Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn alleges that the transit agency violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005 when it agreed to sell an 8.5-acre parcel of land called Vanderbilt Yards to developer Forest City Ratner earlier this summer, as part of the larger 22-acre Atlantic Yards development. Also party to the suit are the Straphangers Campaign and, for the first time, a number of elected officials—including State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assembly Members Jim Brennan and Joan Millman, and City Council Member Letitia James.
The law requires that state agencies have their land appraised and solicit competing bids before they accept a deal, which the M.T.A. did in 2005.
According to the suit, the agency chose to negotiate exclusively with Forest City even though another developer, Extell, had offered $150 million for the site, compared with Forest City’s $50 million dollar bid. The M.T.A. and Forest City eventually settled on a $100 million figure, plus certain transit improvements to the site.
But that deal didn’t get done. It wasn’t until June 24, 2009, that the M.T.A.’s board formally approved the offer, and by then, DDDB claims, the project was substantially different from the one that had undergone the public process in 2005. The suit argues that the M.T.A. should have commissioned a new appraisal and issued another Request for Proposals.
The M.T.A. suit is the opening salvo in an expected new round of litigation opposing the slow-moving project. Because so much of the public process occurred with Frank Gehry’s original design still in place, opponents to the project could adopt similar reasoning and sue the state’s development agency, which they have suggested they will.
The M.T.A. has yet to file a response to the plaintiffs’ brief, and has not yet returned a request for comment.