Update: CUNY gives Ratner failing grade

The City University of New York scotched a plan to hire Bruce Ratner to build a new lab and residential skyscraper in Downtown Brooklyn because the Atlantic Yards developer would be too expensive, too slow and too controversial, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

A newly surfaced memo shows that CUNY wanted out of its deal to pay Ratner $307 million — up from $86 million in 2005 — to build a new facility for City Tech on Jay Street because costs had begun to soar.

“Cost estimates for the project have increased substantially — approximately $50 million,” CUNY Vice Chancellor Iris Weinshall wrote to Chancellor Matthew Goldstein on Feb. 22, days before the CUNY-Ratner divorce made news.

Ratner might have been able to swallow the additional cost, given that the project also would have handed the developer control of a prime lot at Tillary and Jay streets — a corner where he once planned to build a Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper that would be the city’s tallest condo tower.

But, Weinshall said, “the downturn in the local residential real-estate market” makes that dream an impossible one at the current time.

Not that she was complaining: “Proceeding with this project without [Ratner’s] involvement would allow CUNY to build the project more efficiently and, therefore, less expensively,” Weinshall said.

A CUNY spokesman said the 11-story lab and classroom space would be built with the state Dormitory Authority.

A spokesman for Ratner disputed that the developer would be to blame for delays. Unlike the lab building, the Piano-designed tower would have to go through the city’s land-use review procedure, a process that can take eight months (if there is no controversy) to two years (a likely scenario, given the 70- to 100-story tower Ratner once sought).

Brooklyn boosters agreed that residential development was challenged by the tight financial markets, but said Downtown Brooklyn would enjoy the residential boom already underway

“We’re seeing a residential community already underway,” said Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “If there’s any ‘downturn,’ it is only that developers now have to be increasingly mindful” of the thousands of units already being built in Downtown.