now turns into a clock management issue (mandatory sports term!) for the Nets and their lawyers as they continue to navigate the legal obstacles that DDDB put out.

NetsDaily, New Suit Alleges “Sweetheart” Deal on Railyard

Critics of the Nets’ new arena, along with four city and state officials, have filed suit against the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, claiming it illegally renegotiated and approved an agreement on the railyards beneath the project. Bruce Ratner had agreed to buy the yards for $100 million and upgrade it as part of Atlantic Yards, then asked that the price be stretched out 22 years and the new yard shortened.

AP via SILive, NYC groups sue MTA to block deal for Nets arena

The MTA and Forest City Ratner said they had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit is the latest of several legal challenges to the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project. The project is to include office towers and apartments as well as a basketball arena.

2nd Ave. Sagas, MTA sued over Ratner sweetheart deal

As I summarized in June, this new deal for Ratner is blatantly outrageous. I wrote four months ago:

So what did the MTA do? Well, instead of opening up the process to a new round of bidders and requests for proposals, the agency has simply sweetened the deal for Ratner. Instead of a lump sum payment of $100 million, he will pay just $20 million upfront and cover his purchase in installments totaling $80 million over the next 22 years. He will pay $2 million a year from 2012-2016 and then $11 million a year for the following 15 years. Instead of a $225 million rail facility, he will supply one with three-quarters of the original plan capacity for $150 million instead.

At the time, MTA Board members protested the deal, and now the politicians are angry. This could be a long fight for the MTA, and an injunction against the sale could impact Ratner’s ability to secure financing. He has until the end of the year to secure $700 million in tax-free bonds for the Barclays Arena.

Posted by eric at 3:10 PM

Suit Challenges Sale of Land to Atlantic Yards Developer

City Room
by Charles V. Bagli

With the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn inching closer to a ground-breaking, opponents of the 22-acre development filed another lawsuit on Tuesday morning challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s decision to sell the developer a portion of the land in what it says is a sweetheart deal that violates state law.

The suit, filed by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and four elected officials, asks the State Supreme Court to nullify the authority’s recent deal to sell an 8.5-acre railyard at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues to the developer Bruce C. Ratner without first getting an independent appraisal and soliciting competing offers for the property.

A spokesman for the M.T.A. declined to comment on the lawsuit, the fifth filed by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. This suit, however, marks the first time that elected officials have joined them.


Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

Lawmakers sue MTA for Ratner's 'sweetheart' arena deal
by Rich Calder

The MTA today was banged with a lawsuit over a recent “sweetheart deal” it gave developer Bruce Ratner to bail out his controversial Atlantic Yards project that includes building an arena in Brooklyn for the NBA’s Nets.

The suit, filed by several lawmakers, seeks to annul the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s revised deal with Ratner in June that allows the mega-developer to pay off $100 million he owes the agency over 22 years for the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt rail yard site in Prospect Heights and also shave off more than $100 million of the $345 million in transit improvements he had promised there.

It alleges the cash-strapped agency violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act by failing to obtain an independent appraisal of the site or solicit competitive offers before agreeing to a new deal.

The revised MTA plan allows Ratner to pay $20 million up front for the rail yard, and then spread out $80 million in payments over 22 years at a bargain interest rate of 6.5 percent.

Ratner in 2005 agreed to pay the agency $100 million up front, plus provide rail yard upgrades in exchange for various state approvals needed for the project. He cut that deal despite being outbid.

The new rail yard would be reduced from what was to be nine tracks with a capacity for 76 cars -- and worth $250 million -- to seven tracks that could handle 56.

Ratner’s $100 million bid for the site in 2005 was $50 million lower than a rival proposal by Extell Development. An agency appraisal before that deal found the rail yard worth $214.5 million.

Ratner won after convincing the board the offer was worth $445 million with the transit upgrades.


Posted by eric at 2:46 PM

New Yards suit — one day before the old Yards suit

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

One day before a climactic court hearing that could clear a major legal barrier for Bruce Ratner, opponents of the developer’s residential, retail, office and arena mega-project filed another lawsuit today, this time challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s mid-summer “sweetheart” renegotiation with Ratner.

The suit, filed this morning in state Supreme Court in Manhattan by a panoply of state legislators, plus Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), the NYPIRG/Straphangers Campaign and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, seeks the annulment of that June deal to sell the Vanderbilt rail yard near the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues with just a $20-million down payment.

Opponents argue that the new law required the MTA “to obtain any appraisal of the current value of the yard [and] entertain any competing proposal for the yard.”

But when it rubber-stamped the renegotiated deal with Ratner in June, the agency did not seek new bids.

Instead, the MTA “capitulated to [Ratner’s] demand and negotiated a disposition of the Vanderbilt Yard on terms significantly more favorable to [Ratner] than were approved in September, 2005,” the brief states.


Posted by eric at 2:40 PM

DDDB, Straphangers Campaign, four elected officials sue MTA, FCR to annul renegotiated Vanderbilt Yard deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, maybe the eminent domain case is not the only court challenge that could jeopardize the Atlantic Yards plan.

I'll have more on this later, but here's one tidbit from the legal petition:
In effect, MTA agreed to finance 80 percent of FCR’s purchase of the Yard at a generous 6.5 percent interest rate, while Forest City Enterprises had a junk bond rating.


Posted by eric at 2:23 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Elected Officials, Straphangers Campaign and DDDB Sue MTA for Sweetheart Deal With Forest City Ratner

Suit Says MTA Violated State Law and Atlantic Yards Deal Between Ratner and MTA Must Be Annulled

NEW YORK, NY — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was sued today for the June 24th deal it made to sell its 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard to developer Forest City Ratner for its proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards plan in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (18th District), Assemblymember Jim Brennan (44th District), Assemblymember Joan Millman (52nd District), NY City Councilmember Letitia James (35th District), NYPIRG/Straphangers Campaign and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn filed the lawsuit. The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

"While the MTA is forcing service cuts and fare increases on the people of New York, they are giving Forest City Ratner just about a free ride. We have laws in this state that forbid these kinds of sweetheart deals. You can’t short change the public to benefit a developer,” said lead plaintiff, state Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “With the Atlantic Yards, the MTA violated our legislation and the public trust. Their sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to Ratner must be annulled."

The suit seeks the annulment of the MTA’s deal to sell the rail yard to Forest City Ratner because it violated requirements of legislation meant to rein in the abuses of New York State’s public authorities. An annulment would disallow the transfer of the property, which the developer requires for its project, including its proposed basketball arena, until the MTA complied with the law.

The petitioners charge, specifically, that the cash-strapped transit authority violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005. Under that legislation, which former Governor Pataki signed into law in 2006, MTA was required to obtain an independent appraisal of the Vanderbilt Yard and seek out competitive offers for the property. The MTA failed to fulfill either of these legal requirements when its Board approved its new deal with Forest City Ratner on June 24th, 2009.

"We are asking the court to annul the MTA's agreement of this past June to sell the Vanderbilt Rail Yard to Forest City Ratner, because the agreement violated the procedural requirements of the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005, which were put in place to ensure that New York State's public authorities, including the MTA, adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards when selling their property. The MTA's deal to sell the Vanderbilt Rail Yard to Forest City Ratner did not meet those standards," said petitioners' attorney Randall Rasey of Barton, Barton & Plotkin.

The legal briefs for the case—Montgomery et al. v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority et al. are at:

The lawsuit is funded by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which is funded entirely by thousands of grassroots donations. DDDB is holding its fifth annual fundraising Walkathon to raise money for the legal fight against Atlantic Yards this Saturday, October 17th, at 2pm kicking off from Brooklyn Borough Hall. For more information and to register for the Walkathon, please visit:

Posted by eric at 1:50 PM

September 23, 2009

Thompson's audit finds subway stations badly maintained (including Atlantic Avenue); does not look at tunnel conditions

Atlantic Yards Report

In case you're wondering whether Comptroller Bill Thompson's Audit Report on New York City Transit’s Maintenance and Repair of Subway Stations (PDF) mentions the deteriorated conditions in subway tunnels found in a confidential report prepared by Forest City Ratner, the answer is no. It addresses areas accessible to riders, not subway tunnels.

But it would be worth it for Thompson to ask a few questions. After all, I couldn't get any details from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about remedial work.

Meanwhile, Thompson's report does find questionable conditions at the Atlantic Avenue subway hub for which the MTA has sold "Barclays Center" naming rights.


Posted by lumi at 7:59 PM

Transit Riders Council: outrage that Ratner "will receive substantial concessions at the expense of... the public at large"

Atlantic Yards Report

According to Norman Oder, there are some things that a Russian billionaire's money doesn't change — like the anger of transit advocates.

It doesn't change the plan to decrease, rather than increase the size of the new Vanderbilt Yard. Nor does it change the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's agreement to accept $20 million, rather than the initially pledged $100 million, from Forest City Ratner, and to give the developer 22 years to pay the rest, at a generous 6.5% interest rate.

And when public comments were submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that were critical of the deal, the ESDC ignored them, stating, in its Response to Comments document:
This document has been prepared to address comments directed to ESDC and, therefore, does not address comments related to the MTA approval process.

Except the New York City Transit Riders’ Council (NYCTRC), the legislatively-mandated representative of transit riders, submitted a letter (below) expressing outrage at the concessions to the developer, and argued that the ESDC was acquiescing in providing those concessions.

Click thru for the full text of the letter — here's a snippet:

In the discussion of the project, several members of the Council expressed outrage that the project developer, the Forest City Ratner Companies, will receive substantial concessions at the expense of the interests of the public at large and that the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is acquiescing in providing these concessions.


NoLandGrab: Of course, the chair of the NYCTRC holds a non-voting position on the MTA board, but it may not have mattered, anyway, since the chair, Andrew Albert, stated that he was "torn" about the revised proposal during discussion at the meeting at which the MTA approved the revised giveaway. His fellow council members don't seem so conflicted.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

September 9, 2009

At hearing on new MTA head, Kruger warns murkily of intransigence on AY; Perkins says AY deal lost MTA public confidence

Atlantic Yards Report

I questioned last week whether Jay Walder, nominated as chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), would be asked at state Senate hearings about the agency's controversial revision of the deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard.

Well, not quite, but AY certainly came up at the second and final hearing, held yesterday at the State Office Building in Harlem, and there was a murky hint that the Vanderbilt Yard deal might be stalled by some additional MTA effort at due diligence.


Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

September 3, 2009

Hearings begin Thursday on MTA Chair/CEO nominee Walder; will Vanderbilt Yard deal be an issue?

Atlantic Yards Report

Three New York State Senate committees this week kick off hearings on the nomination of Jay Walder to head the MTA.

Maybe we'll learn whether the incoming head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) thinks the agency got a good deal on the Vanderbilt Yard.

(Remember, the MTA in June agreed to accept only $20 million upfront from Forest City Ratner instead of $100 million; gave the developer generous terms to pay the rest; and agreed that a smaller rather than larger replacement year was acceptable. And there was apparently no formal legal advice beyond a checkoff.)

So, what does Walder think? Is the MTA bound to its political patrons, or to its riders?


Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

August 25, 2009

MTA to James, "Beat it"

Though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently signed a deal with Bruce Ratner to add the name "Barclays Center" to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. Station, the agency isn't even entertaining the idea of adding a plaque at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station to commemorate the location of Michael Jackson's groundbreaking video for "Bad.", Brooklyn Rumbling for Jackson's "Bad" Subway Station

[City Councilmember Letitia James] said when she asked the MTA why they wouldn't acknowledge the King of Pop, who died on June 25, but they let Bruce Ratner pay $200,000 a year to put "Barclays Center" on the Atlantic Avenue station there was very little response.

"Naming rights is a new kind of thing for us," said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. "We're in the process of developing guidelines for naming rights as sources of revenue."

Associated Press, Agency: NY Michael Jackson subway honor unlikely

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

August 24, 2009

Report says MTA tunnels bordering AY site in "critical condition;" MTA says it's taken remedial action but won't provide details

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has the scoop that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner has reported to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that some of the subway tunnels that are bordering the project are seriously deteriorating. [Click image to enlarge.]

A confidential December 2007 report commissioned by developer Forest City Ratner and provided to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) stated that portions of two tunnels were in critical condition and required repair "in the immediate future" and the "near future."

Preliminary remedial work has been performed--the MTA won't say how much--but further repairs on these tunnels are not part of the MTA's recently-released draft Capital Plan, which covers 2010-14 and aims to address only some of the system's many needs.

In other words, should the Atlantic Yards arena open in 2011-12 as currently projected, it may be bordered by seriously deteriorated subway structures. We don't know whether the city or Forest City Ratner have asked for accelerated repairs or stated a willingness to pay for them.
There's no proof that work on the Atlantic Yards site directly threatens the subway system, but Forest City Ratner wouldn't have had the report prepared were there no reason for concern.

The repairs would require service interruptions:

Still, unclear is the extent of potential service disruptions and how they might affect the transit hub at Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street should the Atlantic Yards arena open.


Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM



NY Post
by Rich Calder

If you want to strike a deal, bring your wallet:

Earlier this year, agency honchos agreed to the MTA's first-ever naming rights deal. Developer Bruce Ratner is set to pay the MTA $200,000 a year over 20 years to add the name of his planned Barclays Center NBA arena to the Atlantic Avenue transit hub in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

August 20, 2009

What’s really crippling public authorities

NY Fiscal Watch
by Nicole Gelinas

Mayor Bloomberg and real estate interests are trying their darnedest to gut the Public Authorities reform bill that's been sitting on Governor Paterson's desk for some time now, claiming that legislation that would force state authorities to secure "market value" when selling land would have detrimental effects. The Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas isn't having any of it.

But that’s actually one of the bill’s key selling points — and something that should stay in any future, better, public-authority reform bill.

To see what’s really crippling public authorities, look to the Atlantic Yards mess, chiefly the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s recent deal to sell valuable acres of land in Brooklyn to basketball-stadium and condo developer Bruce Ratner, the private-sector sponsor of the project, for the super-low upfront price of $20 million, down from an original $100 million.

The MTA will also allow Ratner to make an in-kind payment of construction work on MTA property that’s far inferior to the original work proposed.

The Atlantic Yards deal is one of those “economic-development/urban-planning” projects Anderson wants to protect — but the public purpose of the project is not actually clear.

What is clear is that the MTA, for political reasons (Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson heavily support the Atlantic Yards project) is sacrificing a real public purpose: getting the most money it can get to fund its next multi-billion-dollar capital plan, which is far more important to the city’s private-sector economy than building some more empty condos is.


Posted by eric at 5:27 PM

Yes, observers see the MTA deal regarding Atlantic Yards as a trigger for public authorities reform

Atlantic Yards Report

Congratulations Bruce Ratner! Your sweetheart deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for development rights over the Vanderbilt Railyards is the poster child for the need for Public Authorities reform, at least during yesterday's discussion on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show:

Danny Hakim, the New York Times's Albany bureau chief, noted that the law emerged from concern that oversight of the state's more than 700 authorities has been essentially ad hoc.
Hakim explained that [NYC Mayor Mike] Bloomberg objected to the requirement that "board members have a fiduciary responsibility to the authority they serve and also the mission of the authority as opposed to having a duty to the politician who appointed them.... He's been very clear that he expects his appointees to do what he wants them to do. The tension there is—these are supposed to be independent bodies. We do have agencies of both the city and the state government that are directly controlled by the mayor or the governor."

Guest host Andrea Bernstein followed up: "Let’s give an example of that, the MTA when they engaged in the deal to approve the Atlantic Yards development, there was a lot of question about whether they were actually getting the best deal or whether the board members were just doing what the mayor and the governor at the time wanted them to do."

It was unclear whether she was referencing the 2005 deal for the Vanderbilt Yard or the 2009 revision of the deal.
[Executive director of the Citizens Union Dick] Dadey gave partial agreement to Bloomberg's concern that authorities would be straitjacketed by having to sell property only at market rates. But if Bloomberg was suggesting that the Atlantic Yards deal was a justification, Dadey wasn't buying it.

"I think [the bill] has good protections in the sense that it does prevent, like the MTA in the Atlantic Yards thing, from giving sweetheart deals to the developers," Dadey said, "but it could add to the cost of developing parcels of land that need to be developed and should be developed."


Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

August 19, 2009

Brodsky, Perkins fire back at objections to public authority reform raised by Paterson aide; are authorities really checked by elected officials?

Atlantic Yards Report

In a scorching letter issued yesterday, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and state Senator Bill Perkins slammed an attempt to gut public authorities reform legislation and charged that objections raised in a memo by Peter Kiernan, Counsel to Governor David Paterson, would gut authority reform.

Kiernan’s memo was dated August 14 but released yesterday by the legislators, who, protesting that no objections were raised while the bill was pending in the legislature, promised a detailed reply.

Notably Kiernan suggests, unreliably, that the elected officials serve as a sufficient check on authorities, and proposes that, in lieu of a requirement that property be sold at market rates, there be greater disclosure, including the appraised value.

While this would be fall short of the provisions in the bill, recommended by a bipartisan commission appointed by former Gov. George Pataki, it nonetheless would represent somewhat more disclosure than emerged in June when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a revised deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard.


NoLandGrab: Yes, that's right, the people who direct their appointees on the boards of public authorities to carry out their bidding and approve crooked deals like Atlantic Yards are the very same people who are going to act as a check against the abuses of public authorities. Excellent plan!

Is it any wonder that New York State's government is widely viewed as the nation's most dysfunctional? Please contact Governor Paterson today and tell him to sign the Public Authorities Reform Bill.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

August 18, 2009

Times revises stance on public authority reform, agrees land should be sold at below-market rates

Atlantic Yards Report

After wholeheartedly endorsing landmark legislation reforming the state's public authorities less than a month ago, the New York Times--after listening to Mayor Mike Bloomberg and maybe even Forest City Ratner--agrees that the legislation should be revised somewhat.

The Times appears to buy the Mayor's line that barring state authorities from selling land for less than market value would hamper affordable-housing projects (not to mention basketball arenas!), yet the paper's editorial board thinks the bill should maintain its insistence that directors of said authorities carry out their fiduciary duties.

The fiduciary duty connects directly to selling land at below-market rates, as Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has said, and the most direct example concerns the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard, which at this point would be used far less for affordable housing than for a profitable arena for Forest City Ratner, which, of course, was the partner with the newspaper's parent company on the new Times Tower.

In other words, it's not being sold to a government agency to build housing. It's being sold to a private developer who, with sufficient subsidies, may build housing.


NoLandGrab: Here we are agreeing with Delia Hunley-Adossa again — The Times just ain't objective. Does anyone else think it's a problem when the city's leading media outlet is chummy with the billionaire mayor and real estate developers?

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

MTA: no legal advice (beyond checkoff on Staff Summary) justified Vanderbilt Yard deal; also, smaller railyard may be OK for East Side Access

Atlantic Yards Report

The MTA has stated that it doesn't have a document that justifies the legality of the revised deal with Forest City Ratner, but it provided a document that explains why a smaller railyard may suffice

OK, I've gotten a closer-to-final answer to my effort to find out how exactly the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's "legal department has advised us that this is a legal transaction," as MTA board member Jeffrey Kay told fellow board members on June 24 regarding a more generous deal with developer Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard.

No document justifies the deal.

Also, though the original 2005 RFP for the Vanderbilt Yard stated that the revised yard should anticipate a 40 percent fleet-wide expansion, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is taking a wait-and-see posture toward what's necessary to support East Side Access (ESA) service to Grand Central Terminal (GCT).

Remember, the permanent railyard, instead of having nine tracks with capacity for 76 cars as originally planned, would have seven tracks with capacity for 56 cars. While there would be several improvements, including a western portal--allowing a more direct entrance to the LIRR hub than the current convoluted route--it still would be less capacity than the longstanding iteration of 72 cars.


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

August 17, 2009

Perkins, Brodsky say Paterson should listen to the people, not Bloomberg, regarding the Public Authorities Reform Act

Atlantic Yards Report

Blaming New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg for Gov. David Paterson’s apparent reluctance to sign sweeping legislation that would reform the governance of the state’s public authorities, state Senator Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), yesterday urged Paterson to sign the bill, offered forceful rebuttals to Bloomberg’s concerns, and said they were considering public meetings and hearings to focus attention on the bill.

“This bill is as American as apple pie,” Brodsky said of the Public Authorities Reform Act of 2009. “This is a power struggle between the needs of the people and the needs of a powerful mayor.” The bill has drawn broad support from editorialists and civic groups.

Perkins said Paterson should “return to his roots,” noting that, “when the governor had this office [state Senator from Harlem], he was a leading voice for reform.” They spoke at a hastily-called press conference at Perkins’s Harlem office, attended by journalists from the Associated Press, WNYC, and City Hall News, along with AYR. (News of Paterson's reluctance broke Friday.)

While neither mentioned Atlantic Yards by name, Brodsky made what could be interpreted as an indirect reference, noting that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) “has been pressured to... give away property to developers.” Without identifying specific projects, he said such sales represented a violation of the fiduciary duty required in the bill. (Note that the MTA bailout bill this spring allowed removal of board members if they breached their fiduciary duty, but the new bill would make the duty more enforceable, and more explicit.)

In July, Brodsky said that, in the case of AY, the West Side Yards, and the #7 line extension, “it seems to be me provable that... the MTA's fiduciary responsibility to the system and the riders was to maximize the value of the assets it was putting out. It could not do that in many of those cases. That struck me as a violation of the fiduciary duty.”

Perkins said his office was still looking into Atlantic Yards.

“The cry for reform in this state is universal,” said Brodsky, nothing that authorities such as the MTA, the Thruway Authority, Long Island Power Authority, New York Power Authority, Empire State Development Corporation, and others constitute an unregulated “shadow government.”


Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

How the MTA blew off state Senator Perkins; how board members have a fiduciary duty but new bill would make it easier to enforce

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of stonewalling...

A representative of state Senator Bill Perkins was not overstating the case when he testified June 24 that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had essentially ignored a letter Perkins sent with some tough questions.

As I explain below, MTA Acting Executive Director Helena Williams sent him a cordial but most complete brush-off. While Williams may not have been required to have a fiduciary duty to the authority, board members did have a fiduciary duty.

And it's questionable whether they followed it in relaxing the terms of the deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard, saving the developer $100 million on a replacement railyard, accepting $20 million down for a $100 million cash deal, and giving FCR 22 years, at a generous interest rate, to pay off the $80 million.

[Danny] Serrano, director of public policy for Perkins, who heads the Senate committee overseeing the MTA, declared, “It is clear that the project no longer resembles the project that was originally approved. It will not and cannot provide anywhere near the level of public benefits that were originally planned.”

“Much of the controversy surrounding Atlantic Yards has been aggravated by a chronic lack of honesty, transparency, and accountability,” Serrano declared. “This proceeding today is an example.”

Several days before the hearing Perkins submitted a letter with several “very basic, fair, logical” questions for the MTA. He received a letter, but, as Serrano reported, “it was in fact unresponsive.” Williams refused to answer or acknowledge the questions.

He began by asking why there was a renegotiation rather than demanding performance or reissuing the RFP. Asked to speed up, Serrano said, veering on sarcasm, “I’m going to run through the questions so you have the benefit of thinking about them.”


Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

August 14, 2009

Atlantic Yards YES! Bus-riding students NO!!

On June 24th, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted 10-2 to let Bruce Ratner put down just $20 million for the Vanderbilt Yard, and pay the $80 million balance over 22 years (never mind that the MTA had appraised the land at $214.5 million in 2005, and that NYC's Finance Department says assessed values of vacant land have increased 260% over the past three years — and as much as 3400% in the Atlantic Yards footprint). Four days later, an across-the-board, double-digit MTA fare hike went into effect.

As part of that fare hike, the MTA is eliminating discounted rides for students commuting by bus into Manhattan.

NY Daily News, MTA nixes express bus for outer borough students who commute to school in Manhattan

Hundreds of city students from the outer boroughs will have to choose between paying more to commute to school in Manhattan this fall or using a longer route. As part of this summer's fare hikes, the MTA quietly cancelled the discount on the express buses that gave students half off.

"To pay $11 a day, five days a week, it's a lot on my family; it's unfair," said Johnathan Trosa, 17, who takes the bus to get to Regis High School by 7:30 a.m. from Throgs Neck, in the Bronx.

"The express bus comes right near my house and drops me off right near my school. ... ," he said. "This makes the commute much more difficult."

The student fare will rise to $5.50 per trip from $2.50. ...

Jeffrey Levine, 48, a social worker whose two daughters will commute this fall from Throgs Neck to the Saint Vincent Ferrer school, will endure a $120 weekly increase.

"It's going to be hard on my family affording full fare," Levine said.

NoLandGrab: Maybe MTA should stand for Millionaires Thoroughly Accommodated.

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

August 6, 2009

Did the MTA request a new appraisal for the Vanderbilt yard? No. Were board members officially told that was OK? Not in writing.

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for information pertaining to whether or not the $214.5 million appraisal for the Vanderbilt Railyards, issued back in 2005, still officially applied to the revised deal, or, if not, has another one been done, or, if not... then what?

The resolution passed by the board stated:

Whereas, the Boards of the MTA, LIRR and NYCT further find that an appraisal of the value of such MTA Property was previously made by an independent appraiser and is included in the record of the transaction.

So, did the MTA board get any official advice from its counsel that the 2005 appraisal, which was for $214.5 million--not $100 million, which is what FCR offered only after bidding $50 million and seeing rival Extell bid $150 million--was still legitimate?

Or that the appraisal still applied to the revised deal, with only $20 million down and the equivalent of the remaining $80 million paid over 22 years, at a generous 6.5% interest rate?


NoLandGrab: The MTA Board's actions in late June raise serious questions pertaining to the legitimacy of the revised deal with Bruce Ratner. Certainly, the MTA has done its best to hopscotch through a legal minefield in order to accommodate Ratner, but, so far, the public authority has yet to demonstrate that it did so without breaking any laws or regulations.

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

A "great piece of real estate": Real Deal suggests Ratner got a good deal on the railyard because of financing, not price

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder comments on yesterday's Real Deal article, which identified Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as a win-win for Bruce Ratner and Bruce Ratner:

It's interesting that, while everyone agrees that the financing was a good deal for Ratner, Schechman suggests that the purchase price may be high in today's market, even though it's well under the appraised value.

Sure, prices have declined and it's hard to get loans. But this is a "great piece of real estate," in the words of Forest City Enterprices CEO Chuck Ratner.

So maybe the appropriate lens is not today's market but, as the New York Times suggested in 1994 in an analogous situation:

A rebounding economy will likely increase its value. It is wiser to walk away than stumble into a giveaway.

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

July 20, 2009

The real value of the station naming rights (far less than $4M, or even $2M), and the MTA's stonewalling about setting the price

Atlantic Yards Report

The MTA is not so into sharing, and they're bad at math, to boot.

So, was the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) sale of naming rights to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street station for $200,000 a year over 20 years "a goodly sum," as the New York Times described it in an editorial last month?

No, since, as I describe below, the present value cost to developer Forest City Ratner to slap "Barclays Center" on the stations would be far less than the $4 million sum casually used by the press, and even well less than $2 million.

Michael D.D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, was the first to argue that the naming rights were undersold, though the WNYC piece linked to suggests it's a very inexact process.

So I queried the MTA via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request:
During or after the 6/22/09 MTA Finance Committee meeting, CFO Gary Dellaverson said MTA staff, in an effort to set a price for the naming rights agreement considered for the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. station, looked at naming rights deals set by other transit systems. I would like a copy of any memo or report that MTA relied on to analyze the price of such naming rights deals.

Request denied.

So, how much is the "$4 million" deal really worth?

[Corrected] I've revised these figures based on an email from a reader.

With an interest rate of 6.5% (which the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas called "laughable"), the same for the railyard deal, the present value would be $2,203,701.

With a super-attractive (and unlikely) interest rate of 4%, the present value would be $2,718,065.

But with a more realistic interest rate of 10%, given the cost of corporate borrowing, well, the deal would be worth just $1,702,713 (not $594,575, as I wrote earlier).


Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

July 17, 2009

yard work

Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Construction continues on a temporary rail yard for the MTA LIRR, in anticipation of Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: This is the same construction that came to a halt, ostensibly because of the lawsuits, but coincidentally when the development company Forest City Enterprises was experiencing a cash-flow crisis. However, lawsuits persist, FCE has raised more capital, construction activity has resumed and we wonder why any reporter believes anything that developer Bruce Ratner says.

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

July 10, 2009

Letter: The MTA’s At It Again

Floral Park Dispatch

The chairman of the village of Floral Park's Long Island Railroad Third Track Task Force wonders why the LIRR is so critically concerned about track capacity — except when it comes to Bruce Ratner's Altantic Yards.

Another component of this new proposal is a smaller capacity LIRR train yard. The developer is now seeking to provide less than the agreed upon number of tracks for the important work of train storage, maintenance as well as the setting and accepting of equipment for scheduled commutes.

Floral Park and other communities along the Main Line have heard, ad nauseum, about the importance of track capacity and flexibility, therefore, the possibility of the MTA lessening that capacity or compromising that flexibility is inconceivable.

Perhaps, when planning its future, the LIRR should look to the quality and expertise of its own engineering staffs and train personnel for solutions rather than the high-priced special interest lobbying groups.


Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

July 8, 2009

Barclays buys rights to Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street station name

The Times (UK)
By Christine Seib

Barclays, which is keen to develop its brand in the US, has paid to have its name added to one of the busiest subway stations in New York in the first deal of its kind.

Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street Station in Brooklyn will have Barclays added to its already lengthy moniker after the British bank paid more than $300 million (£185 million) for the naming rights to a nearby sports stadium — the 18,000-seat Barclays Centre.
The change will not come into effect until the stadium opens in 2012. As part of its deal with Barclays, Forest City Ratner, the developer of the venue, threw in the naming rights to the station.


Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

July 7, 2009

Public's interests must be preserved at Atlantic Yards

NY Newsday, editorial

After Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner secured a better deal from the MTA, resulting in public benefits being "relegated to the back burner," Newsday's editorial board declares that "major, continuing changes argue for the creation of a new government subsidiary to oversee progress and ensure that the project's public benefits are not relegated to the back burner."

The editorial also misses some key points about Ratner's new deal with the MTA, namely the interest rate that the two parties agreed upon in order to finance the development rights over the railyards is much lower than what Ratner could get in the open market, and that the "better Long Island Railroad facilities" comprises of a railyard with smaller capacity than the current one.


NoLandGrab: The only reason we might need a "government subsidiary to oversee progress and ensure that the project's public benefits are not relegated to the back burner" is because the boards of the Empire State Development Corporation and MTA totally abdicated that role and are now, seemingly, receiving their orders from developer Bruce Ratner.

Atlantic Yards Report, In editorial, Newsday channels two of RPA's relatively mild AY reforms (that the MTA ignored)

Norman Oder catches an ignorant mistake and connects the editorial to the position of the Regional Planning Association (RPA): wouldn't be downtown Brooklyn. And how exactly would it be a financial boost for the MTA, given that it would deliver far fewer dollars than the MTA initially expected in the short term?

The editorial continues:

Instead of the original $100 million paid upfront for the right to develop the LIRR's rail yards, Ratner wants to stretch payments over 21 years, with interest, which works out to $193.5 million. The MTA should require a share of future revenue in addition, to take advantage of a market recovery.

The editorial doesn't say that the interest rate would be a notably low 6.5%. As for the share of future revenue, that's a not unreasonable concept should the project go forward, but it should be way more specific. When the RPA suggested it at the June 24 hearing, no one took it up.

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

The road to Microsoft City, Missouri

The Missourian
By Katy Steinmetz

Sure, we expect to see advertisements in our media, and we can live with them being awkwardly planted in films, but there’s got to be a line drawn between what space is for sale and what isn’t.

The constantly evolving spectrum of advertising makes it hard to pinpoint that line’s exact coordinates, but New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority seems to have landed somewhere on the wrong side. Their offense? Pimping out one of Brooklyn’s subway stops to Barclays.
But the MTA is getting almost $100 million for the real property and air space involved in the project. I find it hard to believe that a relatively paltry $4 million is going to make or break the system.


NoLandGrab: To be clear, the MTA is selling the "development rights" for the MTA railyard to Bruce Ratner, and the deal has been reduced from $100 million at closing, as first agreed, to $20 million down and the rest to be financed at below-market-rate interest over the next 22 years. Since, Ratner is nickel-n-diming the transit authority, maybe $4 million does make a difference after all.

Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

July 6, 2009

MTA CFO's justification for Forest City Ratner renegotiation: "too speculative" to consider another deal

Atlantic Yards Report

The central question behind the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's June 24 decision to renegotiate more generous terms for the Vanderbilt Yard with Forest City Ratner--$20 million rather than $100 million down, and a replacement railyard worth $100 million less, was whether another deal was possible.

A few MTA boardmembers have publicly stated their feelings that another deal isn't possible.

However, the "Public Authorities Accountability Act" requires that the MTA dispense the land for no less than market value, which would require that an appraisal be done. Was a current appraisal ever done? The MTA told watchdog reporter Norman Oder he'd have to file a Freedom of Information Law request to find out.

How does MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson know another deal isn't possible? Here's what he told WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman:

I have no idea when it would be more propitious than now to engage in a second transaction on this property. I simply cannot guess. I can tell you that it would turn on answers to questions that nobody has, which is: when does the financial market begin to change, when does the credit market change, when does the housing market change... So I think it's too speculative.


NoLandGrab: The MTA's steadfast refusal to negotiate with more than a single developer makes the entire deal "too speculative" at best, illegal at worst.

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

June 30, 2009

Ratner's bailout and the Barclays Bank subway station

The Examiner
By Bernie Mooney


While subway riders have to dig into their pocket for an extra quarter, the MTA handed Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner a multi-million dollar bailout.

For the last few years the MTA has cried poor mouth and insisted that a fare hike was needed to help their budget deficit. Yet, last Wednesday they voted to redo the Atlantic Yards deal by allowing Ratner to cough up only $20 million of the $100 million lump sum that was agreed to in 2006 for development rights to the site. The balance owed will be paid over the next 22 years.

They also relieved him of his $200 million obligation to make infrastructure improvements to the Vanderbilt rail yards in Prospect Heights.


Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

June 29, 2009

MTA’s Change of Ratner Deal would Violate State Law without Independent Appraisal

Hot Indie News

[Assemblymember Jim] Brennan said the failure to include an independent appraisal prior to voting on the proposal violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005, which specifically requires that a public authority like the MTA conduct an independent appraisal prior to disposing of its property to assure fair market value to be paid for assets of public authorities.

Brennan said the purpose of the statute was to prevent public authorities from squandering assets in giveaways to the private sector.

Brennan said it was likely the MTA was squandering its assets to the detriment of the mass transit system, since in 2005 another bidder on the arena site and rail yards, the Extell Corporation, had already offered the MTA more money than what became the agreement between Forest City Ratner and the MTA at that time.

Brennan said the likelihood that the arena project was a boondoggle was substantial, since the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) has already testified at a hearing of the State Senate Corporations Committee on May 29^th that a preliminary updated review of the costs and benefits of the arena showed that city and state outlays for the project would exceed positive tax revenues from the project even over a 30-year period.

The NYC Independent Budget Office has agreed to undertake a further review of the Atlantic Yards Arena and possibly other aspects of the project, following a request last week from Brennan and five other elected officials representing the site and surrounding areas.

Brennan indicated that an independent appraisal of the site was essential prior to the MTA signing off on a deal. Brennan chairs the Assembly Cities Committee and is a senior member of the Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.


Posted by eric at 3:51 PM

MTA Atlantic Yards bailout: post fare-hike edition

Noticing New York, Naming a Problem: The MTA Gives Ratner the Right to Name Brooklyn Subway Stations "Barclays"

Michael D.D. White raises a whole host of issues with the MTA's sale of station-naming rights to Barclays and Forest City, including whether the sum the MTA will receive is remotely adequate, the breakneck speed with which the deal was struck, and how the MTA board members raised nary a question.

How did the MTA negotiate handing Ratner the right to put the Barclay name on New York’s Brooklyn transit hub subway stations? WNYC reports that the MTA’s Gary Dellaverson, the MTA’’s Chief Financial Officer, explained: “We kinda felt our way into it.” That may be an understatement: Even as the MTA’s board meeting to approve the deal was underway, an MTA staffer was in the hallway outside the meeting on his cell phone trying to find out exactly what the deal was and what the board in the room next door should be told about it. When the board bothered to ask, it was clarified that the right to have the Barclays name on the subway station did not extend to the right to have the Barclay name on the interconnecting Long Island Railroad Station/Terminal. (Could it then still be named something else?) There were obviously a lot of other questions the board should also have been asking.

Advertising Age, Cash-Strapped Cities Turn to Marketers for Help

What's next? Will iconic American locales such as Route 66 or treasured public institutions such as the Smithsonian be up for grabs?

Actually, yes.

The MTA deal has gotten other New York agencies thinking. Selling naming rights is "not something that we've aggressively pursued in the past," said a spokesman for the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "But given the economic realities, it's something we're taking a closer look at."

NY Daily News, Voice of the People for June 29, 2009 [Scroll down]

Time on his side

Staten Island: Where do the city and MTA get off giving Bruce Ratner a break ("Yards upfront price chop," June 25). The MTA says it has no cash so there has to be a higher fare, but Ratner doesn't have to pay up for 21 years. Let the fare hike take place in 21 years.

Michael Scafiddi

Atlantic Yards Report, MIA again: The Times editorial page on the MTA's bailout of Ratner (except for the naming rights deal)

And it was not surprising, alas, that the New York Times editorial page was again missing in action regarding the deal as a whole, though today it offered a critical but essentially tangential editorial opposing the deal to add the name "Barclays Center" to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street station.

Of course, the Times is unlikely to write anything that would fundamentally threaten the interests of Forest City Ratner, business partner of the parent New York Times Company in the Times Tower. After all, as editorial writer Carolyn Curiel has said, "Our goal is to reflect the spirit of the Times and the opinion of the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr."

The same thing occurred last week.

In doing so, the Times went against the interests of not merely the Atlantic Yards opposition but the Straphangers Campaign, which represents a broad cross-section of New Yorkers and warned of a "rush to judgment," and even the AY-supporting Regional Plan Association, which, while not denouncing a dubious process, at least made the reasonable point that the deal should be retooled to give the MTA a greater share of future revenues.

Contrast in the past

And the Times's silence was glaring, when contrasted with a somewhat parallel situation in 1994, when the newspaper repeatedly editorialized against renegotiating a deal with a developer:
After so many years of delay, there is no need to rush into a sweetheart deal. The property will still be there in a few years. A rebounding economy will likely increase its value. It is wiser to walk away than stumble into a giveaway.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Times Misses Forest for Trees

Uhm, no, it is not a "goodly sum," it is a badly sum. And this is a non-issue, especially in relation to the MTA's bailout of Ratner.

Park Slope Courier, Bruce Ratner seals sweetheart deal with MTA

Project booster Stephen Witt reports, more or less straightforwardly, on last week's developments.

Next stop, Atlantic Avenue Barclay’s Center − home of yoooour Brooklyn Nets!

Both the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week did their part in furthering along the 22−acre Atlantic Yards project, which includes bringing the borough its first major professional team since the Dodgers left Brooklyn.

2nd Ave. Sagas, Times kinda sorta supports naming rights deal

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

Video: MTA official say FCR's arena plans were "principal driver" of "cramped" timing for board to vote on revised deal

Atlantic Yards Report

It's all on tape. According to CFO Gary Dellaverson, MTA staff had to work over the weekend to hammer out the bailout of Atlantic Yards, so developer Bruce Ratner can issue the bond to finance the arena by the end of this year to take advantage of a federal tax loophole that has since been closed.

"I think that, in terms of why must it be now in the summer versus in the fall, I think that really relates to Forest City's desire to market their bonds as a tax-exempt issuance [by a December 31 deadline]. If the structure... is not such that allows for the marketability of the bonds, then the financial aspect of the transaction, as it relates to arena construction expenses that Forest City Ratner would incur, become less viable and perhaps not viable. That's not something that I'm prepared to say from my own knowledge... but I would be remiss if I suggested anything other--that's the principal driver of the timing."


NoLandGrab: In short, the MTA had to work weekends to get this deal done so that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner can issue the bond to finance the arena by the end of this year to take advantage of a federal tax loophole that has since been closed.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Transit Riders NO!!

The MTA claimed the fare hike that went into effect on Sunday was necessary to plug the gaping hole in the transit authority's budget. Just last week the MTA negotiated a huge discount to Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Thank you cards can be sent to Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and their representatives on the MTA board.

NY Daily News, Subway riders feel MTA is taking them for ride as fare hiked to $2.25

"You shouldn't raise the fare if you're not going to increase service," said Emmanuel Louis, a 28-year-old hotel clerk from Brooklyn. "It's just not fair."

NoLandGrab: The MTA just approved developer Bruce Ratner's plan, which will shrink the capacity of the Vanderbilt railyard. That's a decrease in system infrastructure to go along with an increase in fares.

NY Newsday, NYC transit fare increase goes into effect

A fare hike that takes the price of a subway ride from $2 to $2.25 has gone into effect.
The MTA was poised to raise fares by twice as much before the state Legislature approved a bailout.

NoLandGrab: And then the MTA, in turn, bailed out Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project., Straphangers Not Happy With MTA Fare Hikes

Although not as steep as the draconinan hikes threatened earlier this year, a fare hike is a fare hike and straphangers were not happy about shelling out more for less.

Fares for subways and buses and shot up ten percent.

NY1, Straphangers Brace For MTA Fare Hike

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

June 28, 2009

Where Geography Matters

The New York Times, Editorial

The Times opines against — sort of — the selling of subway-station naming-rights to Barclays.

After five years of trying, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has sold the naming rights to a subway station. As of 2012 the M.T.A. will add the name Barclays to the Brooklyn station currently known as Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street.

Yes, Barclays as in the British bank. Or more to the point, as in the British bank that bought the naming rights to the sports arena being built as part of the Atlantic Yards project. The buyer in this case is Forest City Ratner, the developer for Atlantic Yards. It will pay $200,000 a year for 20 years.

We know that is a goodly sum and times are very tough for the M.T.A. But there’s reason to be skeptical about all of this, which probably explains why it took so long to sell even this one.

The names of subway stations are beautifully utilitarian just as they are, shifting only as rapidly as the streets above them shift. The names of their sponsors are likely to shift with the economic climate, and somehow adding a name like Barclays to what is, after all, a public transit station — in Brooklyn — feels even more dissonant.


NoLandGrab: The Times remains silent, however, on the MTA's sell-out of straphangers for Forest CIty's benefit. And whoops — they must've forgotten that the very same company is their business partner.

Posted by eric at 11:17 PM

June 27, 2009

"Fair market value," from 2004 to 2009

Atlantic Yards Report

[F]or the land, the public land, the MTA land, is that, what we have agreed to is that we will lease or buy that land at the fair market value... by whatever independent process that they normally use. --Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey, New York City Council hearing, 5/4/04 (transcript)

Below are some quotes from the MTA board meeting on Wednesday in which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) agreed to let Forest City Ratner pay $20 million down for the Vanderbilt Yard, and pay the rest of the pledged $80 million over 22 years, at a generous interest rate.

The developer also would save $100 million on a cheaper permanent replacement railyard. There was no consideration of a last-minute offer of $120 million by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, no attempt to get an appraisal, no effort to test the market, and not even an acknowledgment of the Regional Plan Association's (RPA) proposal that the MTA get a cut of future project revenues.

“The market is what the market is.”--board member Jeff Kay, an appointee of Mayor Mike Bloomberg

“How can you sell off a valuable public asset without considering market value?”--City Council Member Letitia James

“It is likely to be years before the market recovers enough to attract new developers.”--Neysa Pranger of the Regional Plan Association

"I believe the only issue facing me as a board member is whether or not I believe... whether MTA was getting fair market value for its property."--board member Mitchell Pally, representing Suffolk County

“But there is no other market. No one else has come forward with a credible proposal at this time, and we should take advantage of that.”--Jeff Kay

"The most sensible course now is for the city to find out anew the market value of this property, and that cannot be accomplished through negotiations with one bidder."--New York Times editorial (1994)


Posted by steve at 8:08 AM

June 26, 2009

It is a bailout

This week, The Brooklyn Paper editorial calls the MTA out on its bailout of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards scheme and transfers the blame to the sitting governor:

There is no better word than “bailout” to describe the efforts of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority this week in propping up developer Bruce Ratner’s arena, residential and office complex near the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
We agree that government can — and often should — play a role in helping development. But the MTA’s responsibility is to the taxpayer, not the developer.
We do not blame Bruce Ratner for fighting for the best deal for himself and for an arena that we believe would be good for Brooklyn. But we are no longer alone in maintaining that the MTA, which made the original deal under Gov. Pataki, is misusing its resources as ineptly under Gov. Paterson.


Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

The MTA Caught in the Act of the Ratner Giveaway

The Mother of All Boondoggles comes to reality TV.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn just posted these YouTube clips from "BrooklynTruth." Check out for a synopsis of each episode.

