MTA Board Leans Toward Ratner

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The MTA did not choose a developer for the Brooklyn rail yards at its board meeting yesterday. But it indicated a very strong preference for Forest City Ratner. It will be another forty five before that developers plan for an arena and high rise complex can get the green light. WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein reports.

Forest City Ratner has been working on a proposal for the Brooklyn rail yards –for two years. The 6 block has won the support of the governor, the Mayor, and other elected leaders. But stung by the controversy over the Jets stadium, the transit authority which owns the rail yards decided to auction them off. Forest City took advantage of its long lead time by putting in a far glossier, longer, and more detailed bid than its rival, Extell. Unfortunately for Forest City, its bid was also far lower – by $100 million. The MTA was not happy.

Feinstein: This is on many levels a major situation for the board the dollars involved in the Ratner proposal are unacceptable.

That’s board member Barry Feinstein. Earlier this year, he expressed unhappiness with what many considered a low-ball proposal by the New York Jets for the HUDSON rail yards. Sources say he wasn’t prepared to vote for another bid that was far less than the MTA’s own appraised value –215 million dollars. But he WAS ready to negotiate only with Forest City. So was Nancy Blakeman, who chairs the real estate committee.

Blakeman: Basically the only thing that was missing from the Forest City Ratner proposal was money we don’t owe anything to anybody but I think that’s why it is the wise decision to go with for the moment exclusively to Forest City Ratner to have them come up with more money.

That might have been that – all the board members publicly ratifying a deal they’d worked out in private. But member Michael Pally wasn’t having it, spurring rare public disagreement.

Pally: The community deserves an answer but it deserves the right answer from this board going through a 45 day period with the Ratner proposal of which we have no assurance that they’re going to come up with one more cent the better thing in my opinion is do both at the same time. I agree I agree (Blakeman interrupts) Blakeman: Excuse me but what I walked away from those briefing feeling that the Extell proposal was incomplete.

MTA Chair Peter Kalikow – a major New York real estate developer - was not interested in revising the resolution.

Kalikow: I’ve been in business for 38 years and I’ve achieved a modicum of success though I’ve had my ups and downs in all those years I’ve never sent two tenants a lease for the same space at the same time its just not right its not the way I like to do business Ratner knows Extell is out there.

This is of, course, not a lease. It’s a forty five day negotiation with one of the bidders on a multimillion dollar MTA property.

Kalikow: All in favor of that, please say aye

The resolution. passed handily. An Extell spokesman said it also wanted the right to negotiate and would consider its options. Those options, he said, do NOT include litigation. As for Ratner, so confident of its success that it wrote in its proposal its bid would be approved this week, a spokesman said the company was “pleased” with the MTA’s actions. For WNYC, I’m Andrea Bernstein.