UNITY Plan: Why now?

Why did a group of activists hatch a new development plan for the Prospect Heights rail yards that Bruce Ratner has already been promised for Atlantic Yards? The Explainer breaks it down.

What happened?

The so-called UNITY Plan was unveiled this week. The new plan — which includes more affordable housing than Ratner’s project, no arena and doesn’t require eminent domain — prompted little reaction from the state agency managing the $4-billion mega-development.

But isn’t the Atlantic Yards deal done?

Yes, if you ask city and state officials. But even they admit that the real-estate market is a volatile beast.

But isn’t the real estate market hot hot hot?

Not exactly. Financial markets are tightening, making it harder for Ratner to line up investors. At the same time, tighter money means higher mortgage rates for his potential luxury buyers. Plus, there is a glut of luxury units coming on line, a factor that has already started to squeeze profit margins for high-end builders. any delays in construction cost Ratner $4.15 million a month in carrying costs.

Is there any other way the plan can be stopped?

Two lawsuits are percolating through the legal system: One is an eminent domain lawsuit charging that state planners abused the state’s condemnation power to line Ratner’s pockets. It was dismissed earlier this summer, but the federal appeal will be heard on Oct. 9. The other pending lawsuit challenges the project’s environmental review. It’s awaiting judgment in state court.

Where does the UNITY plan go from here?

Nowhere — at least if you believe the Empire State Development Corporation, which remains “committed to the vision … approved for Atlantic Yards,” said agency spokesman Errol Cockfield.

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