Ratner site is ‘up for grabs’

The Brooklyn Paper
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Developer Bruce Ratner may have some competition for his planned Nets arena site, a city councilwoman told Prospect Heights property owners this week.

“The MTA is considering putting out a request for proposals,” said Councilwoman Letitia James, referring to development over the 11-acre stretch of Long Island Rail Road storage yards running along Atlantic Avenue east of Flatbush Avenue.

James was speaking before a group of about 100 residents meeting Wednesday night to discuss a potential lawsuit to block the arena plan.

She cited a “government source” as providing her the information.

The rail yards are the key component of Ratner’s sweeping Atlantic Yards project, a $2.5 billion, Frank Gehry-designed professional basketball arena flanked by soaring office towers and 4,500 residential units.

The arena would house Ratner’s recently purchased New Jersey Nets.

Questions as to who owns the rights to build over the yards first surfaced last summer when newspapers learned of Ratner’s plans to purchase the basketball team.

Tom Kelly, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) spokesman, denied on Thursday that the agency had issued a request for proposals from developers and said the agency had no plans to do so.

The MTA is not required to request other proposals, he said, adding that once Ratner submits his Atlantic Yards proposal, it would have to go before the full MTA board for a vote.

But James, a vocal opponent of the arena, said asking for proposals would “open up the process.”

“A couple of developers have contacted me and expressed interest in developing commercial, residential and retail space for local residents and wanted to know what the process was,” she said.

James declined to name the developers but said they had “a record of building affordable housing in Brooklyn and throughout the city.”

Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who chairs the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, said it was too early to discuss a request for proposals.

“I don’t think that the decision-making process is yet understood,” said Brodsky who has aggressively campaigned for MTA reform.

In addition to the LIRR tracks, Ratner’s plan would need the state to condemn more than two square blocks of private property. It is not clear what role the city would play.

“The question is will the governor open the process for other developers to bid on the air rights or will he grant favoritism to his law school class mate?” James said, noting that Gov. George Pataki and Ratner attended Columbia Law School at the same time.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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