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Ratner on Bloomberg TV: first tower "definitely" will start this year; controversy was "more than I expected"

On Bloomberg TV's "In the Loop"  this morning, jolly Bruce Ratner met friendly anchor Betty Liu, fresh from her hard-hitting interview last September.

The one piece of news? When Liu said the modular housing tower has "sort of become a moving target," Ratner responded, "It's not been a moving target because of financing," but didn't quite explain the delay.

He said the modular plan was "important in terms of cost, in terms of environment" and said "we've had tremendous success on" agreements with unions to build a modular union factory. But he didn't say whether, for example, the city Department of Buildings or any other agency has caused roadblocks.

When will the building start? "By the end of the end the year we'll be starting," Ratner said. "Definitely by the end of the year."

Liu didn't point out that, in the interview last September, Ratner said the building would start at the end of 2011 "or at the beginning of next year." Or that, at a press conference last month with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Ratner said it could start in the beginning of 2013.

Asked if demand is "sluggish," Ratner said it's "the opposite, it's crazy out there for rentals in New York" and rental prices are rising.

The arena?

Ratner, unsurprisingly said the arena was doing better than expected, saying ticket sales were at 300 to 400 a day, "which is a lot." It wasn't clear whether he meant season tickets only.

Lessons learned

"Now that you've come to this point with Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center, what are you going to take from this experience onto your next project?" Liu asked.

First, Ratner responded not unreasonably, he's busy enough with this project.

Still, he allowed, "the controversy was not what I expected. It was more than I expected." (When the project was launched in 2003, he claimed, "I’ve done a lot of projects, I have never, ever seen a project get less protest than this.)

He said he didn't think that would happen again, given that a project of this scale happens only 25 to 50 years. 

He said he also retained a sense of optimism, that the city rebounds from tough times and "the real estate market is something you can do very well in."

What would he do differently?

Ratner responded with what he acknowledged was a simple answer: "'I think size... This is a very large project. Doing smaller projects is a lot easier."

Signing off

"Always fantastic to see you, Bruce Ratner," Liu said in closing.