Bloomberg MTA Appointee: Railyard Sale Risk Free

DDDB $120M MTA Offer Challenges Forest City Ratner

DDDB Legal Chair Carponter Gives MTA Free Legal Advice

NY Electeds Slam MTA's Sweetheart Deal With Forest City Ratner

MTA Board Member Page Justifies Railyard Land Grab

Two MTA Board Members Vote NO to Brooklyn Land Grab

MTA Votes Even Sweeter Atlantic Yards Landgrab

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

June 25, 2009

Noticing New York Discloses What MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger Has in His Closet

Noticing New York

Skeletons, sure, but Michael D.D. White is more interested in Mr. Hemmerdinger's cravat. And how it relates to the MTA's failure to carry out its fiduciary duty.

Yesterday we promised to disclose today what MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger has in his closet and today we will do so. It may have seemed a little bit personal, which is exactly what we intended. When we made our promise we wanted to remind the MTA board members who were about to vote today that the exercise of their fiduciary duty in their role as members of the MTA board is not something that can be compartmentalized and separated from personal honor and integrity.

We have no doubt that all the evidence is resplendently stark that the bailout for Forest City Ratner approved* by the MTA board was a wired deal. We think that you would have to be a pretty dim bulb for that not to be clearly apparent. As such, we believe that members of the MTA board voting affirmatively today for all the additional giveaways to Forest City Ratner (the dim bulbs among them excluded) violated their fiduciary duty. This was pointed out by many of the public addressing the board before its vote today, including Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who spoke first and reminded the MTA members that they were lowering the price for the sale of the MTA property without first obtaining an appraisal.


Posted by eric at 1:25 PM

Naming Rights... or Wrongs?

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger (who was recently sued by two family members who accuse him of bilking them out of millions of dollars), made a big deal at yesterday's MTA board meeting about the deal to append the name Barclays to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station:

"We’ve been trying to make money off naming rights for quite a while. This is the first time we’ve been successful... It’s a very important point."

It sure is an important point. Because all the MTA had to do to be "successful" in selling naming rights to the station for $4 million over 20 years was to throw in development rights to an eight-acre railyard for $114.5 million less than the MTA's own appraisal, reduce the down payment for said yards by 80%, and extend the payment terms by 22 years at a below-market interest rate.

With that kind of "successful" sale, we can expect the MTA to be coming back to the taxpayers for another of their own massive bailouts very soon.

NY Times DealBook Blog, No Sleep ‘Til … Barclays?

To determine its asking price for the Brooklyn station, the authority studied a few successful efforts, like a monorail in Las Vegas named for Nextel, the communications company, and streetcars in Tampa, Fla., named for a local electric utility. And the popularity of the station — the second-busiest in Brooklyn last year — was taken into account.

“It’s grounded in reasonable business practices,” Mr. Banks told The Times.

NoLandGrab: You can be sure that any determination of the "asking price" was done by Bruce Ratner. "Reasonable business practices," indeed.

Banking Times, Barclays to become New York subway stop

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is in the process of approving a $4 million deal to rename a stop in Downtown Brooklyn, close to the proposed Barclays Center.

The centre, which includes a sports arena, forms part of the Atlantic Yards regeneration project, currently under development.

NLG: "Regeneration project" is actually an accurate term. A starfish that loses a couple of arms can grow them back. A neighborhood that gets leveled by a "developer" can come back, too, but with no timetable for the bulk of the project, that neighborhood maybe de disfigured for a long, long time., The Travesty Of The Transit Authority Trollups…

Hip-hop blogger Dallas Penn sees through the smokescreen.

Like I just said to you earlier, I LOVE new construction. This is what keeps my lights on and my sneakers crispy. That is until Mountain Dew cuts me a check (prA’li in Nevuary 3009). The Atlantic Yards is an expansive site that needs consideration, and not the reckless whoring that the MTA is providing. Keep in mind that the things that make this city great are her infrastructure (roadways, waterways) and her transit system (buses, subways, commuter rails). These things move us through the city expeditiously and safely. Since the Forest City Ratner plans have little consideration for these elements the plans should be reconsidered.

Barclays Bank, Forest City Ratner’s underwriter, is offering the MTA 200K per year to rename the Atlantic Avenue transportation hub ‘Barclay’s Center’ for the next twenty years!?! The only two words that accurately sum up that proposal are “Negro Please”. The prA’li link is still up and running. I wonder if we could raise that same amount of cash to rename the Franklin Avenue station “MTA Kiss My Grits”?

The Brooklyn Paper, Next stop! Barclays Station

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

MTA approves deal 10-2 despite warnings from Brennan, Straphangers, RPA; DDDB offer disdained; see video of testimony and board justifications

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's Norman Oder's synopsis of yesterday's MTA board meeting:

Despite a warning by veteran Assemblyman Jim Brennan that they were squandering their assets, a recommendation of caution by the Straphangers Campaign, and even a request by the Atlantic Yards-supporting Regional Plan Association that the deal be renegotiated, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) yesterday voted 10-2 to allow Forest City Ratner to stretch payments for the Vanderbilt Yard over 22 years, at a generous interest rate, and to build a smaller railyard worth $100 million less than originally promised. A diminished temporary yard could persist more than twice as long as originally planned.

Board members--who were reported (see WNYC) to have been under pressure from the mayor and governor who appointed them--agreed that this was the best deal they could get at a time when development is difficult.

They ignored questions from state Senator Bill Perkins, including the need for an appraisal. While several opponents suggested board members were violating their fiduciary duty, the board was told that MTA legal counsel backed their vote.

They went though some convoluted defenses of their failure to challenge FCR further. “The market is what the market is,” declared board member Jeff Kay, disregarding the failure to actually test that market.

As for the last-minute character of the deal, which was aired only on Monday, board member Mark Page, claimed unrealistically that, because MTA staff had been busy working on the deal, “it’s not as though it’s something that’s been dropped in our laps suddenly to consider.”

Also, confirming the “done deal” aspect of the vote, they disregarded without discussion a last-minute--and, understandably, hardly fleshed-out--proposal from Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) to pay $120 million for the Vanderbilt Yard, $20 million more than FCR’s offer.

“It is highly probable that we will sue the MTA as a result of their actions,” DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said afterward.

Check out the full article for the blow-by-blow account, complete with YouTube video from "BrooklynTruth."

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

HEADLINES: MTA approves Ratner bailout

AP, via Google, Land deal reworked for NBA arena in Brooklyn

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Wednesday to give Nets owner Bruce Ratner what amounts to a big price break on the development rights for a rail yard where the arena is to be built.

NY Daily News, MTA allows Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner to pay $20 million now and $80 million in 21 years

Documents released by the state Tuesday showed the project will cost $700 million more and take at least three years longer than planned - and could stretch on even longer than that.

Hemmerdinger defended the agreement - approved four days before subway and bus fares will jump 25 cents - saying it was "as good as possiblem given the circumstances."
But some elected officials protested that they stuck their necks out to support a taxpayer bailout of the cash-strapped agency, only to see the MTA give a break to a private developer.

"I stood up for this agency to say ... they need the money to keep the bus and the subways running," said Councilman David Yassky (D-Downtown Brooklyn).

"If you turn around and say, 'Oh, forget it, we don't need the $100 million, we'll just take the 20,' it just undercuts everything ..that we've been saying."

The Brooklyn Paper, BAILOUT! State cuts new deal to save stalled ‘Atlantic Yards’

State officials threw Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner two lifelines this week in an effort to salvage the bare bones of his original 16-skyscraper office, residential and basketball arena complex.

NoLandGrab: Not one, but TWO lifelines. Don't think that's the end of it. Given Ratner's track record, the developer is going to seek even more subsidies.

Here's what the local pols that showed up to testify had to say:

“You are squandering your assets,” Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D–Park Slope) told MTA board members before the vote on Wednesday. He called the arena “a boondoggle.”

“This is a massive giveaway of our public assets,” added Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights).

She rattled off a litany of diminished public benefits.

“They’ve reduced the [amount of] affordable housing, the open space is off the table, and the capacity of the railyards is smaller. It’s literally a disappearing act,” she told The Brooklyn Paper.

Borough President Markowitz, a longtime advocate for Ratner around the borough, didn’t attend the board meeting, but his chief of staff, Carlo Scissura, read a statement:

“I am confident that when completed, [“Atlantic Yards”] will serve as a model for other cities,” Markowitz said. “This is a project that will benefit all Brooklynites — both now and for generations to come.”

Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

June 24, 2009

This Week in Bailouts: MTA Edition

NY Observer, M.T.A. Approves Less Lucrative Atlantic Yards Deal

Bruce Ratner can now cross a major task off his to-do list.

For months now, Mr. Ratner, the developer planning the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards apartment and arena complex in Brooklyn has been seeking financial relief from an agreement he struck with the M.T.A. in better times.

Voting 10-2, the M.T.A.’s board approved a new deal that involves $180 million less in upfront payments and early expenditures for the project than was pledged in 2005, accepting a reduced-size rail yard and $20 million at first, with another $80 million (in today’s value) to be paid in pieces over the next 22 years.

In a statement, Mr. Ratner praised the M.T.A. and the Empire State Development Corporation, from whom he also received an approval for a revised design.

“The MTA approval today, along with ESDC Board authorization yesterday, was critical to this project going forward. Delays due to litigation and a difficult economic environment required the approved changes. We have worked very hard, however, as have our colleagues in government, to ensure that these changes would in no way impact the overall benefits of the project. We’re are extraordinarily appreciative of the professionalism and vision of these two agencies and all who believe that development is good for the City, that jobs are good and that affordable housing is good should applaud their actions.”

NoLandGrab: Yup, professionalism. That's the term that always comes to mind first when thinking of the MTA board and the ESDC.

NY1 News, MTA Board Approves Extension For Atlantic Yards Developer

"From the MTA perspective, our goal was transportation; we're very satisfied that we have a yard that meets our needs," said MTA Interim Chief Executive Officer Helena Williams. "[I'm satisfied] that we have transportation improvements for the subway entrances."

Cityfile New York, Bruce Ratner Gets His Way

Critics took to the podium before today's vote to deride the deal as a "massive bailout." And, shockingly, the MTA didn't pay any attention to the last-minute counterbid that landed its lap when the main Atlantic Yards opposition group, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, "tried to upstage the meeting by offering $120 million for the development rights over the Vanderbilt Yard."

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, MTA Approves Revised Atlantic Yards Deal

Among those who spoke against the revised deal, said [MTA Spokesman Aaron] Donovan, were Councilwoman Letitia James, a longtime foe of Atlantic Yards; Councilman David Yassky, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, and Dan Goldstein of the anti-Atlantic Yards organization Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Among those speaking in favor of the project were members of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), which would provide jobs within Atlantic Yards for low-income area residents; and Carlo Scissura, chief of staff for Borough President Marty Markowitz.

BUILD is contractually obligated to support the project publicly.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), head of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, said, "The public just bailed out the MTA -- the MTA should not use the money to bailout a developer. Much to the public's dismay, the same authority that was crying for cash just weeks ago has now cut a generous break for a real estate developer. As difficult as times may be, it doesn't warrant a bailout for developers.”

WNYC Radio, MTA Approves New Deal for Atlantic Yards

REPORTER: Some board members expressed regret that they were accepting less cash up front and a less valuable rail yard than originally proposed in 2005. But Jeff Kay, who represents Mayor Bloomberg on the board, said it was better than nothing.

KAY: There is no other market, no one else has come forward with a credible proposal at this time.

Um, could that be because the deal with Ratner has been cooked from day one?

REPORTER: At the last minute, opponents of the Atlantic Yards project offered to pay $120 million over a period of 12 years for the rail yards. Developer Bruce Ratner is paying $100 million over 21 years under the new deal.

Board members did not appear to take the counter-offer seriously and the board chairman refused to comment when asked about it.

Crain's NY Business, MTA approves Atlantic Yards schedule changes

The outcome was expected despite a cadre of critics claiming that the MTA is shirking its financial responsibility by allowing the $100 million payment to be stretched out over two decades. Now instead of paying the money upfront, Forest City will deliver $20 million at closing and the rest in payments ending in 2031.

The MTA vote comes a day after the board of the Empire State Development Corp. approved changes to its deal with Forest City that also awards the developer more financial breathing room. Now Forest City will be able to pay for the land in pieces instead of all at once. A public comment period will follow the vote and any negative testimony—which is virtually guaranteed—will require another tally. The result is expected to be the same, however.

That's an understatement. Did someone say something about a cooked deal?*

Forest City’s next major agenda item is selling bonds to finance the project’s centerpiece: an arena that where the company’s basketball team, the Net’s will play. The company hopes to begin selling $490 million worth of bonds to finance the $772 million arena this fall.

Daily News I-Team Blog, Done deal: MTA approves Ratner pact - and that's that

MTA officials who approved a sweetened deal on Wednesday for Nets owner Bruce Ratner refused to consider an alternative plan for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards which its proponents say would provide the embattled transit authority more money in a shorter period of time.

The UNITY Trust plan pushed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which has led the opposition to Ratner's plan to build a basketball arena and housing towers in Prospect Heights, calls for the MTA to receive $120 million over 12 years. The plan approved by the MTA calls for Ratner to pay $20 million up front and $80 million by 2031.

The Vanderbilt Rail Yards would be placed into a trust that would oversee financing and management of the project. The trust would generate more revenue by dividing up the land over the railyard and offering it to several developers.

The MTA's own appraisal valued the Vanderbilt Rail Yards at $214 million, and Extell Development offered $150 million for the site. So DDDB's Daniel Goldstein says he is not surprised that the MTA snubbed the UNITY Trust, even though the agency clearly could use the extra money (the state legislature approved a $2.26 billion rescue plan for the MTA last month).

2nd Ave. Sagas, MTA Board approves renegotiated Ratner deal

No surprise here, but the MTA Board has approved the sweeter sweetheart deal for Bruce Ratner. Instead of paying anything close to market price for land valued at $214 million four years ago, Ratner will pay the MTA the lump sum of $20 million with deferred payments over the next 22 years totaling $80 million. In return, he will provide a smaller-than-promised rail facility for the Atlantic Yards. Only two MTA Board members — Allen P. Cappelli and Mitchell H. Pally — voted against the new deal.

Posted by eric at 11:22 PM


NY Post Editorial

The Post's editorial board must have actually started reading Rich Calder's stories.

After pleading poverty, jacking up fares and squeezing $2 billion from Albany, the MTA is now flush with cash.

Or so one might think -- if the agency OKs a plan to let a developer pay for air rights over the Atlantic Avenue rail yard on a 22-year layaway plan.

It better not. When its board votes today, it should nix the plan -- and demand that Forest City Ratner stick to the old deal.

Forest City and CEO Bruce Ratner had agreed to pay $100 million up front for the rights. Now, it seeks to put just $20 million down, paying the rest over the next 22 years.

Plus, it wants a below-market interest rate. And it would scale back work to develop the yard for the agency.

This would be a bum deal even if the MTA was rolling in dough. It's surely not a bank or finance company, able to peddle valuable property rights on the installment plan.

Indeed, the agency lacks funding for its own critical needs -- like maintaining and upgrading equipment.

Sure, times have changed since the deal was reached in 2005.

But if the climate is so bad today that a major developer with a solid track record like Forest City can't raise $100 million, what hope is there that it'll be able to raise $4 billion-plus to cover the entire project's costs?

Make no mistake: We backed the Atlantic Yards development, including a new basketball arena for the Nets and 16 new buildings, from the start. We still think investment there will benefit Brooklyn.

But the MTA needs to watch its wallet. It can't afford to subsidize private developers, and it shouldn't try.

A "no" vote on the revised plan today will send that message clearly.


NoLandGrab: Guess the 10 MTA board members who voted "yes" today missed this editorial this morning — like we did.

Posted by eric at 3:20 PM

Atlantic Yards MTA Bailout: Tabloid Edition

The city's tabloids weigh in on today's straphanger-funded MTA bailout of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.


Bruce Ratner got his own MTA bailout today.

The agency approved a plan for Brooklyn's controversial Atlantic Yards project that lets the mega-developer pay off $100 million he owes the agency over 22 years.

The deal -- okayed after a heated three hour meeting at MTA headquarters in Midtown -- also allows him to shave off more than $100 million of the $345 million in transit improvements he had promised.

NY Daily News, MTA signs off on sweet Atlantic Yards deal Bruce Ratner: Money down drops from $100M to $20

The 10-2 approval lets developer Bruce Ratner off the hook for his $100 million cash payment for Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Railyards, part of the site for his planned new arena.

If Ratner couldn't proceed without help, the critics said, the MTA should have looked for other developers.

Posted by eric at 2:53 PM

"The Next Station is... Barclays"

WPIX 11 News, Barclays To Buy Name To Major Brooklyn Subway Station

Commuters passing through the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue subway station in Prospect Heights may soon hear the word "Barclays" to the already long subway station name.

If the deal goes through, the Barclays name change would not go into effect until 2012.

Brownstoner, More Naming Rights for Barclay's

All you Atlantic Yards fans out there in the blogosphere are gonna love this one. Now, not only will you get to (maybe) have an arena with the name Barclay's plastered all over it, you're also going to have a subway station with the name Barclay's plastered all over it.

Joe. My. God., Barclays Presents: The D Train

Ugh, ugh, ugh. NYC's cash-strapped MTA has sold the naming rights to downtown Brooklyn's massive subway station to Barclays Bank.

Tales from Real America, MTA Crosses a Rubicon

MTA sells naming rights to the Atlantic-Pacific Subway stop to Barclay's bank.

For $200,000 a year.

For 20 years.

MTA, Forest City Ratner and Barclays can all go to hell.

AP via Asbury Park Press, MTA sells renaming rights to N.Y. subway station

The developer of a new NBA arena in Brooklyn has bought the rights to rename a subway station for $4 million.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved the deal Wednesday.

Posted by eric at 1:45 PM

Atlantic Yards Developer Is Allowed to Defer Payments

City Room
by Michael Grynbaum

The developer Bruce C. Ratner can defer his payments for the Atlantic Yards project over a period of two decades, the governing board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted on Wednesday, despite objections from community advocates who derided the deal as a “bailout” for Mr. Ratner.

Only two members of the authority’s board voted against the plan, which will allow Mr. Ratner’s company to pay $20 million up front and $80 million in deferred payments through 2031. Mr. Ratner was originally obligated to pay $100 million up front to the agency, but he requested revised terms after the real estate market entered its steep decline.

Nearly 50 speakers, ranging from private citizens to labor representatives to politicians, spoke before the board’s vote, although their opinions on the matter were mixed.*

Voting against the plan were Allen P. Cappelli, an appointee of Gov. David A. Paterson, and Mitchell H. Pally of Long Island. Andrew M. Saul, the vice chairman, abstained, and Norman I. Seabrook was absent.

In the board’s debate, Mr. Cappelli said he was bothered by Mr. Ratner’s plans to ratchet down the renovation of the railyards at the heart of the project. He added that the sales price determined by the authority might be below market rate.

“This land is very valuable,” Mr. Cappelli said. “I know the economy has changed a lot in the four years since this plan was initially approved. There may be some risk in pushing the developer back to the table, but unfortunately it’s a risk that I would recommend we take.”

* Norman Oder offers a correction:

Re: “Their opinions on the matter were mixed.”

Actually, no. Almost all the supporters of Forest City Ratner’s plan praised the project as a whole, ignoring the transportation and fiscal impacts of the offer before the MTA.

No elected official other than (a rep for) Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz spoke in favor of the project.

Along with Letitia James, Assemblyman Jim Brennan and state Senator Bill Perkins (via a rep) spoke against the deal. So did Council Member David Yassky.


Posted by eric at 1:35 PM

MTA full board rubber-stamps Ratner bailout

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

As expected, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a massive public bailout of the struggling Atlantic Yards project today, changing the project’s financing to save developer Bruce Ratner hundreds of millions of dollars.

The full MTA board, following a presentation on Monday, met this morning and overwhelmingly rubber-stamped a deal to allow Ratner, who had originally promised $100 million for rights to build over the Vanderbilt railyards in Prospect Heights, to pay just $20 million up front for the prime eight-acres.

The remaining $80 million would be paid out, at 6-1/2 percent interest, over the next 22 years.

Ratner secured the railyard development rights in 2006 for less than its MTA-appraised value because he also promised $345 million in infrastructure improvements to the MTA facility.

Under the new deal, though, Ratner would make just $147 million in railyard improvements.

The MTA board vote was 10-2, and it came moments after the main Atlantic Yards opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, tried to upstage the meeting by offering $120 million for the development rights over the Vanderbilt Yard.

The group’s spokesman, Daniel Goldstein, made the offer during the public comment period. The offer was not accepted. In fact, it was not discussed at all by the board members.


Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

Three from WNYC

The Skinny on the New Atlantic Yards Project

Two state agencies are spending this week revising the deal that would bring the Nets basketball team and a massive real estate development, to Brooklyn.

The board of the MTA is expected to vote this morning on a new payment schedule, that would allow the developer to put only $20-million down on the project, instead of a promised $100-million up front. And yesterday, the state economic development agency gave a preliminary green light to that plan.

Atlantic Yards Hearing Draws Overflow Crowd

A grassroots group opposed to Atlantic Yards, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, has made a last-ditch move to avert the rail yard sale. The group’s spokesman Daniel Goldstein offered $120 million dollars for the rail yard which is $20 million dollars more than Ratner has proposed.

Goldstein said afterwards that the group would form a trust that would sell off the land and development rights to developers. He said he was confident that the trust would be able to pay the full amount in 12 years, while Ratner would take 21 years.

MTA to Vote on New Atlantic Yards Plan

ESDC originally planned to buy rights to the entire nine-acre rail yard all at the same time, and then lease them, also all at the same time, to developer Ratner.

Now, Ratner wants to acquire the rail yard in pieces, the first this year or next, the other perhaps not until 2016. That gives the economy time to recover and the developer a better chance of raising the money he needs.

For the 62 people who still live in the footprint, however, the news is the same: they will have to move in the coming months, or be forced out through eminent domain.

Posted by eric at 12:44 PM

BREAKING NEWS: MTA Board Approves Amended Deal to Sell Vanderbilt Yard to Ratner

In a vote that was only surprising because several two (we were trying to count hands via the MTA's web cast) board members actually voted no, the MTA's board at 12:05 p.m. approved the sale of Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yard to developer Forest City Ratner for just $20 million down, with another $80 million to be paid out over the next 22 years.

For everybody not named Bruce Ratner, the MTA will be raising fares this Sunday across all its divisions, in most cases by double digits.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

MTA Board Meeting: Live!

Watch the MTA give your tax dollars away to Bruce Ratner LIVE on the MTA's web site.

Watch Now

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

More coverage in the blogosphere of this week's Atlantic Yards-MTA deal.

CityFile, Bailout in Brooklyn?

Under terms of a new deal that was revealed just this week (and goes to a vote tomorrow): Ratner will only have to pay the MTA $20 million upfront, and he'll get to spread out the other $80 million over the next 21 years., What the fuck? No, really, what the fucking fuck?

We’re selling naming rights to subway stations now?
I might have known. The MTA and Forest City Ratner are awfully cozy these days. And the Times blithely rolls along with cute little gosh-that’s-a-mouthful jokes and largely uncritical coverage of the massive boondoggle that is Atlantic Yards., MTA Set To Approve New Atlantic Yards deals

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to let Atlantic Yards developer Forest City off the hook for some of its financial obligations in a bid to jumpstart the long-stalled Brooklyn project.

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

Today Barclays-Atlantic Avenue, Tomorrow Disney-Times Square? MTA "Very Open" To Selling Subway Naming Rights

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice blog]
By Neil deMause


That resounding "Ewwwww!" you heard emanating from Brooklyn was the sound of locals discovering that as part of Bruce Ratner's revamped deal with the MTA for the Atlantic Yards site, he's set to get naming rights to the Atlantic Avenue subway station. If it's approved by the MTA board tomorrow as expected, the new station name — which as Ben Kabak notes at Second Avenue Sagas would bear the unwieldy moniker "Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street/Barclays Center — would presumably be put in place once Ratner's new basketball arena opens, which is set to happen any century now.


The NY Times, M.T.A. Sells Naming Rights to Subway Station

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

June 23, 2009

Atlantic Yards Developer Agrees To MTA Payment Plan

NY1 News

The "through the looking-glass" award goes to NY1, whose headline would have gotten a big accuracy boost had it read "MTA Agrees To Atlantic Yards Developer's Payment Plan."

The MTA reached a new deal Monday with the developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Instead of paying $100 million all at once for the nine acre site, developer Bruce Ratner will now pay $20 million up front and make additional payments for the next 21 years.

Ratner asked for the new deal because of the slumping economy.

It also scales down Ratner's requirements to build a replacement yard for the Long Island Rail Road.


Posted by eric at 5:42 PM

MTA report updated; note that Forest City Ratner's arena financing drives deal timing; questions about FCE's credit rating raised

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posted an update to his report on yesterday's MTA Finance Committee hearing, which includes this exchange:

Board member Doreen Frasca said, "This is just an observation, and I know staff has worked very long and hard on this, including into this weekend, but I note that it's one month shy of four years since the board accepted the Forest City Ratner proposal, and this committee and this board is being given less than 48 hours to understand the complexities and vote intelligently... I think that's pretty outrageous. Why do we have to vote on Wednesday?"

"Well, of course, you don't," MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson responded. "It's entirely at the board's discretion to accept or reject or send back to the negotiating table... I think that, in terms of why must it be now in the summer versus in the fall, I think it really relates to Forest City's desire to market their bonds as a tax-exempt issuance [by a December 31 deadline]. If the structure... is not such that allows for the marketability of the bonds, then the financial aspect of the transaction, as it relates to arena construction expenses that Forest City Ratner would incur, become less viable and perhaps not viable. That's not something that I'm prepared to say from my own knowledge... but I would be remiss if I suggested anything other--that's the principal driver of the timing."

"The arena?" Frasca followed up.

"Sure," Dellaverson responded.


Posted by eric at 5:18 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Huffington Post, MTA Hands Millions to Billionaire Developer

Surely one of the most bizarre events in the tortured story of the city's relationship with developers occurred today, in what may be the first of several upsetting events this week.

At a time when the city and MTA are scrambling for money through fare hikes and budget cuts, the Finance Committee of the MTA, which more or less controls the fate of billionaire developer Bruce Ratner (of Forest City Ratner), recommended Monday to drop the price of the air rights to their Brooklyn Vanderbilt Yards and let him off the hook for tens of millions of dollars. What's weird is that his billion-dollar proposed Atlantic Yards development can't go forward without a deal, so you'd tend to think the price would go UP, not down.

Second Avenue Saga, For $200,000 a year, a subway station name

I’ll get to the nitty-gritty of the MTA’s sweetheart deal for the Atlantic Yards rights later today. If you want to read about this embarrassment of riches for Bruce Ratner and the MTA’s dereliction of duty ahead of time, check out Mike Grynbaum’s coverage on City Room.

Right now, I want to instead turn my attention to an intriguing bit of news that came out of the MTA Board’s Finance Committee meeting on Monday. For the first time, the MTA will be taking in money in exchange for the naming rights to a subway station.

Posted by lumi at 6:38 AM

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 5:59 AM

Noticing Noticing New York: a twofer

More on Planning in Advance to Bail Out Forest City Ratner Upon the Inevitable Arrival of an Economic Downturn

Contrary to what Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner would have you believe: an economic downturn the ability to negotiate a better deal should be in the public's favor, not the developer's!

Thoughts on the MTA’s Finance Committee Meeting Wherein Atlantic Yards Was Considered as an “Information Item”

Notwithstanding, it seemed clear that the most important news is that MTA’s ability to provide transportation will suffer.

The concessions to accommodate Forest City Ratner involve significantly diminishing the capacity of the rail yard and doing so in a way that allows little or absolutely no flexibility to ever expand it again afterwards despite the fact that the city is growing and such flexibility is valuable and highly desirable.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

PRESS RELEASE: State Senator Velmanette Montgomery

Montgomery.jpg (NEW YORK) Today New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Finance Committee and Board of Directors to cancel all contracts with Forest City Ratner Companies relating to the Atlantic Yards Project.

At this morning’s monthly meeting of the MTA’s Finance Committee, details were presented of a new financing arrangement being proposed to “bail out” Forest City Ratner, the developer of the controversial, troubled project proposed for the Prospect Heights area of Brooklyn within the Senator’s district.

In her statement the Senator said, “To approve these (financial) changes would be to continue the entirely questionable series of decision regarding this rail yard and cast further doubt on the MTA’s ability and commitment to provide proper stewardship of this vital public authority… I have been informed the proposal being considered is for an even lower payment than negotiated, or some undetermined schedule of deferred payments, and a “temporary” rail yard until such time as FCRC feels able or willing to construct a certainly less than state of the art rail yard; less money, less rail yard, no schedule, no commitment.”

She continued, “I urge this committee and the MTA Board of Directors to not only reject these changes but to cancel all contracts with Forest City Ratner for non-compliance, and reissue an RFP. Having just endured the negotiations on the so-called “Doomsday Budget,” to do any less would further undermine the MTA’s management reputation.”


The MTA Board is proposing to alter its agreement with Forest City Ratner Companies regarding the air rights and construction of a new rail yard for the Vanderbilt Rail Yards in Brooklyn. I urge this Committee and the MTA board to reject these changes. To approve these changes would be to continue the entirely questionable series of decision regarding this rail yard and cast further doubt on the MTA’s ability and commitment to provide proper stewardship of this vital public authority. I urge you to reject these changes, cancel all contracts with FCRC, and issue a new RFP.

When the Atlantic Yards proposal first surfaced, the MTA hadn’t done an assessment or even prepared an RFP until goaded into action by the Community. The Board approved entering into contract with FCRC despite it’s inferior bid (compared to the Extell Corporation’s proposal) at a price far below the rushed assessment, trumpeting the inclusion of a “state of the art” rail yard as the decisive factor, this despite the fact that all bidders had been informed they would have to provide such a replacement rail yard and platforming.

I have been informed the proposal being considered is for an even lower payment than negotiated, or some undetermined schedule of deferred payments, and a “temporary” rail yard until such time as FCRC feels able or willing to construct a certainly less than state of the art rail yard; less money, less rail yard, no schedule, no commitment. No responsible board should entertain such a ludicrous proposal. When will the next reduced proposal arrive from FCRC after this one is approved? This is not a reliable partner for the disposition and management of this valuable and vital property. Last week, along with 7 other legislators, I sent a letter to acting MTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Helena Williams requesting this hearing be delayed and that we be provided with details of the proposed changes. My colleague, Senator Bill Perkins, also sent Ms. Williams a series of questions regarding this proposal; we all still await a response.

I urge this committee and the MTA Board of Directors to not only reject these changes but to cancel all contracts with Forest City Ratner for non-compliance, and reissue an RFP. Having just endured the negotiations on the so-called “Doomsday Budget,” to do any less would further undermine the MTA’s management reputation. Respectfully,

Senator Velmanette Montgomery
18th NYS Senate District

Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

June 22, 2009

Ratner To Pay $180 M. Less Upfront For Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

In the world of public-private real estate deals, the word “renegotiation” has been popping up a lot lately.

The latest installment came early Monday afternoon, when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced a revised plan for the Atlantic Yards project on M.T.A. land in Brooklyn, for which the agency was once promised $100 million upfront and a $250 million new rail yard.

Developer Forest City Ratner, which intends to build a basketball arena for the Nets and thousands of apartments at the site, has renegotiated a deal with the agency to the point where it pays about $180 million less, at least at first.

Forest City would build a new rail yard for about $150 million with one-fourth less capacity than planned, and pay $20 million upfront. Over the next 22 years, according to the agreement, the developer would give payments worth $80 million in today’s dollars to the M.T.A.


NoLandGrab: The most amazing thing about the massive MTA giveaway is that the MTA actually has Forest City by the balls. The developer owns an albatross of an NBA team that loses some $30 million per year and is most likely worth less than what Forest City paid for it. The only way they can salvage that bad investment is to move the team to a new arena in Brooklyn, and the only way they can do that is if the MTA sells Ratner the railyard and the ESDC seizes other properties. Ratner needs the MTA way more than the MTA needs Ratner.

So why, then, does the MTA act like Ratner has them by the balls?

Posted by eric at 5:41 PM

MTA deal revealed: $20M down, 22 years to pay the rest; smaller yard may save FCR $100 million; some skeptical about rush

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder fleshes out more details of today's MTA meeting, much of them not previously reported elsewhere.

Here are the highlights of today's Metropolitan Transportation Authority Finance Committee meeting, in which a deal under last-minute negotiation was finally revealed. The committee did not vote; it was a purely informational session.

Less railyard capacity, savings of $100M?

The permanent railyard, instead of having nine tracks with capacity for 76 cars, would have seven tracks with capacity for 56 cars. While there would be several improvements, it still would be less capacity than the previous iteration of 72 cars.

The new railyard would be valued at $147 million, while MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson said the previous iteration was worth $240-$250 million.

(That issue's murky, since FCR valued the railyard at $182 million and the package of improvements at over $300 million. MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin explained afterward that the MTA never independently costed out the original yard construction, but said he believed FCR increased its estimate as construction and oil costs went up. That's plausible, given that the cost of the project itself rose from $2.5 billion to $4 billion.)

The initial 2005 RFP noted that the Vanderbilt Yard could store up to 72 cars and that the yard "is contemplated to provide addition storage to accommodate the 40% system-wide fleet expansion in 2009 through 2012, which would cause it to be used 24 hours a day."

Previously, a nonbinding letter of agreement between the MTA and the developer stated that FCR would produce a yard with nine tracks or an alternative configuration "that does not reduce yard/station capacity or functionality."

Temporary railyard lingers

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.

Rest of AY not guaranteed

After building on the arena block, Forest City Ratner could get out of the deal by paying the MTA $86 million, which could pay for a less elaborate permanent railyard with the same capacity.

MTA officials said they were focusing on getting railyard improvements and transportation improvements--notably a new entrance to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway stations. They would not guarantee that a platform over the central and eastern segments of the railyard site would be built.

Some skepticism

With an MTA board meeting set for Wednesday, and a widespread belief that the board will approve the proposal, some board members wondered why they had only 48 hours to digest such a complicated deal.

The answer: the deal must go forward so Forest City Ratner can meet end-of-the-year deadlines to have tax-exempt arena bonds issued.


Posted by eric at 3:43 PM

MTA "Yard" sale: Everything must go, no offer too low!

The Brooklyn Paper, So here’s the deal: Ratner to get huge break from MTA

A Metropolitan Transportation Authority panel has recommended a massive public bailout of the struggling Atlantic Yards project, calling for changes in the project’s financing that would save developer Bruce Ratner hundreds of millions of dollars.

The MTA’s finance committee met on Monday to approve a new deal with the developer, who had originally promised $100 million for rights to build over the Vanderbilt railyards in Prospect Heights, but will now pay just $20 million up front for the prime eight-acres.

The remaining $80 million will be paid out, at 6-1/2 percent interest, over the next 22 years.

Ratner had originally gotten the railyard rights for less than its MTA-appraised value because he also promised $345 million in infrastructure improvements to the MTA facility.

Under the new deal, which is expected to be rubber-stamped by the full MTA board on Wednesday, Ratner would make just $147 million in railyard improvements.

“It’s not quite as good as we had hoped,” said Gary Dellaverson, the MTA’s chief financial officer, who added that the reduced renovations would result in diminished capacity.

NoLandGrab: Presumably, Dellaverson said that with a straight face.

City Room, Developer Seeks to Defer Payments on Atlantic Yards Site

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as expected, has offered the developer Bruce C. Ratner, a break on the sale of the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.

Crain's NY Business, MTA gives Atlantic Yards developer breathing room

“This is not a good market for transacting large real estate deals," Mr. Dellaverson said. He added that it was unclear when the financial and real estate markets would rebound so mothballing development plans didn’t make sense either.

Many residents and legislators are livid that the MTA opted not to rebid the deal, claiming that many of the community benefits have been diluted or erased during the downsizing.

2nd Ave. Sagas, Will the MTA kowtow to Ratner on Atlantic Yards plans?

This deal has the potential to be a flat-out giveaway. The MTA is going to give away valuable public lands. They’re going to give away provisions requiring a modern rail facility. They’re going to gift wrap this for Bruce Ratner.

The MTA has long suffered from a credibility problem. People don’t understand why the fares have to go up. They don’t understand delays and service advisories. What New Yorkers see is this blatant back-room bargaining.

Brownstoner, Big Week for Atlantic Yards Sweetheart Deal-Making

The revised plan is poised to be breathtaking in its concessions to Forest City Ratner.

AP via, Transit agency reaches new Brooklyn arena deal

Government agencies are set to approve new deals for a $4 billion plan for a Brooklyn basketball arena and thousands of apartments.

But critics say the developer of the New Jersey Nets arena shouldn't get special government favors to build a scaled-down version of the project.

Nets Daily, ESDC: Further Appeals Would Put Arena “In Jeopardy”

Posted by eric at 2:50 PM

MTA throws the "switch" on Vanderbilt Yard

Acting New York State Governor Ratner has just instructed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to restructure the terms of his deal for the Vanderbilt Yard, and — you'd have never guessed — those terms are sweeter than ever before.

MTA acting executive director Helena Williams has okayed a "staff summary" from MTA Finance head Gary Dellaverson, laying out the "renegotiated" terms for the sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City. Those new terms include just $20 million down for the portion of the railyard on which the arena would sit, and a ridiculously extended payment schedule for the remaining $80 million for the balance of the yard: a "down payment" of 10%, payable in $2 million installments on the first of June of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and then 15 subsequent payments of $11,033,357, with Forest City's obligation being fulfilled on June 1, 2030, by which time acting Governor Ratner will be 85 years old.

Oh, but Ratner will pay the MTA $200,000 per year to have the name "Barclay's Center" [sic] affixed to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station. No word as to whether they might up the payment to $250,000 per year to have "Barlcays" spelled correctly.

Did we mention that the replacement railyard will consist of just seven tracks with capacity for only 56 cars, rather than Ratner's promised nine tracks and 76-car capacity?

Click on the following link for all the gory details: Download file [PDF]

NoLandGrab: Special prize to any NLG reader who can email us with the identity of any actual "public benefit" of the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 2:04 PM

Stand clear of the closing deal! Pols seek delay on MTA’s new Yards pact

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

A coalition of Brooklyn politicians has asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to postpone Wednesday’s vote to renegotiate a deal with Bruce Ratner for control of railyards at the center of his Atlantic Yards project.

Ratner has asked the MTA to loosen their 2006 agreement that called for the developer to pay $100 million for air rights over the train depot at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Ratner now wants to pay far less — perhaps as little as $20 million up front.

The MTA said it will unveil the details of the classified proposal at today’s Finance Committee hearing, giving the public two days to digest the reconfigured transaction before it will be presented to the full board for a final approval.

The group of local pols — which includes Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Park Slope), Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene), Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens), state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Park Slope) and Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights) — wrote to the MTA that two days is not enough time to consider the financial impact it will have on the chronically indigent transit authority.


NoLandGrab: Anyone else get the sense that Lee Sander was axed as MTA chief 'cause he wasn't playing ball with Ratner's lower-low-ball offer?

Posted by eric at 1:41 PM

What could $20 million buy? Not even this 50-foot-wide storage building in Manhattan

Atlantic Yards Report

Hard to keep up with Norman Oder — he slipped this one by us in the wee hours of the morn.

From the First Quarter 2008 Massey Knakal Sales Journal:
A ten-story storage building at 305 East 61st Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan was sold... [for] $28,000,000. The nearly 50-foot-wide storage facility is located on the north side of East 61st Street at Second Avenue. Based on its current R8B zoning distinction, the property allows up to 24,849 square feet. However, the building is currently overbuilt with a total of 65,853 square feet above grade. It was delivered vacant at closing. The property sold for $425.19 per square foot to a Manhattan self-storage investor.

The segment of the Vanderbilt Yard at issue is 495' x 200', or 99,000 square feet, more than 50% larger than the Upper East Side site. If you multiply the Upper East Side price by 1.5, it comes out to $42 million.

The Upper East Side site only supports 65,853 square feet. The Atlantic Yards arena block, of which this segment (Block 1119, Lot 7) would be at least a third, would support an 800,000 square foot arena and at least 1.5 million in development rights, according to the City Funding Agreement.


NoLandGrab: The Governor, the Mayor and the MTA continue to throw any semblance of service to the public interest on the scrap heap.

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Expected New MTA Deal With Forest City Ratner Is Not In The Public Interest

A New Request for Proposals Must Be Issued

New York, NY — Today the MTA Finance Committee is expected to present, and recommend to the MTA Board, a renegotiated agreement with developer Forest City Ratner for the purchase of the development rights of the 8 acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard. The MTA Board is expected to vote on the new deal on Wednesday June 24. New York magazine’s Chris Smith reported that the developer has been lobbying Governor Paterson directly for approval of the new deal.

Such an approval would violate the Board’s fiduciary duty.

"Using the MTA to bail out Bruce Ratner's failing project is an insult to straphangers and taxpayers, who just rescued the MTA one month ago. It is irresponsible in the extreme for Governor Paterson to have the MTA make Ratner's sweetheart deal even sweeter in order to prop up the zombie Atlantic Yards project," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The MTA must maximize its return on this piece of real estate by putting it up for bid in a proper, fair and competitive manner rather than reward Ratner for defaulting on his commitments."


Forest City Ratner (Ratner) is defaulting on its commitments to the MTA and offering nearly nothing to the transit authority. Now the MTA seems prepared to makes deep concessions tailored to benefit Ratner’s bottom line (which still has not been made public.) while doing nothing for the public interest, transit-riders or taxpayers.

In September 2005 Ratner reached an agreement with the MTA to purchase the development rights for the 8-acre Vanderbilt Yards (VY), a portion of the proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards project site. The MTA had appraised the development rights at $214.5 million after subtracting the cost of moving the active rail yard and building a platform over the new yard.

Despite a Request for Proposals (RFP) that came 18 months after the Mayor and Governor gave their support to Ratner’s project, and an attenuated bidding process, a competing developer, Extell Development Company, outbid Ratner $150 million to $100 million.

The justification for accepting the lower cash bid (and a bid less than half the appraisal) was that Ratner would build a new “state of the art,” 9-track rail yard at a cost of $180 million. Ratner was to pay $100 million cash at closing, decommission the active yards where the arena would, in part, be located and build the new, permanent yard.

Now, nearly 4 years after this deal was struck and nearly 3 years since the overall project was approved, Ratner is pleading poverty, with no explanation as to why they haven’t closed their deal with the MTA over the past three or four years.

Acting MTA Chairwoman Helena Williams stated at a May 29th Senate oversight hearing that there have been “sensitive negotiations” ongoing with the developer to strike a new deal overriding the 2005 deal. She stated that an agreement has been reached, at least in part, and will be presented to the MTA Board for a vote at its June 24th meeting. She did not explain why the developer needs or should get a new agreement.

Details about the new deal have not been forthcoming, but Ms. Williams and published reports have alluded to a $20 million cash payment at closing (or a $10 million payment) with an unknown delayed payment schedule, and a newly structured temporary rail yard that would cost substantially less than the $180 originally proposed by Ratner, and worse, would drastically reduce the train capacity from the current, active yard. It has also been reported that Ratner will not build a platform over the rail yards as committed to previously.

The MTA appears to be poised to approve a new deal where the developer will basically give nothing to the MTA and construct a temporary rail yard on the cheap.

The public and elected officials will have little time to evaluate the specifics of the agreement if it is introduced today and goes to a Board vote on the 24th.

There is no public interest in cutting this new deal with the developer, considering:

> The MTA needs more cash now; the value of such a deal—$66 million present value—is well below market, and the transit authority is not planning on testing the market.

> Ratner broke his 2005 commitment to the MTA, and future commitments have to be questioned.

> The promised state of the art rail yard has, apparently been scrapped

> The new yard, only necessitated by the arena, would have less capacity than the active Vanderbilt Yard

> The arena would be a money-loser for NYC, according to the Independent Budget Office (IBO).

> Promised office space has been scrapped entirely, reducing overall new revenues and jobs

> Proposed affordable housing is on backburner, Ratner required to build only 300 units over 12 years (there is no plan or timeline for Phase 2 where the bulk of the affordable housing and open space is proposed)

> The promised world-class Frank Gehry architecture has been scrapped for the whole project

> The “Urban Room” public space amenity has been discarded, and the privately owned, publicly accessible open space is all in Phase 2, which has no plan or timeline

> Empire State Development Corporation Chair Marisa Lago publicly stated that the project would take “decades” even though it was approved under a 10-year timeline. This would leave large demolished areas blighted for decades, nullifying the project’s stated goal of removing alleged “blight.”


Now that Ratner is defaulting on its commitments the MTA must issue a new RFP and open a fair and competitive bidding process for the Vanderbilt Yards development rights

The current economy provides the opportunity, and necessity, for the MTA to divide the yards in parcels and issue a new RFP. This will bring more money to the MTA, spread the risk and lead to a much faster pace of construction providing affordable housing and construction jobs more quickly, and more of them.

The MTA, which needs money for both its capital and operating budgets, can ill-afford another below market real estate deal. $20 million for the development rights over the Vanderbilt Yards, surrounded by some of Brooklyn’s great neighborhoods and great public transportation, is unacceptably low, as was the $100 million Ratner had agreed to.

The MTA has a fiduciary duty to maximize the revenue from the disposition of the land, and minimize the risk that the development rights get developed. This would be accomplished by dividing the 8 acres into multiple parcels (likely between 4 and 8) and producing an RFP that invites multiple developers.

The RFP would be detailed and targeted to expedite the decision-making process and focus on the most pressing needs for Brooklynites and New York City — affordable housing, job creation and open space.

