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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PhotoWednesday 12/16/09 : "Pay Your Fair!" Edition

The M.T.A. is having math problems, you know the kind where things don't add up. If they have their way, thousands of school kids will be in the same position.

The New York Times reports an M.T.A. $400 Million budget shortfall this year. This after they supposedly avoided "doomsday" earlier this year thanks to action from the State.

To deal with this latest revenue crisis, the M.T.A. has decided to take subsidized Metrocards from NYC school children. This supposedly will save $140 million annually.

And here's where the math gets really ridiculous, you'd think taking away school students way of getting to class would be the type of last resort that comes after all other options have been tried and failed. But nope there's at least $90 million the M.T.A. is owed that for some reason they're not even trying to collect on.

The proposed Atlantic Yards proposal is meant to be built on M.T.A. land. That land has essentially been given to developer Bruce Ratner's company for $10 million instead of the $100 he was supposed to pay for it. (the $10 million is one of several payments he will be allowed to make well into the next decade).

Photo Fieldtrip to proposed Atlantic Yards site
(above right: Land claimed by Forest City Ratner for the Atlantic Yards Project )

And the $100 million is less than the appraised value of the land which is around $200 Million.
Photo Fieldtrip to Atlantic Yards
(above: several buildings have already been demolished for the Atlantic Yards Project, like the lot above where the old Ward Bakery was demolished. Yet the M.T.A. hasn't been paid for it's land)

 My question, to all who support the Atlantic Yards plan as a benefit for New Yorkers, if you want a stadium on M.T.A. land (which personally I am against) fine, how about actually paying for it?
Photo Fieldtrip to Atlantic Yards
(above: The MTA Vanderbilt Rail Yards, proposed site of Atlantic Yards, has been reduced with permission of the M.T.A. so less trains are able to use the yard, the reduction benefits Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards and Nets Basketball Stadium, but the M.T.A. hasn't collected full payment)

 For that matter as City Council Member Letitia James points out, why was an offer of $150 million given to the M.T.A. for development of the same land rejected? (see below)

Why hasn't the M.T.A. collected on the over $250 million fee for the renaming of the Atlantic Avenue Station?

If the M.T.A. needs money, has deals unpaid for, and the reason eminent domain was used (to give private land to Ratner for this project) because it will "benefit" New Yorkers, why isn't he being told to pay in full for M.T.A. land?

Atlantic Yards Protest
(above: An unanswered call to Governor Patterson for a "Time Out" on Atlantic Yards from last May)

Before the M.T.A. starts throwing kids under the buses and trains how about collecting Ratner's fare?


*The full release from Councilmember James is here

67 Hanson Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 260-9191
Press Release

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** December 15, 2009

Contact: Amyre Loomis at (718) 260-9191


(December 15, 2009) The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s latest doomsday budget cuts include a proposed cut of the student Metrocard program, which provides full and half fare Metrocards to over 550,000 students who commute to school each day. Also, numerous service cuts are proposed on routes where bus and train services are over-crowded, and waiting times are long. Lastly, severe layoffs and salary cuts within the MTA are proposed.

The MTA says these cuts will help alleviate a massive budget deficit and maintains that these proposed service cuts are for underused routes already serviced by other trains and/or buses. But, riders say they will be inconvenienced, especially because of the recent fare increase and reduction in service this year already. Some students have expressed expectations of having to choose between paying the Metrocard fare, or buying a meal for themselves. It is unacceptable that riders, specifically youth, who depend on the student Metrocard program for educational needs be subjected to unsafe walks, and/or possibly not being able to travel for classes at all.

An obvious questions for residents of Downtown Brooklyn then comes up - why is Forest City Ratner, the multi-million dollar developer of the Atlantic Yards project not paying upfront for what he has purchased from the MTA? If Bruce Ratner paid upfront what he owes to the MTA for use of the MTA’s Vanderbilt Yards, then the doomsday budget cuts could be significantly reduced.

