Stephen Ross must be Mayor Bloomberg’s best friend in the world right now.
The bulk of the so-called mega-projects around the city are in shambles or facing major hurdles; the term “lame duck mayor” has been popping up with increasing frequency around City Hall; and the city’s economic outlook remains bleak for some time to come.
So it surely came with tremendous relief that just as the future of the West Side rail yards was looking rather uncertain—Tishman Speyer backed out of a deal earlier this month to develop the area—Mr. Ross, chairman of the Related Companies, pounced Sunday night to secure a deal to put more than $15 billion in new development over the site.
And unlike Tishman Speyer, Related has already signed a conditional letter of commitment, with plans to move forward on the major infrastructure—the $2 billion platform over the rail yards—with private equity as opposed to loans.
Development of the far West Side has long been a top priority of the Bloomberg administration, and indeed the tentative rail yards deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority came just shy of three years from the high-profile defeat of the West Side stadium, a pet project of Mr. Bloomberg’s that he still mentions with some distaste in press conferences.
As for the rest of the city’s mega-projects, not all are in tatters, though they certainly seem close. To name a few: a major Javits Center expansion is dead; the path for Moynihan Station is unclear; the proposed 61-acre redevelopment of Willets Point is being battered by labor, housing groups, workers and legislators; Coney Island’s revamp has upset the amusement community and the major landowner; Brooklyn Bridge Park is overbudget and facing environmental-permit obstacles; Governors Island needs hundreds of millions of dollars and has little constituency.
What the Bloomberg administration has put in place already, however, is not invaluable by any means, at least from the perspective of economic development. More than one-sixth of the city has been rezoned to allow for more development in certain areas while restricting it in others—a policy that does not make as many headlines as the large projects but can have a deep long-term impact, on the far West Side and elsewhere.
“The [city’s major] accomplishment was the rezoning on the West Side,” said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, “which is permitting a lot of development to take place without anything happening on the western or eastern rail yards.”