Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“We’re not going to negotiate against ourselves,” says MTA about LIRR contract. Except it did when it came to Vanderbilt Yard.

From today's New York Times, Discussions With L.I.R.R. Appear to Have Collapsed:
Six days before a possible strike on the Long Island Rail Road, negotiations appeared to collapse on Monday, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority acknowledged “a gulf” with its unions, and labor leaders said they would proceed with plans for a walkout on Sunday.
Thomas F. Prendergast, the authority’s chairman, said that while transportation officials had increased their offer repeatedly in recent months, the unions had barely budged, leaving “a long distance” between the two sides. Further concessions from the railroad, which carries about 300,000 riders each weekday, could influence the size of future fare increases and imperil capital funding, Mr. Prendergast suggested.
“We’re not going to negotiate against ourselves,” he told reporters Monday afternoon at a news conference.
(Emphasis added)

The MTA's railyard 

Ah, but didn't the MTA do exactly that in 2009 when it accepted Forest City Ratner's renegotiation of a settled deal to buy development rights for the Vanderbilt Yard?

"There is no other market," declared board member Jeffrey Kay.

The Times was editorially silent, though in a somewhat parallel situation in 1994, the newspaper repeatedly editorialized against renegotiating with a developer. “A rebounding economy will likely increase its value,” the Times opined. “It is wiser to walk away than stumble into a giveaway.”

The Atlantic Yards deal as a whole

And, when discussing the Atlantic Yards deal as a whole, didn't then-Council Member Eric Gioia ask in May 2004 that very question: "In other words, if we’re negotiating and it’s not--what else is the market out there, or are we negotiating against ourselves?"

As I wrote, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Andrew Alper's justification was apparently that sports franchises are such a scarce commodity that the city must negotiate against itself--an argument that is often effective, especially in cities desperate to be "major league."  No other project was suggested or considered for the railyard or the rest of the Atlantic Yards site.

Though Alper claimed that "trying to find a better deal" would "discourage developers from coming to us," since then the city, in projects like Hudson Yards and Willets Point, however controversial, have at least put developers at the same starting line.

And the city, negotiating against itself, nearly doubled its direct contribution to the Atlantic Yards project and has offered all sorts of other aid.

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