Tuesday, September 06, 2005


The Times on Ratner's New $100 Million Railyard Bid

So Forest City Ratner has doubled its bid for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard from $50 million to $100 million, reports The New York Times in its July 7 issue. And that means the MTA would get an extra $50 million to spend on the transportation system and that the MTA board might hold a special meeting as soon as Tuesday to approve the deal.

Whoa. Maybe another $50 million is better than nothing, but the railyard was appraised at $214.5 million, a fact not in this story but one the Times has reported before. Shouldn't Ratner be paying full freight? After all, Forest City Ratner VP told the City Council Economic Development Committee on May 4, 2004 that “[F]or the land, the public land, the MTA land, is that, what we have agreed to is that we will lease or buy that land at the fair market value has done by whatever independent process that they normally use." (See www.dddb.net/times/ED050404_Transcript.pdf, p. 164; note that the transcript is imperfect, but you get the gist.)

Also, has Ratner cut the number of towers, or is the Times getting it wrong? This article states: Much to the dismay of some residents and critics of the project, two of the 15 towers planned for the 21-acre site would rise above the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, currently the tallest building in Brooklyn, and dwarf much of the surrounding neighborhood.

First, the site would be 22 acres, as described in Forest City Ratner's own June/July issue of the Brooklyn Standard. Second, on July 7, the Times reported there would be 17 buildings (including the arena), though the Brooklyn Standard says 17 towers. [Update: the ESDC project description released September 16 says 16 towers + arena.] Third, it's not that there would be two towers taller than the bank, it's that there would be 16 tall towers, several over 40 stories tall. I wish I could be more specific, but Ratner hasn't released the plans.

Also, the Times describes a development of 6,000 apartments. The article should have said "at least 6,000 apartments." Under the "Alternative Plan," which is a good bet to be chosen, Ratner would cut office space (which is harder to fill) and build 7,300 apartments.

The Times wrote that Ratner estimated that the value of his original bid was worth $329 million because he would build a larger, more modern railyard. Transportation agency officials said they were unsure whether the [rival] Extell bid included the cost of building a new railyard.

Well, Extell bid $150 million and, according to the 8/1/05 New York Observer: Extell's bid also represents much more than the $150 million in cash...[Extell's Barnett] predicts that he can move and cover the rail yards for $150 million...

Geographic alert: the Times still can't get some basic facts right. The article says: The agency would also get a new, upgraded train yard on land to the west of the existing 8.3-acre yard, which is at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. The new train yard would be east, not west, of the existing yard. Also, the yard is not between two intersecting streets, Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, it's between Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street; its western border approaches, but does not reach, Flatbush Avenue.

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