Ratner close to deal with state

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Bruce Ratner and state and city agencies are close to signing a memorandum of understanding that would get the ball rolling on the developer’s proposed Atlantic Yards project, a Westchester daily newspaper reported this week.

One of the soon-to-be lead agencies on the application confirmed for The Brooklyn Papers that talks with the developer were progressing and Ratner, in an interview with the Journal News, said the state public review process for his plan to build a professional basketball arena, 4,500 apartments and three soaring office towers emanating from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues was just two months away.

“The major thing now is going through the public process, which will start probably in about 60 days. There will be hearings. That will take about eight months. And then hopefully in about a year, a year and a quarter, we’ll start constructi­on,” Ratner told the Journal News.

Ratner plans to bring his recently purchased New Jersey Nets to the new arena.

A Ratner spokesman, Joe DePlasco, clarified the comment, saying the developer is “hopeful that the MOU is completed soon,” but said he didn’t know if 60 days was a target for signing such an agreement, at which time the process would be announced publicly at each juncture of review and approval.

Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey spoke at a public meeting Thursday night, but would not comment on what stage agreements between the state’s lead agencies, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns 13 acres of rail yards over which Ratner hopes to build, and the Empire State Development Corporation, which as the lead sponsor could wield the power of eminent domain to capture the remaining 11 acres of the plan’s Prospect Heights footprint from private owners.

“I don’t know,” Stuckey told The Brooklyn Papers when asked if the state-run MTA is involved in negotiations, bids or advances by Ratner’s group.

When asked if any headway had been made, or if they were involved in negotiations, MTA spokesman Tom Kelly replied, “No. No. Nothing’s happened yet.”

A spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation, however, confirmed her agency’s involvement.

“The talks are moving along, the talks are going very well, and things are moving along rapidly. We’re working jointly with MTA and [the city Economic Development Corporation], but there are still some issues we need to work out,” said Empire State Development Corporation spokeswoman Deborah Wetzel. She said no agreements had been made by the MTA.

At the community meeting in Fort Greene, Stuckey did say that when the MOU is signed, Forest City Ratner, which has offered to pay market-price for the MTA’s property, will hire an independent appraisal firm to determine the value of the land, and suspects the MTA will do the same. According to the MOU mandate, both of the estimates would be accessible to public scrutiny, he said.

“An MOU is a recording of understand­ing,” he said. “It is not a legally binding contract, and it ultimately entitles the public to have the ability to comment,” on the process, he explained.

Still, ardent community activists are hoping that a public bidding process may yet be in the cards.

“There is no MOU signed on it as far as I know. There is no NBA agreement to let the Nets move, as far as I know,” said Councilwoman Letitia James at the meeting, hosted by the Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition, nearly singing to the riled up audience of 200 local residents.

“Again, I don’t know all that’s happening behind closed doors, but as far as I know there is no state legislation or city legislation [in place]. So as far as I know, and as far as you know, this is not a done deal!”

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