The RFP would be solely for Vanderbilt Yards as that is all the MTA has the authority to provide to prospective developers. It would not include the site proposed and drawn up by Ratner.

Financial, construction and management oversight should be in the hands of an ESDC subsidiary LDC under the responsibility of elected officials and community appointees. According the MTA’s 2005 appraisal (understanding a new appraisal will need to be done) the construction of a new rail yard and platform would cost between $56 and $72 million. Funding for a new rail yard (if necessary) and for a platform would be provided by the city and the state and paid back over time by the developers as the project(s) go up and to lease/sale.

Public money should be used for infrastructure such as a school and a park as described in the UNITY Plan (the community’s plan to develop Vanderbilt Yards –, it should not be used towards building thousands of units of luxury condos and luxury rentals, such as the 4,180 proposed by Ratner.


Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

New Agreement Expected on Atlantic Yards Project

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

About a year ago, Ratner said he couldn't afford that deal any more. He's offered a slimmed down rail yard and a down payment on the $100 million up front, with the rest coming later.

The MTA didn't have any good choices: it could reject the offer, but then it would have to find another buyer for those air rights in the middle of a recession. And in the process, it would upset Mayor Bloomberg and the coalition of construction workers and others who support the project.


NoLandGrab:Something tells us that with just a smidgen of effort, the MTA could find a developer (or developers) willing to put down a heck of a lot more than $20 million for the Vanderbilt Yard.

And upsetting the Mayor and construction workers and other project supporters? What about all the transit-riding public, who get stuck with big fare hikes, service cuts and a deteriorating system in return for Bruce Ratner's bailout?

Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

Plus Ça Change, (The More Things Change,) Plus Une Chose En Particulier Ne Change Pas: La Transaction Fixée (The Wired Deal)!

Noticing New York posted a preview of the issues facing today's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Finance Committee Meeting.

Here's an overview of the terms of the MTA bailout of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner:

  1. Letting the developer construct a project of significantly lesser public value under rubric of "value engineering" (translated, that means, among other things, constructing a train yard with 7 tracks rather than 9 or the original 10, delivering a project of much lesser quality, and with less “green space”).
  2. Giving the MTA’s property to the developer (property for which the developer did not bid in the first place) for a considerably smaller payment despite this currently being a time of financial need for the MTA. (We are now talking in terms of the pathetically paltry. See Atlantic Yards Report “What could $20 million buy?” series.)
  3. Less will be done by the developer up front, and
  4. Postponing, even further, the borrower’s obligation to deliver the ostensible benefits of the project. For instance, one housing tower that would be front-loaded with luxury units while others will be postponed.

The article continues by analyzing how the politics and economy have changed... and how little that matters, when the only one getting things done in Albany seems to be Bruce Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

June 21, 2009

What could $20 million buy? Not even three of these tiny buildings in LIC

Despite public benefits that are being pushed far into the future, the MTA is preparing to give Bruce Ratner a sweetheart deal for the Vanderbilt Yards. This is one of a continuing series.

The segment of the Vanderbilt Yard at issue is 495' x 200', or 99,000 square feet, more than eleven times larger than the Long Island City site, which is 8664 sf. If you multiply the LIS price by eleven, it comes out to $85 million.

The LIC site only supports only 73,008 buildable square feet. The Atlantic Yards arena block, of which this segment (Block 1119, Lot 7) would be at least a third, would support an 800,000 square foot arena and at least 1.5 million in development rights, according to the City Funding Agreement. (The towers on the area block, as approved, were supposed to contain 2.69 million square feet.)


Posted by steve at 5:44 AM

June 20, 2009

The four ways FCR could "railroad" (as per New York magazine) the MTA on the value of the Vanderbilt Yard

Atlantic Yards Report

How will the MTA screw taxpayers for the benefit of Bruce Ratner? Let me count the ways. Here are four of them from the Atlantic Yards report as commentary on the New York magazine item by Chris Smith, Smith: Ratner Close to Railroading MTA on Atlantic Yards.

Smith cites two examples of such railroading--the cash payment and the quality of the replacement railyard--and they're worth pointing out. However, as I note below, I think there are two more examples.


The key piece is the closing paragraph, in which Smith suggests that the public commentary at the MTA meetings next week will be irrelevant, and implies that efforts by elected officials to have the MTA delay the vote would come to naught.

Why? Forest City Ratner doesn't lobby the MTA but, according to a government insider, "just try to do business right through the governor, and expect that the governor will tell the MTA what to do.”

So it's up to Governor David Paterson, who's been AWOL on AY, with many other things on his plate.


Reduced price: railroad #1

Smith writes: But the MTA appears willing to settle for a drastically reduced price in order to salvage some kind of short-term development at Atlantic Yards: Sources say the new price tag is likely to be either $20 million upfront or $10 million per year for ten years.

Only the former had been reported. While $10 million a year would mean a lower down payment, it might mean a steadier delivery of the entire $100 million. But why, the MTA must explain, does it think that the segment Forest City Ratner wants is worth only $20 million?

Cheaper permanent yard: railroad #2

Smith writes: As disappointing as the cash may turn out to be, there’s another significant change in the works. “The thing to watch is whether the MTA gets screwed on the rail yards,” one party to the negotiations says. Ratner had agreed to build a new and improved rail yard for the LIRR. But he’s trying to cut back there, too, possibly delivering a new yard with 25 percent less capacity than the existing facility. “That would be a real loss,” the official says. “Ratner is supposed to build a rail yard that’s worth $200 to 300 million.”

Well, it's already been reported that the permanent railyard would have seven tracks rather than the promised nine tracks. The new railyard was said by FCR to be worth $182 million, but maybe inflation would take it over $200 million. The MTA has not provided a figure on the value of the replacement railyard. Nor has it revealed whether the new permanent railyard would have lesser capacity.

The other two examples: original cost and temporary yard

One of the other examples of "railroading" is simply the deal the MTA originally cut: accepting $100 million in cash for a site appraised at $214.5 million, and not questioning FCR's dubious math on the value of the extras.

The other involves the quality and persistence of the interim temporary railyard at the site. Once, this railyard, with space for 30 fewer cars, was supposed to operate for 32 months before being replaced by the higher-capacity permanent yard.

Now, there are hints--though we can't be sure--that the temporary yard might be delayed much longer and might not ever be replaced.


Posted by steve at 11:20 AM

What could $20 million buy? A 50-foot-wide site in Chelsea

Atlantic Yards Report

The MTA is seriously considering an offer of only $20 million from Bruce Ratner for the portion of the Vanderbilt rail yards he wants for building a new arena for the Nets. Norman Oder continues his series that essentially asks: "What would $20 million normally get you in the New York City real estate market?" Today's example: a 50-foot wide lot in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

The segment of the Vanderbilt Yard at issue is 495' x 200', or 99,000 square feet, more than six times larger than the Chelsea site, even though the price would be about the same.

The Chelsea site only supports 51,557 buildable square feet. The Atlantic Yards arena block, of which this segment (Block 1119, Lot 7) would be at least a third, would support an 800,000 square foot arena and at least 1.5 million sf in development rights, according to the City Funding Agreement. (The towers on the area block, as approved, were supposed to contain 2.69 million square feet.)


Posted by steve at 10:14 AM

N.Y. officials ask MTA to postpone decision on Atlantic Yards

The Record
By John Brennan

Here is coverage, missing in New York's newspapers, of the upcoming meetings of state authorities and how they may affect the proposed Atlantic Yards development. The MTA, owner of the Vanderbilt rail yards, and the ESDC, a tool of developer Bruce Ratner, are scheduled to meet in the coming week.

On the eve of several critical votes next week on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, seven New York city and state elected officials have asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to postpone any decision indefinitely.

The move comes at a time when executives for the Nets basketball franchise — which seeks to move to a new arena at the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn — have urged for expedited state approvals so that groundbreaking on the arena can begin later this year.

The group — which includes a state senator, three state Assembly members and three City Council members — asked MTA officials to disclose any modifications to an air rights deal above an MTA rail yard within the project footprint.

Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner and his business partners in the housing and arena project reportedly have sought to pay only $20 million up front out of the promised $100 million for those air rights.


The MTA’s finance committee is expected to send the revised agreement to the board of directors Monday, with a board vote scheduled for Wednesday.

The MTA also is under fire from state Sen. Bill Perkins, D-Manhattan, who held a four-hour hearing in Brooklyn recently to discuss the project. In his own letter to Williams on Tuesday, Perkins said the public needs to be reassured that “the MTA is not granting sweetheart deals to developers at the expense of taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, the state agency that oversees the Atlantic Yards project — the Empire State Development Corp. — is expected to vote Tuesday on a modified project plan.

Perkins said he was concerned that the project has changed substantially during the past four years.

He pointed to the departure of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry from Atlantic Yards; a new Independent Budget Office report that projects a net loss for the city on the project, and possible lengthy delays in construction of most of the promised affordable housing.


Posted by steve at 9:53 AM

Electeds Call On The MTA To Postpone Vote On Ratner Sweetheart Deal

Atlantic Yards Report, Brennan, other elected officials urge MTA to delay June 24 vote, say hasty decision may hurt transit system

In a letter sent yesterday, seven elected officials asked Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Acting Executive Director Helena Williams to delay the June 24 vote to modify the deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard, saying a "hasty decision may be detrimental to the needs of the transit system" and that the public and elected officials "should have a fair opportunity to present their views."

Rather than pay the full $100 million in cash promised, Forest City Ratner has reportedly offered $20 million for the segment of the railyard needed for the arena block, with the rest to be paid later. Details have not been confirmed.


In the letter, the officials not only asked for details of Forest City Ratner's proposal but also questioned whether the MTA was obtaining fair market value for its assets, as required by law.

They also referenced the letter sent earlier in the week by Sen. Bill Perkins asking tough questions about the deal, including why a new bidding process and a new appraisal were not considered.

The Observer, Electeds Want Delay on M.T.A. Atlantic Yards Vote
By Eliot Brown

A group of seven state and local elected officials are trying to thwart an M.T.A. board vote scheduled for Wednesday on the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, seeking to delay the agency’s final approval for the project, which includes a new arena for the Nets in Brooklyn.

The officials’ consternation comes as the M.T.A. is expected to recommend a deal in which developer Forest City Ratner gives less upfront cash than it initially agreed to—it previously committed to $100 million, all at the closing—as well as a scaled-back rail yard the developer pledged to build.


The project—which now calls only for an arena at first and has dropped architect Frank Gehry—is also scheduled to come up for review at a Tuesday board meeting of the state's main development arm. That agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, would vote on the modified plan, then take public comment and likely would need to vote again. An ESDC spokesman said the agency's position is that the project does not need to gain approval from the Public Authorities Control Board again.

Update 4:12 p.m.

The M.T.A. will actually first address the new deal Monday before the board's finance committee, according to agency spokesman Jeremy Soffin. In an e-mail, he said, should the agreement be finalized over the weekend, it would go before the committee as "an informational item," before a "potential vote on Wednesday."

Star-Ledger, New York politicians urge MTA to delay vote on New Jersey Nets' Atlantic Yards project

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project needs approval from state authorities before it can break ground this year.

The New Jersey Nets potential move to the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn could hit another snag this week. Elected New York officials are urging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority not to approve the project yet, according to a report by The Record.

Nets executives are trying to expedite the process of state approvals so the team can break ground on the facility before this year is over. New York state Sen. Bill Perkins, D-Manhattan, wrote a letter to the MTA, demanding that citizens know "the MTA is not granting sweetheart deals to developers at the expense of taxpayers."

The MTA board of directors will vote on Wednesday whether to approve the plans.

Posted by steve at 9:34 AM

Letter to MTA Requesting A Postponement On Vanderbilt Yards Decision

June 17, 2009

Ms. Helena Williams
Acting Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer
347 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017-3739

RE: Atlantic Yards

Dear Ms. Williams:

It is our understanding that the MTA plans to vote on a Forest City Ratner proposal with respect to the Vanderbilt Yards and the Atlantic yards project on June 24. We respectfully suggest that a hasty decision to modify the obligations of the developer could be detrimental to the needs of the mass transit system and that any decision should only be made after the public and elected officials have had a fair opportunity to present their views. We therefore request that you postpone any decision on this matter and disclose the proposed details of any modifications to the current agreement with Forest City Ratner to the signers of this letter and the general public.

State Senator William Perkins recently wrote you with similar concerns and detailed various questions that necessitate a response. These include why the changed circumstances of the project should not compel a re-bid of the development rights, and whether or not the MTA needs to do an appraisal to assure receipt of fair market value of its assets.

We look forward to a most expeditious response. Thank you.

Assemblymember James F. Brennan Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries
Senator Velmanette MontgomeryAssemblymember Joan J. Millman
Councilmember Letitia JamesCouncilmember Vincent Gentile

Posted by steve at 7:22 AM

June 19, 2009

Ratner Close to Railroading MTA on Atlantic Yards

New York Magazine Daily Intel
by Chris Smith

When Bruce Ratner says "jump," Governor David Paterson, apparently, says "how high?"

According to an MTA spokesman, on Monday morning the transit agency will be “presenting a revised agreement” with developer Bruce Ratner for the Atlantic Yards site. The schedule change in itself is an interesting revision: Originally the MTA was going to wait until a meeting of its board on Wednesday to reveal the new deal, and then move straight to a board vote. But State Senator Bill Perkins, among others, has been pushing for more transparency about the revised deal, and this appears to be an attempt by the much-maligned state agency to marshal support in advance of the board’s decision.

The MTA needs all the goodwill it can get, because it’s likely to give Ratner an enormous discount from the original $100 million he agreed to pay to build on state land. The developer is arguing that he deserves the price cut because Atlantic Yards has been hobbled by recession and by pesky lawsuits. Yet Ratner was campaigning for increased taxpayer subsidies from the city and state even before the economic downturn. Now his project has dwindled severely. Gone is the glossy Frank Gehry design; the other great selling point, below-market-rate housing, won’t arrive anytime soon, if ever. What’s left is a drab, bargain-basement basketball arena at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Ratner is desperate to get shovels in the ground by the end of 2009 or he’ll risk losing his existing tax breaks and sponsorship arrangements.

The MTA has its own money problems, as you may have heard. And the sweetheart deals the city and state cut for the new Yankee Stadium should provide a lesson in driving a hard bargain when it comes to sports arenas. But the MTA appears willing to settle for a drastically reduced price in order to salvage some kind of short-term development at Atlantic Yards: Sources say the new price tag is likely to be either $20 million upfront or $10 million per year for ten years.

As disappointing as the cash may turn out to be, there’s another significant change in the works. “The thing to watch is whether the MTA gets screwed on the rail yards,” one party to the negotiations says. Ratner had agreed to build a new and improved rail yard for the LIRR. But he’s trying to cut back there, too, possibly delivering a new yard with 25 percent less capacity than the existing facility. “That would be a real loss,” the official says. “Ratner is supposed to build a rail yard that’s worth $200 to 300 million.”

Next week’s public MTA meetings will produce impassioned argument on both sides. The train may already be out of the barn, however. Though transit-agency executives have been negotiating the fine points with Ratner’s representatives, the serious deal-making has taken place in Albany. “Ratner’s people don’t lobby at the MTA board level, or even the MTA executive level,” a state government insider says. “They just try to do business right through the governor, and expect that the governor will tell the MTA what to do.” Governor David Paterson has been preoccupied with Albany’s State Senate circus for the past two weeks. Let’s hope he pays some attention to Brooklyn before the next great land-grab goes through.


NoLandGrab: If you ever doubted the whole Atlantic Yards deal was crooked, you're probably not doubting any more.

Posted by eric at 7:48 PM

Not even a four-burner stove: the temporary AY railyard might be more akin to an outdoor grill (but persist for years)

Atlantic Yards Report

Public benefits? Norman Oder looks at some of the ways in which Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project will shortchange the MTA — with that agency's apparent acquiescence — and the riding public.

The discussion about changes at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Vanderbilt Yard has focused on the quality of the permanent replacement yard that Forest City Ratner (FCR) is supposed to build.

But the more immediate question concerns the temporary yard, which would result in diminished capacity, perhaps lingering for years, and could leave the MTA facing some challenges in implementing its crucial East Side Access project, which would bring Long Island Rail Road trains to a new station under Grand Central Station, in a project now scheduled for completion in 2015.

To apply a metaphor used regarding the value-engineered Atlantic Yards arena, the permanent yard, which would contain seven tracks rather than the promised nine--and just might contain less storage capacity than the current formation--would be the four-burner stove.

But the temporary yard--with less capacity, no long-term guarantee, and exposure to the elements--would be more like an outdoor grill.


NoLandGrab: Like Nero, Governor Paterson is seemingly content to fiddle while Forest City Ratner burns the taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 5:53 AM

June 18, 2009

Perkins, warning of "sweetheart deals," asks MTA to reveal terms of Vanderbilt Yard contract and answer other questions

Atlantic Yards Report

After failing to ask many tough questions at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing on Atlantic Yards, Sen. Bill Perkins, who chairs the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions--or at least does so as long as the Democratic Party maintains control--has begun to grill the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

In the letter (below) to MTA Acting Executive Director Helena Williams, Perkins asked the MTA to reveal the terms of the deal it is renegotiating with Forest City Ratner and further asked:

  • why no new RFP was issued
  • whether the MTA recognizes that many promised public benefits would be gone
  • whether the MTA has had the railyard site appraised and knows the Fair Market Value
  • whether the MTA thinks an independent appraisal is needed
  • what happens if Forest City closes the deal but doesn't proceed with the project

Perkins asked for a response by Friday, June 19, in anticipation of the June 24 MTA board meeting. The letter was CC'd to various state officials and local elected officials.

Update 1:50 pm: "We'll certainly respond to the letter," said MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin.

(Whether that means a detailed response or a "no negotiating in public" brushoff remains to be seen.)


Posted by eric at 2:28 PM

Re: Atlantic Yards

We're told that New York State Senator Bill Perkins, who chairs the Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, sent the following letter to acting Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Helena Williams on Tuesday:

June 16, 2009

Ms. Helena Williams
Acting Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer
347 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017-3739

Re: Atlantic Yards

Dear Ms. Williams:

I write to follow up on the hearing that was held on May 29th regarding the Atlantic Yards project.

At the hearing you testified that MTA was engaged in renegotiations with Forest City Ratner regarding the development rights over the Vanderbilt Yards. The original deal required FCR to make various infrastructure improvements and remit 100 million dollars at closing. You reported at the hearing that the developer now wants to significantly scale down its commitments both in terms of infrastructure and money. It has been reported that the new terms of the deal will be voted on at the MTA’s next board meeting, scheduled for June 24th.

I write to request that the MTA immediately fax me a copy of any proposed amended agreements between MTA and FCR. There is already a great deal of public concern about the terms of the various deals at Atlantic Yards, in particular MTA’s acceptance of a substantially below-appraisal offer. Given MTA’s deep financial problems, its reliance on public bailout, and the many concerns raised about the viability of the Atlantic Yards project, MTA must make every effort to engage the public now, so that no new Vanderbilt Yards deal is ratified without the public having a substantial opportunity to review and comment.

Public engagement is always important, but it is particularly critical now that so many of the alleged public benefits of the Atlantic Yards project have diminished or vanished altogether. For example, the state of the art rail yard FCR was to build is no longer on the table as the new yard would have fewer tracks than are currently in place and that were originally promised; the IBO has concluded that the arena will now be a money-loser for the city; promised office space has been scrapped, substantially reducing revenue and jobs; there are no concrete or near-term plans to build the bulk of the promised affordable housing, which is contained in Phase 2 of the project plan, which has no timeline; the “world-class” Frank Gehry design has been scrapped for a cookie-cutter alternative; the much-touted “Urban Room” public space has been discarded; the remaining so-called public space is all contained in Phase 2, which again has no timeline; and then ESDC CEO Marissa Lago stated publicly that the project will take “decades” to complete, which will continue or even exacerbate for a generation the so-called blight the project was intended to resolve, and significantly delay or deny the public’s accrual of benefits.

The public needs to know that it is getting the best deal possible and that the MTA is not granting sweetheart deals to developers at the expense of taxpayers, straphangers and the local community. To that end, in addition to immediately providing a written copy of the renegotiated terms, please provide detailed written answers to the following questions:

1) Why is MTA renegotiating terms with FCR rather than demanding performance or rescinding the agreement and re-issuing the RFP in order to determine whether there are other interested parties?

2) In renegotiating the terms, did MTA consider that most of the alleged public benefits it considered in 2005 have since substantially diminished or vanished altogether?

3) Has the MTA contracted an independent appraiser to appraise the Vanderbilt Yards to determine their current Fair Market Value? If not, why not? What is the current Fair Market Value of the Vanderbilt Yards?

4) Given that the new agreement will be substantially and materially different from the original, making it a new agreement, does not the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005 now apply and impose a fiduciary duty on MTA board members and require that the sale of property for fair market value be supported by an independent appraisal? If not, why not?

5) What are FCR’s obligations to the MTA if the deal closes but the developer does not proceed with the project?

Time is of the essence. These answers need to be known and made public prior to the MTA board considering any new deal regarding the Vanderbilt Yards. Therefore please provide a written response to my office no later than Friday June 19, 2009. Thank you.


Senator Bill Perkins

Cc: Governor David A. Paterson
Dennis Mullen, Acting CEO and President, Empire State Development Corp.
H. Dale Hemmerdinger, Chairman, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith
Senator John Sampson, Democratic Conference Leader
Senator Martin Malave Dilan, Chair Transportation Committee
Senator Velmanette Montgomery
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries

Posted by eric at 2:15 PM

What could $20 million buy? Little more than this East New York site (adjusted for size), with much lower development rights

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is about to strike a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to only cough up $20M for the arena portion of the development rights for the Vanderbilt Railyard. Norman Oder has been poking around the metropolitan area, looking for comparable land values.

Today he digs up a site in East New York that is slated for affordable housing.

The Spring 2009 Massey Knakal sales Journal, covering the second half of 2008, indicates that a 20,000 square foot lot in East New York sold for $3.45 million, to support affordable housing.

The segment of the Vanderbilt Yard at issue is 495' x 200', or 99,000 square feet, 4.95 times larger than the East New York site. If you multiple the East New York price by 4.95, it comes out to $17.08 million.


NoLandGrab: If approved, this would make another giant sweetheart deal between Ratner and the MTA. It is truly amazing how Ratner manages to advance his interests before that of commuters.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

June 17, 2009

The amazing shrinking railyard deal: partial payment, partial benefits, and (possibly) no platform and a much-shrunken AY project

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder adds up the costs of the "switch" in Forest City's replacement railyard bait 'n' switch.

It's not just that Forest City Ratner (FCR) was awarded the right to develop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Vanderbilt Yard for $100 million in cash, even though another developer bid $150 million and the MTA's own appraiser valued the site at $214.5 million--after deducting the cost to a bidder of constructing a new railyard (albeit a more basic one than FCR promised).

It's not just that the MTA, after initial resistance, has agreed to let FCR build a replacement railyard of seven rather than nine tracks, a successor to a railyard that once had ten shorter tracks but with (apparently) greater capacity.

It's not just that the MTA apparently is being requested to allow Forest City Ratner to make a much lower down payment--a reported $20 million, though that's not confirmed--for the portion of the railyard needed for the arena block, and pay off the rest over some (yet) unspecified time.

It's also that Forest City Ratner's multi-component railyard bid, which the developer variously claimed was worth $492.4 million or $445 million or $329.4 million, would be worth significantly less than promised. (I address the calculation lower down in this article.)

What about the platform?

Most crucially, it's also that one of the most important components of the project--the plan to deck over the central and eastern segments of the railyard (Blocks 1120 and 1121)--has become less likely.

That would put in doubt the six towers scheduled for those two blocks, and the attendant housing and open space.

The current version of Atlantic Yards already appears to be significantly different than the plan that was promoted to the public and to elected officials. The configuration of the buildings shifted, but it was supposed to be a 16-tower buildout in ten years.

Both those numbers have become suspect, and the absence of a platform would take Atlantic Yards further down the road toward Atlantic Lots.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Would the new MTA railyard actually accommodate fewer cars? Do the math

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner proposed to increase the storage capacity of the Vanderbilt Railyard. In the effort to save money, could he be renegging on his promises?

According to Forest City Ratner's 2005 bid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for the Vanderbilt Yard:

The new yard would have a modern signal system, new employee facilities, new lighting and an enclosure, new toilet servicing options, an improved track structure, and better rail access. And it would accommodate 76 rather than 72 cars.

However, to save money, Ratner is changing the deal to even fewer tracks:

While the MTA has not publicly released details about the seven-track replacement yard it has accepted, in place of the nine-track yard it was promised, a look at the chart and the schematic drawings suggests that storage capacity would go down.

Consider that the longest tracks planned in the new yard would accommodate ten cars. There would be two ten-car tracks and seven eight-car tracks, an improvement over the longstanding configuration of ten tracks, but with five of them accommodating only six cars.

However, a reduction to seven tracks, even if each accommodated ten cars, would mean that the new yard would fit 70 cars rather than the 76 promised. And 70 cars may be overoptimistic.


NoLandGrab: In otherwords, the most optimistic analysis of Ratner's latest proposal means that the LIRR railyard would have less storage capacity (70 cars) than it does now (72 cars). That's a net LOSS, not benefit.

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

What could $20 million buy? Not even two small DTB development sites

Atlantic Yards Report

While Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is set to strike a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by which he'll cough up only $20M up front for the development rights to the portion of the Vanderbilt Railyard on which he plans to build the arena, Norman Oder pokes around looking for comps:

Here's an example of a lot nearly one-seventh as small that in late 2007 sold for more than half the $20 million sum.

From the First Quarter 2008 Massey Knakal Sales Journal:A 187’ x 80’ development site with plans for hotel rooms at 300 Schermerhorn in Downtown Brooklyn was sold by Massey Knakal Realty Services in an all-cash transaction valued at $11,900,000 to a hotel developer and operator... The as-of-right buildable square footage is approximately 83,000 square feet for a mixed-use development project, or 90,000 square feet for a community use property. The site is also located near several mixed-use retail, residential projects, office buildings and is only blocks from one of the strongest retail corridors in New York City, the Fulton Mall.

Keep in mind that the segment of the Vanderbilt Yard at issue is 495' x 200', or 99,000 square feet. The 300 Schermerhorn site is 14,960 square feet.

Yes, the market has changed, but has it changed that much? And isn't a site supporting an arena, housing, and more somewhat more valuable than a hotel site?


NoLandGrab: Long-time watchdogs will recall that Ratner's deal with the MTA was already the lowball bid. Uh-huh... RATNER IS SHORTCHANGING HIS OWN LOWBALL BID.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

ESDC meeting moved up; schedule now is MTA June 22, ESDC June 23, MTA June 24

Atlantic Yards Report

Today, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) announced that its board meeting would be held Tuesday, June 23, at 9 am, rather than, as previously indicated, June 24.

While ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston told me that changes in meeting times aren't unusual--true--the switch also apparently gives the board the opportunity to adopt a revised Modified General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) acts.

The MTA Finance Committee on June 22 is expected to examine on a revised deal with Forest City Ratner to develop the Vanderbilt Yard. On June 24, the full MTA board is expected to approve the deal.


NoLandGrab: With the recent resignations of key executives, things must be pretty chaotic over at the Empire State Developerment Corporation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

However, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner must have some sort of guardian angel looking over its project, because the review and approval of important changes made it on to the schedule of both agencies' board meetings.

Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

June 16, 2009

What's supposed to happen at the Vanderbilt Yard? And why did the MTA initially resist Ratner's money-saving changes?

Atlantic Yards Report

What was approved in December 2006 by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is surely to be changed in new plans likely to be released at the June 24 board meeting, but the below graphic, Figure 1-13, from the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement, shows what was supposed to happen.

The ten-track railyard for servicing the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), located in the western third (Block 1119) of the Vanderbilt Yard, would be given up, replaced by a nine-track yard in the eastern third (Block 1121) capable of storing, cleaning, and toilet servicing longer trains, given that the LIRR now has longer cars.

The new yard would be reduced to just seven tracks, and that change, I'm told, was initially resisted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). (Click to enlarge)


NoLandGrab: To extend outgoing Empire State Developerment Corporation exec Marisa Lago's kitchen renovation metaphor, it's like getting a new kitchen, only smaller.

Add this to the list of incredible shrinking "public benefits" touted by developer Bruce Ratner and his political supporters.

Keep in mind that Ratner also proposes to pay only $20 million up front, instead of the $100 million that he previously promised to pay.


Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

What could $20 million buy? A Manhattan site for a 46,000 square-foot building

Atlantic Yards Report

WW$20MB? Norman Oder is finding that $20M doesn't get you much on the open market in and around NYC, certainly not development rights on a "great piece of real estate," to quote Charles Ratner.

From the 10/3/08 Real Deal:

Chelsea development site asking $20 million
A three-story, 27,600-square-foot commercial building at 537-543 West 20th Street is on the market with an asking price of $20 million. The site, located between 10th and 11th avenues, has 100 feet of frontage and lies in a split zoning of M1-5 and C6-3. This allows for a 46,000-square-foot office, hotel or gallery development. Bermuda Limousine Corporation occupies the space but will relocate, and the building will be delivered vacant.

That's a much, much smaller development than that planned for the segment of the railyard.


NoLandGrab: The point is that if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority accepts developer Bruce Ratner's offer to pay $20M up front for the development rights for the arena portion of the Vanderbilt Railyard, it would be another sweetheart deal for Ratner.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LOCAL INTELLIGENCE, June 15, 2009
Yesterday's Eagle round-up of stories in the blogosphere carried another installment of Oder's series about other ways to blow $20M:

Forest City Ratner wants to pay just $20 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the portion of the Vanderbilt Yards it needs to build the Atlantic Yards arena, says Atlantic Yards Report. (It initially promised to pay $100 million for the whole rail yard.) Comparison: Forest City Enterprises/Bruce Ratner are scheduled to pay star guard Vince Carter $16.1 million next year alone.

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

June 12, 2009

What could $20 million buy? Apparently a smaller plot in Sheepshead Bay

Atlantic Yards Report

While Forest City Ratner is desperately trying to convince the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to accept $20 million up front for the arena-portion of the Vanderbilt Railyard, instead of the full $100 million, Norman Oder is attempting to put things in perspective by exploring what $20 million will buy you these days.

In November 2007, according to the Real Deal:

White Plains-based developer Arcadia Realty Trust bought a two-acre site in Sheepshead Bay last November for $20 million with plans to build a mixed-use project with 300,000 square feet of retail space.

Is this "great piece of real estate," to quote Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner, really worth less per acre than a couple of acres in Sheepshead Bay where a much smaller project is destined?


NoLandGrab: Interestingly, while the Ratners are trying to low-ball the up-front payment to the MTA, the property valuations for other land in the arena site are skyrocketing. This move is in anticipation of the triple-tax-exempt bond offering, the size of which is tied to the value of the land.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

June 11, 2009

Deal or No Deal?

Architect's Newspaper Blog
by Matt Chaban

Maybe Forest City Ratner won’t get a deal on the MTA rail yards after all.

Sez MTA deputy press secretary Aaron Donovan: “It’s too early to say right now because an agreement has yet to be reached. Check back with me once we get closer to the 24th.”

This could mean one of two things: Either the final details are just being hashed out, confirming DDDB’s worst (if expectant) fears. Another possibility, however, is that the deal might be faltering in the heat of negotiations and recent events. It is well known that the MTA is woefully short on cash, so it is possible some of the board could be resistent to taking a smaller payment. Furthermore, the increased scrutiny the news of Frank Gehry’s departure could be putting increasing public (and possibly even political) pressure on the project. And so, with baited breath, we wait for June 24.


NoLandGrab: The public pressure is definitely there; now let's see if tone-deaf Albany gets the message (if they haven't all quit by the 24th).

Posted by eric at 11:29 PM

What should $20 million buy? What if the Nets move Vince Carter?

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR has another money-making idea for Forest City, which could help keep them from reneging on their financial commitment to the MTA.

How might the developer raise some more scratch? Well, Forest City Enterprises and Bruce Ratner are the majority owners of the team, and they're scheduled to pay star guard Vince Carter $16.1 million next year and $17.5 million in two years.

But the MTA wouldn't bring that up, would they?


NoLandGrab: That reminds us — wonder how the Nets' 2009-2010 season-ticket sales are going so far?

Posted by eric at 8:52 AM

June 9, 2009

Bloomberg Lauds Change to Atlantic Yards Arena

After collecting responses to the preview of the new arena design from political boosters and one detractor, reporter Paul Bubny notes that the architecture isn't the only bait and switch:

During his weekly radio show, Bloomberg said that thanks to the lower cost of the Ellerbe Becket plan for the Barclays Center Coliseum, lining up financing for the Brooklyn mega-project would be possible. "It looks like it will go ahead, which is great," he said.
Also being scaled back is the upgrading on the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt Yard, which FCRC is performing as part of its deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for air rights over the yard.


NoLandGrab: A "scaled back" replacement railyard should be added to the list of dwindling public benefits from the project.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

June 8, 2009

Brodsky: MTA board’s acceptance of Ratner’s lesser offer for railyard would violate its fiduciary duty

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who chairs the state Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions, warned last week that, if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board accepts “less money” for the property destined for the Brooklyn arena, it would “be a violation of the fiduciary duty”--their obligation to act with the highest standard of care.

Forest City Ratner, which agreed to pay $100 million for the MTA’s 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard, has reportedly offered only $20 million upfront for the segment of land it needs for the arena, with the rest to be paid at some later date. The MTA board meets June 24.


Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM

June 2, 2009

Crain's MTA Double Bill

Gov’s panel makes infrastructure push

Not everyone thinks that more public-private partnerships are New York State's ticket out of dire financial straits, and here's a reason why:

Gene Russianoff, senior lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, praised the report’s emphasis on transit-oriented development, but noted it could be dangerous for the state to rely on the private sector during tough times. The privatization of Midway Airport in Chicago went up in smoke last month when private investors were unable to obtain financing. And the MTA was counting on about $1 billion in revenue from the sale of land at Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards that has not yet come in because of the faltering economy.

Partners sue MTA chairman over building deal

No, this item doesn't apply directly to Atlantic Yards or other land grabs, but jiminy crickets, could we maybe get an MTA Board Chairman who's not a double-dealing real estate titan?

H. Dale Hemmerdinger, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a major real estate figure in New York City, was sued Monday by partners in one of his buildings. They allege he illegally drained $2.2 million from funds set aside to run the property in order to create a crisis and buy them out.

The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, claims that Mr. Hemmerdinger and his son, Damon, put unqualified general partners on the board which controlled 555 Fifth Ave., creating an artificial majority. It also says those partners hired companies run by the Hemmerdinger family to manage, lease and construct various projects in the building but failed to arrange a mortgage or other credit line for the building. Plaintiffs in the suit include two half-brothers of Mr. Hemmerdinger, whose term as MTA chairman ends this week.

Posted by eric at 12:58 PM

MTA board member "concerned" about amended Vanderbilt Yard plans, says board has yet to be fully briefed

Atlantic Yards Report

The one Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board member who voted against the deal to award the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner said he remains “concerned” about reports of amended plans, but can’t formulate his position on the issue until board members are provided with briefing materials in about two weeks.

Mitchell Pally, who represents Suffolk County, told me that, at the MTA board meeting last Wednesday, members were briefed verbally about negotiations regarding Forest City Ratner’s request for extending payments rather than paying the pledged $100 million at the time of closing. (Press reports have indicated FCR wants to pay just $20 million up front.)

He said board members were not briefed regarding a reconfigured Vanderbilt Yard replacement, though Williams testified Friday at a state Senate oversight hearing that the MTA and FCR reached an agreement—to go from the planned nine tracks to seven—before Memorial Day. Pally told me that, while the agreement had been reached by MTA management and staff, the board had not yet weighed in.

Is this basically a done deal? Pally said there was significant backing, from both the political structure and from many individual board members, for the project, and to make changes to continue to make it happen. “What those changes are I don’t know yet, and how they’d impact the project,” he said.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

May 31, 2009

MTA Downgrades LIRR Plans At Atlantic Yards


After months of speculation, the MTA announced that the Long Island Rail Road improvements proposed at the Atlantic Yards development will be less grand than planned. Instead of nine rails, there will be seven, and the MTA is also expecting less money from developer Bruce Ratner. The Post reports that the MTA "allowed Ratner to renegotiate because the national credit crunch was making it difficult to finance the 22-acre plan to build an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Prospect Heights." To refresh your memory, back in 2005, Ratner won the MTA's land—called the Vanderbilt Rail Yard—after bidding $100 million, which was $50 million less than a rival bid (the land is appraised at over $200 million). It's unclear how much Ratner will end up paying the MTA (rumor is $50 million!); Atlantic Yards Report has details of the State Senate meeting where MTA interim CEO Helena Williams spoke. And Ratner, who hopes to break ground later this year, is downsizing other parts of his plan.


Posted by steve at 8:01 AM

May 30, 2009

Ratner A Rail Loser

New York Post
By Rich Calder

In 2005, Extell Corporation bid $150 million for the Vanderbilt Yards and Bruce Ratner bid $100 million. Voting against their own fiduciary interests, the MTA selected Ratner's bid. Continuing in that direction, the MTA will take less cash from the developer in return for less of a rail yard than originally promised.

Transit officials are scaling back plans for the rail yard being rebuilt beneath Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn from nine tracks to seven -- and they're also expecting less cash from Ratner.

MTA Interim Executive Director Helena Williams confirmed yesterday that the cash-strapped agency had reached a tentative agreement to allow Ratner to cut back costs on a $445 million transit improvement plan to Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Rail Yard that he promised to deliver three years ago in exchange for approvals for the controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

Ratner was supposed to pay the agency $100 million, plus provide $345 million in transit upgrades. But Williams during a state Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards said the agency allowed Ratner to renegotiate because the national credit crunch was making it difficult to finance the 22-acre plan to build an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Prospect Heights. ...

Meanwhile, sources said Ratner could end up paying the MTA only $50 million, half the $100 million originally promised. Williams during the hearing said the MTA is considering allowing Ratner to make "a smaller up front payment followed by additional payments."


"The project that was approved in 2006 does not exist. Nor do the jobs, the housing or the arena that were promised," said Daniel Goldstein of Atlantic Yards opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, who was loudly booed by the workers.

He called Ratner's original agreement with the MTA "a sweetheart deal," adding that the "MTA, which just got a government bailout, is now going to give a bailout to [Ratner]."


Posted by steve at 9:04 AM

May 29, 2009

Atlantic Yards Developer Tries to Stiff MTA – Again

Ratner demands another discount from broke transit agency

NBC New York
by Caitlin Millat

The ever-dwindling Atlantic Yards housing and arena project hit a new hurdle this week as developer Bruce Ratner asked the cash-strapped MTA to accept a mere $20-million down payment on the already discounted $100-million price for the stretch of state land.

The MTA could decide as early as tomorrow whether Ratner should be allowed to pay the $20 million down payment for the Vanderbilt Yards, the land on Atlantic Ave. between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Aves, the Daily News reported.

Ratner's $100 million initial proposal -- which came earlier this year [NoLandGrab: actually, it was in 2005] -- was only half of the appraised $214.5 million value of the property. If Ratner's given permission to pay the $20 million down, it would be less than ten percent of the land's appraised worth as a down payment.

It was unclear how and when the MTA would vote on Ratner's proposal -- the next board meeting isn't until June.


NLG: We have to say, it’s kinda refreshing to see a mainstream media outlet calling a spade a spade in its Atlantic Yards coverage.

Posted by eric at 7:51 PM

May 28, 2009

Errol Louis blames AY foes, reveals that Ratner wants to pay MTA just $20 million at first

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder's running commentary on Errol Louis's column in today's Daily News inserts the truth where Louis left it out, and highlights the scoop that Ratner doesn't even have the jack to pay the MTA the already off-off-peak price they'd agreed on for the railyard.

Amid New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis's predictable support for Atlantic Yards, criticism of project opponents, and avoidance of inconvenient facts, is some real news: developer Forest City Ratner wants to pay the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) just $20 million--rather than the $100 million pledged--then pay the rest of the sum over some unspecified timetable.

In other words, another indirect subsidy. Hints of the developer's strategy emerged in December, but not the sum at issue.

If the MTA is truly a guardian of its funds--the money would go to the capital plan, not operations--that deserves a lot of sunlight. Louis wrote that the MTA could vote as early as Friday morning; no board meeting is listed, and MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin confirmed to me that there's no meeting. (An executive session requires a public meeting, and no special meeting is planned at this point, Soffin said. The next MTA board meeting is at the end of June.)

Keep in mind that Forest City Ratner's $100 million pledge in September 2005 was less than half the appraised value of $214.5 million--the appraiser took into account the value of an improved railyard, which FCR counts as a bonus--and less than Extell's $150 million bid. And that $100 million bid came only after a $50 million bid, and the decision by the MTA board--controlled by Gov. George Pataki at the time--to negotiate exclusively with FCR.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

The damage done to Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards has shrunk, and with it good jobs and affordable housing

NY Daily News

Stopping short of calling Atlantic Yards critics "rabid obstructionists," columnist Errol Louis lays the blame for the flailing project at the feet of the "anti-development faction."

However, his sympathetic treatment of developer Bruce Ratner has earned him this valuable scoop:

Project insiders say Ratner's most pressing short-term financial hump is the need to pay $100 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the Vanderbilt Yards, a crucial stretch of property and train tracks along Atlantic Ave. between Flatbush and Vandbilt Aves.

As early as tomorrow, the MTA board could vote in closed session on whether to allow Ratner to make a smaller-than-expected downpayment - $20 million or so - and allow him to pay the rest over time.


Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

May 14, 2009

When will MTA get any of FCR’s $100 million? Not yet, so it's worth asking about an alternative fate for the Vanderbilt Yard

Atlantic Yards Report

According to publicly available project documents that outline what is/was supposed to happen between the cash-strapped Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and the financially troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the MTA won't be seeing any cash from the $100,000,000 deal until details for the "construction of temporary and permanent improvements" to the railyard are agreed upon. In addition, the temporary railyard, which was supposed to be under construction according to a license agreement, is now nearly two years late.

[A] license for temporary yard work signed 2/14/07 states that, if construction of a permanent railyard does not begin within 24 months, the MTA has the option to ask Forest City Ratner "to fully restore the Present VD Yard Functions" and--apparently, though the language is murky--end the deal.

It's worth asking the MTA whether it renewed the license, and why, or in what circumstances it would restore the railyard functions.

After all, it's been nearly four years, and the MTA hasn't received the capital funds it expected from the Vanderbilt Yard deal.


Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

May 13, 2009

After MTA chief Sander's departure, will successor be more willing to compromise on Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

Word is that Governor Paterson forced MTA Executive Director Elliot (Lee) Sander to resign because he wouldn't play ball with party bosses. Could that mean his replacement will be a yes-man, someone more inclined to renegotiate the terms of the railyard deal with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner?

[T]he widespread endorsement of Sander's integrity and performance that has surfaced, combined with reports that Sander refused to bow to a patronage-driven pol, may mean his successor will be more willing to compromise with the reported request by Forest City Ratner to restructure the $100 million it owes and the developer's reported effort to build a less elaborate railyard than promised.

Consider that, on May 8, just before his resignation, Reuters published an article with this tantalizing quote:

Asked whether the MTA's rail yards in Brooklyn would see a basketball arena next year, part of a residential-office complex planned by developer Forest City Ratner, Sander said only: "I'm not in the arena business."

However, the MTA's willingness to compromise with Ratner just might help the developer proceed in the arena business. So the Senate should ask the MTA about those payments and about the cheaper railyard.
Sander was asked [in January] if the MTA would accept a replacement yard with less value. "I'm not sure I really want to engage in negotiations with you about Atlantic Yards," Sander replied. "The MTA has a good track record of being thoughtful and prudent."

Sander's caution might have been interpreted as showing a willingness to compromise with Ratner. However, given what we've learned in the last few days, it might as likely reflected an effort to not compromise.


NoLandGrab: Under Sander's leadership, Atlantic Yards did not make the cut for the MTA's list of projects to receive federal stimulus funding, despite Bruce Ratner's heavy-hitting lobbying efforts.

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

April 30, 2009

NY MTA may raise fares twice in 1 yr -- a first

Reuters, via

New York subway riders and motorists could get hit with a second round of fare and toll hikes this year, the first such double-whammy in the cash-strapped transit agency's history, officials said on Wednesday.

Meantime, the two big real estate/railyards deals aren't going to be providing any relief soon:

The developments of midtown Manhattan's Hudson Yards and Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards were expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars over time, but the two mega projects have stalled in the credit crunch.


NoLandGrab: Though the project has "stalled in the credit crunch," there are outward signs that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is strapped for cash and word is that the company is trying to renegotiate the terms of the MTA agreement.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

March 25, 2009

Atlantic Yards YES! Transit Riders NO!!


Bruce Ratner's lowball bid for the development rights over the Vanderbilt Railyard still stands, while transit riders are being asked to pay more to bailout the struggling Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Cartoon, Bill Bramhall, Daily News, by way of Streetsblog.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

February 19, 2009

M.T.A. Tells Ratner To Stay Away From Their Stimulus Money

Joshing Politics

This blog entry is optimistic over the failure of efforts by Bruce Ratner to win Federal stimulus money for the Atlantic Yards Project, although this particular story doesn't seem finished, yet.