“Cancel the sweetheart deal for Forest City Ratner,” said Council Member James. “Forest City Ratner should pay the $100 million owed now for the purchase of the Vanderbilt Yards. I also question why Forest City Ratner is not being made to pay the millions of dollars owed for the naming-rights deal upfront? And, had the MTA accepted a higher bidder, they would have received their funds upfront and their current budgetary gap could have been cut almost in half.”

The MTA’s deal with Forest City Ratner simply does not make sense. Many are questioning why the MTA, who is facing a potential budgetary gap of $615 million next year, and today faces a $343 million massive budgetary gap, is able to accept a $20 million payment towards a $100 million dollar property deal. This purchase and construction of the Atlantic Yards Development by Forest City Ratner was also given the option of spreading the balance of $80 million owed in payments over a 21 year period.

Community advocates suggest that another means of closing the budget gap would be for the MTA to do a new appraisal of the railyards valued at $271.5 million, and open up bids to other developers who would pay more of the cost upfront. Severe cutbacks in service, layoffs and especially cuts to the student Metrocard program appear unconscionable in light of the MTA’s business agreement with Forest City Ratner.

Critics and opponents of Atlantic Yards have continued to argue that rival developer Extell, who submitted a bid that offered $150 million in cash, was a far better plan. For unclear reasons, the MTA board negotiated solely with Forest City Ratner. Extell head Gary Barnett in a December 2007 interview with the Observer said he was shocked that he bid $150 million, and Forest City Chairman Bruce Ratner bid $50 million, yet Ratner was offered the deal.

“Something simply doesn’t sit right with the community about the preferential treatment that Forest City Chairman Bruce Ratner has received from the MTA. Now it appears as though MTA customers and specifically our youth - the future of the City - may pay dearly to support the project of a multi million dollar developer that the community doesn’t want to begin with,” said Council Member James.


  1. You know, this really gets me hot. The MTA is run by a bunch of damn idiots. My sister has 4 children - 2 high schoolers by the end of next year. I can see us now, pooling together money as a family to buy MetroCards for her children to get to and from school... a hot ass mess!

  2. Sorry, but one has nothing to do with the other. The city and state cut their funding for student Metrocards and the MTA has been forced to pick up the slack. Instead of trying to tie it to the Atlantic Yards boondoggle, why not demand that the city take responsibility for funding student transportation like they're supposed to?

  3. Hi Chris, I'm happy to explain how the MTA's proposed service cuts, including their proposed end to student bus/train passes relates the the Atlantic Yards boondoogle. The Atlantic Yards project is intended to be built over the Vanderbilt Railyards which is owned by the MTA as you may know.

    In a sweetheart of a deal the developer Bruce Ratner has been allowed to purchase the land (for reasons unknown) at less than the value of the land. A consistent estimate is that the land is worth a range of 200 Million dollars. The sale price to Ratner was 100 million dollars. Of that amount Ratner has been allowed to utilize the land while only paying $10 million dollars to the MTA.

    This week Ratner's company sold bonds on the project to the sum of $500 million dollars. Basically he's selling land and receiving proceeds when he hasn't even paid for the MTA land the project is being sold on.

    The MTA budget shortfall is $400 million. The development of Atlantic Yards (which I'm clearly against) has been allowed by politicians under the excuse that it will "benefit" New Yorkers.

    If that be the case, then Ratner (a billionair himself) paying the amount, event half, would substantially reduce the dire finances of the MTA, who are proposing cuts because of lack of funds.

    It's also relevant to note for an understanding of what the MTA has turned down to favor Atlantic Yards, that second offer was made by a another developer to pay $150 million in full, and it was rejected. Atlantic Yards is not for the public good, the plan has a number of faults which are likely to have negative consequences for the area, but this situation of not even paying for the land, making a profit, and the MTA citing lack of funds as cause to make harmful cuts in service that actually "benefits" New Yorkers, is why I wrote this post.


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