It's another pivotal week for developer Bruce Ratner's embattled Atlantic Yards project, which recently received a major redesign that forsook Frank Gehry's glitzy arena designs for a big brick shithouse (pictured). At a public meeting this morning, the MTA's finance committee reviewed "a revised agreement" with Ratner, who still needs to pony up for the MTA's Vanderbilt Rail Yard land in order to move forward with the project.
You may recall that back in 2005 Ratner won the right to buy the MTA property after bidding $100 million, which was $50 million less than a rival bid (the land was appraised at over $200 million). Now an MTA committee has agreed to give Ratner another big break; according to City Room the revised payment plan has Ratner paying $20 million up front for the property, and $80 million in deferred payments for the air rights. And then there's Ratner's promise to build a new and improved rail yard for the LIRR; at this point it's actually expected to accommodate 25 percent less capacity than the existing facility. (As for Gehry, he opens up to NY Mag this week for a story about the architect's star-crossed relationship with NYC.)
Meanwhile, Empire State Development Corp. officials met privately with local legislators to discuss the scaled-down Atlantic Yards plans, and the agency is expected to publicly vote on the redesigns tomorrow. Unidentified sources who attended the closed-door session tell The Post they're "furious the agency is claiming revisions are minor, when they feel the project has completely changed from the one state officials approved three years ago." One critic says, "I think there needs to be an investigation into why this is being rubber-stamped."
But ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston has brushed off demands that Ratner resubmit the plans for another full public review, telling The Post, "key facets of the project will remain unchanged," such as the 2,500 units of affordable housing. ESDC officials at the session said they expect Ratner to break ground on the arena by the end of the year and the first tower six months later, but there is no timeline for when the remaining 15 residential and office towers would be built. Whatever happens, you can count on more lawsuits delaying the groundbreaking; Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has promised to sue if the ESDC and the MTA go ahead with its plans.