Skip to main content

Ravitch: MTA obfuscates full cost of West Side Rail Yards project

A panel discussion last night on "The Fate of the Far West Side" again pointed out the poverty of public discourse regarding Atlantic Yards as the project was under consideration. At the panel, held at the Museum of the City of New York, Richard Ravitch, former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, expressed significant skepticism about planning for both the 59-block Hudson Yards area as well as plans for the MTA's 26-acre West Side Rail Yards.

"I believe in planning," Ravitch said. "But this is planning gone amok. This is planning unfettered by any consciousness of the availability of public resources."

It is in the public interest, he said, to harness "private greed." However, he criticized the MTA for its "shortsighted" desire for revenue--Crain's reported yesterday that the bids for the rail yards may be $1 billion--suggesting that the full value of the property won't be realized until the Moynihan Station project is completed.

Moreover, he charged that the MTA has refused to make available "all the conditions" that the five bidders have included in their bids. Those conditions, he warned, "include significant obligations" on the government to spend more money on the projects, leaving the public in the dark as to the ultimate cost of the project.

He and others stressed that public land was an important public resources. (More from the Rail Yards Blog and the Real Deal.)

The AY angle

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.

Ravitch and panel moderator Lynne B. Sagalyn, Professor of Real Estate Development and Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, both expressed dismay that the press had little appetite to deal with complex financial issues attached to planning. (Sagalyn's book Times Square Roulette makes that point, as well.)

The value of growth

Ravitch suggested that the extension of the #7 subway line "is a good idea in a world of unlimited resources." However, he said, we don't live in that world.

The most important infrastructure project to accommodate the city's growth, he said, is the construction of the Second Avenue Subway, which "will open up vast areas of the East Bronx" to development.

Timing and oversight

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.

Michaelson noted that it's not clear if a public authority, as with Battery Park City, would oversee the rail yards development. (BrooklynSpeaks has called for such an oversight entity for Atlantic Yards, but the Empire State Development Corporation has remained wary.)

Sagalyn said she recommended a "special purpose entity" to oversee the 59-block area and coordinate plans, involving existing subsidiaries of the ESDC, such as that set up for Moynihan Station.

She cited the ESDC's history of creating such subsidiaries. "If it isn't happening that way," she said, "it suggests there's a void in leadership."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…