LIRR chief: Sweeter MTA deal for Ratner could get Yards back on track

The Brooklyn Paper
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Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is poised to receive new, generous terms from the MTA that supporters say could jumpstart his stalled mega-project even as a new report revealed that the cit y would actually lose money on the basketball arena at the heart of the $4-billion housing and office complex.

Helena Williams, president of Long Island Rail Road and the interim executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told a state Senate committee last Friday that she’s in “intense negotiations” with Forest City Ratner to alter the deal to sell the Vanderbilt rail yards to the developer.

Ratner agreed to pay $100 million to acquire air rights to build over the trench between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street. But pleading hardship due to the global credit crunch, Ratner is looking to pay perhaps as little as $20 million up front and to spread the remainder out of over years.

And the MTA appears to be on board.

Williams told the state Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions at the hearing at the Pratt Institute that a revised deal is nearly inked. She hopes to present it for ratification to the MTA’s board at its June 24 meeting.

In other major news from the hearing, the city’s Independent Budget Office quietly unveiled a new analysis about the declining public benefit of Atlantic Yards.

Deputy Director George Sweeting told the committee, chaired by state Sen. Bill Perkins (D–Manhattan), that the city would now forgo $24 million in mortgage and sales tax exemptions granted to the increasingly costly, Frank Gehry–designed arena, roughly twice as much in tax breaks as the original estimate.

But that’s not all; Sweeting said that soaring public infrastructure costs — up from $101 million to $191 million now — has made the arena, which was originally slated to give the city a $25-million profit over 30 years, a loss.

“Ratner and the [state] continue to blame our opposition for their problems, but … they must learn from history and stop trying to prop up the zombie Atlantic Yards project,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the principal opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. “It’s a debacle harming the public interest while draining public resources and energy.”

No one from Forest City Ratner appeared at the hearing, the Senate’s first investigation into the 22-acre development.

The company’s presence was felt in the form of 200 or so construction workers (and would-be construction workers) who showed their support — punctuated by frequently shouting down their opponents.

Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender later issued a statement that suggested that the hearing was pointless.

“It is time to get to work,” he said. “… Now is not the time for re-debating the project. It is time to get to work.”

Bender blamed lawsuits against the project for causing delays, but construction has mostly been retarded by the downturn in the economy, which has made financing his project difficult.

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018: Story was updated to add more context.
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Reasonable discourse

Norman Oder says:
More here:
June 1, 2009, 10:21 am
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
I can't understand any politician protecting a condo for one at the expense of jobs for thousands in this economy. They are all insane to oppose this arena
June 1, 2009, 11:11 am
Ben Gazi from Boerum Hill says:
What a sleazy slimy worthless invertebrate.
He wants a break... screw him, he has enough of my tax dollars. I wonder who he is blowing?
June 1, 2009, 11:20 am
sam from downtown says:
"I can't understand any politician protecting a condo for one at the expense of jobs for thousands in this economy. "

I can't understand what on earth you are talking about. Can you explain?
June 1, 2009, 11:30 am
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
There is nothing to explain in my post Sam from Downtown. Look up in the sky all around you Sam from Downtown. How come those High-rise aren't out of scale? But a development, that brings much needed jobs & much needed housing is? That's what's need to be explain.
June 1, 2009, 1:07 pm
sam from downtown says:
you wrote this:

"I can't understand any politician protecting a condo for one at the expense of jobs for thousands in this economy."

what does that mean?
June 1, 2009, 2:20 pm
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Sam why are you playing totally ignorant to what is going on? Isn't there one dude with his family who's holding out in a condo building? And isn't this guy the same man who started DDDB? I am sure you are aware of this as you are a regular reader of this paper. This organization seems to be at the center/leader of all opposition. Meanwhile, you have a Councilwoman from the area who's against this development, yet supports a building out of the District that will be an eyesore at the Brooklyn Bridge. Also you have major highrise going up in other low-rise sections Downtown, yet there are no protest at those. My thing is let's be consistent when we choose to be anti-development/anti-progressive. I just don't get it. Maybe you can convince me as to why I should oppose this development, because all I've heard are great sound bites.
June 1, 2009, 3:26 pm
Jason Kidd from Dallas, Tx says:
I heard Ratner was looking to give Gersh a hug because Steve Witt begged him. I believe Norman from atlanticyardsreport is on this exclusive.
June 2, 2009, 3:17 am
sam from downtown says:
Judah, sorry, but you got yer fax all fouled up. you're talking about Goldstein I suppose?

you think the 6-year old fight against the largest development plan in Brooklyn's history boils down to protecting "one guy's condo."

C'mon, you can't be that foolish, can you?
June 2, 2009, 5:51 pm
Rocco from Howard Beach says:
Yo, don't screw with the boys. We want to build.
June 3, 2009, 3:02 am
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Aah Sam if I say stuff like; Ratner's freeloading off the taxpayers. If I say stuff like celebrities are against this project. If I say stuff like Ratner is the savior for Blacks. If I say this project is out of scale. If I say this project will choke the sewer system. If I say those are low paying jobs. If I say the community doesn't benefit. If I say traffic will be a nightmare, will I then be considered not that foolish?
Just asking cause I want to get with the program. Tell me exactly what my thought process needs to be when it comes to Atlantic Yards, because I can't go on one more second if Sam from Downtown thinks am foolish!
June 3, 2009, 11:03 am
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
One more thing. What talking points Comrade Sam should I lecture to the hungry & unemployed people who we are denying an opportunity for an honest days pay? Please advise!
June 3, 2009, 11:12 am
Eazy D from Sheepshead Bay says:
Bruce Ratner is a superhero -- Fartman
June 4, 2009, 12:30 am
Eazy D from Sheepshead Bay says:
I was wondering if Carl Kruger paid to bus those workers.
June 4, 2009, 12:33 am
Paul from Park Slope says:
Ratner was typically slimy about this hearing as he has been from the start.
1. He was invited, many times, then sent out a press release saying he wasn't. His representatives were at the hearing but wouldn't sit to answer questions when they were called to testify. Umm...chicken, anyone?
2. He organized the "construction workers", most of whom were members of BUILD, who he pays. These clowns were wearing plastic hats from Party City!
3. Anything built on that site would use union labor.
4. If the MTA had been honest 6 years ago and accepted the Extell bid, they would RIGHT NOW have a new railyard, state of the art. They would also have $150 MILLION Dollars. AND there would be truly affordable housing on that site RIGHT NOW!
All of which would probably have been reported by the Brooklyn Papers at one time.
June 4, 2009, 10:43 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:

Why is there name calling on this blog? I find that people who do so are both ignorant and ideologues who won't don't want to listen to reasonable dialog. Reasonable people can be on either side of the Atlantic Yards issue. The rail yards is under develop and a blight. The major problem with Ratner is the use of both eminent domain and city money with out going through a "real" review. The process. No one can disagree that the State railroaded this through both ESDC and the MTA. As someone wiser than I said ...A full public review is the best disinfectant. When Governor Spitzer took office all ESDC's major development was given a full review---except one- of course that was Atlantic Yards. Public monies=public review and the electeds should be made to vote on it....The Arena will not be a profit making entity but then again neither are CitiFiled or Yankee Stadium but in the end the review process-which required a vote of the City Council(and the State legislature for Yankee Stadium) made them public and done relatively quickly. The issues were debated and voted on not so for Atlantic Yards. The State legislature never voted the City Council never voted...could have been done in a dictatorship...and it was.
June 4, 2009, 11:31 am

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