A coalition of Brooklyn politicians has asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to postpone Wednesday’s vote to renegotiate a deal with Bruce Ratner for control of railyards at the center of his Atlantic Yards project.
Ratner has asked the MTA to loosen their 2006 agreement that called for the developer to pay $100 million for air rights over the train depot at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.
Ratner now wants to pay far less — perhaps as little as $20 million up front.
The MTA said it will unveil the details of the classified proposal at today’s Finance Committee hearing, giving the public two days to digest the reconfigured transaction before it will be presented to the full board for a final approval.
The group of local pols — which includes Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Park Slope), Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene), Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens), state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Park Slope) and Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights) — wrote to the MTA that two days is not enough time to consider the financial impact it will have on the chronically indigent transit authority.
“A hasty decision to modify the obligations of the developer could be detrimental to the needs of the mass transit system and that any decision should only be made after the public and elected officials have a fair opportunity to present their views,” the pols’ letter said.
The initial deal between Forest City Ratner and MTA provoked an outcry, too. The property was valued by the MTA at $214 million, more than twice what Ratner offered. Another developer, Extell, bid $150 million for the land.
Ratner is also responsible for $345 million in infrastructure improvements at the railyards — but he has also asked for a reduction in that responsibility.
After years of delays, Ratner has said he’ll break ground on the basketball arena this fall, though securing the financing for the $4-billion megaproject is a major challenge.
The public will be able to comment at Monday’s committee hearing and Wednesday’s board vote.
Expect Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn to chime in. Today, he issued this statement: “Using the MTA to bail out Bruce Ratner’s failing project is an insult to straphangers and taxpayers, who just rescued the MTA one month ago. It is irresponsible in the extreme for Gov. Paterson to have the MTA make Ratner’s sweetheart deal even sweeter in order to prop up the zombie Atlantic Yards project.
“The MTA must maximize its return on this piece of real estate by putting it up for bid in a proper, fair and competitive manner rather than reward Ratner for defaulting on his commitments,” he added.
The MTA’s Finance Committee will meet today at 347 Madison Ave., at 45th Street in Manhattan, at 11:45 am.