Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hudson Yards vs. Atlantic Yards, again

The 5/17/07 New York Times, in a front-page article headlined Biggest Building Site in Manhattan Up for Auction, laid out the plan for the Hudson Yards:
It is the largest building site left in Manhattan, 26 acres on the Far West Side, where the Bloomberg administration envisions the equivalent of five Empire State Buildings rising on $1 billion worth of concrete columns over bustling railyards.

And starting next month, some of the city’s biggest developers will have a chance to bid for the rights to make that grand — some say grandiose — plan real.


While the Times didn't make this point, it's clear that the bidding will start before city, state, and borough officials have decided to back one developer and one project, as with the Atlantic Yards project.

Remember, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard wasn't put up to bid until 18 months after the Atlantic Yards plan was announced. The new plan conforms more to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 sustainability initiative.

Revenue vs. benefits

Regarding Hudson Yards, there are competing goals, the Times reported:
Debate over the plan has focused on two potentially conflicting demands: that the development provide public benefits, like subsidized housing, parks and other amenities, and that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority get the highest possible price for the land.

Developers insist that any requirements for affordable housing or parks will increase their costs by $100 million, reducing the price they can pay. Critics contend that the sale of public land should lead to community benefits, and that the cost of those benefits is a small price to pay for a rare commodity: land in Manhattan.

“It’s a vast undertaking, and it pitches these competing public goals against each other,” said Anna Levin, a member of Community Board 4. “I understand that the entire burden shouldn’t be placed on developers. But this is a public undertaking. There have to be public resources that can be brought to bear, otherwise this will become a gold coast that doesn’t serve the entire city.”


With the Vanderbilt Yard, after receiving cash bids of $150 million from Extell and $50 million from Forest City Ratner, the MTA chose to negotiate exclusively with the latter--eventually getting that cash figure doubled--because it calculated that the overall package of benefits, including infrastructure improvements and project components, was worth pursuing.

Then again, Forest City Ratner's bid was the one that city and state leaders, who appoint the MTA board, had backed from the start. Was it a fair starting point?

Public process

The Times reported:
Although the Bloomberg administration failed to win legislative support to build the football stadium over the railyards in 2005, it did succeed in a more far-reaching goal: rezoning a wide swath of the West Side, including 45 blocks outside the railyards, for large-scale development. However, the portion of the railyards west of 11th Avenue still needs to be rezoned and to go through a public review process.

Last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rebuffed the city’s offer to buy the development rights to the yards for $500 million, saying it was too little. The two sides then agreed to create a strategic development plan for the yards, which is now complete, and put them up for sale.


Rezoning... strategic development plan... in Manhattan, but not in Brooklyn.