It has already been mentioned that community destroyer developer Bruce Ratner is looking for a chunk of that economic stimulus money to build his offices, apartments and basketball arena. However, the opposition to that has been fierce and people are noticing. First of all it wasn't written anywhere in the bill (probably because H.R. 1 was about stimulus and not earmarks) and now the M.T.A. is telling Ratner to scat as well.

From The Gothamist:

Atlantic Yards opponents have expressed considerable outrage over developer Bruce Ratner's attempt to get a taste of the federal stimulus package for his embattled stadium, office, and residential project in Brooklyn. Last week it came to light that former Senator Alfonse D’Amato’s lobbying firm, Park Strategies, was working behind the scenes to secure a cut of the stimulus for Ratner. But they can forget about getting any of the loot earmarked for the MTA; a transit official tells the Post that the stalled development is "not on any of our lists [of projects]." However, Ratner is still lobbying for some of the stimulus money outside of the MTA's purview; there's some $3.9 billion for "infrastructure and energy assistance" which will soon be at Governor Paterson's disposal. A spokeswoman for the governor says they're "examining whether the project warrants stimulus funds," and notes that "there's a lot of competition."

Damn, not even a lobbying effort could get AY a dime (though I'm sure D'Amato didn't come for free, heh). Now as for Paterson's discretionary $3.9 billion, if he even thinks twice about giving Ratner money, he can kiss Brooklyn's vote in next year's primary race goodbye.


Posted by steve at 6:34 AM

February 18, 2009

by Rich Calder and Tom Namako

The Post is reporting that one possible source of stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards has reached the end of the line.

Brooklyn's flagging Atlantic Yards project took another hit yesterday when Metropolitan Transportation Authority honchos confirmed the agency won't dish out any of its allocated federal stimulus funds to aid developer Bruce Ratner.

"It's not on any of our lists [of projects]," one MTA official said.

But while Ratner won't be getting any MTA aid to bail out his reeling $4 billion plan to bring an NBA arena and 16 residential and office towers to Prospect Heights, he still has a shot at getting some of the federal pork directly through Gov. Paterson.

The state's $24.6 billion pool of the stimulus bill contains $3.9 billion for infrastructure and energy assistance and Ratner is lobbying hard for some of it.

A Paterson spokeswoman said the governor is still examining whether the project warrants stimulus funds, adding there's a lot of competition.

Ratner declined to comment for this article.


Atlantic Yards Report, Post: MTA isn't seeking stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards

However, the Post reported, developer Bruce Ratner "still has a shot at getting some of the federal pork directly through Gov. [David] Paterson."

As far as I can tell, that's a generic reference to the fact that Paterson will control discretionary funding, not an assurance that Atlantic Yards is on a specific Paterson list.

Posted by eric at 8:24 AM

February 17, 2009

The Rail Yard to Nowhere: Ratner's Quest for an Atlantic Yards Federal Bailout

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn ( explores the history of the need for a new "state-of-the-art" railyard for which Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is now seeking federal stimulus bucks.

Why do we need a new railyard?

FCR secured the development rights to the MTA's eight-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard, despite a bid less than half the site's appraised value, in part because it had committed to building a new, "state-of-the-art" rail yard. The sole purpose of the new rail yard, however, is to facilitate the construction of the proposed arena – not the fulfillment of any transit need expressed by the MTA in 2005 when it approved the sale to FCR; nor is a new rail yard outlined in the MTA's 20-year projected-needs assessment. FCR had committed to the MTA and the public to building this new rail yard and paying for it because the new yard was only necessary for its project.

But didn't Ratner say he was going to pay for the new railyard? [Short answer: YES.]

The Brooklyn Paper reported at the time:

...[Former MTA Chairman Peter] Kalikow argued that Forest City Ratner would be spending its own money on a public railway that would be made state-of-the-art.

And NY1 reported at the time:

What the MTA also now has is a promise to make major improvements to the Atlantic Yards, at a cost to Ratner of $345 million.

"That's not built with funny money - that's built with real cash," said Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey...

Since that time, the developer Forest City Enterprises has been seeking more "real cash" from government sources, most recently from the large pot of honey about to flow from D.C.

Check out the rest of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's article to read about Ratner's lobbying efforts, the ruse to dress their new railyard up as an MTA "transit project," and some of the politicians who are for and against it.

Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

February 16, 2009

Stimulus Fund Watch

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards seems to be the only NY State project for which reporters and taxpayers ask Governor Paterson, "Are you really thinking of giving money to THAT project?"

While everyone [including Bruce (wink!)] is on Stimulus Fund Watch, here's the latest from The Times:

The state would also receive $1 billion in highway financing and $1.3 billion for transit projects, nearly all of which would go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The authority has said it planned to spend about $500 million of the money on the Fulton Street Transit Center in Lower Manhattan. The project, plagued by soaring costs and delays, involves the renovation of a tangle of interconnected subway stations and the construction of an architecturally ambitious glass building above them.

The authority has a long list of other projects that could get some of the stimulus money, including subway and commuter rail station renovation and improvements to behind-the-scenes infrastructure like rail yards and shops.


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind, the only reason that Vanderbilt Yards would have to be "improved" is because the tracks must be moved to accommodate a new arena for Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets.

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

February 10, 2009


Photographer Tracy Collins headed out to the Vanderbilt Railyards to capture this image described in the most recent Atlantic Yards Construction Update.

"Rigs are on site, Block 1118, lot1 and Block 1119, lots 1, 64, in connection with soil borings that are being conducted."

Photo via, flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

February 4, 2009

NY Hudson Yard developer gets extension on deal


NEW YORK, Feb 3 (Reuters) - New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Tuesday has given the partnership developing its 26-acre midtown Manhattan rail yards up to another year to finalize a deal, citing the credit crunch.

The Related Companies, a private developer, and investment bank Goldman Sachs and the authority are all still committed to the $1 billion project for apartments and office space, the MTA said in statement.


Atlantic Yards Report, MTA shows flexibility on Hudson Yards deal; would it offer same to Forest City Ratner?

Norman Oder maps out the implications for Bruce Ratner's deal for the Vanderbilt Railyards:

Asked whether the MTA would be flexible with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, Sander responded two weeks ago that the agency was always "flexible and thoughtful."

Forest City Ratner has been trying to delay paying the $100 million it would owe the MTA for the Vanderbilt Yard, so the agency's actions yesterday suggest that it may not pressure FCR.

The difference is that the price for the Hudson Yards was much higher, not merely because of differences in size and location, but also because there was a competitive bidding process.

The 2005 sale of rights to the Vanderbilt Yard attracted only one other bidder, given that the RFP was issued 18 months after Forest City Ratner was anointed the city and state's favored developer.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

February 2, 2009

MTA Chief Insists: Answer Is in Albany

Speaks to Chamber of Commerce at City Tech

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Compared with last week’s tempestuous MTA public hearing in Brooklyn, Monday’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce forum featuring Elliott Sander, executive director/CEO of the MTA, was a sedate, polite affair.

The forum, hosted by New York City College of Technology (City Tech), was also sponsored by the Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and Bronx chambers of commerce. And Sander, using a PowerPoint display, unveiled some information about the agency’s last-ditch cutback plans that hadn’t been well publicized.

Another asked about whether public-private partnerships could be used to help fund subway, rail and bus operations. Sander replied that with mass transit, the only cases where this could be a good fit would be with large-scale real estate developments such as Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards. Needless to say, neither of these two developments are proceeding at a rapid-fire pace at the moment.


NoLandGrab: "Public-private partnerships... such as Atlantic Yards" would better help fund mass transit if the deals struck by the MTA didn't undercut the agency's own appraisal by more than 50%, or reward the low bidder — two things evident in the MTA's agreement to sell Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 8:46 PM

January 24, 2009

Whither Hudson Yards, again?

2nd Ave. Sagas

This assessment of the problems the MTA is having concerning the sale of Manhattan's West Side Yards includes an opinion that the proposed Atlantic Yards project will be on hold for the coming year.

But with MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander calling the negotiations “very sensitive,” it’s easy to see a collapse in the near future. With this deal on the rocks — and the Atlantic Yards deal treading water for another year — the MTA’s capital budget may suffer. These mega-projects were to bring in over $1 billion, and if they both fall through, the MTA will have to scramble to replace the funds.


NoLandGrab: It's not clear if developer Bruce Ratner can hold on for a year or if MTA wouldn't be better off if it held competitive bidding for the Vanderbilt Rail Yard.

Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

January 23, 2009

Atlantic Yards developer seeks to cut transit costs

The Star-Ledger

The developer of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards is trying to cut back on transit improvements he promised in exchange for approval for the $4 billion project, according to a report in the New York Post.

The report said Bruce Ratner, who plans to bring the New Jersey Nets to the arena portion of the project, is in talks with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about cutting costs on a revamp and move of the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Rail Yard, which he agreed to purchase three years ago for $100 million.


Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

January 22, 2009

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Ratner Now Trying to Stiff the MTA

A week after the (not surprising) news that Forest City was "value engineering" its development plans for Atlantic Yards in an effort to cut costs, word comes that the developer is also trying to restructure the $100 million payment it committed to make to the MTA....

Noticing New York, Caroline Kennedy, in Our Defense Against Eminent Domain?: The Way it Might be

Michael D.D. White muses about how a Senator Caroline Kennedy might approach the issue of eminent domain, an issue now moot given her withdrawal from consideration for New York's junior senate seat.

Further, in Atlantic Yards you have perhaps the clearest possible example of a developer-initialed and -driven megadevelopment. In Atlantic Yards there is ample evidence of bad faith and incompetence on the part of the government in assisting that private enterprise and putting a particular private entity’s goals ahead of the public. That includes the way in which competitive bidding was avoided and the accommodations in structuring the project to make it the maximum possible subsidy sponge, despite what that means in terms of poor design and oppressive density. Since so much is being torn down and left vacant for so long, and since the subsidies are so great, the argument of any economic benefit is conspicuously undermined or totally nonexistent., Columbia Expansion Holdout Sues To Block Eminent Domain

The owner of a set of storage buildings in West Harlem, Nick Sprayregen, has filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s use of eminent domain, he said this afternoon. The state has commenced actions to acquire the properties in connection with Columbia University’s planned 17-acre expansion in the area.

Also in Harlem eminent domain-related news, a group of business owners in East Harlem has filed suit against the city in connection with the Bloomberg administration's plans to develop a large mixed-use project along 125th Street. In claims laid out in the press release here and the lawsuit here, the group argues that the city is violating a number of provisions associated with the urban renwal area where the site is based (including the fact that a large number of the planned apartments be market-rate)., Cartoonist has gone country

[Brooklyn-based country crooner Andy] Friedman lives in Prospect Heights, near Freddy’s Bar, the Prohibition-era tavern that is slated to be torn down for Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena. The bar appears in a mournful song on Friedman’s forthcoming CD, “Weary Things,” which will be unveiled at Friedman’s Jan. 29 show at Southpaw. This week, he traded bons-mots with GO Brooklyn.

GO: The most overtly local song is “Freddy’s Backroom.” It’s bittersweet. But isn’t the story of our borough and our city that we simply pave over the old, even if history gets lost in the name of progress?

AF: I don’t think that song is a protest song, or an anti-Ratner song. Heck, I’ve shopped at Target. But I love those bars and I’m entitled to lament. That’s all it is. I wrote that song sitting at the bar on a stack of beer coasters one night, just looking around, and thinking that soon it will be gone.

NoLandGrab: Gone? With Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project looking ever so shaky, Friedman might have to one day rewrite that tune to give it an ever-so-rare-in-country-music happy ending.

Curbed, Now Mr. Bruce Doesn't Want to Pay Mr. Sander & the MTA

Any day now, we expect a story about how the Atlantic Yards project has come across a new construction process that will allow everything to made from popsicle sticks and super glue, slashing the cost by 99.5 percent, with the remaining .5 percent coming from piggy banks stored at an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Cleveland. Ah, but we jest.

City Room Blog [NY Times], Housing & Economy

Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project is in such financial upheaval that the developer is now trying to cut back on much-needed transit improvements, which he promised in exchange for approval for the $4 billion project. Sources said the developer, Bruce C. Ratner, is in talks with the cash-poor Metropolitan Transportation Authority about cutting costs on a revamp and move of the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt railyards, which he agreed to buy three years ago for $100 million. [New York Post], Atlantic Yards developer seeks to cut transit costs

Gothamist, Ratner May Scale Back Atlantic Yards Transit Upgrades

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

The MTA and Atlantic Yards: Two Atlantic Yards Report Entries

Atlantic Yards Report

Two blog entries look at revelations that Forest City Ratner is looking to renege on promises it made to upgrade the Vanderbilt Rail Yard as part of its sweetheart deal to buy the MTA property for less than half its assessed value.

A telling non-answer? When asked about AY concessions, MTA chief Sander says only that agency is "flexible and thoughtful"

In light of the precarious situation regarding the MTA's sale of the West Side Railyards, Norman Oder tries to understand the status of the deal for the Vanderbilt Rail Yard, which occupies roughly a third of the footprint for the proposed Atlantic Yards project. MTA executive director, Lee Sander, is not very forthcoming with Crain's Editorial Director Greg David.

Yesterday, David asked Sander, "The Atlantic Yards projects clearly hangs in the balance, even if the court cases go in favor of Forest City Ratner. Has the MTA recognized that it will also need to be flexible at Atlantic Yards if Forest City Ratner wins the court cases and tries to go out and finance the arena?"

(Actually, the defendant in pending lawsuits is the Empire State Development Corporation.)

"I think that we have been flexible and thoughtful in all these negotiations," Sander responded, speaking carefully. "I think if you had spoken to [developers] Jerry Speyer, Gary Barnett, Brookfield... I don't think you'll have [REBNY's] Steve Spinola or any of these people we interact with saying we were rigid, or unrealistic, and so forth."

"So, whether it's with Forest Ratner--with Forest City Ratner, with Bruce Ratner, we will apply, as we have, intelligence, thoughtfulness, to the exercise," Sander said, proceeding to offer examples that were not quite related to AY. "We also have open lines of communication with the city. We worked unbelievably closely with Dan Doctoroff and Mayor [Mike] Bloomberg in the Hudson Yards transaction. We have extraordinary partnerships across the board, whether it's with [city officials] Ray Kelly, whether it's with Janette Sadik-Khan, whether it's with Ed Skyler. We do these things collaboratively."

Reading the fine print: if FCR doesn't produce an upgraded railyard, would that stall the arena?

What might the legal implications be if promised rail yard upgrades are not delivered? Good question!

Did the Empire State Development Corporation write itself into a contradiction?

According to the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan (p. 22): ESDC's acquisition of all such properties [via eminent domain] will not occur until such time as ESDC receives commitments, guaranties and other evidence satisfactory to ESDC that FCRC will (i) promptly commence construction of the Arena, the Upgraded Yard and all of the infrastructure necessary for the Arena (collectively, the "Arena Infrastructure"; together with the Arena and the Upgraded Yard, the "Initial Development"), and (ii) complete such construction within agreed-upon time periods. (Emphasis added)

If developer Forest City Ratner does not create the upgraded railyard it intended--as the New York Times reported, citing an anonymous source--would that be violating the General Project Plan?

Then again, there's often some wiggle room. It probably depends on the definition of "Upgraded." But the issue is worth tracking.

Posted by steve at 8:52 AM


New York Post
By Rich Calder

Add to the list of broken promises for Atlantic Yards benefits: Improvements for the Vanderbilt rail yard.


Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project is in such financial upheaval that the developer is now trying to cut back on much-needed transit improvements, which he promised in exchange for approval for the controversial $4 billion project, The Post has learned.

Sources said Bruce Ratner is in talks with the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority about cutting costs on a revamp and move of the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Rail Yard, which he agreed to purchase three years ago for $100 million.

The news has Atlantic Yards opponents seething because Ratner wasn't the highest bidder for the 8.3-acre rail yard site, but the MTA agreed to sell it to the developer anyway, allowing him to move forward with his now crumbling 22-acre plan to build an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Prospect Heights.


In light of the news that Ratner is trying to cut costs, Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, called on the MTA to put the project back out for bids.

"Either [Ratner's company] wildly inflated the cost of constructing a new rail yard to win their bid despite their lowball offer, or they're not building the state-of-the-art yard they had agreed to build," he said.


Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

M.T.A. Would ‘Deal With It’ If West Side Plan Collapses

The New York Observer
By Eliot Brown

This item is primarily about a looming deadline and potential problems for the deal between the MTA and Related Companies to develop the West Side rail yards in Manhattan. The financial difficulties of the deal between the MTA and Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yards also receives a mention.

The M.T.A. is also in negotiations with developer Forest City Ratner, which wants to change the terms of its payments to the agency as part of its planned Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. Should that project collapse, the M.T.A. would not get an expected $100 million in payments from Forest City.


Posted by steve at 6:24 AM

January 14, 2009

Markowitz Backpedaling on Atlantic Yards Project


Yesterday's joke of the day was Marty Markowitz's press release on Atlantic Yards. The way it usually works is the politican pretends to call for a change in the plan, the developer pretends to acquiesce and they call it "a win-win." This week the Atlantic Yards political-pr machine got it all backwards, but no one told Gothamist.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, a fervent champion of an embattled plan to build an ambitious $4.2 billion plan to build a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn, has for the first time muted his enthusiasm for the development. Could this be the canary in the coalmine for the controversial project, which throughout 2008 struggled to gain momentum against repeated setbacks? Markowitz issued a statement this afternoon opining that, because of the economic tailspin and all, developer Bruce Ratner should conceive of a "sports and entertainment venue that is more economically feasible but provides the modern amenities our residents and visitors to Brooklyn demand and deserve."

However, Gothamist didn't hold back the snark on Bruce Ratner's increasingly desperate efforts to remain at the helm of the project:

Forest City is now trying to negotiate with the MTA over the Vanderbilt Yards, an essential part of the project site which the developer still hasn't paid for. According to the Times, Forest City wants to pay the $100 million for the property in installments. Come on MTA, you know Ratner's good for it; it's just a bad streak! He can win it all back! With interest!


Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

January 13, 2009

Is Forest City Ratner trying to chintz the MTA on the Vanderbilt Yard replacement?

Atlantic Yards Report

The big news in today's New York Times CityRoom post, headlined Markowitz Calls for Paring Cost of Atlantic Yards Arena [originally: "Paring Down"], is not that Borough President Marty Markowitz, who can be counted on to support anything developer Forest City Ratner decides, thinks it's a good idea to value-engineer (belatedly?) the planned Atlantic Yards arena.

No, it was the penultimate line:
The developer has also talked about building a less expensive railyard as a replacement, according to a state official who is involved with the project.

Well, I'd heard that one too.

Looking at the numbers

Remember, Forest City Ratner claimed that its bid for the MTA’s Vanderbilt Yard was enhanced by the value of the replacement railyard it was to build, saying its bid of $100 million cash plus enhancements was worth $445 million. (Remember, FCR initially bid $50 million cash, before the MTA decided to negotiate exclusively with them, rather than with rival bidder Extell, which bid $150 million cash but didn’t have FCR’s political backing).

This claim was belied by the fact the MTA’s own appraiser calculated the value of the railyard site at $214.5 million including the value of a new railyard.

So now the developer wants to build a less expensive railyard. Shouldn’t that original bid be reexamined?


Posted by eric at 6:29 PM

All trussed up and nowhere to go...

Work on at the Vanderbilt Railyards has been suspended due to "lack of support."

Image, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

January 12, 2009

Ties on the Vanderbilt Yard labeled "Atlantic Yards" - Brooklyn, NY

Members of the press aren't the only folks mixed up about Atlantic Yards vs. Vanderbilt Yards.

Image via Atlantic Yards flickr photo pool.

Posted by lumi at 7:29 PM

December 18, 2008

CORRECTED - OFFICIAL-NY MTA-Still sees $1 bln from all real estate projects


The news service has fixed its billion-dollar Atlantic Yards booboo.

(Corrects headline and text to read MTA expects $1 billion of revenue from all real estate projects, not just Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.)


Posted by eric at 1:33 PM

MTA Continues Support for Atlantic Yards

Nets Daily

The recent puzzling item from Reuters is picked up and used as an indication of continued political support for Bruce Ratner.

While lawsuits move through court and reports circulate that Bruce Ratner has cash flow problems, New York’s politicians haven’t backed off their support for Atlantic Yards and its new Nets’ arena. On Wednesday, the head of the MTA, which owns the railyards where the project will be built, said he expects Atlantic Yards to generate $1 billion. “We don’t have any current concern with respect to the $1 billion”, he said.

NoLandGrab: It does, indeed, appear that the MTA continues to support Bruce Ratner's boondoggle at our expense, but what is with that $1 billion figure? The agreed-upon bargain basement price for the Vanderbilt Yards is $100 million.


Posted by steve at 6:25 AM

December 17, 2008

NY MTA: Still sees $1 bln from Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards

Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Dan Grebler

So much for fact checking (that's so "old media"); Reuters is reporting that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is paying $1 billion for the Vanderbilt Railyard.

It's a Christmas miracle — just last week, Ratner was on the hook for a mere $100 million.

NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Wednesay it still expects to receive $1 billion in revenue from Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development, a major project to be built on one of the agency's rail yards.

The Brooklyn project includes offices, apartments and a new basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. But its future, first clouded by legal disputes, is now clouded by the difficulty of getting real estate loans.

MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson told reporters after a board meeting: "We don't have any current concern with respect to the $1 billion" the agency hopes the project will contribute to its capital plan.

The project has been delayed by law suits and other issues. But the last court challenge based on the use of "eminent domain" could be decided in state court in the next six months.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, of Forest City Ratner Co (FCEa.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), said he remained confident despite the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

MTA Executive Director Lee Sander declined to comment when asked about a report in the Observer that said Ratner sought to delay paying the agency $100 million when the project closes.


Posted by lumi at 7:25 PM

December 10, 2008

MTA asks for shared sacrifice - but squanders its assets

NY Daily News Op-Ed
by Julia Vitullo-Martin

This opinion piece by a notable Atlantic Yards critic doesn't specifically mention the MTA's more-than-50%-off agreement to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to Bruce Ratner, but then again, it doesn't have to.

Before the state raises everyone's taxes to support the bloated Metropolitan Transportation Authority, shouldn't we first insist that the MTA take advantage of any and all underused real estate that it already owns or controls under long-term leases?

One of Mayor Bloomberg's most important initiatives in his first term was to direct city agencies to identify and analyze all real estate holdings in order to sell off underdeveloped properties. The idea was to protect neighborhoods from the blight that inevitably accompanies vacant land while letting the city reap real estate's financial rewards.


NoLandGrab: The MTA's deal with Ratner has, conversely, contributed to a big increase in blight in Prospect Heights, and a squandering of potential financial gain.

Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

December 5, 2008

Documents show FCR has missed three deadlines to construct temporary railyard (and that litigation was not a factor)

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is blaming the halt of construction on litigation brought by opponents, while opponents are saying that Ratner has nothing to blame but himself, his hairbrained city-from-scratch megaproject proposal and cash-flow problems.

By examining Ratner's own construction timeline, submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation, Norman Oder reviews his own call and uncovers a very interesting detail (emphasis added):

I've already cited sworn affidavits by FCR executives who promised that work would continue during litigation, claiming that the developer's "construction schedule has been carefully drawn... by commencing work now on vacant properties that are owned by FCRC, the MTA and the City...."

There's another reason not to believe the ESDC/FCR explanation. Construction schedules prepared by/for the developer regarding completion of a temporary railyard--Stage 1 of three at the Vanderbilt Yard--offer no indication that litigation would be a factor.

And, contrary to the claim by FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco that "we've gone about as far as we can go at this point with preliminary work," the temporary railyard is way behind schedule, having missed three deadlines.

In fact, a license for temporary yard work signed 2/14/07 states that, if construction of a permanent railyard does not begin within 24 months, the MTA has the option to ask Forest City Ratner "to fully restore the Present VD Yard Functions" and--apparently, though the language is murky--end the deal. There's no indication that the MTA would exercise such leverage, but the option would become available in some ten weeks, as the authority waits for the $100 million FCR has pledged to lease the railyard.


NoLandGrab: Oder is right to caution that there are no definitive signs that the project will get killed by the State; however, concern that Ratner might not be able to close the deal with the MTA is a very good reason to suspend preliminary railyard work.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Ravitch Commission says (if you read between the lines): Don’t do deals like Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The big news yesterday out of the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority Financing, led by Richard Ravitch, concerned proposals for a“mobility tax” on payrolls; tolls on now-free bridges; and a much smaller fare increase than feared.

However, reading between the lines, the Ravitch Commission, appointed in June by New York Governor David Paterson, also seems to be questioning the MTA’s stewardship of the Atlantic Yards deal, calling for a reform in governance and an increase in transparency.

Reporter Norman Oder outlines the history of the MTA's decision to sell the development rights to the Vanderbilt Railyards to Bruce Ratner, and analyzes the Ravitch Commission's recommendations.


Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

December 3, 2008

Vanderbilt Yards and the Money Left on the Table

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn sent the following letter last week to Richard Ravitch and the other members of the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority Financing:

November 23, 2008

Dear Chairman Ravitch:

We write to you regarding the upcoming report from the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority Financing. We want to ensure that you aware of one untapped revenue source for the MTA.

As you know, Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) 22-acre Atlantic Yards development proposal includes the MTA/LIRR owned, 8-acre Vanderbilt Yard, which is located in the heart of Central Brooklyn adjacent to the Atlantic Terminal transportation hub. It is literally in the middle of some of the most expensive real estate in New York City.

In September 2005, the MTA reached an agreement to sell the Yard to FCR for $100 million.

The MTA had appraised the Vanderbilt Yard at $214.5 million at that time, and a competing development proposal by Extell Development Company offered $150 million for the MTA property.

With the MTA in serious financial trouble, with fare increases, service cuts and layoffs looming, now would be the opportune time to renegotiate the agreement with FCR to get a fair deal for the MTA.


Posted by eric at 7:28 PM

November 28, 2008

MTA: No fare hikes or service cuts!

New York State Communist Party

Better Red than in the red, or something like that. NY's Communist Party has a prescription for fixing the MTA's budget woes, and it starts with Atlantic Yards.

The MTA’s operating and capital investment budgets must not only be funded, but expanded. This is not impossible, even in the current financial environment. First, the MTA must not waste money through sweetheart deals with big developers. A colossal amount of money was wasted when the MTA agreed to sell air rights to the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner for $50 million, though the independently assessed value was as high as $900 million. Even when another firm offered a higher bid, the MTA chose to go with Forest City Ratner. Other projects, like the proposed extension of the 7 subway line, which is essentially a multi-billion dollar gift to the developers, could be postponed.


NoLandGrab: The CP's sentiment is correct, but its numbers are a bit off. The MTA has agreed to sell the Vanderbilt Yard (the land itself, not the air rights) to Forest City Ratner for $100 million, and we're not sure we ever recall seeing an independent appraisal of $900 million — although the MTA's own appraiser thought the land was worth more than twice the agreed-upon price.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

November 25, 2008

Local Leaders Call On MTA To Maximize Assets

by Ty Chandler


The MTA painted a gloomy financial picture Thursday when it unveiled its doomsday budget. But some city lawmakers are not convinced a 23 percent fare hike is necessary.

"Before the MTA tells riders that they have to deal with less service for a higher fare, the MTA has an absolute obligation to maximize their assets," said Councilman Eric Gioia.

Gioia says the MTA has an extensive real estate portfolio that could be worth as much as a billion dollars. He says the MTA used tax dollars to pay for a report to look for ways to maximize those assets, but says the MTA has refused to release its findings, calling them flawed.

In a statement, the MTA says it "is continually assessing its assets for revenue-generating opportunities."


NoLandGrab: One asset the MTA is apparently not continually assessing for revenue-generating opportunities is Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yard, which the cash-strapped agency has agreed to sell to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for less than half what the MTA's own assessor says it is worth.

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

November 19, 2008

Ratner's sweet land deal should have NYC up in arms

NY Daily News I-Team Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe


With the MTA threatening to slash hundreds of jobs as well as bus and subway service, the people at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn raise a good point: Why does the cash-strapped agency want to give away a valuable asset to Nets owner Bruce Ratner for a rock-bottom price?

The MTA's own appraisal valued the Vanderbilt Rail Yards at $214 million, and Extell Development offered $150 million for the site, and yet the MTA has an agreement to sell the eight acres to Nets owner Bruce Ratner for $100 million. Wouldn't $50 million or more be nice to have in times like these?

So next year, when it costs $3 to ride a filthy and crowded train (it won't be a W train, because that line will be eliminated), take comfort in the fact that Ratner got a great deal on prime real estate.

Really, the fact that our local sports teams continue to get massive public subsidies at a time when funding for essentials such as schools and transit is threatened should make New Yorkers go to their windows and shout "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"


NoLandGrab: The fact that it's the sports desk at the Daily News, on their blog, no less, that has to make this point is exactly why the Independent Film Channel is airing that December 9th segment on shoddy Atlantic Yards news coverage. Thank goodness there are a few reporters, like Michael O'Keeffe, who aren't willing to accept the party line.

Speaking of film, if you have four minutes, be sure to watch the classic scene from Network linked on the Daily News post above. Maybe it's high time we all listened to Howard Beale — and got "mad as hell."

Posted by eric at 3:45 PM

It's No Wonder the MTA is In Crisis, and Straphangers Will Pay

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reminds Atlantic Yards critics that while the MTA is planning deep service cuts and layoffs, the same agency accepted Bruce Ratner's lowball bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards.

Perhaps the MTA wouldn't be in such dire straits and sticking it to New Yorkers had they not done dumb real estate deals. For example, the MTA has an agreement to sell the 8-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yards to Bruce Ratner for $100 million (no money collected yet) leaving $150 million on the table from Extell Development Company and, moreover, the $214.5 million the yards had been appraised at.

That's a minimum of $50 million the MTA turned down on just one deal. No wonder New Yorkers now have to pay.


NoLandGrab: Simply put, that's more for Bruce and less for you.

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

October 16, 2008

Is This the Slowest Project Ever in Brooklyn?

Gowanus Lounge

No, it's not Atlantic Yards, which wouldn't really qualify, since it hasn't broken ground, but it is located on the nearby site of another Forest City Ratner project.


This is the new entrance to the LIRR station at the Atlantic Center. It’s a replacement for the facility that was destroyed as part of the construction of developer Bruce Ratner’s megaplex that includes Target. It’s been under construction since about 1983. Well, not quite that long, but the process has been ongoing for a looooong time and one wonder what, exactly, is taking so long. Earlier this year, glass was installed causing a great deal of excitement that the building might actually be finished before 2050. Alas, there is little visible progress and, in fact, the situation for pedestrians, many of whom now circumvent the construction barricade at one of Brooklyn’s most dangerous intersections and walk in the street, has gotten worse.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

August 1, 2008

The MTA’s un-fare-ness

The Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards gets a dishonorable mention in this week's Brooklyn Paper editorial on the competency deficit at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The MTA sells its assets on the cheap to hand-picked developers and cronies of its well-connected board members rather than selling them on the open market. Atlantic Yards, of course, is the most egregious example of this, with the MTA selling the air rights over its Vanderbilt Rail Yards to Bruce Ratner for $100 million less than its appraised value.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

July 30, 2008

Typo? City/state letter on tax-exempt bonds backdates MTA RFP by three years

Atlantic Yards Report

Maybe it's just a typo. Maybe it's a calculated slip. But there's another misleading element in a letter that, as I and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn have contended, deserves serious scrutiny.

The 5/8/08 letter to the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department from the New York City Industrial Development Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation backdates the issuance of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's request for proposals (RFP) for the Vanderbilt Yard by three years, to 5/24/02.


The MTA's RFP was issued on 5/24/05.

What's the value of the 2002 date, compared to 2005? Well, maybe it's none, given that 2005 still would fall well before the October 2006 cutoff.

Then again, a 2002 date suggests that momentum for the project--which the letter says commenced in 2003--reached back even earlier.

Also, the 2002 date avoids potential consternation should regulators wonder why, if the project began in 2003 and the MOU was signed in February 2005, the Vanderbilt Yard was put out for bid only in May 2005.

That sequencing issue has been at the heart of the AY federal eminent domain case, which was dismissed by a district and appellate court and refused a Supreme Court hearing--but was never really addressed by the courts.


NoLandGrab: Typo or obfuscation? We don't know, but we do know that once the tale-telling starts, it gets easier to do it again and again, and it's been going on with Atlantic Yards since about "May 24, 2002."

Posted by eric at 8:12 AM

July 23, 2008

So Soon? Fares and Tolls Rise in M.T.A. Plan

The NY Times
By William Neuman

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will propose a substantial increase in transit fares and bridge and tunnel tolls next year to help close a widening budget gap of nearly $900 million, according to an official at the authority.

Though the precise amount of the fare and toll increase has yet to be determined, the authority will seek to increase the revenue it gets from those sources by 8 percent. If approved by the authority’s board, the increase would take effect next July and would follow a toll and fare increase in March of this year.

In the more than 100-year history of the subway, the fare has gone up in consecutive years only once before, in 1980 and 1981.


NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, Bruce Ratner's bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards is still $114.5 million below the MTA's own appraisal and $50 million less than the bid submitted by Extell — go figure.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 PM

Hudson Yards: Review of Development Proposal Designs

Noticing New York

Blogger Michael D.D. White contrasts the Yards Hudson and Atlantic, and the results aren't pretty.

Interestingly, the MTA is NOT maximizing the sales price of the land it is selling in the parallel example of Atlantic Yards. Rather than raise more money for capital or operating expenses the MTA is selling its property to the Atlantic Yards developer at a substantial write-down and collecting far less (hundred’s of millions less) than it could. In the case of the Atlantic Yards site the density of the site is being maxed out to an inappropriate degree, but the real estate value of that extra density that is being created with this maxing out is being given to the Forest City Ratner as the developer of the site rather than being captured by the MTA as in the case of Hudson Yards. (See: Friday, June 27, 2008 “No-property-tax status was supposed to raise the price of the Vanderbilt Yard”)

One last thing on Atlantic Yards, vis-a-vis Hudson Yards: The participation of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the other above named political representatives in the Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee letter on Hudson Yards reveals where Speaker Quinn and the others should stand on the Atlantic Yards. They no doubt know this. There are many parallels between the proposed Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards projects so that criticisms of Hudson Yards, which is a relatively good project (a high density project in a high density neighborhood), also apply to Atlantic Yards. At the same time, all the ways in which Atlantic Yards is different from Hudson Yards make Atlantic Yards a substantially worse project, probably the worst project being proposed in the City right now.


Posted by eric at 3:25 PM

July 17, 2008

With Threat of Fare Hike, More Ideas for MTA to Save

The Knickerblogger

How can the MTA demand a fare increase when they are giving money away to billionaires like Bruce Ratner - in down turned economic times, no less?


Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

July 6, 2008

The corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, circa 1845

Atlantic Yards Report


This is a look back at documents and photos of how the Vanderbilt Yards came into existence. A "must read" for train nerds, and a pleasant look at historical online resources.

Check out this post on Whitman's Brooklyn for a look south on Flatbush Avenue crossing Atlantic Avenue. A contemporary photo is below, showing the P.C. Richard/Modell's complex, aka Site 5, the southwest corner of the Atlantic Yards site.

You might wonder: why was the train continuing, rather than stopping at an Atlantic Avenue terminus? Well, according to this LIRR history site, the rail line actually started at the East River. Here's some more history from Arrt's Arrchives, plus a look at the Vanderbilt Yard, aka the Carlton Avenue Freight Yard and Vanderbilt Avenue Freight Yard.


NoLandGrab: Sometimes Atlantic Yards supporters like to refer to the Vanderbilt Yards (which comprise about one-third of the proposed Atlantic Yards Development) in terms like "a hole in the ground." This is generally meant to convey the idea that the entire area is blighted. Here's a reminder that there is a working rail yard there. Any blight in the neighborhood is now courtesy of demolitions by Bruce Ratner.

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

June 27, 2008

No-property-tax status was supposed to raise the price of the Vanderbilt Yard

Atlantic Yards Report

There's another obscured benefit for Forest City Ratner in the bid for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard. In its September 2005 report on Atlantic Yards, the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) stated:
IBO’s estimate of new property tax revenue lost to the arena PILOT does not include a loss of property taxes for the MTA land that would be part of the arena building foot print. The city currently receives no tax payment from the MTA for the rail yard because the MTA, like other state entities, is exempt from local property tax. Under the MTA’s Request for Proposals, any developer acquiring the development rights to the site would probably enter into a long-term lease, leaving the MTA in place as the owner. Therefore, the property would likely remain off the city’s tax roll, resulting in no impact on the city budget. Indeed, the MTA has an incentive to make a deal that maintains the tax exemption in order to maximize the price it receives for the development rights.
(Emphasis added)

That hardly happened. Forest City Ratner paid $100 million in cash, and values its total bid at $379.4 million, though that's questionable. Meanwhile, the developer expects tax breaks worth $800 million, as tax-exempt bonds are repaid by PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes).

It doesn't sound like the MTA maximized much.


NoLandGrab: Not true! They appear to have maximized the sweetness of the deal for Forest City Ratner. Meanwhile, taxpayers and transit riders can expect MTA service cuts — and fare hikes.

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

April 29, 2008

Congestion pricing failure may delay BRT; Flatbush route not yet on the agenda

Atlantic Yards Report


The failure of congestion pricing threw a bit of a wrench in the city's plans for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), suggested as one solution to congestion on Flatbush Avenue, but now apparently several years away.

Though Flatbush is an obvious candidate for such service--which would have a dedicated express lane, fewer stops, offsite payment and "honor system" entrance (subject to random check), staggered stoplights, and back boarding, according to the city's pilot in the Bronx--another obvious candidate, Nostrand Avenue, was selected in 2006 for one-per-borough pilot project. It looks to be about four years away, however.
A PlaNYC "scorecard" clarifies that the other four SBS services are planned to be introduced by 2011. That's likely too late to start up a Flatbush Avenue version by 2010, the unreliable official target date for opening the Atlantic Yards arena, or even 2011, which I consider the likely best-case scenario.

In fact, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority contradicts the PlaNYC document, estimating on its SBS FAQ page that the Nostrand Avenue route would be implemented in 2012. Though that's subject to change, it's a good bet that a Flatbush Avenue route would be at least a year after that.

Would that be in time for an AY arena? Then again, developer Forest City Ratner has six years--after the close of litigation and the transfer of property via eminent domain--to build the arena without penalty.


Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

NYC building boom won't peak for 2-3 yrs -panel

The Guardian
By Joan Gralla

New York City's building boom will not top out until 2010 or 2011 despite the ailing economy because so many billion-dollar public and private projects are under way, a panel said on Monday.

Wall Street is the sun around which the city's economy revolves, but private developers and public agencies have planned $51 billion of projects over the next four years, according to the blue-ribbon panel's report for New York state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

With contractors and skilled workmen in short supply and the prices of steel, concrete, copper and other materials spiraling higher, the state agency convened the panel to find ways to cut costs to avoid having to delay or reduce projects.
So far, Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development, which includes a new basketball stadium for the Nets, is the only project that has said it probably will take longer to finish than first thought because of the sagging economy.


Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

April 24, 2008

MTA head "concerned" about $100M owed by FCR; developer says first tower residential

Atlantic Yards Report

MTAWebinar.jpg Norman Oder tuned in to the MTA's "webinar" and provides some coverage and analysis and parses Forest City Ratner spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt's response to The NY Observer:

The Observer's report also quoted FCR spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt, who stated that the first building to open, along with the arena, would be residential. That means that Building 1, aka Miss Brooklyn, remains on hold until an anchor tenant is found, as the New York Times first reported last month. It also means that, unless certain parts of Building 1 are completed, the arena would open without the Urban Room, the atrium that would serve as a combination building lobby, arena entrance, subway entrance, retail/restaurant space, and public gathering space.


Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

MTA Chief 'Concerned' About $100M Owed for Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer
By Eliot Brown

Metropolitan Transportation Authority executive director Lee Sander seems a bit uncertain about the $100 million that developer Forest City Ratner owes the agency for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project. He had this to say earlier this month in a capital program “webinar” (no, we don’t quite know what that word is either), responding to a question about the MTA’s current capital plan:

There is $100 million associated with the sale of Atlantic Yards, and many of you have read in the newspapers some of the difficulty Forest City is having with that development, so hopefully that will proceed, but we want to make sure that that happens—but we’re concerned about that.

A spokesman for Forest City, Loren Riegelhaupt, said the $100 million would indeed go to the MTA later this year, once the company closes on the deal.


Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

March 29, 2008

On Hudson Yards plan, Times hails "real bidding process"

Atlantic Yards Report

From a New York Times editorial yesterday on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's plan for the Hudson Yards, headlined Finally, a Vision for the West Side:
The M.T.A., we are pleased to say, conducted a real bidding process. That was a refreshing change from years past when it looked as though the yards might be given away in a back-room deal. It would take a lot more vigilance and transparency to ensure that the new Hudson Yards work for all New Yorkers.

And when did the Times editorialize about the not-so-real bidding process for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn, a process that began 18 months after the city and state announced their backing for Forest City Ratner's plan?


Posted by amy at 11:23 AM

March 28, 2008

Take back the rail yards!

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

The Brooklyn Paper calls for a complete "do over:"

The news that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has abandoned his plan to build most of the 16-skyscraper arena, office and residential project is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to this ongoing city- and state-subsidized debacle.

The project was always too big, too reliant on public subsidies and too much a betrayal of sound urban planning to ever be built.

Ratner now blames the souring of the economy as the reason for his failure to get Atlantic Yards done — but our current economic malaise is not entirely to blame; indeed, Ratner was unable to secure an anchor tenant for his Frank Gehry–designed Miss Brooklyn tower going back to 2003, when the economy was booming.
More important, we are troubled by new state documents that show that Ratner could leave the rest of the 22-acre site vacant for decades, thereby creating the urban blight that state officials said he would eliminate.

The state must not let him. The state must take back the development rights over the rail yards and put them out for bid. Doing so would not only cleanse state officials of the Original Sin of Atlantic Yards (namely selling Ratner the air rights for $100 million less than their appraised value), but it would also set right Bruce Ratner’s very wrong project.


Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

News analysis: The Times gives the ESDC a bye

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder oderizes The Times's coverage of the Hudson Yards deal:

A New York Times News Analysis today of the West Side Yards deal, headlined :For Railyards, the Hard Part Is Still Ahead, leaves out some important Atlantic Yards context:

In the end, the project could take well over a decade to complete, and its look could change significantly from the current designs by Helmut Jahn and Peter Walker.

In Brooklyn, the developer Bruce Ratner has already acknowledged that his $4 billion Atlantic Yards project will take longer than the 10 years originally envisioned.

First, the Times should have pointed out that, not only has Ratner acknowledged that the project would take longer than ten years, others in his firm and outside observers had been making the same observation, and that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has given some generous deadlines: 6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years to build the first five towers, and an unspecified amount of time to build the rest.

Also, whatever Yaro says applies equally well to Atlantic Yards. If built, it will change significantly from Frank Gehry's renderings.


Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

March 26, 2008

Tishman Speyer wins Hudson Yards bid

Tishman bid $1.004 billion for rights to the plot, $112 million higher than the offer from The Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

In a reversal of its own sullied tradition, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority today awarded the Hudson Rail Yards to the highest bidder, real estate developer Tishman Speyer.

Tishman Speyer edged out three other development teams to win the fierce competition to develop the Hudson Rail Yards, the 26-acre site on Manhattan’s far West side that is envisioned as an extension of midtown’s business district.

Tishman Speyer bid $1.004 billion for the rights to the plot, where it plans to build 10 million square feet of office space and 3 million square feet of housing while leaving 13 acres of open space. Its offer was $112 million higher than a competing offer from a joint venture of The Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust. That group had lined up Condé Naste Publications as a tenant and its proposed 6.4 million square feet of residential space was the most offered by any developer.

It is expected to cost $1.5 billion to build a platform over the train tracks so construction can begin.


NoLandGrab: How is this railyard deal different from Bruce Ratner's railyard deal? Let's see: high bidder chosen rather than low bidder; $1 billion in midst of failing real estate market vs. $100 million in midst of real estate bubble; city rezoning vs. state override; no eminent domain vs. eminent domain abuse.... Need we go on?

More coverage:

City Room (The New York Times), M.T.A. Votes to Sell West Side Land Rights to Tishman Speyer

The project still faces several prospective hurdles. The $1,004,000,000 deal requires the completion of an agreement over the next 14 days specifying terms and conditions of the deal, and the signing of a formal contract. The slowing economy has prompted some developers, like Bruce C. Ratner, to consider delay the schedule for major developments like the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. And a portion of the rail yards of the Far West Side that would be controlled by Tishman still must undergo a rezoning process that could take up to 18 months., Yardsmania: It's Official!, Yardsmania: OK, So Now What?
The Real Estate, Tishman Speyer Win Not Quite Official
AP, via The International Herald Tribune, Developer Tishman Speyer to build skyscrapers, apartments on New York City waterfront

Posted by eric at 2:25 PM

February 10, 2008

Better Know a Developer: Extell Development Company


Railyards Blog

Extell, formerly Intell Management and Investment Co., has been an NYC real estate player since 1994, although their profile has heightened considerably in the last few years, especially since their name change in 2005. They are steered by CEO Gary Barnett, a former diamond merchant.

