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Transit riders slam sweet deal!

At their June 25th meeting, the NYCTRC discussed the proposed Atlantic Yards amendment with the Forest City Ratner Company, developer of the project. The concensus was that this revision is not a positive move and the Council overwhelmingly voted to express its deep concern in a letter to the Empire State Development Corporation. This letter, sent July 20, is shown in its entirety below.

Mr. Dennis M. Mullen
President and CEO
Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017-6706

Dear Mr. Mullen:

The New York City Transit Riders’ Council (NYCTRC) is the legislatively-mandated representative of the riders of our transit system, created by the State Legislature in 1981. Its volunteer members are appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Mayor, Public Advocate, and five Borough Presidents of the City. As the riders’ representatives, the Council’s members are fundamentally concerned that development projects involving properties held by the MTA and its operating agencies yield the greatest financial and operational benefits to the transit system and its users.

At our last New York City Transit Rider’s Council meeting, the Council members expressed their deep concern with the changes to the Atlantic Yards project that are incorporated in recently adopted amendments to the 2006 Modified General Project Plan for the Atlantic Yards project. The Council members are deeply troubled by these changes as they believe that they have fundamentally delayed and diminished a wide range of public benefits flowing from the project. As a result the NYCTRC voted unanimously to go on record expressing its dissatisfaction with the revisions to the project. In the discussion of the project, several members of the Council expressed outrage that the project developer, the Forest City Ratner Companies, will receive substantial concessions at the expense of the interests of the public at large and that the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is acquiescing in providing these concessions.

The Council is particularly concerned with proposed changes in the schedule and potentially in the scope of the project that are connected to the decision to allow acquisition of the project site in phases. An important part of the public benefit that was to flow from the project was the payment for real property and other development rights to be made to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). These funds were to form an important part of the funding for the MTA’s capital improvements, thus producing further benefits for the community at large.

In the earlier proposal submitted to the MTA by the developer that was to form the basis for working out a final agreement, these funds would have been paid to MTA in the initial phases of the project. Under the revised phased structure of the project, however, only 20 percent of the value of MTA property interests will be paid up front. The remaining 80 percent is to be paid in a set of installments with due dates that stretch until the year 2030, under terms that we view as extremely favorable to the developer. The proposed Atlantic Yards development plan establishes a schedule that will allow the project developer to make the last installment of the 80 percent of the total sum due to the MTA in 2030.

While it is not within the purview of this Council, we would also note that the proposed changes to planned improvements for the Vanderbilt Yard will foreclose certain options for LIRR Brooklyn service. In particular, these changes will significantly reduce the capacity of the yard and reduce the number of tracks available in the yard.

We respectfully request that you reconsider the pending amendments to the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan in light of these concerns.