Ratner’s “Downsizing” Could Upsize Office Space

While the big news Friday was Bruce Ratner scaling down his Atlantic Yards proposal (at least compared to the specs submitted to the state last fall ), it turns out the revised plan has another wrinkle: it is not one plan but two.

The final scoping document issued by the state Economic Development Corporation (PDF) states that

The proposed development considers two variations: residential mixed-use and commercial mixed-use…. The variations reflect the fact that the programs for three of the project’s 17 buildings are not fixed and could be used for a mixture of residential and commercial buildings.


A chart included in the document (page 5), which sets out the scale of the project to be studied in the next step of the approval process, shows that variation A would have 6,860 condos and rentals and 606,000 square feet of offices. Variation B would have 5,790 apartments and 1.8 million square feet of offices. And even though the Ratner press release acts as if there is only one proposal on the table and that proposal has the same specs as Variation A, the scoping document treats both variations as equals.

The press release states that Ratner will keep the same number of affordable apartments (2,250) even though the project shrank by 5 percent since the fall. How many affordable apartments will there be if he goes with Variation B and builds only 5,790 apartments total?

The original scoping document, issued last fall, did leave open the possibility that Ratner may want to increase commercial space, but it did not provide numbers. It may be that this latest revision reflects nothing more than the E.S.D.C. deciding that it should lay everything out on the table.

Or, if one is a conspiracy theorist, the revision was part of a calculated move to secure Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s support and then betray him: Ratner shifts from office to condos around the time Silver starts acting protective about the office market in his Lower Manhattan district. Then Silver pitches in $33 million from the state budget, and the same week (maybe even same day), Ratner suggests he might go back toward offices after all. We know “betray” is a strong word here: Surely Ratner will need Silver’s help in the future and does not want to ruffle his feathers.

-Matthew Schuerman