The company notably attempted to play the spoiler during the bid process for Atlantic Yards redevelopment in Brooklyn, submitting a proposal that — unlike competitor Forest City Ratner’s controversial, ultimately adopted plan — would not have required the usage of eminent domain, or have included a stadium for the NBA’s Nets. The Real Deal offers a pretty good rundown on the company here.


Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

February 5, 2008

MTA cop tries to stop videographer at Atlantic Yards site

VBYardsRust.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

This past Sunday in Brooklyn was unusually warm. It was a nice day to go out and shoot some video, unless your camera was pointed at the Vanderbilt Yards.

Videographer Katherin McInnis teaches video and photography in San Francisco and is visiting Brooklyn on sabbatical. She told Norman Oder of her encounter with an MTA officer (Video still by Katnerin McInnis).

He attempted to confiscate her camera, questioned whether she was part of an anti-AY organization, and more than once reminded her that the project was proceeding, according to her account.

McInnis plans to file a complaint. Meanwhile, Oder is trying to get the MTA's side of the story.

I called the MTA public affairs office early yesterday afternoon and outlined the incident, as recounted by McInnis, named the officer, asked if there was an incident report, and asked for the MTA policy. I didn't get a response by the end of day, but when one is forthcoming, I’ll add it.


NoLandGrab: In case the MTA doesn't get around to it, NoLandGrab sends a hearty "Welcome to Brooklyn and Prospect Heights" to Katherin McInnis. Also, thanks for helping to remind us camera bugs of our rights.

Posted by steve at 5:30 AM

January 30, 2008

Ravitch: MTA obfuscates full cost of West Side Rail Yards project

Atlantic Yards Report

During a panel discussion last night, Richard Ravitch, former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, criticized how the MTA is going about planning for the Hudson Yards project and the West Side Rail Yards.

Norman Oder was there, and he applies Ravitch's criticism to point out shoddy practices in allocating civic resources for Atlantic Yards:

Imagine if someone like Ravitch had blown the whistle on the "extraordinary infrastructure" loophole in the Atlantic Yards Memorandum of Understanding, which opens the door for increased public spending. Imagine if anyone with civic responsibility beyond some Brooklynites criticized the Bloomberg administration for more than doubling its announced pledge of $100 million to support Atlantic Yards.

Oder also speculates as to how long it might actually take to build Atlantic Yards, based on estimates for the West Side rail yards:

Juliette Michaelson, Senior Planner, Regional Plan Association, suggested that the rail yards will take "two or three decades to be built out."

Given that the project would involve about 12 million square feet of development, as opposed to 8 million square feet for Atlantic Yards, a rough extrapolation suggests that AY would take not the announced decade but 14 to 20 years to build--which is what even those associated with the project acknowledge in unguarded moments.


Posted by steve at 6:32 AM

December 19, 2007

MTA to hike fares, amount Ratner to pay for railyards unchanged

Subway riders will be paying more for unlimited ride Metro cards, yet meanwhile, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's $100-million lowball bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards stands.

The NY Times's City Room blog reports:

After an unusually vigorous and spirited debate, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted at 10:50 a.m. today to raise fares on subways, buses and commuter railroads and tolls on bridges and tunnels.

NoLandGrab: The debate was "unusually vigorous," considering that the MTA board decided on the sale of the railyard to Ratner and prepped a press release before debating and taking a vote.

More from City Room:

The base subway and bus fare will remain $2, but an overwhelming majority of riders — who use unlimited-ride MetroCards or get a discount for buying multiple rides at once — will have to pay more, starting on March 2. The costs of unlimited-ride cards will rise to $81 from $76 for the 30-day card and to $25 from $24 for the 7-day card; a new 14-day card will be sold for $47.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 PM

December 12, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...

Queens Crap, Doctoroff reflects
"Crappy" reacts to Deputy Dan's love of ULURP (NYC's local land use review process):

ULURP is a joke, Dan. Deals are "done" before they even get to the community board level. That's probably why you're such a big fan of it.

not another f*cking blog, dysfunctional

"Atlantic Yards" is among the litany of reasons the MTA is dysfunctional:

then there's the fact that they've practically given away the rights to develop over the Vanderbilt Yard in Prospect Heights Brooklyn for the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards project. that's 100's of millions of dollars that could have been used to avoid a fare hike. unfortunately, Atlantic Yards isn't the first (and, i fear) not the last time that the MTA did not get fair market value for some very rare and valuable real estate. it appears that the MTA is trying to atone for their Atlantic Yards sins by handling the development over the Hudson Yards in Manhattan in what seems to be a rational, functional and considerate fashion. only time will tell, though.

Curbed, Change of Heart

Actually, what [Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff] says is "If it happened again, and the state were to ask" he'd encourage it not to do an end run around the city.

NoLandGrab: In hindsight, running the ball straight up the middle would have given Ratner more pr cover and probably shaved a few months off the process.

The Knickerblogger, Passenger Ships Didn't Have Lifeboats Before the Titanic, Why Have Them Now?
"Knickerblogger" considers the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) brush-off of calls to deal with security concerns for Bruce Ratner's arena plan, and the agency's screwed up logic.

NoLandGrab: Though we're pretty sure that passenger ships DID have life boats before the Titanic, according to the ESDC's thinking, drivers don't really need that extra stuff like seatbelts and airbags.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

December 10, 2007

Lottery? ACORN's Partner Ratner Has MTA's Money

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

While ACORN's Bertha Lewis jokes about her $115 million MegaMillions-jackpot plan for staving off MTA fare hikes, DDDB points out that the MTA left that same amount on the table when it agreed to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to developer Forest City Ratner for $114.5 million less than what its own appraiser said the land was worth.


NoLandGrab: As Bruce Ratner well knows, it helps to be the only one really in it to win it.

Posted by lumi at 2:15 PM

November 21, 2007

Public input sought! A stop at the West Side yards storefront gallery

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder the Mad Overkiller "wandered" over to the exhibit of Hudson Yards proposals:

Last night I wandered over to the corner of 43rd and Vanderbilt Avenue to see the storefront exhibit set up by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) featuring scale models, videos, and other information provided by the five bidders for the Hudson Yards (aka West Side yards) development project.


Frankly, given the information available, it's almost impossible for a layperson to sort through the proposals. Someone should produce a matrix comparing key aspects of the project. Also, though it may have been because I stopped by late in the day, there were only two handouts, such as the brochure unfolded below from Brookfield Properties.

Snark aside, here's the point:

Still, the fact that public opinion is being solicited before a developer is anointed offers a distinct contrast to the sequence involving the Atlantic Yards project. And a layperson can at least offer an opinion about the general design of each proposals.

That doesn't mean the MTA will listen to comments offered in the brochure pictured above, or that public input will truly shape the project. Or that these massive projects are the best alternatives. Then again, the developers responded to a lengthy Request for Proposals, far more detailed than that belatedly issued for the MTA's Vanderbilt yard 18 months after Forest City Ratner's project for that property was endorsed by the city and state.

In other words, in comparison to the sequence involving Atlantic Yards, anything that suggests more transparency inevitably looks somewhat better.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

November 20, 2007

What's right with this picture? For West Side yards, the market speaks

HudsonYardsProposals-NYTa.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

What a difference a few years make. The city's market-driven effort to develop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's West Side yards continues in blinding contrast to its fait accompli with the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn.

Four years ago, the city announced its support of a deal for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project over and beyond the railyard; crucially, the latter would occupy less than 40 percent of the site. The New York Times offered further anointment with a rapturous review (A Garden of Eden Grows in Brooklyn) by architecture critic Herbert Muschamp.

But, hey, that's no way to develop railyards, is it? PlaNYC 2030 says there should be much more community consultation. Real estate usually generates a better deal when there's an open bidding process. And the design of megaprojects generally improves when there's a detailed request for proposals and an opportunity for the public and interested parties to weigh in.

So today it was big news that five developers had released their plans for the Hudson Yards.

Norman Oder explains how the response to develop the Hudson Yards:



NoLandGrab: Is it just us, or is anyone else thinking that Forest City didn't submit a bid for the Hudson Yards because it WASN'T a backroom deal?

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

November 19, 2007

A "Speaking" Market and a Gagged Market

HudsonYardsProposals.jpg From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's response to the latest news on the Hudson Yards Request for Proposals (RFP):

Yes, the MTA issued a legitimate RFP and has reeled in five legitimate proposals..."the market speaking." That came after the demise of the Jets' stadium, which of course never involved an RFP.

As we know, the 8.3 acre Vanderbilt rail yards in Brooklyn were "put up for bid" when the MTA issued a sham RFP in May 2005, ending in granting the development rights to the low bidder--Forest City Ratner.

The sham RFP process was undertaken in such a way precisely to eliminate the market from speaking in such a way that Deputy Mayor Doctoroff celebrates today on the west side.

Click here to read the rest of the response, including a list of what might have been if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had issued a serious RFP for Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yards.

amNY, Possible plans for Hudson Yards unveiled
MetroNY, Five visions for new West Side
NY Daily News, Five companies bid to remake six blocks of Hudson Yards area
The NY Sun, Proposals for Hudson Yards Reach High, Green

Posted by lumi at 6:07 PM

October 9, 2007

About those Hudson Yards bids, and the Vanderbilt Yard flashback

Atlantic Yards Report

Anticipation over the deadline to submit bids for the development rights for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Hudson Railyards in Manhattan has sparked a moment of reflection amongst Atlantic Yards watchdogs.

From Crain's New York Business:

About the only certainty as developers put the finishing touches on bids for the Hudson Rail Yards is that the offer, due Oct. 11, will top the $500 million that the city was willing to pay when it wanted to put a football stadium there. ...An appraisal commissioned last year by the MTA valued the yards at $2.74 billion. The agency plans another appraisal to account for current market conditions, but hasn't scheduled it yet.

Remember, the MTA's appraiser valued the Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn at $214.5 million. Some 18 months after Forest City Ratner was endorsed by the city and state political establishment to get the site, the MTA put it out for bids. Forest City bid $50 million in cash; the only other bidder, Extell Development Co., bid $150 million.

The MTA decided to negotiate exclusively with Forest City Ratner, which upped the cash component to $100 million. FCR argues that the total package should be analyzed; it valued the bid at $329.4 million dollars outside of the cash component.

(In the lawsuit challenging eminent domain, the complaint states that the MTA refused to answer technical questions from Extell; it's unclear whether that developer was able to present a complete package regarding railyard improvements. Perhaps we'll hear about that in the oral argument today.)


NoLandGrab: The record clearly illustrates that the MTA knows how to safeguard the public interest by maximizing the value of its real estate assets. The contrast between the disposition of the Hudson Yards and the Vanderbilt Yards in Brooklyn speaks for itself.

It would be interesting to find out how much developer Bruce Ratner paid for the development rights for the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Posted by lumi at 8:10 AM

October 8, 2007


...what might have happened if the Metropolitan Transporation Authority (MTA) had issued a good-faith RFP for the Vanderbilt Railyards at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal?

VanderbiltYards-aerial.jpg Crain's, Deadline looms for rail yard bidders

About the only certainty as developers put the finishing touches on bids for the Hudson Rail Yards is that the offer, due Oct. 11, will top the $500 million that the city was willing to pay when it wanted to put a football stadium there.

Meanwhile, the MTA is grousing about not being able to fund the potential boost in ridership anticipated by Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. Go figure...

The NY Times, M.T.A. Says Mayor’s Plan to Ease Traffic Will Cost $767 Million to Accomplish

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to ease traffic congestion by charging motorists who drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for new bus and subway services and mass transit improvements to accommodate tens of thousands of new riders, transportation officials say.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in a report to a commission created to evaluate the mayor’s plan, estimated that expanded transit service and capital improvements for city and suburban riders who would give up their cars to get into Manhattan over the next five years would cost $767 million.

Posted by lumi at 10:40 PM

September 22, 2007

Sunday is (belated) clean-up day on Pacific Street


Atlantic Yards Report

It's an idea whose time has come and Atlantic Yards opponents wishing to make a very good point could have jumped on it even sooner: if the government won't clean up the overgrown brush and other mess on Pacific Street next to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's "blighted" Vanderbilt Yard, then it's time for citizens to do so.
The state punted

Remember, in comments last year on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, several commenters criticized city agencies and the MTA for failing "to maintain the appearance of the rail yards and [ignoring] local residents when we requested such attention."

The response from the Empire State Development Corporation, in toto, ignored the issue of responsibility:
Chapter 1, “Project Description,” and Chapter 3, “Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy,” describe in detail the present condition of the project site, including the Vanderbilt Yard.


Posted by amy at 8:24 PM

August 8, 2007

Closing the MTA Budget Gap

Daily Voice [The Village Voice blog]
By Michael Clancy


When the MTA announced looming fare hikes last month, it was noted here that the MTA's decision to let Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards, have the Vanderbilt Rail Yards for $100 million was looking like a poor choice. The MTA's own appraisal valued the land at $214 million. And why give away land at a huge discount during a real estate boom with deficits looming?

Well, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. says he's crunched the MTA's numbers and identified enough potential streams of new revenue—$728 million—to close the gap for one year and narrow it in the next, and hopefully stave off a fare hike, at least, for a little while.

“There is no need for a fare increase in 2008,” Thompson said in the report,“Putting the Brakes on the Bus and Subway Fare: Options for Eliminating Fare Increases in 2008 and 2009.” “Before the MTA even begins to consider higher fares and tolls, the State and the City must provide additional funding to MTA New York City Transit that it is rightly owed."


NoLandGrab: Based upon his statements, you would think that NYC Comptroller Thompson would suggest that the MTA get top dollar for sale of public property. Interestingly, the Atlantic Yards supporter didn't add this suggestion to his list of things to do to stave off a fare hike.

More at Crain's NY Business, "Comptroller lambastes fare hikes."

In a report titled "Putting the Brakes on the Bus and Subway Fare," Mr. Thompson identified six sources of local revenue that could collectively generate $728 million annually for the MTA.

"We simply must look at any and all sources of revenue that can be applied to eliminate - or at least to minimize - any fare or toll increase in the immediate future," Mr. Thompson said.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

July 27, 2007

Marty’s blind spot

The Brooklyn Paper

MartyMarkowtiz-MP.jpg While the Brooklyn Borough President rails against a transit fare hike, he can't say enough nice things about the sweetheart deal between Bruce Ratner and the MTA (isn't that's OUR MONEY TOO?):

The Beep, a strong supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, put out an angry press release on Wednesday railing against a Metropolitan Transportation Authority plan to cover an expected $300-million deficit next year by hiking subway fares by 10 percent.

Here’s where the fancy footwork comes in.

Markowitz’s beloved Atlantic Yards project is largely being built over land that the MTA sold to Ratner in 2005 for a mere $100 million — $114 million less than the MTA’s own appraisal said the development rights were worth. In a truly open market, those rights might have even gone for more.

Not only did Markowitz not object to the MTA’s fare-busting giveaway, he loudly supported it, calling it “good for Brooklyn.”


Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

July 26, 2007

MTA Gets Set to Raise Fares

The Villiage Voice
By Michael Clancy

When it comes to subway and bus fare increases, it isn't looking so much as a question of "if" but questions of "how much" and "when." Facing looming budget deficits, MTA executive director Eliot G. Sander said on Wednesday that the agency would seek to increase revenues from trains and buses, commuter trains, and bridge and tunnel tolls by 6.5 percent.
Not that an extra $100 million would solve the problem, but how's the MTA decision to let Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards, have the Vanderbilt Rail Yards for $100 million looking these days? The MTA's own appraisal valued the land at $214 million—riders aren't get that discount.


NoLandGrab: We couldn't have said it better.

Here's some other local coverage about the MTA fare hike, none of which mention the fact that the MTA "negotiated exclusively" with Ratner to salvage his lowball bid, which was still the lowest bid when the deal was sealed:

NY Daily News, Look out for Regular Joes
Columnist Michael Daly explains:

If Eliot Mess [Spitzer] wants to make amends for smearing the Senate majority leader for using state helicopters, he could step in and devise a way to stave off a subway fare hike.

NoLandGrab: He could also regain some of his reformer cred by getting serious about Atlantic Yards.

The NY Times, Despite Surplus of $1 Billion, M.T.A. Says Increases Loom

MetroNY, Farebox hit

MetroNY, Striking a fiscal balance
From an interview with MTA chief Elliot Sander:

How much influence can riders expect to have at the hearings?

I previously served as a member of the Taxi & Limousine Commission. We heard input through the hearings process, and we significantly changed what we did when we increased the taxi fare. So I can point to specific examples where I have acted differently in response to public hearings. We also look forward to comments on the Web site — the plan is on the Web site ( When you look at things like the passenger report card that we put out, we’re trying to demonstrate a track record that we do listen. Sometimes we’re able to implement changes, sometimes not.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards critics did not find hearings to be very productive or fruitful, especially when decisions are made behind closed doors and the MTA negotiated exclusively with Ratner.

amNY, MTA proposes fare hikes

While the MTA has been riding a real estate boom, which yielded a surplus of about $940 million last year, the agency predicts a deficit next year of $965 million, growing to $2.1 billion in 2011 -- if fares and tolls do not increase.

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

July 13, 2007

Early Steps in the Transformation of Hudson Yards

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

The State is planning on issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for development over the Hudson Yards:

The state is expected to invite developers to submit plans for up to about 12 million square feet of new commercial and residential development and a generous amount of open space — by contrast, Brooklyn’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project is planned to have 8 million square feet — allowing for a giant new complex to sprout in a corner of the rapidly transforming Hudson Yards district.


NoLandGrab: "By contrast" the State of New York NEVER issued an RFP for the Vanderbilt Yards until after the "Atlantic Yards" project was announced.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

June 28, 2007

Bloomberg on subways ("not that crowded"), Doctoroff, and 421-a

Atlantic Yards Report

The Mayor casts aside criticism about crowded subways and congestion pricing during an interview at a breakfast presented by Crain's New York Business. According to Mayor Bloomberg, the subways are crowded if you mind standing or are too lazy to get up earlier.

Norman Oder asked the Mayor what he thought about the 421-a reform bill passed last week by the State Assembly:

After his speech and the public interview conducted by David and Lehrer, Bloomberg took some questions from the press. I asked his views on the reform of the 421-a tax break passed by the State Legislature, specifically the expansion of the "exclusion zone" and the special break for the Atlantic Yards project.

In his answer, he ignored the Atlantic Yards question but simply said that the reform passed last December by the City Council struck the right balance.


Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

June 27, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...

BrooklynSkyline-VS.jpgVelvet Sea, Another Perspective on Atlantic Yards
Photographic evidence that Prospect Heights is NOT in Downtown Brooklyn.

Photos of the Brooklyn skyline taken from Williamsburgh provides additional perspective on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

As you can see below, the [Williamsburgh Savings Bank] tower is a bit of a distance away from the downtown Brooklyn business core of highrises, seen just beyond the Williamsburg Bridge on the right hand side in this shot.

The Knickerblogger, ESDC Math= Adding 16000 residents and an arena won't affect subway capacity

...of course, as with everything else in Bruce Ratner's corrupt fantasy world, the reality is another story (four of the over crowded lines mentioned stop at Atlantic Avenue:

News of this afternoon's anti-eminent domain abuse demonstration and press conference at City Hall is spreading over the internet:

HandsOff-BIB.jpgLOHO 10002, Important Events This Week

Wednesday, June 27, 1 pm
Steps of City Hall
Anti-displacement groups throughout the city join to protest eminent domain abuse, marking the second-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision which allowed cities to use eminent domain to evict residents and destroy their homes to benefit a private development. Demonstration organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the neighborhood group opposing Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development plan.

Brit in Brooklyn, Big Eminent Domain Rally at City Hall, Wednesday.

Historic Districts Council Newsstand, A Rally, a Letter and a Lecture - all to help save Brooklyn

News of the anti-eminent domain rally, a letter-writing campaign to Governor Spitzer and a lecture on PlaNYC in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

May 25, 2007

Prospect Heights has the ride stuff

NY Daily News
By Laura Albanese


Straphangers' paradise looks a lot like Prospect Heights.

The bustling locale was tops in the Brooklyn News' list for best commuter neighborhood - edging out downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights as the most rider-friendly place in the borough. The list is based on location, variety of available trains, rush-hour commute and regularity of service.

The designation is due largely to the Atlantic Ave. subway hub in Prospect Heights.


NoLandGrab: If the Daily News thinks the station is "paradise" now, how about if Atlantic Yards adds another 29,000 subway rides per day (see, NY Daily News, "Arena concerns hit home," March 2, 2004)?

Posted by lumi at 8:28 PM

May 22, 2007

Atlantic Yards Part Three: The Electric Car Shop

Nathan Kensinger made it down to the bowels of the Vanderbilt Yards again, and this time he brought along photographer Nate Dorr for backup.

Click here to check out the complete set of eerie post-apocalyptic photos from Part III of Kensinger's series on Atlantic Yards.

Underneath Atlantic Avenue is an abandoned "Electric Car Shop." Used to repair Long Island Railroad trains, it sits in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards development site, inside the Vanderbilt Railyards. Empty lunch rooms (below), abandoned offices, ransacked archives, all with the lights still on. The train yard and nearby tunnels are still in use by the Long Island Railroad, but this shop seems to have been empty for years.

From Dorr's flickr photostream:

What lies beneath the soon-to-be Atlantic Yards? Besides the LIRR tunnels, there's an extensive electric train workshop complete with long workspace, offices, and an eerie break room. As construction picks up, this space (besides the tracks themselves) will likely disappear completely, replaced by foundations and parking garages, so we decided bring the borrough a closer look before that happens.


Posted by lumi at 11:07 AM

May 21, 2007

Never mind, says NYCT: B63 reroute, Fifth Avenue closing won't happen as announced

Another Atlantic Yards Report scoop.

Never mind the B63 reroute, we were just taking orders from Ratner, sez NYCT.

Remember that April 9 letter from New York City Transit (NYCT) to Brooklyn Community Board 6 regarding plans to revise service on the northbound B63 bus route? [link]

It was supposed to be implemented on May 27, in response to the demapping of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues "in the near future" for the Atlantic Yards project, according to NYCT's Lois Tendler.

Never mind. It's not happening this week. NYCT apparently was taking cues from developer Forest City Ratner more than from fellow involved agencies.

Click here to read how a governmental agency take orders from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and fesses up when its cover is blown.

Posted by lumi at 8:58 AM

May 11, 2007

A peek down below

MTA wins ethics award. Really.

By Patrick Arden

Here's a good one:

The MTA won the Theodore Roosevelt Ethics Award yesterday, presented by the state ethics commission. The agency wasn’t picked “just for meeting the usual criteria,” explained chair John D. Feerick. “This year the award also recognizes the turnaround that has occurred at the agency.” In his brief time as governor from 1899 to 1900, Roosevelt earned a reputation for exposing corruption.


NoLandGrab: If you don't know the history, click here.

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

May 9, 2007

MTA Chairman, in Charge During 2005 Strike, Is Stepping Down

AP, via 1010 WINS News Radio

An article on the resignation of MTA Chairperson Peter Kalikow turns to a local group for some perspective on his legacy:

The Straphangers Campaign, a riders' advocacy group, gave Kalikow mixed ratings for his stewardship of the MTA.

The group said Kalikow's achievements included a $21.3 billion five-year capital rebuilding program and more transparent budget-making process. On the debit side, the straphangers said, he initially agreed to sell development rights to the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the far West Side in Manhattan for less than the MTA's own appraiser said they were worth.

MEDIA ALERT: "Atlantic Yards" is Bruce Ratner's name for the entire 22-acre project, which includes the eight-acre Vanderbilt Yards.

In case you're wondering, Ratner's lowball bid was $50 million lower than the competing bid by development company Extell.

The MTA eventually accepted Ratner's bid, citing the added value of track improvements. The dirty little secret that most reporters don't understand is that "track improvements" is a euphemism for "we have to move the tracks to make room for the arena 'bowl.'"

Such lack of transparency and wholesale capitulation to developers, without regard for the MTA's bottom line, will remain the legacy of outgoing Chairman Peter Kalikow.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

May 7, 2007

Kalikow To Resign as M.T.A. Chairman; Sander Will Stay Put

The New York Observer
By Matthew Schuerman


Today is the day Governor Spitzer has been waiting for: Peter Kalikow plans to announce that he is resigning as chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to a state official.


NoLandGrab: Brooklynites who keep a close eye on Atlantic Yards will always remember Kalikow for his baffling defense of Bruce Ratner's lowball bid for the MTA's Vanderbilt Railyards.

When asked why the MTA accepted an offer that was less than half the appraised value, Kalikow said the $214.5 million appraised value of the Vanderbilt Yards "is just some guy's idea of what it's worth."

Searching for something nice to say about Kalikow, we defitnitely believe that Kalikow is "some guy." The question is will there be pork production as usual in Albany once he's gone?

Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM

April 26, 2007

The Atlantic Yards - Part Two

VanderbiltYardsTunnel.jpgNathan Kensinger posted more amazing photos from his below-ground tour of the footprint of the Atlantic Yards.


Click here for Part I, where Kensinger defends his use of the term "The Atlantic Yards."

As for the text, I think it is appropriate to continue using the name "Atlantic Yards" here, if only to help clarify that these photographs are from a potential construction site and not just a rail yard.

NoLandGrab: The only problem with the looser lexicon is that most New Yorkers don't know the difference, and the Ratner brand name, "The Atlantic Yards," takes on a life of its own as in yesterday's Gothamist post referencing Kensinger's latest crop of photos:

Nathan Kensinger found his way into the tunnels underneath Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards...

Posted by lumi at 10:32 AM

April 23, 2007

Atlantic Yards Report on PlaNYC


The silence of PlaNYC regarding Atlantic Yards (and the right way to develop railyards)

atlanticyardssh.gifNorman Oder scours the Housing section of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC for signs of Atlantic Yards:

Yesterday, when discussing PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York, Mayor Mike Bloomberg called congestion pricing "the elephant in the room." When it comes to the housing section of the plan, however, the elephant in the room is Atlantic Yards.
While numerous examples of past, present, and future projects are provided in the Housing chapter, Atlantic Yards is conspicuously unmentioned.

Given that the project remains high on the mayoral agenda, the omission is curious. Is Atlantic Yards so controversial that it's wise to avoid it?

Or has the production of the new plan pointed out the flaws in the process that led to Atlantic Yards? Indeed, the report recomments a planning process before decking over a railyard--a distinct contrast to the city's embrace of one developer's plan for the Vanderbilt Yard at the heart of the Atlantic Yards plan.

Congestion pricing plan announced; backlash continues

Is congestion pricing the "elephant in the room?" Norman Oder looks at the plan and the implications on Atlantic Yards:

But the big one is a congestion pricing pilot scheduled to begin by Spring 2009, aimed to charge drivers who enter the Central Business District in Manhattan in certain hours. The money would be directed toward improving public transit and thus offer opportunities to those most burdened by the charge, though obviously the transition period could be dicey.
The concept gains support from left-ish transportation advocates (who are holding a rally at 10:30 a.m. today, noting that the mayor's plan results in "reducing car use and giving more space and priority to bus riders, pedestrians and bicycles"), wonky transportation analysts, and business groups.

It has been opposed by outer borough politicians and officials, mindful that it would hit some of their constituents--who lack good public transit access to Manhattan--the hardest. It's also been opposed by trucking companies and garage owners.

Congestion pricing is seen as necessary for the Atlantic Yards plan to have a ghost of a chance, though political backers of the plan like Borough President Marty Markowitz, as well as developer Forest City Ratner, have remained quiet about the issue.

Flatbush Avenue BRT: not until 2015?


While the city plans to pilot five bus rapid transit routes, one in each borough, in the next few years, the first one in Brooklyn would be Nostrand Avenue. A second round of five routes, likely including Flatbush Avenue, would not be completed until 2015, according to p. 4 of Appendix B to the mayor's PlaNYC report, issued yesterday.

There may be room for certain routes in the second round, including Flatbush Avenue, to open before that date. Still, transportation advocates believe that BRT is part of a package, including congestion pricing (which the city hopes to begin by Spring 2009) crucial to make any Atlantic Yards transportation plan work. The arena is scheduled to open in 2009, though that schedule seems unlikely.

City plans new push for solar energy; could "solar zoning" emerge?


New York City's energy-related initiatives within PlanNYC2030 include a new push for solar energy.
Might the city entertain the notion of "solar zoning"? No such proposal is specified; however, the exploration of the tension between scale and solar likely will increase.

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

April 19, 2007

Know A Good Fence?

Vanderbilt Yards from Dope on the Slope:


More photos from Dopey Slopey's flickr photostream here.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

April 18, 2007

Railyard photos by Daniel A. Norman

There are a couple more cool photos of trains in the Vanderbilt Railyards by Daniel Norman posted on two of his photo blogs.

Brooklyn Photographer, Above the Train Yard, Brooklyn NYC


brooklyn lens, Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn, NYC


Daniel A. Norman's flickr page

Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

April 12, 2007

B63 rerouted for demapping of 5th Avenue

The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) has yet to come up with a comprehensive traffic management plan for Central Brooklyn, but no worries, they're on the ball when it comes to getting stuff done in advance of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

This, from a letter from the MTA regarding the impending demapping of 5th Avenue and changes in the B63 bus route:

This is to inform you of NYC Transit's service revision to the northbound B63 bus route in Downtown Brooklyn.... This reroute will take effect upon the closure and de-mapping of 5th Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue in the near future.

As you are aware, a short segment of 5th Avenue, from Flatbush Avenue to Atlantic Avenue, will be de-mapped as a result of the construction of Atlantic Yards Arena.
The date of implementation of this reroute is expected to be May 27, 2007.

Craig Hammerman, District Manager for CB6, added in an email distributing the MTA notice:

Had there been an opportunity to discuss this with either agency, I'm confident that someone would have pointed out that by eliminating the only B63 bus stop on the eastside of Flatbush Avenue they would now require all northbound B63 riders to have to cross Flatbush Avenue to get to the Atlantic Center, Atlantic Terminal, future Atlantic Yards, and any other destinations on the eastside of Flatbush Avenue.)

Download the full MTA letter and map (PDF) from the CB6 website.

Q: Why the hurry to de-map streets?

Also, are we supposed to believe that DOT is poised to de-map streets, but have not commenced with other planning for Atlantic Yards, such as converting 6th & 7th Avenues to one-way thoroughfares?

Posted by lumi at 4:56 PM

March 28, 2007

Yankee station costs climbing?

By Patrick Arden

There's a lot of handwringing going on in the Bronx over how to cover the "projected $15 million to $30 million shortfall" for the new Metro-North station at Yankee Stadium.

Last April, the MTA board had approved $40 million for the station to serve Yankee Stadium.

“Where are those Yankees?” wondered rider advocate Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “We always thought the team should chip in when the station was at $40 million. But with the inevitable increased cost, the very profitable franchise should be helping.

“The MTA is broke, and the idea that they will unendingly fund a Metro-North station is just wrong. The Yankees are going to benefit from it, and they should step up to the plate and participate.”

Click here to read the rest of the article, including Russianoff's highly excellent idea for squeezing more money out of the tight-fisted Steinbrenner.

NoLandGrab: We bring you this article to point out that there isn't any such handwringing with the Atlantic Yards project.

Part of Bruce Ratner's winning low-ball bid for the railyards is the "added value" of station infrastructure improvements. However:

  • those improvements were never requested by the MTA,
  • moving the tracks to make way for the arena leaves no room for a future AirTrain between JFK and Lower Manhattan,
  • Bruce Ratner isn't paying for the improvements out of his own pocket, and
  • any shortfalls are covered under "extraordinary infrastructure costs" and will be paid for by the taxpayers of the City of NY, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Mayor and Ratner.

This MOU is a blank check to cover just such shortfalls that have "shockingly" materialized in the Yankee Stadium Metro-North station.

Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

February 21, 2007

Forest City Works, But Does Not Own

The Real Estate Observer

Reporter Matthew Schuerman confirms that Ratner is starting work on the Vanderbilt Railyards before actually closing the deal with the MTA:

Forest City Ratner still does not own the 8-acre rail yard that will form the backbone of its Atlantic Yards project, but that did not keep the company from starting "preparatory work" on Tuesday.

The developer agreed to buy the property from the M.T.A. back in September 2005 for $100 million, but there are some "technical issues" that have yet to be resolved before closing the deal, M.T.A. spokesman Sam Zambuto told The Real Estate.

"At this point, there is no time-frame set for closing the deal," he said.

Though the deal hasn't closed, and the MTA claims that there is no timeframe, the MTA spokesman called back to add that there is nothing in the deal that would preclude both parties from closing before lawsuits were resolved.


Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

November 13, 2006

Spitzer: MTA Fare Hikes Should Be "Last Resort"


[Governor-elect Eliot] Spitzer says he plans to review the agency's budget and financial plan during his transition, and he says while he wants to improve relations with bus and subway workers, it's also important that they help lower costs.


NoLandGrab: The MTA has been walking around with a "Reform Me" sign taped to its back for years now. The state agency has been making the public dizzy, vacillating between pleading poverty to justify fare hikes and union givebacks and announcing surprise surpluses, which allow for habitual real estate giveaways.

Is it any wonder that the MTA got caught with two sets of books?

Here's an idea for Spitzer, force the MTA to sell real estate to the highest bidder, (not the lowest, duh!).

Posted by lumi at 10:42 AM

October 26, 2006

Are You Ready For 50K New Neighbors?

Brooklyn Downtown Star

According to study commissioned by the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and made public last week, "Sunnyside Yards is the city's single greatest opportunity to increase the housing supply and simultaneously improve the quality of the public realm."

The 90-page report, written by the consulting firm Alex Garvin & Associates, described several opportunities throughout Brooklyn and Queens to platform over railyards and highways to create more precious New York City real estate.

Councilmember Eric Gioia is looking forward to development of the Sunnyside Yards:

In fact, he has even tried to lure Bruce Ratner's Nets arena to that site instead of the Prospect Heights railyards, but Ratner's people have so far told Gioia no way. The Prospect Heights location was conspicuously absent from the Garvin study of platform opportunities, even though four other sites in Brooklyn were included.


NoLandGrab: The article is referring to the Vanderbilt Yards, the largest chunk of land in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Posted by lumi at 11:13 PM

September 27, 2006

Pact Reached to Redevelop Far West Side

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

The Bloomberg administration is giving up on its plan to buy the development rights over the West Side railyards from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for $500 million.

Instead, under a new proposal worked out over the past week, the city and the authority would do what critics said they should have done in the first place: rezone the 13-acre railyard on the west side of 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd Streets for high-rise development and sell it to a developer through a bidding process. In addition, the MTA will be applying the same process to the Vanderbilt Railyards in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: OK, we made up the last part. It does make sense though, doesn't it?

Posted by lumi at 11:15 AM

September 20, 2006

MTA Loses Mind, Plans Big Service Cuts

OnNYTurf concludes that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is losing its "mind," as the agency makes plans for service cuts due to a budget crunch. The public is supposed to "get on board," even after the state agency was caught with two sets of books, gave away free rides during last December's busy tourist season and sealed deals with developers, like Bruce Ratner, after phony "open" bidding processes.


Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

September 15, 2006

MTA: Hudson Yards

HudsonYards02.jpgTossing the MTA's Hudson Yards around like a political football for three seasons has exposed the surreal nature of NY State's public authorities.

Gone are the bad ole days when the MTA was able to quietly give away development rights, like the deal scored by Bruce Ratner for the Atlantic Terminal mall. The City and State overreached on the West Side Stadium deal and now the "smell test" is being applied to every move to strike a deal for the Hudson Railyards.

Meanwhile, it stinks in Brooklyn, as Bruce Ratner's low bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards still stands.

Here's the coverage on yesterday's Hudson Yards hearing, at which Assemblymember Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) grilled MTA chief Peter Kalikow for over an hour:
Metro NY, MTA’s ‘smell test’
NY Daily News, Railyards deal not on track
NY Sun, Assembly Member Wants Hudson Rail Yards Opened Up to Bids From Private Developers
WNYC, Kalikow Asked to Consider Other Bids for West Side Rail Yards

Posted by lumi at 8:46 AM

September 3, 2006

Are Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Rail Yards Chopped Liver?

There is a huge power and money struggle going on over the West Side's Hudson Yards. The MTA has just appraised those yards at 3 times the value that the City is offering the transportation authority.
Well, as we know Forest City Ratner offered the MTA $100 million for the Vanderbilt Yards–the 8.3-acre active rail yard that makes up about 37% of the acreage in Ratner's 22-acre "Atlantic Yards" proposal. The Extell Development Company offered $150 million. The MTA appraised Vanderbilt Yards at $214.5 million. ...
We are looking for some consistency here. And while we are at it, why isn't (or hasn't) the City offering to buy the Vanderbilt Yards, platform them and sell it off to developers? If that makes sense on the West Side it certainly makes sense at the real estate treasure going east from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic.


Posted by lumi at 5:53 PM

July 24, 2006

TWU President Pushes MTA To Delay Vote On Development Rights of Hudson Rail Yards

The NY Sun
By David Lombino

The president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, Roger Toussaint, and the staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, Gene Russianoff, have asked the MTA chairman, Peter Kalikow, to postpone a vote, which could come at a board meeting Wednesday.

“If the property is sold for significantly less than it’s worth, that could mean hundreds of millions less for new subway cars, buses, commuter rail trains, station rehabilitations, and infrastructure, such as track and signals,” Mr. Toussaint and Mr. Russianoff said in a letter.


NoLandGrab: Where were these powerful voices when the MTA accepted the lowest bidder and awarded the Vanderbilt Railyards to Bruce Ratner?

Posted by lumi at 11:55 AM

July 14, 2006

Ask MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow

Ever want to know why the MTA repeatedly accepts the low bid for its pre-packaged real estate giveaways? Now you can ask the MTA Meister, Peter Kalikow.

Will from OnNYTurf posted this item regarding

Well you are not going to believe this, but it looks like Peter Kalikow is ready to take your questions. He and the DailyNews are running an Ask-The-Asshat feature where you can email him questions and the DailyNews will print the softballs with his boring answers.

Given that they announced this on a Friday the email account probably won't get shut down with complaints until 10 am Monday.

More details from .

Posted by lumi at 9:57 PM

February 11, 2006

Ratner’s adviser will advise MTA

Brooklyn Papers:

One of the eight brokers hired last week by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to assess properties is none other than Mary Ann Tighe, a longtime adviser to Forest City Ratner.

Currently, Tighe finds commercial tenants at the tower that FCR is building for the New York Times, as well as at Metrotech in Downtown Brooklyn, another FCR site.

And her spokesman said Tighe has no plans to leave the FCR payroll.


Posted by amy at 3:20 PM

February 8, 2006

Two commercial real estate firms, the MTA, and inevitable Forest City Ratner ties

TimesRatnerReport reacts to the The Brooklyn Daily Eagle article, "MTA Names Real Estate Firm Advisors" (login required).

Fortunately for Ratner, the MTA has hired consultants to help "assess the MTA’s real estate portfolio and create and execute a program to maximize the properties’ revenue potential," AFTER the two parties struck a deal for the Vanderbilt Railyards.

TimesRatnerReporter Norman Oder notes that there are connections between the two firms, Massey Knakal Realty Services and CB Richard Ellis, and Forest City Ratner.

The business relationship with CB Richard Ellis, and especially CEO Mary Ann Tighe, is closer. CBRE is theexclusive leasing agent for the office portion of the proposed Ridge Hill Village development in Yonkers, NY.

Tighe served as agent for Forest City Ratner on leasing of the Bank of New York tower at Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal mall in Brooklyn. Also, representing the New York Times Company, Tighe, according to the firm web site, "arranged a network of joint ventures enabling the construction of a new 1.5 million square foot tower at 8th Avenue and 41st Street...The transaction included a joint venture between NYTC and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), which becomes 2 condominium interests upon construction completion..."


NoLandGrab: Maybe Norman Oder can save himself and his readers a lot of time by doing an article on who is NOT in on the fix.

Posted by lumi at 10:02 AM

January 16, 2006

Governor Pataki Signs New Oversight Law


Important news on the role of NY State government in large development projects:

Governor George Pataki has signed a new oversight law to ensure public authorities follow state guidelines.

Pataki has allotted $1.5 million in his executive budget for the creation of the Public Authority Budget Office.

The office will oversee the spending, compliance and the general ethics of agencies such as the MTA.


More coverage:
AP, via NY Newsday, Pataki tightens reins

[The measure] establishes codes of ethical conduct for authority directors, officers and employees.

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Pataki supports measure to rein in, reform state authorities

The new law mandates new regulations for disposing of property owned by the authorities.

The new measure is an important step forward but is weakened by the fact that the governor will appoint the inspector general, said one good-government lobbyist.


Pataki has been criticized for stonewalling a bill passed in June. Some say he wanted to wait as long as possible to minimize the impact on his administration in his final year in office. Aides argue he just wanted six months to prepare for the changes.

NoLandGrab: Support for this law spread after several backroom real-estate giveaways, benefiting politically connected developers, caught the public's attention.

Until now, development corporations have been formed to act on behalf of the state or local government, but, since they are private entities, they have not had to adhere to the laws governing "spending, compliance and the general ethics."

These quasi-governmental corporations with access to the deep pockets and political muscle of the state, coupled with the freedom to act as private companies, will hopefully become a thing of the past.

Ratner's deal with the MTA for the Vanderbilt Railyards does not close until the proposal goes through the state's environmental review process.

So, we are left wondering, will the Public Authorities Reform Act require the MTA to re-open or re-structure their land deal with Ratner?

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

January 9, 2006

Connecting the Dots: The Transit Strike and the Ratner Land Giveaway

Solomon Grundy, contributor to the Left Behinds blog inventories MTA misdeeds and the public and media backlash against striking transit workers.

Grundy find himself in a "Bizarro alternate universe where no one can make the simplest connections between events" and asks:

What about the hundreds and hundreds of millions in giveaways to any real estate tycoon that approaches the MTA with his hand out? That's our money, too.


NoLandGrab: Apparently "connecting the dots" not only doesn't happen in Washington D.C. As far as the media and public are concerned it's, "out of sight, out of mind."

Posted by lumi at 7:03 AM

December 26, 2005

There's more to rail about

Mike Lupica: Shooting from the Lip

Lupica reminds New Yorkers that the MTA trying to squeeze a deal out of transit workers is the same MTA that spent this past year trying to sell land for a song to politicially connected team owners:

At a time when the three of them, the governor, the mayor and Kalikow of the MTA, wring their hands about the future of New York City, when they make it seem as if that future somehow is tied to the pension fund of the transit workers, please remember that they are the same people who wanted to give away the Hudson Railyards to the New York Jets football team so that the Jets could build a football stadium on the West Side of Manhattan.

When Bruce Ratner, the most caring owner in all of sports, saw an opening to build 17 high-rise buildings around Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson in Brooklyn, all these high-minded politicians who squeezed transit workers this week immediately rolled over for Ratner, too. Another land grab by a rich owner, another time when the biggest politicians in the city and state did everything except put a bow around the property.


NoLandGrab: Lupica missed one previous MTA land giveaway to Ratner. The Toaster (a.k.a. Atlantic Terminal Mall) was built on land given to Ratner by the MTA. The MTA was set to do the same thing with the Vanderbilt Railyards until everyone got real mad about the Jets-Hudson Railyards deal, which forced the MTA to hold two just-for-show bidding processes in one year.

In other words, the same MTA board and political supporters who are squeezing the transit workers over pension plan givebacks have already negotiated real estate giveaways to Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

December 21, 2005

Support the TWU

Fans For Fair Play explains why those who have kept up on their Ratner reading are more pissed at the MTA than the transit workers union.

The MTA is nickel-and-diming the transit workers while they've spent the last two years:

  • wasting millions on their new corporate headquarters;
  • ripping off taxpayers by offering the Hudson rail yards to the lowest bidder, the New York Jets;
  • ripping off taxpayers to the tune of another $150 million (at least) by accepting another lowest-bid, Bruce Ratner's, at the Vanderbilt Yards here in Brooklyn;
  • drooling over the prospects of wasting $400 million dollars to build a concrete platform over the Hudson yards in a dicey and dubious "let's play real-estate developer" bid;
  • maintaining separate books for pubic and private dissemination;
  • issuing roller-coaster "we're going broke!" or "we're swimmin' in cash!" declarations, particularly galling with the strike, because just a month ago the MTA was bragging about their billion-dollar surplus, offering minimal holiday discounts to straphangers.


Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

December 20, 2005

Transit Strike Reminiscence

Today, as you are walking, biking or even telecommuting, take a moment to ponder what a long strange trip it's been.

At this time last year (before the MTA declared its fiscal crisis over when it miraculously discovered that it was actually running a budget surplus), groups were calling for the MTA to get full market value for the Vanderbilt Railyards and the question of opening up the sale of MTA land to a bidding process was being discussed during hearings on fare hikes.

Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

December 17, 2005

MTA strands fans

From the Brooklyn Papers:

If 19,000 cheering Nets fans come pouring out of an arena at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues someday, the MTA is not going to add service to help get them home.

The transit agency, which many hope will play a significant role in reducing congestion resulting from Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards mega-development, dropped this mini bombshell this week at Borough Hall, where Borough President Markowitz, local elected officials and Community Board chairs met to discuss Atlantic Yards issues.

The MTA refused to send a representative to the meeting, Markowitz said. Instead, the agency sent over a statement outlining its plans for service to and from Nets games at the Ratner arena.

