Saturday, October 02, 2010

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: New York Magazine profile of Extell's Barnett omits role of DDDB in spurring railyard bid

I already wrote this past week how New York Magazine's profile of Extell Development head Gary Barnett misleadingly claimed he made a "surprise eleventh-hour bid for Atlantic Yards." After all, only the Vanderbilt Yard was up for bid--less than 40% of the site Ratner sought.

But there's another fundamental error in the profile, headlined The Anti-Trump; it ignores how Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) alerted Extell to the bid.

Here's the New York Magazine version:
In June 2005, shortly after he signed the record deal for Riverside South, Barnett summoned John Cetra, a Harvard-trained architect who was finishing work on the Orion, to his office. Barnett told ­Cetra he was thinking of making a bid for Atlantic Yards. Cetra was shocked by the idea. At the time, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was in the process of negotiating with Bruce Ratner over the rights to transform the area over the Brooklyn rail yards into a Frank Gehry–­designed ­future­scape. Ratner’s team of engineers had done years of planning and invested millions in the project. Bloomberg, and much of the city’s political Establishment, was behind Ratner’s bid, as well as his plans to bring the Nets to Brooklyn. Barnett was undaunted by the long-shot odds. “Gary said, ‘I want to go after this,’ ” Cetra recalled. “We worked around the clock on it.”

Barnett’s improbable bid stunned the real-estate world. He offered to pay the MTA $100 million more than Ratner, and in a nod to community opposition, his proposal called for just 4,800 occupants compared with Ratner’s plan to house 18,000. Barnett left the controversial Nets arena out of his bid and agreed not to condemn any blocks, two principal demands by community activists. Owing to their prior battle over the New York Times headquarters, the real-estate press jumped on the feud, portraying Barnett and Ratner as bitter rivals once again at war over prized development rights. Advisers in the Ratner camp certainly viewed it that way. “It was an effort to throw a wrench into the process, given what happened earlier,” one person close to the process told me. Barnett downplayed the whole matter when I brought it up. He told me he’s never met Ratner and insisted his bid was strictly about business.
DDDB's take

Here's how Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn tells it:
In May 2005, after much public pressure, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the sale or lease of all or some of the 8.4 acre Vanderbilt Yard (Vanderbilt Yard is the MTA's official name for the rail yards.) The MTA barely advertised the RFP (2 placements only). So, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn mailed the RFP, along with a cover letter and the Principles For Responsible Community Development On The Vanderbilt Rail Yards to one hundred developers. The few who responded were deterred by the political situation swirling around Ratner's project. But one firm, Extell Development Company, agreed to meet with some DDDB members.

After showing the UNITY Plan and The Principles to Extell, the development firm decided to submit a proposal to the MTA, with thirty days left in the ludicrously short 42-day time period the MTA had set for proposal submission. The plan submitted to the MTA by the Extell Development Company is guided by the principles underlying the UNITY Plan.

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