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The railyard runaround, updated: MTA says only approval was for work proposed before June 2014

I wrote Monday that I didn't buy Forest City Ratner's explanation for a change in the completion date for railyard work from 2016 to 2017. Information I have since gained from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority bolsters that skepticism.

Timeline announced June 2014 shows West Portal finished Feb. 2016
To recap, in early June 2014, Forest City described railyard work ending with the West Portal finished in February 2016, as shown in the graphic below right.

However, Forest City--er, Greenland Forest City Partners--now says the West Portal work will be finished by July 2017, part of a larger railyard project to be completed at the end of 2017.

That was publicly stated last month, and the timeline below left was revealed last week.

Last June, Forest City executive Ashley Cotton said at the Community Update meeting last week. "We signed [a joint venture agreement] with our dear partners, Greenland, we posted a completion guarantee for the MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority], and we got really deep in the railyard.”

“We realized that, if you are going to start building all around this area near the West Portal and then the railyard work.. and then you’re going to build foundations for a platform and building... we were going to be going in and ripping things up that we’ve already built.”

Timeline Oct. 2015 shows West Portal finished July 2017
Railyard completed December 2017
“So we figured out a more efficient, more sophisticated, smarter way to do this... so we added scope to what we call the West Portal work, and therefore changed the date of completion,” she said. 

“Super sorry we didn’t make it clear here,” Cotton said. “We actually called all the politicians and notified them. And obviously it was all done with total approval from the MTA.” She refused to offer more details.

Cotton repeated the account, in more truncated form, at the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting this past Tuesday. She was not challenged.

Drilling down

But it didn't make sense. 

After all, as I wrote Monday, Forest City in April 2014--well before the Greenland deal was finalized--proposed a new December 2017 timetable for the railyard. The plan was approved by the MTA in late June of 2014.

In other words, the change had been percolating for a while, and was clearly on the table when Forest City in early June 2014 provided its timetable.

So, was there a second approval that I somehow missed? No. 

"There have been no more formal approvals since June 2014," MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg confirmed in response to my query, "but routine construction scheduling issues do not require board notice or board action."

That was not what Cotton was describing.