As expected, the MTA board voted yesterday to approve a less lucrative deal to sell the Vanderbilt Railyards in Prospect Heights to developer Bruce Ratner, who won a bid to buy the property for $100 million (which is less than the land's $200+ million appraised value) in 2005. The MTA will now accept just $20 million up front and the rest in installments over the next two decades. However, a last-minute counter-offer made by Atlantic Yards opponent Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, for $120 million to be paid over the next 12 years, was ignored by the MTA.
In defending the new deal, MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger says, "The real estate market is a whole lot weaker than it was in 2005." But some officials, like Councilman David Yassky, are highly displeased to see the bailed-out MTA sell prime real estate for so little; he tells the Daily News, "I stood up for this agency to say ... they need the money to keep the bus and the subways running. If you turn around and say, 'Oh, forget it, we don't need the $100 million, we'll just take the 20,' it just undercuts everything."
Now the race is really on for Ratner: According to the Times, he hopes to sell $586 million in tax-exempt state bonds before a December 31st deadline and break ground on the $772 million arena, which despite a cost-cutting dumb-down, would still be the most expensive basketball arena in the country.