site is ‘up for grabs’
Developer Bruce Ratner may have some competition for his planned Nets
arena site, a city councilwoman told Prospect Heights property owners
“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
“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