Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Yassky & Brennan to MTA: Stall Atlantic Yards bid

A day before a Metropolitan Transportation Authority meeting in which the agency was expected to sell its Brooklyn railyard to developer Forest City Ratner, City Council Member David Yassky and Assembly Member Jim Brennan urged the agency to stall the bid. They called Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal much too dense: The public interest is satisfied by a site that is less-dense, but still offers affordable housing and a significant investment in Downtown Brooklyn,” Brennan said.
“The price of the property should be set as part of a planning process that allows only sensible development at the site,” Yassky said. “Brooklyn would then be guaranteed much-needed housing and jobs without congestion and wildly out of scale buildings.”

Here they lost me a bit: Brennan and Yassky argued that the MTA is relying merely on developers to pay for all development costs at Atlantic Yards, when it should be depending on City, State and Federal money as well.

I didn't see their letter--all I could find was a press release--but this is confusing. Perhaps they mean that the MTA is relying on developers to pay for building a platform at the site and moving the railyard east. But the MTA calls the property Vanderbilt Yard. "Atlantic Yards" is Ratner's name for a development that would be nearly three times the size of the railyard. And the entire project would require $200 million in direct subsidies in the next few years and cost the public more than $1 billion over 30 years for public services and infrastructure. So that's not exactly relying on developers.

As for the scale issue, I'm not sure that Yassky and Brennan understand an essential aspect of Ratner's plan. In order to provide a certain amount of "affordable" housing, the developer has to build bigger, including enough market-rate housing to ensure the desired amount of profit. That's the message of the "economically necessary" clause on p, 2 of the Housing Memorandum of Understanding: If the projected number of residential units should increase for any reason the Developer determines to be economically necessary...

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