This article is a must-read for those wondering what the MTA's plans are (none) for mitigating the increased traffic from the Atlantic Yards proposal, as well as their excuses (many).


Posted by amy at 10:24 AM

October 27, 2005

Ratner Reveals Details of Unprecedented $182 Million Rail Yard Move

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

McKissack.jpgThe contract for rennovation of the MTA railyards was awarded to African American-owned contstuction firm, McKissack and McKissack. McKissack also holds the $700K contract to complete the pre-construction phase of the project.

The press conference was held at Rev. Daughtry's House of the Lord Church. Rev. Daghtry and Assemblyman Roger Green tied the event to the passing of Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon who, during her life was sensitive about being tied to everyone's message.

McKissack has previous experience with railroad projects and describes itself as the oldest minority-owned professional design and construction firm in the nation.


NoLandGrab: FCRC is touting a win-win-win for African Americans, the MTA and FCRC meanwhile the MTA never requested these renovations.

Posted by lumi at 7:08 AM

October 5, 2005

New York in bondage

We missed this NY Sun September 21, 2005 editorial. Thought that you'd like to know how this November's $2.9 billion Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005 relates to Atlantic Yards.

The NY Sun editorial board cites the recent MTA approvals to sell MTA land to the lowball bidder as one reason to tell politicians that taking on more debt in the current political climate would be unwise:

Well, it would be better to sell the Brooklyn Bridge. Feature the track record of only one agency involved, the MTA. The agency has spent the past few months trying to sell of its Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn at a fraction of the assessed value. In July, the MTA discovered a surprise surplus of $833 million in its budget. It promptly proposed using half the money to build a platform over the West Side yards, after its earlier plans to sell off those yards at below-market prices failed.


Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

September 20, 2005

MTA BS may stink, but its Damn Funny!

onNY Turf

Now why would the MTA sell off its property for less than half the appraised price, since no homeowner in their right mind would ever sell their house for half the value? Well, every irrational decision deserves as rich an irrational answer as that coined by MTA chairman Peter Kalikow. Mr. Kalikow's explination, and I swear its so bad its good, Mr.Kalikow actually said that the $214.5 million appraised value of the Atlantic Yards "is just some guy's idea of what it's worth."

Some Guy?


Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

September 19, 2005

MTA, as Expected, Gives Its OK to Ratner’s Arena Plan

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer and Michael Weissenstein of the AP

The Eagle uses the AP wire report on the MTA hearing as the basis of their own article. The rub is that the AP report contains several mistakes that the Eagle's reporters and editors, having covered Brooklyn real estate in Brooklyn for more than a century, should have picked up.

Local reporting contains quotes from BUILD, Markowitz, James, Yassky's spokesperson, DDDb and local neighborhood organizations.


Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

September 18, 2005

DDDb Press Release: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn To Request Finder's Fee From MTA

Community Group Seeks $6.0008 for Raising Ratner Bid Plus Printing and Mailing Reimbursement

NEW YORK, NY—Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the leader of the coalition fighting Forest City Ratner's (FCR) arena and 17 skyscraper gated complex situated on top of an existing neighborhood, will seek a finder's fee from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the group's efforts which led to the $50 million increase of Ratner's low-ball offer for the 8.5 acre Vanderbilt Yard.

“We got the MTA $50 million more than they would have gotten without us," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "At a 12% finder's fee that comes out to $6 million. Plus it cost us around $800 in printing and mailing to alert developers to the property sale, which the MTA didn't really do. That comes out to $6.0008 million, which we would accept in cash or check. We know that may sound like a lot of money, but it's much less than the finder's fee we were expecting based on the MTA's appraised value of $214.5 million--then they'd owe us $19.7408 million. Too bad they accepted a bid $114.5 million less than their own appraised value."

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow dismissed his own agency's two-month-old appraisal, saying that $214.5 million "is just some guy's idea of what it's worth." Goldstein said, "Why would Mr. Kalikow's agency hire just 'some guy' to do their appraisal, and then ignore that guy? Shouldn't they hire an appraiser instead of 'some guy?' That's odd behavior. Hopefully Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is not 'just some grassroots community group,' in the MTA Chairman's cataractous eyes."

Because the MTA held a rigged bidding process and barely advertised a call for bids, DDDB took it upon themselves to advertise the MTA's Request for Proposals (RFP) by mailing it with additional information to one hundred developers around the United States. When only one developer, Extell Development Company, responded, DDDB encouraged them to submit a proposal and they did. Extell bid $150 million while FCR bid $50 million. Because of the unexpected competition to the Ratner bid, the MTA was able to demand more money and they got $50 million more. The new Ratner bid of $100 million was still much lower than the Extell bid, and less than half of the MTA's $214.5 million appraised value for their rail yards.

“We deserve this finder's fee. But if the MTA refuses to pay it to us, at the very least we would want reimbursement for our costs of $800 and perhaps some monthly MetroCards for our efforts and time,” concluded Mr. Goldstein.

Posted by amy at 1:26 PM

September 15, 2005

MTA board approves sale to Ratner. Opponents readies suits. Brooklynites look towards Environmental Impact Statement.

vanderbiltyards.jpgHere are snippets of today's coverage of the MTA Board decision and what comes next:

The NY Times, Huge Arena Project in Brooklyn Takes a Major Step Forward
The Times covers the MTA Board's Special Meeting:

Although Mr. Ratner's $3.5 billion project, the largest private investment in the borough's history, would bring his team, the Nets, to Brooklyn from New Jersey and create at least 7,000 apartments, there was a glum tone to the authority's board meeting. Few speakers - whether supporters or opponents of the plan - voiced any passion at the public hearing before the vote, in part, because the outcome was never in doubt.

However, a local resident, Shabnam Merchant, who lives near the project site at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, stepped up to the microphone to say, "It's a sham." She said she could not pretend otherwise, then spent the rest of her allotted two minutes standing there without speaking.

Asbury Park Press, Ratner clears one hurdle in moving Nets to Brooklyn

[Develop Don't Destroy spokesperson Dan] Goldstein contends that because Forest City Ratner's plan has not yet undergone an environmental review by the ESDC, the sale of the Atlantic Yards is not legal or valid. The environmental review usually takes about six months after it is submitted to the state's Public Authority Control Board.

"The deal doesn't close until that ends," Goldstein said. "No money will transfer."

NY Daily News, MTA on track for Nets. Green-lights Ratner arena complex plan.

"The Forest City Ratner offer benefits all concerned," said veteran political activist the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, whose House of the Lord Pentecostal Church is near the site.

Daughtry pointed to a 47-page community benefits agreement between Ratner and a coalition of neighborhood groups saying, "I have never witnessed any contract of this scope and of this diversity."

NoLandGrab: With all due respect, the original Staples Center CBA makes Ratner's look like Cliff Notes.

NY1, MTA Votes In Favor Of Ratner Arena Development Plan
Bobby Cuza reports:

The proposal still has to undergo an environmental review. It also must go before the state Public Authorities Control Board, which is likely to approve it.

The project has faced community opposition, particularly from property owners who fear Ratner may try to work with the city to use eminent domain to force them out.

NoLandGrab: To clarify, since NY State is taking over the project, thus circumventing the City's more stringent Land Use Review Process, it's NY State who is planning to use eminent domain to execute government takeover of private property to hand over to Ratner., MTA Sells Out to Ratner
DigitalBrooklyn quotes BP and Cheerleader in Chief Markowitz:

“Now that the Atlantic Yards bid has been accepted, the next step is for the EIS scoping hearing to be set. We will now delve into the nitty gritty of every single legitimate issue that the community has brought forth. Brooklynites must see a comprehensive and realistic plan that addresses traffic, parking, public transit, parks and open space, community facilities, noise, air quality, density, and every other planning challenge that a project of this scale entails.

The Newark Star-Ledger, MTA OKs selling land to Ratner
Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey plays down the fact that they are going to throw people out of their homes:

The company still needs to acquire several tracts around the arena site, but Stuckey said most are auto repair shops or vacant land rather than private residences.

Reuters, NY agency OKs Brooklyn project with new Nets arena
Reuters looks ahead to the vote of the Public Authorities Control Board (the group that killed the West Side Stadium/Hudson Yards deal) and gets a quote from NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office:

A spokesman for Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, said: "The speaker is aware that the project has the support of members of the Assembly, but before he makes a decision he'd like to see more details."

NY Daily Sun, MTA To Sell Rights to Atlantic Rail Yards
The MTA voted to approve the sale against the protestations of the one "no" vote on the board:

Mr. Pally, an attorney from Suffolk County, said those improvements were never identified as needed by the Long Island Rail Road. Mr. Pally was alone, however, in his sharp criticism of the Authority,just as he was in July in objecting to the board’s decision to negotiate exclusively with Forest City Ratner.

“Instead of buying something the Long Island Rail Road does not want, which is this project, we should take the entire $214 million in cash and use it for projects which the Long Island Rail Road does want,” he said.

Groups are poised for a legal challenge:

The City Council member from Prospect Heights, Letitia James, vowed a legal fight, as did property owners who could lose their homes or businesses if the city invokes eminent domain.

NY Newsday, Deal sets up shot for Nets
Another Pally quote:

"This board has one responsibility only," Pally said. "If it is going to sell property ... it sells that property at the most value to the authority or all of the riders of the authority. In my opinion, this deal does not do that."

Newsday reports that the Public Authorities Control Board, "who blocked that deal have said they would not do the same with the Nets."


The politician who killed the Jets' dream of a West Side stadium said yesterday he hasn't made up his mind about the Nets' planned arena in Brooklyn, hours after that proposal cleared a major hurdle.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

September 14, 2005

Nets win MTA land

Neil DeMause, author of Field of Scheme's covers "Backwards Day at the MTA" on his blog, and then cleans house on the Associated Press wire coverage:

The Associated Press got some things backwards in its story, as well: Not only does Ratner still need to "wait for environmental approvals and a vote by the state's Public Authorities Control Board," as the AP reports, but $200 million in state and city subsidies still must be approved by the legislature and city council, unless Mayor Michael Bloomberg finds some more money under the sofa cushions. And lastly, the proposed Nets arena site is not where the Brooklyn Dodgers almost built a ballpark, already! (That was across the street, where a Ratner mall now stands.) Listen, AP, don't make me go all Snopes on your ass.


Posted by lumi at 10:28 PM

Greatest Hits

We laughed, we cried, and for once Ratner opponent Shabnam Merchant was speechless — The Real Estate Observer has collected "Greatest Hits" from today's MTA Board meeting.

Posted by lumi at 9:16 PM

MTA to transit riders: It's deja screw all over again!

The MTA Board has done it again. As in the ill-fated Hudson Yards, MTA board members executed the bidding of their political sponsors, conducted a sham RFP process in full public view and overwhelmingly picked the lowball bidder to redevelop MTA railyard property.

In the same year as the MTA raised fares on subway, train and bus riders (the region's working class), they handed over very valuable real estate to the politically well-connected Bruce Ratner for a song.

DDDb makes a good point in their press release where they explain one difference between the Hudson Yards scam and today's approval:

The MTA's action for the Vanderbilt Yards is in stark contrast to the procedure used for the West Side Yards/Jets Stadium project. There, the MTA's review and acceptance of proposals came after the SEQRA review was completed, not before. In that case MTA arguably had the benefit of the environmental impact statement to guide its decision making. Here the decision-making came first and the environmental review will come later.

Summary of MTA inaction: * May 19, 2005, MTA publishes public notice of RFP for Vanderbilt Yards in NY Times real estate section and a real estate trade. Proposals due in six weeks. * July 6, proposals are due. Extell Corporation hands in last-minute surprise bid that does not include the use of EMINENT DOMAIN. * July 22, MTA unveils competing bids (without Ratner financial projections). The Extell bid is $100 Million over Ratner's. Ratner quickly points to promised infrastructure improvements to boost their low-ball bid. * July 26, MTA Board votes to "negotiate" exclusively with Ratner. * September 7, press reports that Ratner has doubled his initial bid. * September 14, in a special meeting held by MTA, board members agree to accept Ratner Redux (the NEW lowball bid).

Posted by lumi at 8:18 PM

DDDb Press Release: The MTA Accepts Low-Ball Bid From Bruce Ratner

Ratner and MTA Rip Off Taxpayers With Deal Well Below Competitor Extell's Offer and Half the MTA's Appraised Value
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Planning Lawsuits

NEW YORK, NY—At a special meeting today, the MTA board approved the disposition of 8.5-acres of prime Brooklyn real estate to the lower bidder, Forest City Ratner (FCR). The Ratner offer is less than half the MTA's appraisal of $214.5 million and well below the $150 million cash offer made in July by Extell Development Company.

"Any way you look at it, there is no justification for today's MTA decision to hand over 8.5 acres of valuable property for Bruce Ratner's low-ball offer. The MTA's so-called bidding process has been a charade from the start. The MTA and Ratner have treated taxpayers with disdain, and have ignored the desires of the community," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "We know that Ratner stands to make a huge profit on his project, something on the order of $1 billion, yet he is determined to rip off the straphangers of New York City by nickel-and-diming them. He refuses to come even close to the MTA's appraised price on this valuable piece of property, and the MTA is willing to abet this. Why isn't the MTA demanding full market value?"

At the May 4, 2004 City Council Economic Development Committee hearing, FCR Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey made a promise that the company is apparently unwilling to meet: "What I will say to you is that for the land, the public land, the MTA land, is that, what we have agreed to is that we will lease or buy that land at the fair market value… by whatever independent process that they normally use."

The sole MTA "no" vote was cast by board member Mitchell Pally, Suffolk County's appointee, who excoriated chairman Kalikow for not getting anywhere near fair market value for the railyard.

"Apparently there is only one MTA board member looking out for transit riders and willing to speak the truth, and that is Mr. Pally. The MTA has never truly wanted an open bidding process or sought fair market value. After holding a closed and rigged bidding process with a ludicrous RFP response timeframe–which was barely advertised–granting special treatment to Ratner, relegating competitors to the sidelines and refusing to ever meet with Extell, the MTA has once again agreed to the lowest offer for their property," said Goldstein. "Its time for our public officials, agencies and our public-interest organizations, many of whom sued the MTA for taking the low bid on the West Side railyards, to raise their voices and consider suing to protect the public from the MTA's mismanagement and Ratner's continued feeding at the public trough."

Regardless of the MTA and FCR agreement today, their deal would not close for at least six months, which is the earliest the State-mandated environmental review process would reach a conclusion. The MTA risks a repeat of the West Side Hudson Yards debacle—where they never see their deal close—as Ratner's project will face legal challenges, including a vigorous challenge to the State's use of eminent domain—which could take many years—as well as legislation that could scuttle the entire project.

Additionally, the MTA's decision to enter into a contract with FCRC is also a violation of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The contracting action pre-determines the outcome of the environmental review and makes the legally mandated environmental analysis a hollow exercise. The MTA's action, together with the February Memorandum of Understanding between ESDC and FCR, demonstrates that both agencies have pre-judged the Ratner project and are prepared to approve it without changes, regardless of the adverse environmental impacts disclosed through the environmental review. The State's review process requires that agencies incorporate the potential environmental impacts of their actions as early in the process as possible to avoid situations exactly like this where the momentum of a project overwhelms an objective analysis of the environmental impacts. Rather than putting the consideration of environmental impacts at the beginning of the process, the MTA has put those considerations at the end of the process

The MTA's action for the Vanderbilt Yards is in stark contrast to the procedure used for the West Side Yards/Jets Stadium project. There, the MTA's review and acceptance of proposals came after the SEQRA review was completed, not before. In that case MTA arguably had the benefit of the environmental impact statement to guide its decision making. Here the decision-making came first and the environmental review will come later.

"DDDB will not passively accept this blatant disregard of New York's most important environmental law. As the review of this project moves into the next stage, DDDB will insist that the Environmental Review Statement (EIS) include a detailed discussion of the Extell proposal as a viable alternative," Goldstein stated. "DDDB is confident that an honest, objective review will demonstrate that the Extell plan presents an environmentally sound proposal that also meets the needs of providing affordable housing, jobs, an increase in the tax base and superior financial benefits to the MTA."

Goldstein added, "Ratner wants the taxpayers to pay and pay and pay, for a meager return for the public and a mega return for his real estate firm. "The $100 million low-ball deal comes one week after the City's Independent Budget Office (IBO) released an incomplete and exaggerated report, based on highly questionable assumptions, projecting a miniscule surplus, less than 1% of the public investment, for New York City from Ratner's arena.

The IBO study fails to consider additional "extraordinary infrastructure" costs, covered by taxpayers, as identified in the Memorandum of Understanding between the City, State and FCR. The FCR bid details these costs to be at least $163 million. Notably, the IBO refused to estimate revenues for the much larger development of 17 towers associated with the arena, citing "methodological limitations." The IBO report also relies on Ratner's guess that 50% of Nets' game tickets will go to New Jersey fans. This assumption is grossly exaggerated. Said Goldstein, "the translation is that the projections of public revenue in reports written by Ratner's paid consultant, Andrew Zimbalist, are purely speculative. That means political leaders backing Ratner's plan, such as Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki, have based their support on biased speculation by Ratner's paid consultant and have failed to protect the public trust."

Posted by lumi at 7:52 PM

Ratner wins rights to Brooklyn rail yards

Crain's New York Business
by Catherine Tymkiw

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved developer Bruce Ratner’s $100 million bid for the right to build on rail yards in downtown Brooklyn.

The 10-to-1 vote followed 45 days of exclusive negotiations that the MTA had agreed to hold with Forest City Ratner Cos. starting in July. Today’s vote leaves Gary Barnett’s Extell Development Corp, which had submitted a competing bid, out in the cold.

Posted by lumi at 7:51 PM

Regional Planning Association letter to MTA, read at "Special Meeting"

RPALetter.jpgThis letter from the Regional Planning Association (RPA) was read at today's MTA Board's "Special Meeting." The RPA is calling for three conditions to be met: * receiving full value for the MTA property, * full pubilc disclosure of all competing bids (the profit projections were missing from version of Ratner's bid the MTA released in July), and * traffic and transportation impacts be identified and added to the real costs when considering the project.

Download letter.

NoLandGrab: The MTA ignored all of the RPA's requests, including the release of Ratner's profit projections which were required to be submitted with their bid.

Posted by lumi at 3:56 PM

September 13, 2005

MTA unit backs Ratner's deal for Nets arena

NY Daily News
by Paul D. Colford

Do the $100 million deal with Ratner.

That's what the MTA real estate division recommended yesterday to agency board members, who are expected to vote tomorrow on developer Bruce Ratner's sweetened bid to build a Nets arena in Brooklyn.

The written summary of negotiations between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Forest City Ratner Cos. confirms that the developer doubled his original July offer of $50 million to build atop the Atlantic Ave. railyards.


Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM


The NY Post
by Patrick Gallahue

Opponents of Bruce Ratner's plan to relocate the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn lashed out yesterday in a letter to Metropolitan Transit Authority Chair Peter Kalikow.

The angry missive claims the developer's offer for the rights to build an arena and high-rise condos on the site of the Atlantic Rail Yards fails to meet the MTA's criteria.

Co-signed by the Citizens Union, the New York Public Interest Research Group and others, the letter says Ratner's $50 million bid does not include requested statements about the project's financing or his expected return over 20 years.


Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

September 12, 2005

DDDb Press Release: 32 Organizations Demand MTA Release Ratner Profit Projections

Sweet Deal for Ratner Kept Secret While Taxpayers Get Raw Deal

NEW YORK, NY–The public has not yet seen Bruce Ratner's projected profit for his proposed arena and 17 skyscrapers in Brooklyn.

While the MTA is on the verge of awarding its 8.5-acre Vanderbilt rail yards to the lower bidder, Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 31 other public interest and community groups have sent a letter to the MTA demanding the release of Bruce Ratner's pro forma income statement. The 20-year financial projection was required by the MTA's Request for Proposals (RFP), but does not appear in the FCRC proposal the MTA released publicly. High-bidder Extell Development Company's pro forma cash-flow statement was released to the public, but FCRC's pro forma cash-flow statement has been withheld by the MTA.

"We know Bruce Ratner's corporation stands to make upwards of $1 billion profit from his project," said DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein. "Why has Mr. Ratner and the MTA hid this from the public? Contrast Bruce Ratner's profit with New York City's microscopic profit from his arena, as projected by the Independent Budget Office, and we can understand the secrecy. The MTA and FCR don't want to publicize their sweetheart deal while taxpayers get such a raw deal."

An excerpt from the letter to the MTA reads:

*In light of the fact that:

* neither bid met the appraised value for the Yards ($214.5 million),
* you chose to exclude the higher bidder (Extell) from the negotiation process, and
* according to the Sept 7 edition of The New York Times, you will be settling for a sale of the Yards to FCRC at less than half of the appraised value and at two-thirds the value of the Extell bid,

we believe that it is in the public interest to understand, not just what the public is getting back in revenues for our investment, but also what FCRC is getting in profits from our investment.

The taxpayers are being asked to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the arena, relinquish city-owned property to private interests, accept the bypassing of the city-review process, accept the condemnation of citizens' property, accept the eviction of renters and business owners, and accept a lower bid to the MTA at less than half the appraised value of the yards - all in return for what the Independent Budget Office has identified as a 1% annual return to the city on their financial investment.

In the interest of transparency, the taxpayers also have the right to know what and how much the developer will be getting from this transaction.

To read the complete letter to the MTA visit:

Posted by lumi at 10:07 AM

September 11, 2005

MTA "Special Meeting" to seal deal for Ratner

The ever accommodating MTA (you know, the one who just raised fares for the rest of us) is planning to accept Ratner's second lowball bid before the regular monthly Board Meeting by convening this "Special Meeting":

In accordance with Section 4 of the MTA by-laws ("Special Meetings"), please be advised that there will be a special MTA Board Meeting on Wednesday, September 14, 2005 at 9:30AM on the 5th Floor of MTA headquarters at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The purpose of this Special Meeting is to present the Board with updated information concerning the proposal by Forest City Ratner Companies ("FCR") to purchase air space above and real property interests in LIRR's Vanderbilt Yard ("VD Yard") in Brooklyn, to brief the Board regarding negotiations that have taken place between MTA staff and FCR, and to seek additional authority from the Board regarding the FCR proposal.

Posted by lumi at 10:28 AM

September 10, 2005


Higher bid still far short of MTA site’s value

The Brooklyn Papers
by Jess Wislowski

Wislowski goes looking for comment and/or confirmation of this week's story in The NY Times that the MTA is set to approve Ratner's new lowball bid for the railyards at Atlantic and Flatbush:

Neither MTA nor Forest City Ratner officials would comment for this article.

Additionally, an MTA spokesman said that neither Lapp nor Kalikow had been around when the Times story broke.

“I can’t verify that [the Times article is correct] because I don’t know about it,” said MTA spokesman Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the MTA.

“Kalikow has been away and Lapp has not seen a final [bid], so I don’t know,” said Kelly, who insisted that whatever information had been leaked was likely coming from the developer.

“This is not an MTA source,” Kelly said. “The ‘officials,’ as far as I can see, could be Ratner people; this could be their way of getting this out there,” he said, as a test balloon to gauge the MTA’s reaction.

“Based on what they’ve said [here], I’ve looked around, but nobody knows anything about scheduling a special meeting. So far, nothing has been changed,” he said.


Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM

Nets close in on their Brooklyn property

The Newark Star-Ledger
by Matthew Futterman

On the Ratner-MTA negotiations:

The two sides have been locked in exclusive negotiations for six weeks and had until today to reach a deal. Earlier this week, Ratner doubled his original offer for the rail yard to $100 million. While neither side would comment on the negotiations, the MTA set a special board meeting for Wednesday to consider Ratner's proposal. The state agency usually only makes such a move after it has reached a deal.


Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

September 9, 2005

Ratner set to Net MTA deal

NY Daily News
by Peter Donohue

There's not much in this article that hasn't already been printed in the last few days about the MTA accepting Ratner's NEW & IMPROVED lowball bid early next week, except for the citing of the Daily News's own "sources."

MTA officials are expected to approve as soon as Wednesday a deal to clear the lane for the Nets to play in Brooklyn, transit sources said yesterday.

Ratner since has upped his initial bid of $50 million to the $100 million range and has offered improvements on a few other fronts, sources said.

"It's a better deal," said one source.


Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

September 8, 2005

Ratner doubles cash offer to less than Extell bid

Coverage of the NY Times's scoop on Ratner's latest bid:

NY1, Report: Ratner Doubles Bid For Right To Build Arena In Brooklyn
CPN Online, Ratner Doubles Offer to Develop Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards For Arena

Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

September 7, 2005

DDDb Press Release: MTA Set to Accept Low-Ball Bid From Bruce Ratner

Ratner Nickel-and-Dimes Taxpayers With Brooklyn Railyard Bid Well Below Competitor Extell's Offer and MTA's Appraised Value
What is Ratner's Profit for His Atlantic Yards Project?

NEW YORK, NY—According to a report in today's New York Times the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is preparing to accept Bruce Ratner's approximate $100 million offer for the 8.3-acre Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn, which would comprise a portion of Forest City Ratner's (FCR) proposed Atlantic Yards development plan.

The MTA has appraised the property at $214.5 million. The Ratner offer is substantially below the MTA's appraisal and well below the $150 million cash offer made in July by Extell Development Company.

"We know that Ratner stands to make a huge profit on Atlantic Yards, something on the order of $1 billion, yet he is determined to rip-off the straphangers of New York City by nickel-and-diming them. He refuses to come even close to the MTA's appraised price on this valuable piece of property, and the MTA is willing to abet this. Why isn't the MTA demanding full market value? The pungent smell of favoritism continues to waft through city air," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

The MTA has released Extell's profit projections, but has inexplicably not released Forest City Ratner's (FCR) projections or pro forma income statement.

"We call on the MTA to immediately release FCR's profit estimates, as contained in their proposal." Goldstein said. "It's insulting to New Yorkers that after two years of negotiations and an additional 45-day grace period, Ratner continues to low-ball transit riders. He must pay the appraised value to help fund our transportation system. The MTA has a lot of explaining to due if this does not occur."

At the May 4, 2004 City Council Economic Development Committee hearing FCR Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey made a promise that the company is apparently unwilling to meet: "What I will say to you is that for the land, the public land, the MTA land, is that, what we have agreed to is that we will lease or buy that land at the fair market value… by whatever independent process that they normally use."

FCR's offer is less than half the MTA's appraised value.

The Times also reported that the MTA might call a special meeting next week to expedite an approval vote for FCR's low-ball bid instead of waiting for their scheduled end of month board meeting.

"This tells us that Ratner is prepared to make a bundle off the backs of the taxpayers and straphangers and that the MTA has never truly wanted an open bidding process. By holding a closed and rigged bidding process, granting special treatment to FCR, relegating competitors to the sidelines and refusing to ever meet with Extell, the MTA has once again agreed to the lowest offer for their property," said Goldstein. "Its time for our public officials, agencies and our public interest organizations, many of whom sued the MTA for taking the low bid on the West Side railyards, to raise their voices and consider suing to protect the public from the MTA's mismanagement and Ratner's continued feeding at the public trough."

If the MTA and FCR reach an agreement, their deal would not close for at least six months, which is the earliest the state mandated environmental review process would reach a conclusion. The MTA risks never seeing their deal close as Ratner's project will face legal challenges, including a challenge to the state's use of eminent domain, which could take many years.

Goldstein added, "Ratner wants the taxpayer to pay and pay and pay, for a meager return for the public and a mega return for his real estate firm." The $100 million low-ball deal comes one day after the City's Independent Budget Office (IBO) released an incomplete and exaggerated report, based on questionable assumptions, projecting a miniscule surplus for New York City from Ratner's arena.

The IBO study fails to consider additional "extraordinary infrastructure" costs, covered by taxpayers, as identified in the Memorandum of Understanding between the city, state and FCR. The FCR bid details these costs to be at least $163 million. Notably, the IBO refused to estimate revenues for the much larger development of 17 towers associated with the arena, citing "methodological limitations." Said Goldstein, "The translation is that the projections of public revenue in reports written by Ratner's paid consultant, Andrew Zimbalist, are purely speculative. That means public backers of Ratner's plan, such as Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki, have based their support on biased, commissioned speculation and have failed to protect the public trust."

Posted by lumi at 8:38 PM

Offer Is Doubled by Developer to Build Arena in Brooklyn

The NY Times
by Charles Bagli

Ratner has doubled his offer for the railyards to $100 million, "according to people on both sides of the negotiations." This is still $50 million below the Extell bid without the same negative impacts. Ratner has been contending all along that his bid is more valuable since it includes building a new railyard. MTA officials stated that they didn't know if the Extell bid included building a new railyard (maybe they forgot to ask?).

Meanwhile costs have ballooned:

The project has evolved over the last two years, with the value of construction rising to $3.5 billion from $2.5 billion, while the cost of the arena jumped to $555 million from $435 million.


Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

August 23, 2005

City and State Comptrollers Oppose M.T.A.'s Railyard Plan

The NY Times
by Sewell Chan

The city and state comptrollers of New York have both come out against a plan by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to use most of its surplus to build a big deck over its West Side railyard and then sell a developer the right to build commercial and apartment buildings over the deck.

Both officials said the proposal, which would represent an unusual foray by the authority into real estate development, involved too much risk. They suggested that the authority instead hold a competition among developers, who would take on the challenge of building the deck as part of their proposals.


NoLandGrab connects the dots: Speaking about financial risk, NYC Comptroller William Thompson supports Ratner's proposal in Brooklyn despite its being the low bid in this summer's bidding war.

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

August 17, 2005

DDDb Press Release: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Attorney, Jeffrey Baker Reprimands the MTA on Atlantic Yards

Says MTA Has Set Forth on a Misbegotten Course With Its Lack of Response to Eminent Domain Issue and Bad Faith RFP Process

NEW YORK, NY — Before the MTA made its inexplicable decision, on July 27th, to hold exclusive negotiations with low-ball bidder Forest City Ratner (FCR), Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s (DDDB) attorney, Jeffrey Baker, had warned the public agency that they must consider the eminent domain contingencies of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal. In Mr. Baker’s letter of July 26th he sought to make the MTA aware that his clients have a strong legal defense against the use of eminent domain which would jeopardize Mr. Ratner’s development proposal, and that if the MTA was seeking a relative quick and easy transaction, the Ratner proposal would not provide that desired goal.

The MTA’s director of real estate Roco Krsulic responded twelve days later with a form letter ignoring Mr. Baker’s warning. Mr. Baker responded to that tone deaf letter on Monday, August 15th. Daniel Goldstein, DDDB spokesperson, said, “The MTA has continued to act brazenly and without transparency. They have acted as the worst real estate agency in the land. If they continue this course of favoring low-ball bidders and acting in bad faith, we will make every effort to hold them accountable, and expect our elected officials and public interest groups to do the same.”

The text of Mr. Baker’s letter follows below: (The three letter correspondence can be found here:

Dear Mr. Krsulic:

I am writing in response to your letter of August 8, 2005 which was in response to my earlier letter of July 27 to Chairman Kalikow. While I was pleased that you responded, I was surprised by the content of the letter.

Initially, it is striking that you chose to ignore the primary point of the letter — that MTA should not proceed to accept the FCRC bid when it was premised upon the use of eminent domain when the use of that power as envisioned by FCRC is contrary to the Supreme Court’s recent Kelo decision. Your letter and the MTA Board action on July 27th completely failed to address that important contingency.

I also take exception to your brazen characterization of MTA’s actions with respect to Vanderbilt Yards as “a full Request for Proposal process, and a review of competing proposals”. While making a statement like that in a letter may appear to make it true, the facts belie your position. As you know, FCRC has been in discussions with MTA for at least a year, has had privileged and unequaled access to the Vanderbilt Yards and MTA’s technical requirements and even entered into a letter of agreement in February 2005 with FCRC, which set forth many of the terms of a formal agreement for the disposition of Vanderbilt Yards. In contrast to those secretive negotiations, the “full Request for Proposal process” consisted of only two advertisements buried in the back of the New York Times and Real Estate Weekly and a requirement for bidders to submit responses in little over a month. Moreover, the technical details of the RFP were daunting requiring significant investment of engineering expertise associated with designing a platform and relocating MTA facilities.

If you continue to insist the RFP process was legitimate and properly advertised and if I am wrong that there were only two advertisements for bids, please provide me with proofs of publication in other newspapers or publications where potential developers may have been informed of the RFP. If it was mailed directly to potential developers, please provide of list of the addressees.

While MTA did its best to avoid publicizing the RFP, my client, a citizen’s group, Develop Don’t Destroy — Brooklyn, Inc., sent information mailings about the RFP to 96 potential developers around the country. That effort resulted in the competing bid from Extell Development Company.

Considering the enormous obstacles placed in its path with respect to the RFP, after a tremendous effort Extell put in a complete and responsive bid package. Not only did the Extell proposal present a scale compatible with the community and reflect community input, but it offered a price to MTA of $100 million in excess of the bid from FCRC.

Rather than give Extell the consideration it was due, its bid was summarily rejected as somehow incomplete. Any alleged deficiencies were never identified and if there was a lack of detail with respect to maintenance and relocation of MTA facilities, it would seem prudent to provide Extell an opportunity to undertake the further investigation and design to provide those details. Obviously, FCRC was provided that opportunity for many months prior to the release of the RFP.

I listened on the telephone to the July 27 Board meeting. There was virtually no discussion of the relative merits of the two proposals and no staff evaluation or recommendation. At one point, the Board took an unexplained recess and returned about a half-hour later with a resolution authorizing the Executive Director to negotiate exclusively with FCRC. That was a striking move since that proposal was $100 million less than the Extell bid and there was nothing else material in the FCRC bid that warranted MTA’s disregard of the Extell proposal. Mr. Kalikow’s statement that it would be “immoral” to negotiate with two bidders at the same time was preposterous. First, the MTA is a public authority whose fiduciary obligation is to its riders and the taxpayers. Second, there is nothing immoral or unethical when all the parties know there are multi-party negotiations.

Instead of being improper, further consideration of both proposals is mandated by law. MTA is bound by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). MTA cannot choose a final proposal on the basis of price alone but must also consider the environmental impacts of the action and choose the alternative that avoids or minimizes adverse impacts to the maximum extent practicable, balanced by economic and social considerations. Therefore, regardless of the negotiations with FCRC, MTA will have to consider the Extell proposal in an Environmental Impact Statement as an alternative. Thus, both proposals should remain under consideration until the SEQRA process is complete.

Nevertheless, the MTA Board decided to continue to ignore its legal obligations and work with its predetermined choice. Thanks to several press reports we know what really occurred. While the MTA had previously announced its intention of not taking action at that meeting, and that it would consider both proposals at least until its September meeting, Mr. Kalikow took telephone calls from Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki during the meeting, and acting at their direction pushed through the resolution to deal exclusively with FCRC.

We are dismayed by MTA’s callous disregard for the basic elements of due process, transparency and its fiduciary obligations. Its actions do not promote trust in the system but rather reinforce the prevailing perception of favoritism and cronyism. You should be aware that recent similar actions by other authorities, like the New York State Canal Corporation, have been overturned. Should MTA continue on this misbegotten course, we expect a similar fate will result.

Very truly yours,

Jeffrey S. Baker

Cc: P. Kalikow (fax and mail)
K. Lapp
Hon. Elliot Spitzer
Hon. Alan Hevesi
Hon. Sheldon Silver
Hon. Joseph Bruno
Hon. Richard Brodsky
Hon. Betsy Gotbaum
Hon. Letitia James
G. Russianoff, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign
D. Dadey, Citizens Union
R. Touissaint, Local 100 – TWA
T. Taro, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
B. Dolinsky, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee
R. Yaro, RPA
J. Parrott, Fiscal Policy Institute
K. Barwick, Municipal Arts Society
J. Vitullo-Martin, Manhattan Institute
Develop Don’t Destroy- Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 8:33 PM

August 5, 2005

Big Man, Small Bid: MTA Gives Ratner 45 More Days

MTABoardMeeting.jpg The Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Emily Keller

The Star reports on the many different voices and opinions expressed at last week's MTA Board meeting where Bruce Ratner was awarded with the exclusive right to negotiate for the railyard property.

Like a garbled subway station announcement, the actions of the MTA's Board of Directors left many Brooklynites feeling frustrated and confused last week.


Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM

August 3, 2005


ratnercheerleader.jpg NY Press columnist Aaron Naparstek examines last week's MTA Board meeting.

The large show of Ratner supporters has become:

standard practice at big public meetings where the Railyards are being discussed. Ratner buses in his supporters. They ensure that anyone who raises questions, concerns or objections about the project are literally shouted down and painted as racists and enemies of working people. The irony, of course, is that these self-proclaimed proletarians have the backing of a multi-billion-dollar corporation. The supposedly "wealthy, white" opponents have to take time off work to show up at meetings. Needless to say, the Brown Shirt tactics have been incredibly effective.

Though the muckraking Naparstek compares the whole affair to the 19th Century's Boss Tweed and the 20th Century's Robert Moses, he does find something positive to say about the 21st Century MTA:

In a funny way you almost have to appreciate the MTA's brazenness. Once public comments were finished, Kalikow could have gone behind closed doors for a half hour to give the impression that the public's input had some bearing on the board's decision-making process. But this is New York City. There's no time to waste on a semblance of democracy when business needs to get done.


Posted by lumi at 10:37 PM

New M.T.A. Panelist Takes a Walk on the Wild Side: He Disagrees

pally.jpg The local daily papers reported that last week's MTA Board vote to negotiate exclusively with Lowball Bruce was unanimous with only one vote against.

The NY Times profiles "the lone dissenter," Mitchell H. Pally.


Posted by lumi at 10:28 PM

August 2, 2005

While the MTA's public-land subsidy program for Bloomberg Billionaires is going strong, New Yorkers can't seem to get a break.


Thanks to for posting this last week.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

August 1, 2005

Mike Lupica: Shooting from the Lip

NY Daily News

Mike Lupica is either a super genius or the only columnist in a local daily paper that has the credentials and guts to make the following point:

And, oh by the way, the deal that Caring Bruce Ratner is getting on that land in Brooklyn is the same kind of sweetheart deal the Jets were trying to get from their friends in city and state politics.


Posted by lumi at 10:16 AM

July 31, 2005

Down to the Wire for MTA Decision on Atlantic Yards?

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

If the Ratner bid is approved, neither the state nor the city’s legislative body will have input in development decisions, which have already been made in an agreement between the company and appointed boards that the mayor and governor have set up.

Extell has vowed to submit to the ULURP process, in which case the City Council would vote on zoning issues.


Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

MTA Tells Ratner: Come Up with More Money, or Else


From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Develop Don’t Destroy, one of Ratner’s main opponents, circulated a press release before the meeting that said the MTA should delay its vote until September because the agency spent at least two years of negotiating with FCRC, and less than two days reviewing the proposal submitted by Extell.

According to Extell supporters, the MTA hadn’t even met with the company.

The one dissenting board member, Mitchell Pally, said he would rather negotiate in September, “when we know all the facts.” He said he didn’t believe that Ratner, “knowing that Extell is waiting in the wings,” would be sufficiently pressured to come up with substantially more money.


Posted by amy at 10:45 AM


From the New York Post:

THE MTA's decision to grant developer Bruce Ratner an exclusive 45-day window to clinch a deal for its Downtown Brooklyn rail yards came only after some last-minute intervention by Mayor Bloomberg.

Sources said the mayor was infuriated by a report that the MTA planned to postpone a vote Wednesday on the mega-housing and basketball-arena project so it could hash out two competing bids, one by Ratner and another by Extell Development Corp.


Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

July 30, 2005

Ratner gets 45 days to up ante


From the Brooklyn Papers:

As it once was, so it shall be again, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board decided this week, when it cast aside the high bidder — who offered $150 million to develop the Long Island Rail Road storage yards at Atlantic Avenue — and instead voted to continue their exclusive negotiations with preferred developer Forest City Ratner.

The MTA board voted 11-1 on Wednesday to approve a resolution calling for exclusive negotiations with developer Bruce Ratner’s company, with the hopes of upping its bid by the board’s Sept. 29 meeting.


Posted by amy at 10:24 PM

Pols to MTA: Not so fast

From the Brooklyn Papers:

Two Brooklyn elected officials this week called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to extend the bidding process for development rights over the Atlantic Avenue rail yards, saying the city should first be allowed to come up with an overall plan for the site.

Brooklyn Heights Councilman David Yassky and Park Slope Assemblyman James Brennan, both of whom had previously been silent on the controversial development plan, this week fired off a letter to the MTA board calling for the bid process to be left open.


Posted by amy at 10:22 PM

July 29, 2005

Ties Between Ratner, City Hall Visible in Tweed Sculpture

Wouldn't it be ironic if the walking-man LED public art installation on the steps of Tammany Hall was entitled "Bruce Walking" and was sponsored by Bruce Ratner and City Hall?

Daniel Hemmel, reporter from The NY Sun, makes the connection in another stranger-than-fiction episode in the fight over development of the Brooklyn railyards.

Bruce Ratner Walking

Asked this week if the exhibit’s title is linked to the developer’s first name, a Forest City Ratner spokesman, Joseph DePlasco, said: “We don’t comment on art.”

Ratner ally, Bertha Lewis, executive director of the group ACORN,the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, agreed “something should be done to recognize” the developer for his cooperation with the borough’s black communities.

A spokesman for the anti-Ratner group Develop Don’t Destroy, Daniel Goldstein, was less kind. He said it was fitting for “Bruce Walking” to be located at the steps of a building named for the notoriously corrupt 19th-century Tammany Hall leader William “Boss” Tweed. Both men, Mr. Goldstein charged, have benefited from “sweetheart backroom deals.”


Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

MTA Board Leans Towards Ratner

WNYC by Andrea Bernstein

Yesterday's report on the MTA Board's decision from WNYC contained some interesting points that were not brought up in other local coverage, an indication that Bernstein is covering the story of Bruce Ratner's proposal "from the ground up."

Bernstein clairifies that:

The MTA did not choose a developer for the Brooklyn rail yards at its board meeting yesterday. But it indicated a very strong preference for Forest City Ratner.

Bernstein adds some historical context:

Forest City Ratner has been working on a proposal for the Brooklyn rail yards –for two years. The 6 block has won the support of the governor, the Mayor, and other elected leaders. But stung by the controversy over the Jets stadium, the transit authority which owns the rail yards decided to auction them off. Forest City took advantage of its long lead time by putting in a far glossier, longer, and more detailed bid than its rival, Extell. Unfortunately for Forest City, its bid was also far lower – by $100 million. The MTA was not happy.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow muddled through an illogical explanation for the Board's action, claiming, "I’ve never sent two tenants a lease for the same space at the same time its just not right its not the way I like to do business."

Regarding the Kalikow quote, Berstein points out for WNYC's listeners:

This is of, course, not a lease. It’s a forty five day negotiation with one of the bidders on a multimillion dollar MTA property.


Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

N.Y. Rail Yards Roundup: MTA on the Hot Seat

Commercial Property News
by Kristin Olson, Associate Editor

New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority truly is a hub of activity lately. Between the controversial and never-ending plan for a stadium to house the New York Jets over the West Side rail yards, the questionably under-priced sale of a rail yard in Downtown Brooklyn for a New Jersey Nets arena, and the sudden windfall, reports of which surfaced late yesterday, of an $833 million surplus of MTA funds, the Authority is hardly able to keep a low profile.


Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

West Side Stadium Redux

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn shares MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow's concerns that government should avoid "immoral" actions and sums up what is really "immoral" about the who deal. Here's the list: * Using eminent domain & gag orders for Ratner's private arena * MTA raising fares and cutting service while negotiating with the low-bidder * MTA favoring preferred developer over open and fair process, AGAIN * More traffic and pollution at the worst intersection in Brooklyn * Over $1.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies with no vote * Skyscrapers overwhelming residential Brooklyn * Ignoring Security issues, because, hey, its Brooklyn


Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

July 28, 2005

Top 10 things the MTA learned from the West Side Stadium debacle

10. You really CAN raise fares and cut back service while subsidizing developers.
9. Picking the low bidder, gives hope to underdogs everywhere.
8. Voodoo economics isn't just an 80's thing.
7. Just because the public thinks you're a puppet, is no reason NOT to act like one.
6. A bird in the hand is worth more than three in the other hand.
5. Fuzzy math isn't very fuzzy wuzzy, was he? Not if you're a designated developer!
4. The best way to not select the low bidder is to "negotiate" with the low bidder.
3. Hey, it's not cronyism if no one gets paid off.
2. Negotiating with two bidders is "immoral," but sweetheart deals aren't.

...and the #1 thing that the MTA learned from the West Side Stadium debacle is,


Posted by lumi at 10:52 AM

MTA picks preferred developer over interests of public, again

kalikow01.jpgYou've probably already heard the news.

Today's coverage focuses on statements by MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow dismissing calls to negotiate with both bidders as "immoral," despite the fact that the MTA has selected the low bidder in this case.

The NY Times, M.T.A. to Deal Only With Ratner on Brooklyn Bid

...while M.T.A. officials seemed to like [Ratner's] plans, they still wanted more money.

NY Newsday, MTA selects Nets arena plan. Agency accepts lower cash bid from Forest City Ratner Cos. to develop Brooklyn’s Vanderbilt Yards.

