With the West Side rail yards development deal on very shaky ground, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky today announced a bill that would chart a new course for the 26-acre parcel west of Penn Station, bringing in a new authority to follow a Battery Park City model of piecemeal development.
“Instead of selling at the bottom of the market for a price that was never really what the property was worth in the long run,” Mr. Brodsky said, “we should do what we know works.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the rail yards, has been trying to sell them to a private firm to develop, though yesterday talks broke down with selected developer Tishman Speyer, which had planned to pay the M.T.A. about $1 billion for the property.
Critics of the deal, Mr. Brodsky included, have charged that it makes little sense to sell the property during an economic slump when financing is very difficult to obtain, though the M.T.A. is counting on the proceeds to fill its current capital plan and the city wants to get development moving on the far West Side.
Mr. Brodksy’s plan [legislation here in MS Word format] would allow the M.T.A. to receive the cash for its capital plan, as the new authority would borrow money to buy the rail yards itself, then sell the land out parcel-by-parcel to developers as they are ready.
A challenge for the plan would be the construction of platforms over the yards—estimated to cost $2 billion—an infrastructure issue that Battery Park City did not have.
Mr. Brodsky denied that the platform would be a major obstacle, saying, “The platform is just part of a set of technical and engineering questions that have to be answered as they would for any property.”
The introduction of the legislation was timely given the state of the rail yards talks. Mr. Brodsky had always planned to introduce the legislation "when it was ready."
A hearing is scheduled for the bill later this month.