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An RFEI for a railyard in the South Bronx. Not for the one in Brooklyn. Despite what Gargano said.

From Crain's NY Business's Joe Anuta yesterday, State eyes massive development over South Bronx rail yard:
The state wants to deck over a nearly 13-acre rail yard in the South Bronx to make way for a massive waterfront development in the area, which is attracting more private investment as land costs rise elsewhere in the city.
Last month, Empire State Development released a request for expressions of interests [RFEIs] inviting developers to present offers for leasing or purchasing the land, decking over the yards, then building a sizable residential or mixed-use project on top.
The parcel sits along the Harlem River, just north of the Willis Avenue Bridge. It is currently used as a transfer station to move goods between cross-country trains and trucks that traverse the tristate area—a use the state plans to maintain going forward.
"It's exciting, and very rare to offer the opportunity to develop more than a dozen acres of prime waterfront land in New York City," ESD head Howard Zemsky said in a statement.
Oh.

The parallel with Atlantic Yards isn't precise, but it's not absent, either. In this case, the state Department of Transportation owns a 96-acre area called the Harlem River Yards, which it leases, and now wants to develop 13 acres of it.

By contrast, with Atlantic Yards, the state--the Metropolitan Transportation Authority--owned an 8.5-acre railyard, but a private developer, Forest City Ratner, already had conceived a plan to tether that to private property, city streets, and other public property to make a 22-acre site. Only after that came the request for proposals, or RFPs. There was no RFEI.

In both cases, the state can override zoning.

According to RFEI document, bottom, the development objectives include:

  • Preserve the designated intermodal rail facility footprint at Harlem River Yards...
  • Maximize economic benefit to the State while minimizing the State’s economic and
  • environmental risk
  • Enhance the Harlem River Yards as an economic engine for the South Bronx and New York;
  • Increase public access to the Harlem River waterfront;
  • Increase the availability of high-quality affordable housing in New York;
  • Maximize incorporation of green building and sustainable design practices; and
  • Feature meaningful participation of Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned-Business

The missing parallel

But the true head-spinner for Atlantic Yards watchers regards the RFEIs (requests for expressions of interest), because the state official whose authority approved the project, Empire State Development Charles Gargano, said in an interview that that was how the project was being developed.

As I reported, Gargano, on 11/15/05, appeared on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC radio and was asked by the host, who'd just cited an essay by Hunter College planning professor Tom Angotti,  "Is this a through-the-looking-glass version of how development should work?

The exchange occurs near the beginning of the embedded audio below.


"If you understand development and how it does work," Gargano responded, "we have a process in government, state government and I’m sure other government bodies have the same, whereby we put out, first of all, on any area we’re trying to develop, we put out what we call an RF--I, request for-- EI, expressions of interest. And the reason why we do that is we want to pick the brains of the private sector, and see what kind of ideas they have, and after all, they’re the ones with the resources who are going to build these projects, so we want their ideas. We put out this RFEI, that’s the initial—that’s the first part of the process, and it has worked very well for many, many decades."

Not this time.

The MTA did not issue an RFP for the Vanderbilt Yard--the main public property contained in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint--until 5/24/05, nearly 18 months after the Atlantic Yards plan was announced on 12/10/03.

The ESDC never issued an RFEI. Forest City Ratner had been in discussions with city and state agencies for a long time. That's not the "process" Gargano described.

Comments

  1. >> "If you understand development and how it does work," Gargano responded, "we have a process in government, state government and I’m sure other government bodies have the same, whereby we put out, first of all, on any area we’re trying to develop, we put out what we call an RF--I, request for-- EI, expressions of interest. And the reason why we do that is we want to pick the brains of the private sector, and see what kind of ideas they have, and after all, they’re the ones with the resources who are going to build these projects, so we want their ideas. We put out this RFEI, that’s the initial—that’s the first part of the process, and it has worked very well for many, many decades." <<

    Battery Park City did not use this public-private process. It was developed by a public authority* that as of 2007 had paid more than $1.4 billion to New York City, and it was continuing to pay upwards of $200 million a year. Presumably, the total is now well over $2 billion, while the Post estimated around the same time that the city might have cost Forest City Ratner over $1 billion in subsidies and direct payments. Perhaps the Atlantic Yards report has more information about how much the development has cost the city.

    * From Wikipedia: Battery Park City is owned and managed by the Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), a Class A public-benefit corporation created by New York State in 1868 to redevelop outmoded and deteriorated piers, a project that has involved reclaiming the land, replanning the area and facilitating new construction of a mixed commercial and residential community.[15] It has operated under the authority of the Urban Development Corporation.[16] Its mission is "to plan, create, co-ordinate and maintain a balanced community of commercial, residential, retail, and park space within its designated 92-acre site on the lower west side of Manhattan" in New York City.[17] The authority's board is composed of seven uncompensated members who are appointed by the governor and who serve six-year terms.[18] The BPCA is invested with substantial powers: it can acquire, hold and dispose of real property, enter into lease agreements, borrow money and issue debt, and manage the project.[19] Like other public benefit corporations, the BPCA is exempt from property taxes and has the ability to issue tax exempt bonds.[20]

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  2. Anonymous10:50 AM

    The current lease holder if that 86 acres land is Gales with a 99 year lease.

    South Bronx Unite sued, in part, to stop the $150 million to freshdirect in subsidies to relocate there (and clear decks for further LIC hyperdevelopment) on the fact that there is no intertidal rail yard, and there never can be, since all the land is used by other as his polluting uses. That 99 year lease needs to be terminated. The State is losing hundreds of millions in revenues. And will no doubt be offering galesi more money as part of this phone rein.

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