Thursday, March 27, 2008

News analysis: The Times gives the ESDC a bye

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.

“This will get built over a generation,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, said of the railyards project. “It’s a 15-to-20-year build-out, and it’ll change according to market conditions. The buildings will look very different when they get built than the images we see today. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see the commercial towers get built later, rather than sooner.”


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.

Ravitch's criticism

The Times article raises the question of financing for the project in Manhattan:
That is why Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is a critic of the deal. He said the authority should not have tried to sell the development rights in a down market on the promise that the developer will build towers and pay rent at some point in the future.

“Jerry Speyer is an eminently responsible developer,” Mr. Ravitch said, “but I don’t yet understand how this helps the M.T.A. meet its capital needs. They sold an illiquid investment for another illiquid investment.”


This raises a question: what would Ravitch think of the Atlantic Yards deal? Yes, the overall market has turned down since December 2006, when the Atlantic Yards deal was approved by the ESDC and the Public Authorities Control Board. However, the lack of affordable housing financing had already cast doubt on the project.

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