Monday, June 29, 2009

Public hearing set for July 29 & 30; arena due 2012, 25 years to get Phase 2 started

A Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) legal notice (below; click to enlarge), which takes some three-quarters of a page in today's New York Post announces a public hearing on the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan to be held from 2-5 pm and 6-8 pm on July 29 and July 30.

The location: the Klitgord Auditorium (285 Jay Street) of New York City Technical College, where the epic 8/23/06 hearing on Draft Environmental Impact Statement and General Project Plan was held.

Speakers will be limited to three minutes. (Let's see if that's strictly enforced.) Comments will be accepted for 30 days after the close of the hearing. That suggests that the ESDC board will vote to approve the plan in early September.

The schedule is related to developer Forest City Ratner's need to tax-exempt bond financing for the arena by the end of the year. The financing would last approximately 33 years.

Time limits: 6 years, 12 years, 25 years

The hearing notice, for the first time, imposes a 25-year deadline on the project as a whole, though I read that as 25 years to get construction started, not completed. So AY indeed would take "decades," as ESDC CEO Marisa Lago has predicted.

It states that the developer "shall use commercially reasonable efforts to construct the Arena by 2012." (I've written previously that Forest City Ratner's announced 2011 opening date is dubious.) However, as stated in the State Funding Agreement, the developer has six years without penalty to complete the arena after vacant possession of the arena block.

The State Funding Agreement says the developer has 12 years without penalty to complete the buildings on the arena block after vacant possession. The legal notice states that the interim leases for the arena block will expire no later than the 12th anniversary of vacant possession. I read that as saying that construction must have begun, but not necessarily completed.

(Interim leases permit demolition, infrastructure construction, and foundation construction, but not above-ground improvements without the consent of the ESDC.)

Similarly, the legal notice states that the interim leases for the rest of the project site east of Sixth Avenue will expire no later than the 25th anniversary of vacant possession of the arena block or any other properties taken by eminent domain in the first stage. Again, I read that as requiring construction to begin, not necessarily completed.

The deadlines are subject to extension for force majeure.

2 comments:

  1. For good reasons, the EDPL clearly provides that a project be completed in 10 years. Under that state law, which controls what occurs with Atlantic Yards, there is no provision for a 25 year project. Such a timeframe, from the outset, is unlawful, pure and simple.

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  2. Let me amend my comment to state that a project proceeding under eminent domain must be materially improved within 10 years. This 10 year limitation is intended to forestall condemnation blight.

    While materially improved is different than completed, it contemplates a project far more advanced than vacant land. Under this standard, construction must be well under way.

    Furthermore, a 16-tower project would have to show much more progress than an 1-tower project.

    ESDC's Atlantic Yards Project documentation allows for most of the towers to be built on a timeframe that is 2 1/2 times what the law contemplates. That is unlawful.

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