Bob Liff, Extell's spokesman, said the firm's president, Gary Barnett, was "disappointed" with the decision but did not plan to file a lawsuit to challenge it. In a statement, Extell said it was "considering all of our options."

The vote also marks the second time this year that the MTA board has supported a bidder who offered less money to the cash-strapped agency.

When asked, Jim Stuckey of Forest City Ratner did not commit to offering more money but said the negotiations would lead to "a positive outcome."

Others, however, have been critical of the way the MTA has auctioned off its property rights. Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Hartsdale) said he'll be watching the negotiations closely to make sure that the agency gets "fair market value."

NY Daily News, B'klyn deal Ratner's to seal

Kalikow said Ratner is not in any position to shortchange the MTA. "Ratner knows that Extell is out there and if Ratner doesn't come up with money that we think is adequate, then I can recommend that we don't take it," he said.

The NY Sun, Board Wants Ratner To Increase His Bid. Transit Authority Appraiser: Yard Worth $214.5M.

The board member representing Suffolk County who cast the lone dissenting vote, Mitchell Pally, argued that the MTA would maximize the sale price by negotiating with both firms at the same time.

One of the four board members appointed by Mayor Bloomberg, Susan Kupferman, said the city’s delegation wanted to approve the Ratner bid without modification,but the Bloomberg appointees joined in supporting Mr. Kalikow’s resolution once it became clear that they could not push the Ratner plan through at yesterday’s meeting.

An executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, James Stuckey, would not say if his firm is willing to increase its cash offer, but he predicted that negotiations with the MTA would produce a “positive outcome.”

Metro, A Jump Ball in Brooklyn. Residents split on MTA's decision to negotiate over Atlantic Yards development.

Even members of the MTA’s board are split no the issue. Yesterday Mitchell Pally, the VP for governmental affairs for the Long Island Association, cast the only obte opposing the MTA’s exclusive negotiations with Ratner. Non-voting member Andrew Albert of the NYC Transit Riders Council, also dissented.

“I think it’s wrong to negotiate with one and not the other,” Pally said, adding that, “both bids are deficient.”

Bergen Record, Nets owner in exclusive talks for site

Arena opponents called the vote confirmation that political influence has tipped the MTA's decision-making process in favor of Ratner, whose plan to bring the Nets to Brooklyn has the support of Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The governor and the mayor effectively control the MTA board.

"It seems the MTA never had any intention of having a truly competitive process," said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a group of residents from the wealthier brownstone neighborhoods adjoining the rail yards.

Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM


Scenes from yesterday's MTA Board meeting from NY Newsday's Online Photo Gallery.


Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

July 27, 2005

MTA to Ratner: Sweeten our pot

Field of Schemes
by Neil deMause

DeMause makes a good point about the MTA's bizarre reverse-psychology negotiating strategy:

[MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow] didn't explain why the board was choosing to negotiate with the bidder who offered only $50 million, as opposed to the one who offered $150 million, if price was the main object...


Posted by lumi at 10:43 PM

Insta-Skyline, Baby! MTA To Negotiate Exclusively with Ratner keeps it short and snarky:

And so it shall (probably) be: this afternoon, the MTA voted to exclusively choke more money from "negotiate" with Bruce Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yards tract in downtown Brooklyn. link

Gehry, Atlantic Yards Model

Curbed also makes fun of DDDb for their press release hitting the In Box in 12 mins. NLG got it in five. Maybe the Curbed guys need to check their server or something.

Posted by lumi at 10:24 PM

Brooklyn Residents Have Mixed Reactions To MTA's Decision To Negotiate With Ratner

report by Roger Clark

NY1 hits the streets of Prospect Heights to get local reaction to the MTA vote to exclusively negotiate with Ratner:

“We are actually moving out of the neighborhood, partially because of the arena project,” Don says.

“I think it's like overkill,” says Prospect Heights resident Jose Fonseca. “That stadium is just going to put so many people out of their homes.”

“We need this. We need this housing now, and we need the jobs now,” says Bertha Lewis of ACORN. “We need this project built.”

“[There will be] more job opportunities in the area, and no people would be outside as much because anymore because they would be working,” says another Brooklyn resident.

“The other plan sounds like it's just slightly smaller, but still very large buildings that don't belong in Brooklyn,” says Samantha Lindgren.


Posted by lumi at 8:58 PM

MTA Asks Ratner To Sweeten Bid For Atlantic Rail Yard


Coverage of the MTA's vote to enter into a 45-day exclusive negotiation period with Ratner:

The MTA has a mandate to get as much for the property as it can, and several board members said while they preferred the Ratner plan over Extell’s, his price was too low

Extell said in a statement it was disappointed the MTA decided to enter into exclusive negotiations with Ratner, and believe they should also have a chance to change their bid.

Ratner says he was pleased with the MTA's decision, and looks forward to providing even more benefits for the agency, transit riders and the surrounding communities.

report (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 8:49 PM

DDDb Press Release: The MTA Chooses Exclusive Negotiations with Low-ball Bidder Ratner

In Full Public View the MTA Abdicates Its Responsibility to the Public,
Puts Development at Vanderbilt Yards at Risk, and Ignores the High Bid from Extell

For Immediate Release: July 27, 2005

NEW YORK, NY—Today the MTA Board, led by Chairman Kalikow, voted to pass a resolution to negotiate exclusively with Forest City Ratner (FCR), for the Vanderbilt Yards, over the next 45 days. The resolution precludes negotiations with the other responder to the MTA Request For Proposals, Extell Development Company. The Board stated that it was "disappointed" with the low-ball offer from FCR of $50 million for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Extell had bid $150 million for the 8.4-acre property. The MTA spent less than two days evaluating the Extell bid, and has refused to meet with the company to allow them to make a presentation about their proposal. The Board also ignored Extell's compromise offer to sell one of the Yards' lots, at cost, to Mr. Ratner to build his proposed arena.

"It is unconscionable that the MTA Board has decided, in a pre-determined resolution, to hold negotiations with only one bidder, and the low bidder at that. The MTA has been negotiating with FCR for about two years, and even after that Mr. Ratner low-balled them. We expected the MTA to hold a legitimate bidding process," said Daniel Goldstein, Develop Don't Destroy Spokesperson. "Today they proved that they were always determined to award their property to Mr. Ratner, no matter what purchase price he offered. The only fair result of today's meeting would be to set forth on negotiations with both bidders. Instead the MTA, in full public view, demonstrated that their process was disingenuous from the start. In other words it was completely rigged."

Mr. Kalikow went through contortions to justify the resolution for exclusive negotiations. Most of the Board was silent in discussion before the vote. The only independent voices, non-voting member Mr. Albert and voting member Mr. Pelly, harshly criticized the decision claiming it was irresponsible and consisted of faulty logic if the Board is trying to reach their appraised price of the Yards, which is $214.5 million.

Mr. Goldstein continued, "We have fought for an open bidding process with transparency, and when we finally thought this would occur we were slapped in the face, along with all transit riders. It stinks of corruption, political favoritism, and meddling by the Mayor and Governor. But the MTA made a big mistake today, and took an irrational risk, as they strengthened the lawsuits we will bring against the use of eminent domain."

"In the US Supreme Court's recent Kelo decision Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, in a concurring majority opinion, described a situation where eminent domain would be prohibited. What he described was the designation of favored developer and no legislative planning process. With the MTA's troubling decision today, they made it clear that Mr. Ratner is the favored developer of the MTA, the Mayor and the Governor, and that is strong ammunition for us. To be clear, the fight against the FCR proposal is as strong as ever, if not stronger."

Pending eminent domain legislation, by the US Congress and Albany, may make it impossible for Ratner and the State to use eminent domain for his project, thus scuttling the entire development plan. Also, the the soon to be signed state Public Authorities Reform Act will require the MTA to get full market value for its properties, which could also scuttle the whole deal.

Goldstein concluded, "For the MTA to do right by its riders, and its fiduciary responsibilities, they must rescind their decision today and negotiate with both parties. Anyone can see that an exclusive negotiation would be unlikely to bring the highest price, would be a travesty of fairness, and an abdication of the Authority's responsibility to the public and the communities surrounding Vanderbilt Yards."

Posted by lumi at 5:21 PM

Hearing on Ratner Proposal Today in the MTA

Big Cities Big Boxes by Mary Campbell Gallagher

An eyewittness account of the MTA Board meeting.


Posted by lumi at 5:15 PM

MTA to negotiate exclusively with Ratner

NY Newsday
by Joshua Robin

The MTA voted this afternoon to negotiate exclusively with developers planning a basketball arena and high-density residential community on the authority's downtown Brooklyn rail yards, shutting out for now a rival bid that sought a more modest neighborhood on the site.

The 11-1 vote allows Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials to seek more money from developer Bruce Ratner for the Atlantic Avenue site, giving them 45 days to reach a new agreement.

If the deal isn't struck in that time, MTA officials could return to discussions with the rival developer, the Extell Development Co.


More coverage:
AP, MTA negotiates with Nets over arena site

Posted by lumi at 2:40 PM

MTA to take additional 45 days to negotiate exclusively with Ratner

The MTA Board voted to take another 45 days to enter into exclusive negotiations with developer Bruce Ratner in order to secure a better deal for the Vanderbilt Railyards. If negotiations fail, then they reserve the right to negotiate with rival bidder, Extell.

1010 WINS News Radio is reporting that most of the speakers who showed up to testify at the MTA Board meeting, including Rev. Herbert Daughtry, were in support of the Ratner's plan.

NoLandGrab: The MTA has already taken two years to negotiate "exclusively" with Bruce Ratner, what's another 45 days going to accomplish? Clearly, this compromise vote is a feeble face-saving measure that will eventually lead to the preordained selection of Ratner as the developer of The Yards.

The MTA board has been making up the rules as they go along. This action brings up troubling issues of fairness and transparency. When the criteria and selection process is this convoluted and unpredictable, it should come as no surprise to the public that only one other company had the guts to submit a rival bid.

Posted by lumi at 12:47 PM

Dark-Horse Brooklyn Bidder

The NY Observer
by Matthew Schuerman and Michael Calderone

So, is Mr. Barnett bidding on Vanderbilt Yard, the eight-acre M.T.A. parcel in Central Brooklyn, just because it’s payback time? Is he just another James Dolan, the Cablevision C.E.O. who bankrolled the opposition fight on the West Side stadium and who, when it looked like he was losing, decided to bid on the land himself and proposed a housing-and-office complex for the site? That’s the $100 million question.

Then again, who else but a lone wolf would dare upset the apple cart of prearranged subsidies and Mayoral endorsements to actually respond to the M.T.A.’s request for proposals? No one else bothered.


Posted by lumi at 12:19 PM

M.T.A. Is Expected to Postpone Vote on Railyard Bid

The NY Times is reporting that the MTA board is expected to vote to delay selection of a winning bid for the Atlantic Railyards:

The board was scheduled to review two dueling bids by developers at its meeting today and possibly vote, but a person who is close to the authority's chairman and to other board members said that the board instead intends to delay the vote so that higher bids can be submitted. The expected delay was confirmed by an executive with the authority, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is so controversial with neighborhood groups.


WNYC, Atlantic Yards Bids up for Discussion at MTA Meeting
WNYC's City reporter Andrea Bernstein is reporting that an MTA spokesman said that the MTA Board may postpone a decision, though Bloomberg's representatives to the Board "are expected to vote FOR a Raner proposal, a mayoral spokesman said."

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

MTA board to vote to agree to not decide?

Though The NY Times is reporting that the MTA board may postpone a decision allowing time for more bids to be submitted, the other local dalies are anticipating a vote between the Ratner and Extell bids.

The NY Sun, Crucial Vote on Atlantic Yards Today

A leader of the transit activist group the Straphangers Campaign, Neysa Pranger, said the board members must exercise “due diligence” in evaluating the proposals. “When they’re receiving orders from above, they might not do that,”she said. Governor Pataki,who has appointed six board members and who likewise has endorsed the Ratner project, will not follow Mr. Bloomberg’s lead in instructing his appointees to vote for the Ratner bid, according to a Pataki spokeswoman, Mollie Fullington.

When a mayoral spokeswoman, Jennifer Falk,was asked whether it was appropriate for Mr. Bloomberg to issue voting instructions to the four MTA board members he appointed, she said: “Yes, they are his appointees.”

NY Newsday, MTA zeroes in on B’klyn plan
Board scheduled to choose developer for Vanderbilt Yards, but community leaders seek delay in vote

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, which has 14 voting seats, received the Brooklyn bids July 6 but most board members were only briefed on the offers this week.

The NY Sun, Shortchanging the Taxpayers
The Sun calls for the bidding process to be reopened on grounds that neither plan gets fair market value for the railyards, a requirement of a recently passed bill sponsored by Assemblymember Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) that will not go into effect until next January. Brodsky is calling for the MTA board to respect the law anyway.

The NY Sun, Letter to the Editor
Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of Fifth Avenue Committee, urges the MTA board to postpone a decision, citing recently passed legislation, awaiting the Governor's signature, enacted "to bring real accountability to our state’s 730 public authorities."

As a public agency, the MTA must give residents the chance to participate in a process that could dramatically transform their lives. Brooklyn, and New York, deserve nothing less.

The NY Post, Steve Cuozzo

It would be tragic if the MTA lets the monkey wrench scuttle a vision as compelling as Ratner's for all its questions yet to be answered.

Dope on the Slope, Our MTA: Putting Passengers Last
Metro-North-riding Dopey Slopey gets hot and bothered by the prospect of the MTA voting in favor of the "eminent-domain addicted" developer's bid.

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

July 26, 2005

Controversial Vote Expected Tomorrow for Brooklyn Rail Yards Redevelopment

Commercial Property News
By Paul Rosta

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to vote tomorrow on the much-anticipated selection of a team for the controversial redevelopment of rail yards in Brooklyn. But even if the vote occurs as planned, the project faces stiff opposition from community groups.


Posted by lumi at 11:46 PM

Things nearly get physical at MTA Real Estate Committee meeting

A scuffle nearly broke out when Develop Don't Destroy Spokesperson Dan Goldstein got up to speak at the yesterday's MTA Real Estate Committee meeting. Jasmin Miller of BUILD called Goldstein, "Trust Fund Baby." Instead of saying "I know you are, but what am I," Goldstein leaned over and muttered an expletive.

Though the exchange of words were reported in The NY Sun, the ensuing attempt by three BUILD members to "get physical" with Goldstein and the fact that MTA security posted at the meeting stepped in to keep the peace, wasn't.

Passions remained high but opponents played nice in the hallway when the public was removed from the meeting room while the MTA committee members met for a private session.

Posted by lumi at 3:20 PM

MTA May Vote On Atlantic Rail Yard Bids As Soon As Wednesday


The controversy over future development at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards site is heating up. With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board set to award the site to one of two developers as soon as Wednesday, advocates on both side of the issue are trying to get their opinions heard. NY1’s Bobby Cuza filed this report.

transcript (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 8:40 AM

Pass up Yards sale, boro pols urge MTA

NY Daily News
by Deborah Kolben

yasskybrennan.jpgAssemblymember James Brennan (D-Park Slope) and City Councilmember David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) joined forces to send a letter to the MTA requesting that the public authority stop negotiations and hold off selling the Atlantic Railyards until a city-approved plan is in place.


"They've done this backwards. I think it's premature to agree on a sale price before there is an approved development plan."

Brennan, referring to both the Ratner and Extell plans:

"Each one of them is too big. They're stuffing between 15,000 and 18,000 people into less than 10 acres."


Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

Nets score key votes in railyards bid battle

NY Daily News
by Pete Donohue and Michael Saul

Here's a surprise:

Mayor Bloomberg's four representatives on the MTA's board will vote to hold further negotiations with Forest City Ratner to build atop the Atlantic Ave. railyards in Brooklyn, a mayoral spokesman said yesterday.

Though the Mayor's reps are lined up to vote for Ratner's lowball bid over the Extell plan:

A source said at least two board members told MTA staffers they want more time to study the offers.


NoLandGrab: Here we go again. New Yorkers will recall that in March the Mayor's and Governor's representatives on the MTA board voted overwhelmingly to accept the low bid from a well-connected sports team owner.

More coverage, NY Newsday. "Support for Nets arena, Bloomberg's 4 representatives on MTA board expected to get behind $3.5B B'klyn development"

Posted by lumi at 7:33 AM


NY Post
by Rich Calder

The Post covers yesterday's MTA real-estate committee meeting where groups boosted Extell's bid over Ratner's. Extell's bid offers the MTA three times more than the Ratner's and doesn't require the use of eminent domain.


Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

Reverend Al and The Man, and a warning to the MTA

Fans For Fair Play

The specter of the Jets West Side Stadium debacle makes an encore appearance in Rev. Sharpton's support and the MTA's possible rush to pick the lower bid.

Sharpton's support:

...must be, at best, a seriously mixed blessing for [Forest City Ratner]. Sure, they get another tenuous toehold in the Black community, but they also get a guy who anyone can approach on the street and ask "hey, Reverend, that Jets stadium thingie you endorsed, how's that coming along?"

The MTA can ill-afford another fiasco like the Jets stadium. The Brooklyn process is the same deal. After being forced by an angry public to create an open bidding process, the favored bidder -- a sports-team-owning pal of the governor and mayor -- submits the worst bid, fraught with add-ons nicked from Peter to pretend to pay Paul. The MTA board's vote appears, at this stage, to be a slap-dash rush-job. The principles of fairness and democracy lose again.


Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Comparing Bids at Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer
by Matthew Schuerman

So, there's been some time now to evaluate the competing bids to develop the Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn. Here's how it looks to The Real Estate.

Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

July 25, 2005

DDDb Press Release: Extell Bids $150 Million vs. Ratner’s $50 Million for the MTA’s Rail Yards in Brooklyn

DDDB Demands That MTA Deliberate for More Than Two Days and Postpone Vote Until Next Meeting in September

NEW YORK, NY– The Metropolitan Transportation Authority released the two bids on Atlantic yards late Friday afternoon. Extell Development Company has bid $150 million in cash for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yards (aka Atlantic Yards), while Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) has bid $50 million for the same 8.4-acre property. Extell has bid $56 per square foot, while Ratner has bid $15 per square foot. The MTA, also on Friday, appraised the Vanderbilt Yards at $214.5 million.

"The community prefers the Extell proposal by a large margin as it fulfills the key principles we have been fighting for over the past two years. And now Extell has outbid Ratner by a very large margin," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesperson, Daniel Goldstein. Goldstein added, "The MTA should take time to deliberate and evaluate the two bids, especially in light of the fact that both of the bids fall below the MTA’s appraised value of $214.5 million. They should not rush to vote this Wednesday, bur rather postpone their vote until their next meeting in September. If they vote on Wednesday, Board members will only have two days to evaluate these two bids and that is an insufficient and ludicrous amount of time. With the Hudson Yards bids the Board deliberated for ten days, and that was insufficient. Whatever the Board decides to do, it must be fair, transparent and judicious. The public will not accept secret, sweetheart deals."

FCRC has tried to muddy the waters regarding their purchase price for the rail yards by tacking on construction costs, sales tax revenue, and operating costs to their $50 million cash offer. Extell has simply stated that they will pay the MTA $150 million in cash at closing, while choosing to absorb the costs for the "add-ons" that FCRC has marketed as part of their purchase price.

Goldstein continued, "As we've expected for a long time now, Mr. Ratner thought he could get away with a sweetheart price for the rail yards, so he low-balled his bid and then tacked on construction costs as part of his purchase price. Mr. Ratner's 'add-ons' add nothing to his purchase price, as both developers are offering to fulfill those commitments. You can see all of this on our website breakdown of the bids at:"

Besides the $100 million difference between the two purchase prices, the proposed projects are vastly different. Extell proposes 11 buildings over the 8.4-acre Vanderbilt rail yards, ranging in height from 4 stories to 28 stories. They will not use eminent domain and they intend to go through the City's community and political development oversight process known as ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedures). Extell also plans to build a school, as well as over 4 acres of public open space.

Ratner proposes to build over the Vanderbilt rail yards as well as an additional 13 acres currently consisting of private homes, businesses, and city streets. The private property would be taken through a State invocation of eminent domain. The Ratner proposal would overwhelm the community with 20 skyscrapers ranging from 40 stories to 60 stories, as well as a 20,000-seat sports arena. Ratner's proposal would completely bypass City oversight, with a State takeover of the project.

Both developers offer 30% affordable housing. FCRC, as stated at a City Council hearing, plans to build a total of 7,300 units, with 2,250 designated as affordable. That is a 30% plan, not the much touted but false 50% plan.

To see how the bids stack up, visit:

DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition

fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.

Posted by lumi at 10:13 AM

July 24, 2005

Brooklyn land bids: The winner is...?

Field of Schemes helps explain why you might be confused:

New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority has released details of the competing bids for its Brooklyn rail yards site - and if you're hoping to understand what they mean, for godsakes don't read the local newspapers:

-The Daily News has New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner coming it at $50 million in cash, "but other planned extras balloon the bid to an estimated value of $369 million"; rival Extell Development, meanwhile, "is offering the MTA $150 million in cash while also planning to use up to $150 million in public funds." Ratner, reports the News, would require $200 million in city and state cash subsidies.

-The New York Times, meanwhile, counts only the cash bids, reporting that Extell's $150 million is "three times the amount Mr. Ratner bid for the property." The Times also notes that a law passed by the state legislature last month requires the MTA to take the highest offer for its land, and that while it hasn't yet taken effect, Richard Brodsky, chair of the state assembly's public authorities committee, says the MTA "ought to live by the law."


Posted by amy at 11:08 AM

Slam dunk for Brooklyn

The Daily News gets it wrong, wronger, and wrongest.

Posted by amy at 11:04 AM

July 23, 2005


Develop Don't Destroy takes the mystery out of the math. Bottom line: "3:1 For every dollar that Ratner has offered the struggling MTA, Extell has offered three."

Read it here before the media melts your brain.


Posted by amy at 11:14 AM

Railyard plans are detailed

From the Daily News:

Extell stressed in a statement yesterday that it "submitted a $150 million all-cash offer net to the MTA, which is three times the net amount offered by a competitive bidder."

Extell, whose tallest building would stand 28 stories, also noted that its mixed-use proposal "is less dense, lower-rise and contextual to the surrounding neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene." Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a coalition of community groups fighting Ratner's plan, said: "Extell is offering three times as much cash, therefore they should win the bidding."


Posted by amy at 11:07 AM

MTA won’t show hand

From the Brooklyn Papers:

With the next MTA board meeting scheduled for this Wednesday, July 27, members of the community and civic groups fear the board members, the majority of whom are appointed by Gov. George Pataki, will go ahead and approve a bid without being adequately informed of the property’s true worth.


Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

Rival Bid Tops Ratner's Offer to Develop Brooklyn Site

extellratner.jpg The NY Times
by Charles Bagli

A rival bidder to Bruce Ratner, the developer, has made a $150 million cash offer for development rights at the Atlantic railyard in Downtown Brooklyn, three times the amount Mr. Ratner bid for the property, where he proposes a $3.5 billion tower complex that includes a basketball arena for the Nets, stores, parks and 6,000 apartments.


More coverage:

NY1: MTA Releases Details Of Competing Bids For Brooklyn Rail Yards

1010WINS: MTA Unveils Brooklyn Railyard Bid Details

Posted by lumi at 7:54 AM

July 22, 2005

Barnett 3, Ratner 1

The Real Estate Observer
by Matthew Schuerman

The MTA released the bids for the Vanderbilt Yard (a.k.a. Atlantic Yards) over in Brooklyn and it looks like the maverick Extell Development Co., run by Gary Barnett, outbid the Mayor’s favored player, Forest City Ratner. Extell is offering $150 million in cash, compared to $50 million offered by Forest City.

The Observer is reporting that Ratner's press release is padding their figures ($329.4 million) by including "the sales tax that the development will bring to the MTA over the long haul."


NoLandGrab: Since the Extell bid is three times higher, watch Ratner pulling out all the stops to spin this thing his way.

Posted by lumi at 10:57 PM

Barnett 3, Ratner 1

The Real Estate Observer
by Matthew Schuerman

The MTA released the bids for the Vanderbilt Yard (a.k.a. Atlantic Yards) over in Brooklyn and it looks like the maverick Extell Development Co., run by Gary Barnett, outbid the Mayor’s favored player, Forest City Ratner. Extell is offering $150 million in cash, compared to $50 million offered by Forest City.

The Observer is reporting that Ratner's press release is padding their figures ($329.4 million) by including "the sales tax that the development will bring to the MTA over the long haul."


NoLandGrab: Since the Extell bid is three times higher, watch Ratner pull out all the stops to spin this thing his way.

Posted by lumi at 10:57 PM

MTA unveils Brooklyn railyard site bid details

NY Newsday, AP

You've been hearing about the competing bids and thinking, "Show me the money!"

Here's a comparison of the two bids as reported this evening by the AP.




Forest City Ratner

$50 million cash

$200 million

Extell Development Corp.

$150 million cash

$150 million


Posted by lumi at 7:13 PM

July 21, 2005

Ratner ‘Ratchets Up’ Campaign for Arena Plan

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

The Eagle covers the press conference where State Assemblymember Roger Green was "master of ceremonies" heralding the Ratner-Gehry project.

Meanwhile watchdog groups called for the MTA to release the competing bids for the railyards.


Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

July 19, 2005

Critics of Nets arena urge delay

The Bergen Record
by John Brennan

A coalition of transportation, community and environmental groups says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board should delay a vote on whether to award development rights above its Brooklyn rail yards to New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 11:03 PM

Metro, News Briefs


Two short pieces in today's Metro, one about Assemblymember Green support of Ratner's plan and the other about watchdog groups calling for the unveiling of the two bids for the MTA railyard property.


Posted by lumi at 7:19 PM

July 18, 2005

DDDb Press Release: We Demand MTA Accountability and Transparency

45 Community and Watchdog Groups Call on MTA to Release Ratner and Extell Bids for Vanderbilt Yards, Act Fairly and Deliberatively by Postponing Board Action Until September

NEW YORK, NY– "With a project of this magnitude on land owned and operated by a public authority it is imperative that there be absolute transparency and accountability" stated Doug Israel, policy and advocacy director of Citizens Union, "and the decision-making process must be informed and deliberative, with input from the public.

Forty-five organizations, including such heavy hitters as the Regional Plan Association, NYPIRG/Straphangers, Citizens Union, The National Taxpayer’s Union, The Sierra Club and Tri-State Transportation Campaign faxed and mailed letters to the MTA leadership on Friday, July 15. The letter was sent to MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow.

Copies of the letter were sent to Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky–who fought for transparency with the dispensation of the Hudson Yards–, State Senator Vincent Leibell whose Public Authorities Reform Act of 2005 (Assembly counterpart, Brodsky) will have an effect on the RFP process for Vanderbilt Yards. Copies were also sent to MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp, MTA Director of Real Estate Roco Krsulic, and the entire MTA board.

“The people will not accept a repeat of the West Side process. We are expressing very clearly to the MTA that there are two legitimate proposals that they must give equal consideration. The MTA and Ratner have been negotiating for two years, the least they can do is refrain from rushing to a decision in two weeks. Also, the land they are dispensing is public land and therefore the bids should be made public before a decision is made,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson, Daniel Goldstein.

To view the letter and co-signers go to:

Posted by lumi at 9:51 PM

Open bidding urged for Atlantic Ave. site

NY Daily News
by Deborah Koben

Fearing a repeat of the West Side stadium mess in Manhattan, a coalition of advocacy groups is demanding that the MTA publicize bids for the Atlantic Ave. railyards.

"We really want the MTA to get the value of the property," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

The watchdog group signed off on a letter to the MTA last week along with 35 other groups.


Posted by lumi at 12:03 PM

July 11, 2005

Rail Yard Redux

NY Newsday
by Dan Janison

So here's the Metropolitan Transportation Authority once again targeting old rail-yard space for sale to one company and finding another firm coming forward to bid on it.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Something similar happened with the pro football arena plan on Manhattan's West Side (now defunct). This time, it affects the plan surrounding a pro basketball arena in Downtown Brooklyn.

Here again, foes of the City Hall-backed plan are allying themselves with the alternative bidder, in this case Extell Development Co., whose proposal is touted as less intrusive.

Commenting on the deja vu, Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James, a leading opponent of the city-sized project, said, "Development in the city of New York is top-down, versus bottom-up. That's the problem."

Stay tuned. This issue once looked like a blowout for Nets owner Bruce Ratner's enterprise. Now that people have seen the massive scope of the Ratner plan, there may be a jump ball coming up.


Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

July 8, 2005

Ratner foes hunted bids for Nets site

Daily News staff reporter Deborah Kolben's story about, "how a band of Prospect Heights activists tried to attract rival developers to bid for the downtown Brooklyn site where Bruce Ratner wants."

NoLandGrab: This band of activists took it upon themselves in earnest to do the legwork usually done by the offering public authority. In this case, the public authority is the MTA, which only published one public notice in The NY Times and another in a weekly real estate trade publication. The notice was brought to the attention of area activists by a neighborhood property owner who accidentally stumbled upon the listing.

The MTA's response? Kolben reports:

The MTA advertised in newspapers and sent the offer to a list of developers, said MTA spokesman Tom Kelly.

NLG: We'd sure like to see the list of developers who received notice of the request for proposals. Like the Husdon Yards debacle, the financially strapped MTA is conducting a very secretive public process.


Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM

Another Brooklyn contender

More reports about the Extell bid for the Atlantic Rail Yards.

FOS, Another Brooklyn contender
Field of Schemes comments that it's deja vu all over again when a "competing bid emerges" on "deadline day." FOS also reports that at the City Hall press conference held by supporters of the Extell bid, "a Ratner flunky in dark glasses and stiletto heels stalked about collecting the names of reporters in attendance."

The NY Sun, BROOKLYN DEVELOPMENT: Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Foes Delighted by Extell Bid Entry
The NY Sun reports on yesterday's City Hall press conference in support of the Extell bid. Quotes from Councilmember James and DDDb's Goldstein. The Mayor's Office and Marty Markowitz are still supporting the Ratner plan.

Reuters (WSJ), NY MTA receives second bid for Brooklyn rail yards
The Reuters report quotes Extell spokesperson Bob Liff as saying that the Extell plan would only call for $100 million from the city, as opposed to $100 million from the City and State for the Ratner plan.

The Bergen Record, Nets owner has rival for Brooklyn site

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

July 7, 2005

Surprise competing bid for the MTA railyards

extel.jpgNew Yorkers woke up to news of a competing to build on the MTA's Vanderbuilt ("Atlantic") Railyard property.

The Extell plan proposes 1,940 residential units and 116,000 square feet of retail space in 11 buildings that would not be higher than 28 stories and 167,137 square feet of parks and open spacw.

Key features that differentiate the Extell bid from Ratner's controversial Gehry desiged plan are: * NO use of eminent domain, * No superblocks (project footprint limited to the railyard property), * No arena, * No skyscrapers, * Proposal will be submitted to local review process (ULURP), * Widespread community-based support, * Support of elected representatives from Prospect Heights, * Only 30% affordable housing planned.

The MTA has not commented on details of either plan, including how much each company has bid.

The Daily News reports that:

The bids could be voted on as early as the next MTA board meeting on July 27, said agency spokesman Tom Kelly.

Neither developer disclosed how much they bid for the 8.4-acre stretch of railyard along Atlantic Ave.

Ratner already has spent $100 million on architects and buying land.

NY Daily News, Rival for Bruce in B'klyn battle
The NY Times, Brooklyn Plan Draws a Rival, and It's Smaller
NY1, Surprise Competing Bid Entered for Brooklyn Rail Yards dialup/broadband
NY Newsday, Surprise competitor for Ratner's proposed Nets site
AP (San Jose Mecury News), Brooklyn developer faces new competition
Metro NY, Nets face competing bid from developer, Bid for Brooklyn Railyards
The Newark Star-Ledger, Firm makes rival bid for proposed arena site

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

July 6, 2005

Brooklyn Plan Draws a Rival, and It's Smaller

The NY Times
by Diane Cardwell

A rival of the developer Bruce C. Ratner submitted a competing bid yesterday to buy and develop the site of a proposed Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn, throwing up the first significant obstacle to Mr. Ratner's ambitious plan to create a dense urban hub at the eastern edge of Downtown Brooklyn.

The plan, which would not include a sports arena, was drafted in close consultation with community advocates who oppose Mr. Ratner's project. It portends a potential replay of the heated and costly battle between Cablevision and the Jets football team over a proposal, now scuttled, for a stadium on the Far West Side of Manhattan.


Posted by lumi at 11:58 PM

WNYC reports on MTA deadline

WNYC public radio reported at the top of the news hour that developers have until 5:30PM today to submit their bids for the Vanderbilt ("Atlantic") Railyards.

Also, NY1, Bids On Atlantic Rail Yards In Brooklyn Due Wednesday

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

July 5, 2005

Nets expected to win Brooklyn railyard bid war

NY Newsday
by Joshua Robin

Bids are due on Wednesday for the MTA's Vanderbuilt ("Atlantic") Railyards. Ratner spokesperson Joe DePlasco would not comment on the Forest City Ratner bid (widely expected the only and winning bid) for the site where the MTA was publicly pressued into auctioning off the property due to the same public scrutiny of the now-dead Hudson Railyards-West Side Stadium project.

Newsday also reports that MTA spokesperson Tom Kelly stated that the appraiser hired by the MTA is "still assessing the site's value," and "that the Authority will release the results upon completion [of what?]. A date when the developer would be selected has not been announced."

Read the article and don't forget to vote in the poll on the right-hand side.

NoLandGrab, Been There Done That: Is the MTA really making up the rules as they go along, again? Check out Doug Hamilton's essay, "The Farce is With Us" on the "grave shortcomings of this process." This is a must read for opinion leaders and decision makers.

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

June 16, 2005


By Doug Hamilton

A new blockbuster sequel opened on May 24th in Brooklyn when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) quietly issued its Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. In this case, the original hit show was the MTA’s tragi-comedic RFP for the Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s west side.

In Episode One, the MTA bowed to public pressure for competitive bidding on its West-side property by issuing an RFP heavily slanted towards the Jets’ stadium proposal which enjoyed the advantages of an approximately two-year discussion and design period as well as support from the mayor and governor. The time period allowed for responses was ridiculously short and the only competition came from organizations with obvious political axes to grind. Not surprisingly, their hastily thrown-together submissions were roundly rejected by an MTA board packed with the governor’s appointees. The lack of genuine public debate on budgetary priorities and the site’s future is evidenced by the recent refusal of Democratic Speaker Silver and Republican Majority Leader Bruno to support the project.

Now in Episode Two, the MTA is following the same tired formula. After a virtually clandestine announcement in the back pages of the Times, the embattled state transportation agency is allowing only 43 days for potential competitors to prepare bids on a spectacularly valuable and very complicated Greater Downtown Brooklyn site that the State’s preferred developer has been working on for more than a year-and-a-half.

For those who have not been following this saga, Forest City Ratner Companies – Brooklyn’s largest developer – has been engaged for the past two years in preparing and promoting a proposal to develop 7.8 million square feet of residential, office, and retail space on the site of the Vanderbilt rail yards at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. At the urging of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Bruce Ratner – CEO of the Forest City Ratner Companies – put together an investment group that bought the New Jersey Nets in 2003 with the express purpose of moving the team to Brooklyn. The real estate deal provides a way for Mr. Ratner to cross-subsidize the arena with profits from Brooklyn’s largest development since FCRC’s MetroTech in the late ‘80s. In addition, New York City will kick in at least $143 million in direct subsidies for the arena as well as unknown millions in tax abatements. New York State, for its part, is adding $100 million to the pot for infrastructure improvements, plus its backing for a $500 million bond to finance arena construction. Finally, since the whole project is outside the Manhattan exclusion zone, it qualifies for 421a property tax abatement for a period of thirty years. The developer will defray some of this expense over time through Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILOTs), but any way you look at it, the amount of public money involved is huge, at a time of citywide fiscal belt-tightening.

The six-week period that the MTA is allowing for this project is laughably brief, given the size and complexity of the site, and falls seriously short of standard practice. If the MTA was serious about receiving competitive proposals, it would have sent RFP packages to a number of major developers directly and it would have allowed them about three months to prepare submissions. It will be a miracle if any viable developer steps up to the plate given the transparently non-competitive nature of this RFP. Nevertheless, that is what the community is trying to do. If it can find interested parties, they will at least have the benefit of several months of groundwork by dedicated neighborhood activists, including experienced urban design and transportation professionals.

Another grave shortcoming of this process is the lack of a publicly approved zoning framework for the Yards site. Currently zoned for manufacturing, our Planning Department has abdicated its responsibility to provide rational land use planning and development guidelines for this site. Consequently, Forest City Ratner has been allowed to set the terms for the debate with a grossly over-scaled proposal. If the chief criterion for a winning bid is the size of its payout, then competitors will likely be forced into the same quality of giantism that has Prospect Heights and Fort Greene up in arms over the Forest City Ratner scheme. The RFP contains some vague language about “taking into account the respective goals and needs of the MTA, the State . . . the City . . . and the community . . . “ but what this means is anyone’s guess. Does it mean that unless you have another arena in your back pocket you will not be considered? Does it mean that the community’s quality-of-life concerns will be taken seriously? These issues will not be interpreted by our elected officials because the Mayor has allowed the approvals process to be hijacked by the State, despite the inclusion of several acres of City and private land within the project footprint.

The New York business community should be deeply concerned about the message that this kind of back-room deal-making sends to the larger world of commerce. In essence, we are posting signs at all ports of entry to New York saying, “CLOSED FOR BUSINESS (Unless you have inside connections)”. A truly free and democratic market is essential to the efficient functioning of our economic system. Unfortunately, the actions of our mayor and governor simply prove that, despite the march of time, the ghosts of Tammany Hall and Robert Moses are still lurking in the back corridors of City Hall and the Statehouse.

R. Douglas Hamilton, RA
Fort Greene resident and Senior Design Strategist, Street-Works LLC

Posted by lumi at 10:09 AM

June 7, 2005

Subway Woes: Follow the Money Speaker Giff hits Mayor Mike for starving the agency, but will Brooklyn deal do it right?

The Village Voice, Power Plays
by Jarred Murphy

Murphy's column points out the different positions of mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller on the sale of MTA railyards.

twoface.jpgMiller's position on Hudson Yards:

"It is the height of hypocrisy for the mayor to complain about the state of the MTA's finances after he recklessly pushed the agency to sell the West Side rail yards for over $700 million less than it's worth - money that could have been used to update the aging subway system and begin vital projects such as the Second Avenue line"

Miller's position on Atlantic/Vanderbuilt Yards:

Miller's campaign spokesman Reggie Johnson told the Voice, "It's clear he thinks that the MTA's going to get the best price for the Atlantic Yards property."


NoLandGrab: It was a few short months ago when the two-faced Miller was sitting on the fence on the West Side controversy. He changed his tune when the other mayoral candidates led the charge against Bloomberg.

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

June 3, 2005

State Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn's ruling

Download ruling


If there is a rational basis for theBoard’s action, even if the court or the public might have arrived at a different conclusion, the MTA Board’s decision must be affirmed. — page 12

Ultimately, the issue of which plan should be accepted, or whether all of them should be rejected, must be decided by the MTA Board. Those issues are public policy issues which are best left to the Board appointed by the elected officials with that authority, as long as there is no arbitrary or capricious decision. — page 12

The MTA counters that the Jets’ proposal would create more revenue for the City and State, as well as to the MTA. While each side has experts on whom it relies, the court cannot find that the MTA acted arbitrarily and capriciously by choosing to accept the estimates made by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the New York State Economic Development Corporation, which gave favorable estimates regarding the Jets’ proposal. — page 14

NoLandGrab: Alas, there's nothing arbitrary or capricious about Bloomberg and Doctoroff's ambitious proposals to award large-scale developments to their favorite politically connected pals.

A point in favor of those who claim that five weeks is not enough time for the MTA to solicit bids in the case of the Vanderbilt (aka, Atlantic) Railyards:

The court is not insensitive to MSG’s complaint concerning what might otherwise be considered an unreasonably short period of time (27 days) to respond, within the context of such a complex project. However, given the actual circumstances herein, MSG fails to demonstrate in what way the 27-day deadline benefitted the Jets over MSG. — page 22

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

Hudson Railyards suits tossed out by judge

You've heard the news. Here's the coverage:

WNYC, Major Victory for West Side Stadium
The NY Times, Hurdle Cleared, West Side Stadium Backers Turn to Albany

NY Daily News, Judge throws out lawsuit against West Side stadium

The judge also shot down the lawsuit claim that the MTA had not allowed bidders enough time to prepare their proposals. Both sides were working under the same 27-day time constraints, [Justice] Cahn said.


The state's top fiscal watchdog — sounding a lot like his longtime Democratic ally, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — unexpectedly declared that it would be "premature" for the Public Authorities Control Board to vote for approval of $300 million in state funding for the project.

NY Newsday, Stadium future still uncertain

Despite stern words from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki -- both staunch stadium backers -- Silver suggested to reporters he might seek to again postpone the decision.

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

May 26, 2005


The NY Times

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking competitors for the development of its Atlantic Yards site, and has set a deadline of July 6 for proposals. A proposal by Bruce C. Ratner to build 6,000 housing units and a stadium for the Nets basketball team on the site has already won endorsements by the city and the state, which have each offered to pay $100 million for site improvements. But Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the authority, said yesterday that the agency had decided to consider other proposals in part because of its experience with its West Side railyards, which became the focus of a bidding war before an agreement was reached to sell the property to the New York Jets. Mr. Kelly said he knew of no other bids that were being prepared for the Atlantic Yards site. Thomas J. Lueck (NYT)

NoLandGrab: Now it's 6,000 units? Didn't last week's Housing MOU state 4,500 units? We're always picking on The Times, but they make it so easy. First, The Times is the last daily to cover this development, though the public notice appeared in their pages last week. Then the Grey Lady appears to have access to the latest information. Ratner and The Times often seem to be acting according to each other's best interests.

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

May 25, 2005

MTA Opens Atlantic Rail Yards Land To Public Bidding


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will open the Atlantic Rail Yards in Brooklyn to competitive bidding.

New Jersey Nets owner and Developer Bruce Ratner has been looking to build a $2.5 billion sports and residential complex on the MTA-owned land, but now he'll have to buy the land in a process much like that faced by the New York Jets, who want to build a West Side stadium on the Hudson Rail Yards site in Manhattan, also owned by the MTA.

video report and transcript

Posted by lumi at 5:43 PM


NY Post
By Patrick Gallahue

A plan to bring the Nets to Brooklyn will have to go through a competitive bidding process — much like the Jets stadium deal — before the MTA grants its air rights to developer Bruce Ratner, officials said yesterday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the Atlantic Avenue Long Island Rail Road Yards where Ratner wants to build a $2.5 billion arena and residential complex, released a 24-page document inviting developers to bid on the land.

"Obviously, our purpose is to get the most money for the system we can," said MTA spokesman Tom Kelly.

All bids are due July 6.

"We welcome the request for proposals and look forward to a successful completion of this stage of the project," said Ratner spokesman Bruce Bender.

The process also requires bidders to include details of their proposals and set up a $500,000 fund within five days of being selected to cover the MTA's anticipated contractual costs.

The MTA did not say when it would announce a winning bid for the three-block stretch of land.

The bid represents the latest roadblock that Ratner will have to pass in order to build the much-hyped Frank Gehry-designed venue.

For Ratner, a failed bid would be a disaster since he only purchased the Nets in order to make the team the centerpiece of his massive development project in Brooklyn.

"Let the best plan win," said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), one of the most vocal critics of the Nets arena project.

Real-estate experts doubt any serious rivals would make a play for the Atlantic Yards, because Ratner has already cut deals with many of the private homeowners near the site.

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

May 24, 2005

Vanderbilt Yards (aka Atlantic Yards) RFP

The RFP is now available from the MTA. Is the state agency doing the right thing or is this just pro forma before they bestow the entire kit and caboodle to Ratner?

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the “MTA”) requests proposals for the sale or lease of all or some of the air space and related real property interests in one or more of the three parcels known as Vanderbilt Yard (“VD Yard” or the “Site”).

The goal is a Disposition of land or air rights over a portion or the entire Site in a manner that will maximize the economic benefit to MTA for improvement of the public transportation facilities and functions of the MTA and minimize the economic and environmental risk to MTA; however, this goal will be pursued in the context of the following, which will also be considered:

a. The economic development, planning, and civic needs and desires of the City and the State;

b. Consideration of the interests of the surrounding community;

c. The selection of a developer or development team with the experience, reputation, and credit worthiness appropriate for the successful development of a project of this magnitude and importance.

d. Consistency with the Long Island Rail Road’s need to continually operate critical transportation services within the Vanderbilt Yard and related support facilities.

Download RFP

Posted by lumi at 10:18 PM

May 19, 2005

MTA Request For Proposals for Atlantic (Vanderbilt) Railyards

mtarfp.jpgThe public notice of the MTA's request for proposals (RFPs) for the Atlantic (Vanderbilt) Railyards appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES today on Page C9.

MTA RFPs Online

Posted by lumi at 9:24 PM

April 17, 2005

Mike Lupica: Shooting from the lip

NY Daily News

Our elected politicians rolled over for Caring Bruce Ratner in Brooklyn.

Then Mayor Money and his trusty aid, Shifty Doctoroff, did everything in their powers to give away the Hudson Railyards to the extremely needy Woody Johnson of the Jets.


Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

April 11, 2005

Budget Cutbacks in Subway Stir Upkeep Debate

The NY Times


Increased scrutiny of maintenance records show cutbacks, as riders grow uneasy about recent subway outages and accidents and transit fare hikes.


NoLandGrab: While the Pataki administration has starved the MTA, Ratner was given the development rights for the Atlantic Terminal and is gunning for a sweetheart deal for the Atlantic Railyards. Can the MTA get top dollar in real estate deals to help solve its budget woes?

Posted by lumi at 10:30 AM

MTA MIA as Brooklyn Straphangers Rail

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Michael McLaughlin

Last Thursday... Councilwoman James convened open hearings to discuss MTA-proposed service changes and increased rates on city buses and trains. Commuters were also afforded the opportunity to testify about their experiences with the much-maligned agency. Although it was invited to participate, the Transit Authority did not send a representative to face the public and hear its complaints, a development that surprised absolutely no one.

Remarks from the panelists hit the MTA on all the familiar fronts, such as the potential dangers arising from closing ticket booths, the burden of fare hikes on the working class and its preoccupation with real-estate giveaways for sports stadiums.


Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

April 5, 2005

New York Games: MTA picked lowest bid, intentionally

Anatomy of a deal...

By changing the rules midcourse for the favored bidder, the MTA has created many angles for the coming lawsuits.

Posted by lumi at 8:34 AM

March 31, 2005

Jets victory predicted for Hudson Yards vote today

Here's this morning's local coverage on today's MTA board vote that is expected to go the Jets' way.

The NY Times, Opinion, Hold That West Side Decision
The NY Times, M.T.A. Expected to Approve Jets' $720 Million Plan for Stadium
NY Daily News, Mike Lupica, Story of West Side: They bilked this city
NY Daily News, Cablevision 'Hail Mary'
NY Daily News, Pro-stadium union boss guilty of mob link
NY Newsday, Jets expected to win bid
NY Newsday, AP, Stadium supporters rally

If the Metropolitan Transportation Authority awards the 13-acre property known as the Hudson Railyards to the Jets today, one of the most shameful political processes in the history of this city will have played out, at least for now, to its logical conclusion. -- Mike Lupica

NoLandGrab: Lupica understands that the MTA's Atlantic Railyards deal with Ratner will likely be more "shameful" than today's charade.

Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

March 30, 2005

For M.T.A., the Search for Savings Has a Price

The NY Times:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is spending money to save money. Buried amid hundreds of documents distributed yesterday during a series of meetings was an unusual contract: a three-month, $832,283 award to a consulting firm to help the authority become more efficient.

In other words, to help it spend less money


Posted by lumi at 11:54 PM

March 28, 2005


Weiner: It’s Like ‘Peeling an Onion’
The NY Sun

With only four days remaining until the Metropolitan Transportation Authority picks a developer to transform the Hudson rail yards on Manhattan’s West Side, a chorus of elected officials is calling for the agency to put the brakes on making a final decision.

...the New York Post reported that Newmark & Company, a real-estate firm that is acting as a consultant for the MTA on this project, has been urging the MTA to reject the existing bids because it could get $300 million more than what the Jets and Cablevision have offered (See, "'LOW' BLOW TO BIDS," NY Post, March 27, 2005). The dollar-per-square-foot value of the development rights is being vastly undervalued, a source told the paper.


NoLandGrab: Many of the same lawmakers who are calling for a "do over" in the Hudson Yards bidding process have remained silent on the Atlantic Yards deal. Read this article so that these politicians can be held to account for their positions.

Posted by lumi at 11:39 PM

March 27, 2005

Group: Rail yard evaluation has stadium ties

NY Newsday: Conflict of interest still surrounds the MTA bidding process for the Hudson Railyards. Newmark & Co., the NY real estate firm contracted by the MTA to analyse the Hudson Railyard bids, "gave at least $100,000 to NYC2012, the organizing committee seeking the 2012 Summer Games in the city."


Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

March 22, 2005

DDDb Press Release:
Free Market for the West Side, Fixed Market for Brooklyn?

DDDB Demands Open Bid for MTA Land

BROOKLYN— Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman, Daniel Goldstein today reaffirmed DDDB’s position that free market forces must be allowed to prevail in Brooklyn, as they have in Manhattan, when it comes to the sale of MTA property.

“Look at the massive difference in benefits that New York City and State will get as a result of an open bidding process at Hudson Yards,” Goldstein stated. “DDDB demands that the MTA yards in Brooklyn be subject to the same open bid process. An independent appraisal and RFP (Request For Proposals) are critical to protecting the public’s rights—including the right to free market benefits that Bloomberg, Doctoroff, Pataki and Ratner are trying to keep from the taxpaying public."

Goldstein’s comment followed last night’s announcement that—after first receiving a $100 million backroom “bid” from the Jets, and then opening the process up—the MTA has now received two other bids for much more money, and a new bid from the Jets that is 700% higher.

“Last night,” Goldstein concluded, “history proved yet again that the free market consistently provides higher benefits to the citizenry and taxpayers than no-bid, single-sourced, taxpayer-financed deals that are cut in a back room between government and industry.”

Posted by lumi at 9:35 PM

Hudson Yards, the bids are in

hudsonyards.jpg Here's a sample of the today's coverage of the Hudson Yards auction:

The NY Times, Jets and Rivals Increase Bids for Railyards
NY Daily News, MTA's West Side land gets 5 bids, but 2 disqualified
NY Daily News, Gang greenbacks: Jets banking on $720M bid to MTA for W. Side site
NY Newsday, Jets offer $720M for West Side plan
NY Daily News (Juan Gonzales), A tale of two W. Side visions

Posted by lumi at 7:02 AM

March 21, 2005

MSG unveils details of W. Side plan

Crain's NY Business:

Cablevision Systems Corp. unveiled a plan for the Hudson Rail Yards that includes the development of nearly 6,000 apartments, a 750-room hotel, commercial space for theater designers and producers, a public elementary school, a library and a five-acre park.


NoLandGrab: Doesn't Cablevision know that the Mayor is concerned that more housing would cause a "glut of housing on the West Side?" School? Library? Does the Mayor support that kind of stuff over stadiums?

Posted by lumi at 4:57 PM


NY Post, Op-Ed
by Julia Vitulo-Martin, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute similar public debate on value has occurred over the Brooklyn site, which the Bloomberg administration is willing to turn over to Forest City Ratner at no charge. Developer Henry Weinstein, a principal with Pacific Carlton Development Corp. and a downtown property owner, says a value of $100 per buildable square foot is standard for the area. Using a more conservative $80 a square foot, and Ratner's projection that the site will produce 6.8 million square feet of buildable space, Weinstein suggests a value of at least $500 million.

The MTA needs this money — and it's in every New Yorker's interest that it gets it.


Posted by lumi at 12:14 PM

MTA unlikely to net more Brooklyn bids

Crain's via

Don't expect anyone to pull a Cablevision in Brooklyn even if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority solicits other bids for Atlantic Yards
[I]nsiders say the prospect that other developers will contend for the project is very small. For one thing, the Brooklyn development is much more complicated than the proposed West Side stadium, since it requires the actual relocation of the rails. For another, developer Bruce Ratner owns most of the land around Atlantic Yards. What he doesn't own is in the hands of another developer, Shaya Boymelgreen, who just signed a deal with Mr. Ratner to build a hotel on the property. (permalink)

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

March 9, 2005

West Side Stadium & Nets Arena Comparison

Now that the MOU has been released and more details about Ratner's plan have emerged the list of issues tied to the West Side Stadium controversy have become clearer. Here's NoLandGrab's Dirty Laundry List so that you can tell your friends why they should scrap Ratner's arena along with the West Side Stadium.


Plus: Ratner wants to use eminent domain to displace residents and small businesses.

Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

March 8, 2005


NY Post: While the NY Post editorial board has already jumped to the conclusion that the arena and highrise development will be good for Brooklyn, reporter Patrick Gallahue uncovers the dirty little secret about Ratner's deal with the State, the MTA is comitted to get "fair market value" for the railyards.


Posted by lumi at 1:30 PM

March 7, 2005

Getting to the truth about Jets stadium

NY Daily News, Editorial:

It was astonishing to hear Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Peter Kalikow - he of the fare hike - say recently that a chance to reap hundreds of millions of dollars for the all-but-bankrupt agency was a lamentable "distraction." The estimable Mr. Kalikow has much on his plate, but getting top buck for the right to build over the MTA's West Side rail yard should be squarely atop his to-do list.


Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

March 5, 2005

MTA on Nets site: ‘Bid Away’

From the Brooklyn Papers:

And this week, according to Bloomberg News Service, the Nets move to Brooklyn was announced to be “more likely” to happen in the 2008-2009 basketball season, according to Ratner.

And it may take even longer, if the Ratner team is, like the Jets, trying to pass off the costs of building a platform over the rail yards onto the MTA. Kelly said the authority would favor bids with fewest liabilities.


Posted by amy at 4:58 PM

February 28, 2005

The transit fare mess

Without help from the state, the MTA faces higher fares and worse service

NY Newsday: This week's fare increases for Metro Cards and the LIRR as well as service cuts will put strains on the region's economy, according to Alan Hevesi's report released last week. Pataki has continually starved the MTA, forcing the state agency to borrow heavily, and is poised to do it again.

Albany needs to cut the jabber and find a solid revenue stream for the MTA. Otherwise, it will run a crucial state agency - a great engine of prosperity - right off the rails.


NoLandGrab: This week's fare increases leave no doubt that Pataki expects RIDERS to bail out the MTA, not billionare developers Bruce Ratner and Woody Johnson. The MTA must send our a RFP for the Atlantic Railyards now, to insure getting the most money possible for this valuable real estate.

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

February 27, 2005

Transit Chief Shows Signs of Political Independence


The New York Times presents a portrait of MTA Chairman, Peter Kalikow, and describes why he opened the West Side site for bidding.

As early as last March, when Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Pataki unveiled their plans for the stadium, Mr. Kalikow began to say that he believed the development rights were worth at least $400 million. When the Jets' offer came in much lower, Mr. Kalikow said, "I thought $100 million, frankly, was an insult."


Posted by amy at 11:00 AM

February 25, 2005

Critics Call Bidding Process For MTA's West Side Rail Yards Unfair


Coverage of Thursday’s MTA board meeting from NY1:

“To find that best deal, we really need an open bidding process, and the only way that happens - a true bidding process - is if everyone gets the same zoning override that the Jets have gotten," said Manhattan City Councilwoman Christine Quinn.


Posted by amy at 9:58 PM

February 23, 2005

Latest Counterbid May End Up To Be Most Short-Lived

The NY Daily Sun: Regarding the TransGas $700 million bid for the Hudson Railyards, the MTA has stated that they will not accept any "non-conforming bids."


Posted by lumi at 1:52 PM

February 22, 2005

How to Fix the MTAA five-point plan for saving the subway.

NY Magazine: How did the MTA get to be such a mess and what can be done to fix it?

Item #3: Hold a Giant Yard Sale
[Peter Kalikow] should insist that the Jets pay more for the property or lose it. A Manhattan stadium would be a bonanza for the team, so let’s see how much they’re willing to share with subway riders. Among other things, playing hardball for a fair price would set a fine precedent for when the MTA restarts negotiations with Bruce Ratner for the rights to build his basketball arena at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

February 20, 2005

Ratner Jeers Hudson Yards Link

From The Park Slope Courier, Forest City Ratner spokesperson Barry Baum denys any links between the open bidding process for the Hudson Railyards and Ratner's deal for the Atlantic Railyards. Opponents claim the MTA has the chance to "get it right in Brooklyn."

Ratner Jeers Hudson Yards Link
By Stephan Witt

The open bidding process instituted by the MTA for the Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s west side should not have a bearing on the proposed Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Companies Spokesperson Barry Baum said last week.

“These are two distinct and separate projects,” said Baum, refusing to elaborate further.

But opponents the FCRC proposal continue to argue that the only way to get maximum value for the 11-acre MTA-owned Atlantic Yards site is for the MTA to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP).

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDb) spokesman Daniel Goldstein said for the past year and a half his organization has suspected the that the MTA is working on a sweetheart deal with FCRC.

“This is clearly unacceptable for straphangers and taxpayers,” said Goldstein. “To avoid the debacle and brinkmanship at Hudson Yards, the MTA must now produce the independent appraisal of Atlantic Yards that the committed to this past summer and then issue an RFP, working with community organizations and elected officials to configure development guidelines for the MTA railyards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Goldstein called the recent Hudson Yards development baby steps toward a truly open bidding process, but said it still has a long way to go.

“The MTA can get it right in Brooklyn, from the start, with an RFP,” Goldstein added.

MTA Spokesperson Tom Kelly said the MTA is either currently working on getting the property appraised.

Kelly said some talks have been held with FCRC, but they are still waiting for the company to get back to them.

Baum said that FCRC would not discuss negotiations with the city, state or MTA.

“The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding between FCRC, the city, state, and MTA) is a complicated document that is changing often,” Baum said.

Baum also said it doesn’t matter which comes first between the MOU and a binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Both will happen, he said.

Meanwhile, the Fort Greene Association (FGA), which is hosting a 7:30 p.m. February 28 informational community forum on the project at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (South Oxford and Lafayette Avenue), issued a press release indicating that FCRC has withdrawn from participating in the meeting.

The press released, which was issued in conjunction with DDDb, also said repeated invitations to both BUILD and ACORN, two grassroots groups supporting the project, have both gone unanswered.

Baum said FCRC has been very open with the community throughout this process and the company would be happy to meet with the FCA.

“However, until the MOU is signed we don’t have any new information to discuss,” said Baum. “Once the MOU is signed we will coordinate a mutually acceptable date to meet with the For Greene Association and we look forward to it.”

ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis questioned the objectivity of the FGA.

“These folks wrote a letter months ago talking about how they were opposed to the project,” said Lewis. “We have other work to do. There are a lot of forums we don’t attend, so we’re not going.”

BUILD President James Caldwell said the organization will send a representative and he may attend himself.

Paul Palazzo, co-chair of the FGA Atlantic Yards Committee, said while the FGA has a coalition with DDDb, they have gone out of their way to make the forum as objective as possible.

Posted by lumi at 4:38 PM

February 16, 2005

Regional Planning Association finds MTA Bidding Process "Fatally Flawed"

Robert Yaro, President of the Regional Planning Association, supports a open bidding process, but finds the competitive bidding process for the Hudson Railyards to be "fatally flawed."

Regional Plan Association Statement

While RPA strongly supports an open bidding process for the MTA's western rail yard, the process proposed yesterday is fatally flawed. By requiring bidders to assume that the current, outdated zoning remains in place, the process will make it impossible for the site to support its "highest and best" use or for the MTA to receive fair market value for the site. The MTA's own appraisal of the site assumes an override of the low-density manufacturing use to allow for valuable high-density, mixed use development. The appraisal assumption is perfectly reasonable considering that the land surrounding the site, including the eastern half of the MTA's property, is being rezoned for dense office and residential uses. With the City declaring that it will not entertain any rezoning of the site, and with silence from the State, which has the power to override City zoning, it is highly unlikely that any developer will bid on the site.

By not assuming the necessary zoning override, the State and the MTA are artificially deflating the site's value. By contrast, the Jets have already been promised a zoning override and are receiving $375 million in state and city subsidy to build a platform over the Yards, a subsidy that is not being offered to any other bidder. Under these rigged conditions, the Jets may be the only bidder. This is clearly not a true open bidding process. The only way to ensure that the taxpayers and straphangers of New York receive full value for this important asset is to provide a level playing field for all bidders, ensuring the winning bidder that the State will support its project with the necessary agreements and zoning changes. We urge the MTA and the Empire State Development Corporation to provide these assurances before the Request for Proposals is finalized.

--Robert D. Yaro, President

Posted by lumi at 5:52 PM

Open bidding? MTA seeks final offers for Hudson Railyards

The MTA's call for final competitive bids for Hudson Railyard development rights sure looks like an open bidding process. But, with Bloomberg throwing all of his political muscle behind the Jets' bid, will anyone else set up to the plate?

The NY Times: Transit Agency Seeks Other Bids on West Side Site
NY Newsday: MTA sets deadline for rail yard bids
NY Newsday: New York's MTA asks for 'best and final' offers for West Side property
NY1: MTA Opens Hudson Rail Yards To Competitive Bidding

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

February 14, 2005

Open Bidding May Erupt on West Side

The NY Sun: Developers discuss pros and cons of developing the Hudson Railyards as politicians and public call for open bidding.


NoLandGrab: Open bidding on the West Side would set a precedent for the Atlantic Yards site.

Posted by lumi at 11:15 PM

February 12, 2005


From the Brooklyn Papers:

Though the Cablevision bid was decried as a “publicity stunt” by both the mayor and officials with the football team, the notion of competitive bidding for the site gave Brooklynites who oppose Ratner’s plan a beacon of hope.

“We’ve been demanding for the past year that the MTA should issue requests for proposals,” said Patti Hagan, who lives near the site of the proposed Nets arena. She said she knew of at least one idea by a developer for the Vanderbilt Avenue end of the site.


Posted by amy at 11:26 AM

State of confusion over Yards

MTA to Brooklyn Papers: "Define 'discussions'."


Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

February 11, 2005

IN THE SUBWAYS. MTA, ink a sweet deal for riders' sake.

NY Newday, Ray Sanchez:

From the start, the process to get the Jets a West Side stadium and strengthen New York's bid for the 2012 Olympics has been handled like the MTA's rigged fare hikes - behind closed doors, without debate, no real contest.

"There's a great disregard for the public who pays for the fare," [#7 subway rider Neal] Twomey said.


Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

February 9, 2005

Embarrassment for the MTA on the fight for the West Side

The NY Sun:

[The] group that stands to suffer the most embarrassment from the coming debate over the rail yards is not Mr. Bloomberg or the Jets: It’s the MTA.The cash-strapped transit service has until now justified its willingness to sell airrights over the 13-acre parcel of land by citing giant shortfalls in its coming fiscal years. The authority, which raised fares and cut services last year because of ballooning interest payments and other expenses, is staring at a $586 million deficit in fiscal 2006 and nearly $1 billion in fiscal 2008.


NY1: MTA Sets Friday Deadline For More Details On MSG's Bid For Hudson Rail Yards
WNYC: The MTA Should Get Best Price for Railyards
The NY Daily News: MTA gives Garden 3 days to back up $600M offer

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

February 8, 2005

MTA-Jets Face Off

The NY Times: Top Price for Stadium Site Trumps the Olympics, M.T.A. Chief Says

"Peter S. Kalikow, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said yesterday that the authority's need to get the highest possible price to keep the transit system running properly outweighed even City Hall's desire for a football stadium and its bid for the 2012 Olympic Games."

Bloomberg News: Jets Will Give Up on Stadium If Site Price Too High

"The New York Jets would walk away from building a Manhattan football stadium if an arbitrator sets too high a price for the site's development rights, Jets President Jay Cross said today."

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

February 6, 2005

MSG to MTA: Why won't you let us give you money?

Madison Square Garden letter to MTA. AKA Ratner vs. Ratner.

This proposal is much more beneficial for the MTA and New York City and State than surrendering the sale of this valuable piece of property to a contentious and unpredictable arbitration process. For example:

• New York City and New York State save $600 Million that they would have paid for the proposed Jets stadium.

• The MTA obtains a firm commitment from a credit-worthy buyer for a dramatically higher price than the Jets are willing to pay.

• New York City and New York State residents derive future tax revenues -- including property tax revenues -- certain to be many times greater than the revenues to be derived from the proposed Jets stadium.

• The project creates real, diverse jobs in a much more attractive environment.

February 4, 2005

Peter S. Kalikow Chairperson Metropolitan Transportation Authority 347 Madison Avenue New York, New York 10017

Dear Chairperson Kalikow:

We are pleased to present this proposal to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the "MTA") of the principal business terms on which Madison Square Garden, L.P. ("MSG") is prepared to acquire and develop the Site (as defined below).

  1. The Site.

The project consists of improvements to be built above the current Hudson Rail Yards bounded, generally, by West 30th and 33rd Streets, and Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues (the "Site"), currently proposed to be acquired by or leased to the New York Jets football team. The MTA will deliver the Site and the related development rights (collectively, the "Property") by fee simple conveyance or long-term lease of development rights, a long-term ground lease and/or another mutually agreed mechanism.

  1. The Project.

MSG will develop a project consisting of a dynamic mixed-use community centered on residential development (including affordable housing). The environmentally sensitive design with ample open space and community amenities will be created by internationally recognized architect(s) and may include office, general commercial, cultural, recreational, hotel, restaurant, retail, parking and entertainment uses. The design will contemplate public access to, and other enhancements of, the Hudson River waterfront, to serve as a beautiful, dramatic and vital neighbor to the newly-expanded Javits Convention Center, and visitors to the Javits Center will enjoy access to this new community and its amenities. The economic development impact from the diverse uses proposed will be much greater for New York City than the Jets' proposal. The aesthetically-pleasing and environmentally sound land-use plan to be developed by MSG will be a stronger and more coherent stimulus to broader development of the West Side of Manhattan.

  1. Price and Payment.

    MSG will pay an aggregate purchase price of $600 Million. The MTA will be responsible for delivering the Site with a platform (or other suitable support alternatives to a platform) in place, to be constructed by MSG or the MTA or by a mutually-agreeable third-party using a portion of the purchase price. The platform will be built in a manner mutually acceptable to the MTA and MSG as required by the design for the new development and to permit efficient operation of the railyards. We believe that our proposed uses for the platform will make it far less costly than those contemplated by the Jets and we will agree to negotiate with the MTA about any cost overages over $250 million.

    This proposal is much more beneficial for the MTA and New York City and State than surrendering the sale of this valuable piece of property to a contentious and unpredictable arbitration process. For example:

    • New York City and New York State save $600 Million that they would have paid for the proposed Jets stadium.

• The MTA obtains a firm commitment from a credit-worthy buyer for a dramatically higher price than the Jets are willing to pay.

• New York City and New York State residents derive future tax revenues -- including property tax revenues -- certain to be many times greater than the revenues to be derived from the proposed Jets stadium.

• The project creates real, diverse jobs in a much more attractive environment.

  1. Zoning.

    This proposal is based on the assumption that the zoning applicable to the Site will permit the highest and best development of the Site for the diverse uses described above, consistent with the Hudson Yards zoning recently approved by the City Council for the area around the Site.

  2. Commencement of Construction.

    MSG will commence construction as expeditiously as possible following the receipt of all necessary governmental approvals.

This proposal indicates our current intentions with respect to this matter. We are prepared to commence negotiation of binding agreements as expeditiously as possible upon your confirmation that the MTA desires to proceed on the basis of the terms outlined in this proposal. If the MTA intends to solicit or entertain other proposals or offers, or conduct an auction of any sort, for the Site and/or the related rights, please consider this proposal to be an expression of MSG's continuing interest in obtaining the Property.

Please let us know as soon as possible if the MTA is prepared to proceed with this exciting proposal. We are enthusiastic about this excellent opportunity and look forward to hearing from you regarding this proposal.


Madison Square Garden, L.P.

By: ________ Hank Ratner Vice Chairman

Posted by amy at 5:50 PM

Nets' arena talks on hold while MTA deals with Jets reports:

"The Nets deal is absolutely on hold until this finishes," MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow told five New York State Assembly members at a public hearing about the Jets stadium Thursday.

MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp said at the hearing that agency officials have held only general talks with representatives of Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner.

"We've had no discussions directly with them about the value [of the air rights], what they would purchase, etc.," Lapp said of the site at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Nets' arena talks on hold while MTA deals with Jets Saturday, February 5, 2005

By JOHN BRENNAN STAFF WRITER The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has told the New Jersey Nets to take a seat on the bench.

The reason: The MTA is too busy trying to work out a complicated deal with the New York Jets for a football stadium atop its rail yards in Manhattan to deal with the basketball team.

That means the Nets will have to wait indefinitely to pursue their own talks with the MTA about building a basketball arena atop MTA-owned land in Brooklyn.

"The Nets deal is absolutely on hold until this finishes," MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow told five New York State Assembly members at a public hearing about the Jets stadium Thursday.

MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp said at the hearing that agency officials have held only general talks with representatives of Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner.

"We've had no discussions directly with them about the value [of the air rights], what they would purchase, etc.," Lapp said of the site at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

A spokesman for Ratner declined to comment.

Ratner undoubtedly will be keeping a close eye on the Jets talks, because his relocation plan is similar to that of the National Football League team.

The Jets are seeking binding arbitration as a way to bridge the wide gulf between the MTA's estimate of the value of the air rights above the Jets' stadium site.

The agency wants $300 million from the Jets for a one-third share of those air rights. The Jets say they should be required to pay only $35 million for full air rights, but they have offered $100 million. Kalikow said he would demand full market value from the Jets, dismissing suggestions by Assembly members that he has been asked by stadium supporters Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to give the Jets a discount.

The Nets must work out their own air-rights deal with the MTA before proceeding on building an arena that would be the centerpiece of a $2.5 billion housing, retail and office complex controlled by Ratner. The air-rights value determined for the Jets' site may serve as a model for the Nets' project, known as Atlantic Yards.

New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, expressing skepticism of a plan to use former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell to settle the Jets' dispute, asked Kalikow how he could turn down an arbitration request by the Nets if the Jets are allowed to go that route.

"I don't know," Kalikow said.

The Nets are trying to finalize a Community Benefits Agreement with various neighborhood groups this month. That would allow the franchise to sign a deal to make the state-run Empire State Development Corp. the lead agency for the overall development.

The ESDC, which also is overseeing the Jets' deal, is expected to give its final approval to that plan this month.

A Ratner aide said last fall that the Nets' owners hope to begin construction of their project early in 2006, which likely would delay a move to Brooklyn from Continental Arena at least until 2008. An environmental impact statement must be completed, and a series of public hearings must be held before ground is broken. Supporters and critics also expect several lawsuits to be filed against the project.


Posted by amy at 11:37 AM

February 5, 2005

Should the MTA be saying no to money???


Coverage of Madison Square Garden's $600 million counter bid for the Hudson Railyards.

Daily News: MSG's big bid to derail Jets
Daily News: MTA giving Jets lotta green
New York Times: Owner of Garden Outbids Jets For Stadium Site
Newsday: MSG makes bid for Jets stadium site

Posted by amy at 9:17 AM

February 4, 2005

MSG offers $600M for W. Side rail yards

Crain's New York:

Upping the ante in its campaign against a West Side stadium, Cablevision Systems Corp.’s Madison Square Garden has offered to develop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s West Side Hudson rail yards for $600 million.

In the letter, MSG outlined plans to develop a mixed-use community centered on residential development on the site of the yards, which is where the city wants to build a new stadium for the New York Jets. MSG envisions the “highest and best development of the site” allowable under recently approved zoning regulations.

MSG”s move comes days after MTA and the Jets agreed to submit their dispute over the value of development rights at the site to binding arbitration. The authority wants $270 million, while the team has appraised the rights at about $35 million. The city and the state have agreed to pay about $600 million for the project, including a $375 million platform over the rail yards and $225 million for a retractable roof.

The letter from MSG proposes that the MTA deliver the site with a platform over the yards in place, to be constructed using a portion of the purchase price.


Posted by lumi at 8:43 PM

DDDb: Kalikow Contradicts Bruce Ratner

MTA Chief Says He and Forest City Ratner Have Not Talked Money
Community Groups Estimate Value of Atlantic Rail Yards at $1 Billion Dollars.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow, when questioned by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky at a contentious public hearing today, stated that, “The MTA has not had any discussions or negotiations with Forest City Ratner about the value of the Atlantic Yards.” MTA Executive Director, Katherine Lapp, confirmed this at the same hearing.

Kalikow’s testimony, under oath, contradicts statements made by Forest City Ratner (FCRC) executives who have claimed to be in negotiations with the MTA. On October 8, 2004, The Daily News reported, “The developer told The News that negotiations with city and state agencies are ‘going very well,’ and would be completed within the next two months.” Over the past year Bruce Ratner himself has thanked the MTA for their support of his proposal, while the MTA, in the Fall of 2003, had to retract statements that they had transferred development rights of the rail yards to Ratner's firm.

Daniel Goldstein, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesperson, attending the Brodsky hearing, was surprised to hear that negotiations on the value of the 11-acre MTA parcel have not yet started. Goldstein said, “DDDB, and transit-rider advocacy groups estimate that this valuable piece of prime real estate could be worth nearly one billion dollars. This property is obviously solid gold.”

For the past year and half FCRC has stated that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement about their stalled 17 high-rise and arena proposal was imminent. They have recently claimed that the MOU will be signed within the next two months.

Goldstein added, “How can FCRC claim that an MOU is imminent when the MTA, busy with the Hudson Yards negotiations, has not even begun to discuss the value of the property Mr. Ratner covets? How can anyone discuss the financial feasibility of the Ratner proposal when the development rights of the rail yards have not even been appraised? The value of the yards is clearly one of the biggest obstacles for Mr. Ratner and a reason his proposal is stalled.

DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

MTA Jets hearings for Hudson Railyards

Just what went on in yesterday's MTA hearings?

Field of Schemes: No way to run a railroad
The NY Times: Arbitration Over Stadium Site Is Called Bad Move for M.T.A.
NY Newsday: Lawmakers question MTA officials on New York Jets stadium deal
NY Daily News: MTA: Stadium estimate flight of fancy

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

February 3, 2005

TODAY: MTA hearings on Hudson Railyard appraisal mess


MTA Executives will be questioned on the value of the Hudson Yards

Place: Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, Rm. 1923, 19th Floor
Time: 10:30 A.M.

Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions
Chair: Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky

Read the litany of questions for the MTA from (scroll down). NYGames's questions illustrated how the MTA & Jets have made the debate over a simple question — how much the railyards are worth — nearly incomprehensible.

Today's showdown is a primer for the Atlantic Railyards appraisal. With its unparalleled access to transportation, the Atlantic Railyards should be worth more than the Hudson Railyards, but not if Ratner can help it.

Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

February 2, 2005

MTA & Jets set to go to arbitration over railyards. Ferrer calls for open bidding process.

Neil DeMause's Feild of Schemes: Jets appraisal follies.
A comprehensive wrap-up of the latest in the MTA-Jets Railyard Scandal

"...the Jets want to deduct the cost of the platform that would support the stadium over the West Side rail yards. Given that the city, not the Jets, would be paying for the platform, this seems an especially crack-addled argument, and clearly would amount to another huge subsidy if the team gets its way."

NY Daily News: MTA, team split on price of site
Crain's NY Business: Jets, MTA jointly agree to arbitration on price of stadium site

"The New York Jets and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed Tuesday to have former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell arbitrate their dispute over the value of the development rights...."

The NY Times: Ferrer and Others Seek Auction of Proposed Site for Stadium

"Several community groups and at least one mayoral candidate said yesterday that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should get competing bids for the development rights to its West Side railyard...."

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

February 1, 2005

Stadium stiffs subway

The NY Daily News: Now that the $900-million dollar price tag of the entire Hudson Railyards has been revealed, columnist Juan Gonzalez takes Doctoroff and MTA to task for still trying to cut the Jets a deal by only having them pay for the physical space the stadium occupies, not the space given over to tailgate parties.

This idea that the Jets should pay only for the actual physical space their stadium occupies, and not for all the open spaces around it that are essential to its viability, is a novel concept.

Imagine telling a real estate agent you want to buy a house but not the front lawn or the backyard.


Posted by lumi at 8:31 AM

January 31, 2005

Stadium Land Could Cost Jets $300 Million

The NY Times: Real Estate beat reporter Charles Bagli breaks the story on just how much the independent appraisal of the Hudson Railyards has valued the site for the Jets Stadium.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants the Jets to pay nearly $300 million, or nearly three times what the team has offered, for the rights to build a 75,000-seat stadium over the railyard on the Far West Side of Manhattan, according to executives who have been briefed on the negotiations.

The gap between the two numbers, which are based on each side's land appraisals, sets up a showdown on the value of the property, which represents one of the last hurdles in the Jets' quest for a new home in Manhattan.


Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

Secrecy Adds Suspicions About M.T.A.

The NY Times: The secrecy behind the release of the MTA's appraisal of the Hudson Railyards site has raised suspicions that things have slid back to business as usual, where favored developers cut sweetheart deals with representatives of elected officials who sit on the board of state agencies.

"The authority obviously needs as much as it can get from the Jets for its property, for the subways, buses and trains and those who depend on them.

"Nothing secret about that. Ask riders of the A and C lines."


NoLandGrab: Brooklynites can look forward to some similar drama over the Atlantic Railyards appraisal. Originally, the MTA planned to GIVE the development rights over the Atlantic Railyards to Bruce Ratner. Why not? They gave him the rights to build over the station for his Atlantic Terminal Mall across the street.

Now, while the MTA's fiscal woes are playing on the front pages of the dailies, the state agency has promised to get "top dollar" for the Hudson and Atlantic Railyard sites by commissioning independent appraisals. Local watchdog groups suggest that the only way to get full value for the sites is to auction the development rights off to the highest bidder.

Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

January 30, 2005

Trouble underground

The Daily News reports that "Satan himself would be hard-pressed to beat the MTA at fouling up subways"

Take the ridiculous refusal to make public the MTA's appraisal of the market value of the air rights over its far West Side train yards. The brass gave the study to the Jets, who want to build a football stadium there. But when it comes to letting the public know the magic number, suddenly the document is private.


Posted by amy at 7:19 PM

January 28, 2005


Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky was left no choice but to subpoena for the release of the independent appraisal of the Hudson Railyards after MTA officials refused to make the figures public.

The NY Sun: DISAGREEMENT ON AIR RIGHTS GROWS HOTTER; Kalikow Has Said They’re Worth $1.2B
The NY Daily News: Pols subpoena MTA

NoLandGrab: The MTA has promised to have the Atlantic Railyards appraised by a third party in order to assure that the public receives full-market value. What assurances do we have that the MTA is protecting the public when they insist on keeping the numbers secret?

Posted by lumi at 10:07 PM

January 27, 2005

MTA mum on Jets' site worth

The NY Daily News:

The MTA has told the Jets what an appraiser says the West Side stadium site is worth - but refused yesterday to give that information to state lawmakers.

"The only people who have the appraisal document are the chairman [Peter Kalikow] and the Jets," MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp told lawmakers....


NoLandGrab: The best kept secret in Albany is how much are the MTA railyard properties worth? Atlantic Railyard activists call for open bidding on the properties to find out, not secret backroom smokefilled meetings.

Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

January 26, 2005

MTA Looks to the Sky for Cash

The NY Sun: The cash-strapped MTA is going to have to use sale of air rights over railyards and postpone expenditures such as purchases of new buses and trains and station renovations in order to make up for the $2.4-billion difference between what they requested from the State and what Pataki has budgeted for "core" operations through 2009.


NoLandGrab: It is imperative that the MTA get top dollar for the Atlantic Railyards by auctioning off the air rights. The agency can't make a secret back-room deal with favored developer Bruce Ratner when the condition and safety of the transit system is at risk.

Posted by lumi at 4:00 PM

December 24, 2004

Hearing on MTA fare hike

New York Games:

ASSEMBLYMAN BRODSKY: Are you prepared to open the MTA’s processes to other proposals for that site, if nothing else is noted to test what the market place value it might bring?

MR. KALIKOW: The problem with opening up the process is –- I don’t know if you open up the process if that doesn’t make it –- the buyers may be hesitant to make a firm bid not knowing whether absolutely positive if they could get the property. [p. 39]

MR. KALIKOW: We also need to remember that somebody, who is bringing an NFL team to the region, or somebody who is bringing an NBA team to Brooklyn, I agree that as long as they full value, and long as full value was achieved, I think there is a benefit of having an NFL team or an NBA team over just having five more apartment houses or ten more office buildings. [p. 70]

Download transcript

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

December 23, 2004

Groups call for MTA to get top dollar for Atlantic Railyards

The [MTA] will have to provide service for these new riders and pay for relocating the yard; it should not be made to sell its real estate for anything but a full, fair price.

Recent Newsday and New York Times stories noted how the MTA, in its time of fiscal crisis, was looking to its real estate holdings to make extra revenue. The Atlantic yard site is one of these valuable parcels of real estate that could provide the agency with hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue. This revenue is desperately needed to cover $16 billion in unfunded needs in the MTA’s 2005-2009 capital program, and to pay for service improvements in Brooklyn, like a pedestrian tunnel to connect the Jay Street-Borough Hall and Lawrence Street subway stations. Transit riders should not be forced to pay higher fares as private endeavors benefit from large government subsidies.

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

December 10, 2004

To Pay Debt, Transit Agency Considers Property Deals

The New York Times: This article looks into the real estate aspect of the MTA's scramble to close the gap on their staggering deficit. The Atlantic and Hudson railyards (Nets arena & Jets stadium sites) are part of their real estate portfolio for which they are seeking valuations for eventual sales and leases.


The Times mentions that the MTA is looking to use the profits from Jets and Nets railyard deals to help put their fiscal house in order. However, they fail to note that the MTA is not getting top dollar for these properties because they are not being offered to the highest bidder. Also, it will cost the City (i.e. local taxpayers) hundreds of millions of dollars to build platforms over both sites.

The MTA is proposing fare hikes. Also, after last week's "lukewarm" response in Albany to raise taxes across the state, the MTA has now proposed to divert $1 billion dollars in NYC sales-tax revenue.

Are City taxpayers getting shafted? You decide:
* No-bid real estate deals to hand-picked developers * Fare increases * Diversion of sales tax revenue * Service cuts * Booth closings


In an effort to raise more than $1 billion, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to sell or lease for commercial use many of its 14,000 properties, including train stations, commuter parking lots and maintenance yards.

The move to raise money comes as the agency, struggling to deal with a growing fiscal crisis, is expected to vote next week to increase fares. In a separate step to help the authority, state officials are also considering taking up to $1 billion a year in sales tax revenue that goes to New York City and instead giving it to the authority, people briefed on their discussions said yesterday.

As part of its proposal to raise money from its huge portfolio of properties, the authority is looking to hire a real estate consultant and broker to review its landholdings and buildings and draw up a plan for marketing them to developers and business owners. The agency has already solicited proposals to renovate a handful of historic train stations in the suburbs to accommodate retail shops and offices, similar to what it has long done at Grand Central Terminal.

At the Hastings, Pelham, Port Chester, Spring Valley, Tarrytown, Tuckahoe and Yonkers stations on the Metro-North Railroad, for example, the authority wants to retrofit the entire buildings for commercial use, with the exception of space for a ticket booth, rest rooms and a public waiting area. The authority said the distinctive antique stations, some with tile or slate roofs, offer businesses an "excellent opportunity to quickly create an acknowledged presence in each community."

In an 11-page request for proposals from real estate consultants that was issued last month, the authority said it was also interested in promoting development opportunities at other stations and parking areas on the Metro-North and Long Island lines, as well as "all rail yards, fan plants, substations, bus depots" and other properties belonging to the New York City Transit system.

The attempt to generate revenue from its vast real estate holdings is the latest example of unorthodox steps pursued by the transportation authority and government officials to deal with a growing financial crisis that has forced the authority to consider a mix of fare increases and service cuts when its board meets next week.

Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, said in an interview this week that by turning its attention to real estate, the authority hopes to raise $1 billion for its capital budget from the sale of property and air rights over authority-owned yards, as well as money for its operating budget from the stepped-up leasing of train stations for shops and offices.

"Given this agency, and the demands we have to meet, no stone can be left unturned," Ms. Lapp said. "A billion dollars is a real aggressive target. But it is possible. We've got to try, and that's what this request for proposals is all about."

The $1 billion goal, she said, includes estimated profits from the sale of air rights over rail yards in Brooklyn for a basketball arena for the Nets and on the West Side of Manhattan for a football stadium for the Jets. But Ms. Lapp said she could also envision, for example, selling parcels of surplus property for commercial development along the 1,000 miles of right-of-way the authority controls near commuter rail lines and bridges.

By committing the proceeds of property sales to its capital budget, which finances the construction or improvement of physical assets, the authority would not be narrowing the multibillion-dollar gaps projected for its operating budget in the next few years. But it would allow the authority to avoid going further into debt by using the cash to pay for capital improvements, such as the purchase of new subway cars.

The authority's plan to raise fares and impose service cuts to close deficits in its operating budget has angered rider advocates and politicians, who say the state and city must increase their subsidies for mass transit and the authority should do more to cut administrative expenses. Any additional income from leases and rentals, which currently total roughly $200 million a year, would help balance the operating budget.

Unlike some of its earlier initiatives, like the idea to sell naming rights, the real estate plan has elicited mostly positive reactions. Andrew Albert, who represents the New York City Transit Riders Council on the authority's board, said the transportation authority needs to seek all possible remedies for its fiscal quandary.

"It's probably a good idea," Mr. Albert said. "They are facing a tremendous shortfall, and anything they can do, shy of cutting service or safety, it seems to me is prudent to do."

Roger A. Lowenthal, a senior vice president of the Greenberg Group, a real estate consulting service in Hewlett, N.Y., said there would be a limited number of retailers interested in renting space in a small suburban train station, although larger transit hubs, like Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central, are more attractive. At most stations, he said, the customer base is "the breakfast crowd" in the morning, rather than at night, when commuters are in a hurry to get home and would not take the time to hang around and shop.

"At the smaller stations, you have a steady base of Monday-through-Friday traffic, but it is limited because you're only going to get the people who go in and out of that specific station by train," Mr. Lowenthal said. "From a retailer's perspective, it's a small percentage of the potential."

At the Pelham station, the authority recently signed a lease agreement with Houlihan/Lawrence, a Westchester County real estate company that is opening an office in a 500-square-foot part of the building that once housed a taxi stand. Stephen Meyers, the company's president, said Houlihan/Lawrence was paying for renovations needed for the new office, in keeping with requirements of the State Historic Preservation Office.

"Opening an office in a train station is definitely a little different, but that's part of the attraction," Mr. Meyers said. "We saw it as an excellent opportunity to have an incredible presence in town, because so many people come through the train station every day."

While the plan to generate revenue from agency properties was devised by authority officials, Gov. George E. Pataki has also asked his administration to explore options to raise money for the agency. Although the administration has not signed off on any plan, one of the options they are weighing calls for taking $1 billion worth of the city's sales tax, which had been used to pay off the city's remaining debt from the 1970's, and giving it each year to the authority.

That money is no longer needed to pay off the remaining 1970's debt, since the State Legislature agreed in 2003 to pay it off over the next 30 years to help the city recover from the economic aftershocks of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - a move that Governor Pataki vetoed, and then unsuccessfully sued to stop after his veto was overridden.

And that part of the sales tax - one percentage point - is set to be phased out in 2008, when the law that shepherded the city through the fiscal crisis of the 70's expires. But the city is counting on getting the tax extended in its future financial plans.

So if the money were to be diverted to the agency before or after 2008, it would have the effect of blowing a $1 billion hole in the city's budget, which is already facing multibillion-dollar shortfalls.

Aides to Governor Pataki emphasized that while the administration is weighing many options, it had not settled on any plans or proposals yet. "The governor hasn't made any decision, and there are any number of proposals out there," said Lisa Dewald Stoll, the governor's communications director.

But several people said that aides to the governor had mentioned the proposal to use the sales tax in recent discussions about how to carry the M.T.A. through its current crisis.

Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, declined to comment on the preliminary proposal.

But a city official said he had a hard time believing Governor Pataki would support such a plan. "The bottom line is it would create a $1 billion hole in the city's budget," the official said. "I don't think the governor's office would be interested in doing that."

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who oversees the transit agency as the chairman of the Assembly's committee on corporations, authorities and commissions, said he was troubled by the proposal to get city taxpayers to bear the burden of keeping the transit system afloat.

"The governor has no right to punish the people of New York City to keep the transit system of New York City in good repair," he said.

Last week, the agency's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, who was appointed by Governor Pataki, outlined his own proposal to increase a half-dozen business, real estate and fuel taxes to raise $900 million a year to help pay for the authority's five-year rebuilding program. His proposal got a cool reception in Albany.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

February 29, 2004

Stadia Mania: The View from Prospect Heights

The Brooklyn Rail By Brian Carreira


An important and yet seemingly overlooked fact is that Forest City Ratner has not yet secured any rights to develop the area. For three of the six blocks included in the development scheme, Ratner would need to secure air rights from the MTA as they would be built over existing railroad track. A much bandied and seemingly unquestioned assertion is that these rights will be "donated" to Forest City upon purchase of the team. But a recent discussion with MTA spokesperson Tom Kelley told a slightly different story: "All this is media crap," he noted. Ratner, Kelley said, "would be given preference" for development since he has already built the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal in the immediate vicinity. As for the idea that the rights will ultimately be donated by a public authority that is projecting to run a budget deficit as soon as 2005, Kelley said, "hope runs eternal."


Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

February 27, 2004

NYC sets price for West Side MTA land: bupkis

Field of Schemes
By Neil deMause

When last asked how much New York City planned to pay the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority for development rights to the West Side rail yards where a new Jets/Olympics stadium would be built, deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff replied: "We need to work out a deal with the MTA for those." Today Deputy Dan's initial offer was revealed: How about, umm, nothing? As reported in Newsday, the city considers its plan to extend the #7 subway line to the new stadium a "land swap" for the MTA development rights, valued at an estimated $1.7 billion; as one unnamed state official put it: "They're getting a subway line for free."


Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM