Citing Metropolitan Transportation Authority cries of poverty, opponents
of the massive Atlantic Yards development project and mass transit advocates
are calling on the MTA to seek top dollar for its valuable land.
Developer Bruce Ratner would use the site — east of the junction
of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues — to build a residential and commercial
complex and an arena for his New Jersey Nets basketball team.
The cash-strapped MTA is facing a $1 billion deficit by 2006 and recently
announced that it may need to raise fares and cut back service.
The agency holds title to 10 acres of land currently used as storage yards
for the Long Island Rail Road, stretching between Atlantic Avenue and
Pacific Street from Flatbush to Vanderbilt avenues. Ratner proposes to
top the storage yards with half of his Atlantic Yards development which
he has said could cost $2.5 billion to complete.
At the MTA monthly board meeting in March, chairman Peter Kalikow said
he would seek “maximum value” for the site. “I fight tenaciously
for the rights of the MTA and the values of their properties,” Kalikow
told reporters after that meeting.
But when asked if the MTA planned to put out a request for proposals on
the site — effectively putting it on the open market — Kalikow
said, “I don’t know.”
Develop — Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a community group fighting
Ratner’s project, came out swinging this week against the MTA.
“With the MTA threatening to raise fares and tolls, cut services
and possibly even close stations, they owe it to straphangers and taxpayers
to let other developers bid competitively, in order to get the best price
possible,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the group.
The Straphangers Campaign, a mass transit advocacy group that has not
taken a position on the Atlantic Yards development, says it is keeping
a close eye on what happens with the site.
“The MTA has no money. It’s in a huge deficit and it’s
not the time to start giving away its assets. They should at least get
fair market value,” said Michael Hernandez, a field organizer for
the Straphangers Campaign.
In a letter dated June 14 to Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky,
chairman of the public authority committee, Kalikow agreed to “retain
the services of qualified appraisers.”
That appraisal is still being completed, according to Tom Kelly, a spokesman
for the MTA.
“We will carefully scrutinize the MTA’s decision on how to proceed
with this,” said Kelly MacMillan, a spokeswoman for Brodsky. “We’ve
made it clear what we’d like to see done here and we expect that
their interests and our interests should be the same because none of us
want to see the MTA suffer financially for outside interest development
To build his sweeping 21-acre project that would include four commercial
skyscrapers, 13 residential towers and a 19,000-seat basketball arena,
Ratner plans to either buyout or ask the state to condemn two square blocks
of private land, in addition to his acquisition of the MTA property.