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MTA Opens Atlantic Rail Yards Land To Public Bidding

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TWC News: MTA Opens Atlantic Rail Yards Land To Public Bidding
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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will open the Atlantic Rail Yards in Brooklyn to competitive bidding.

New Jersey Nets owner and Developer Bruce Ratner has been looking to build a $2.5 billion sports and residential complex on the MTA-owned land, but now he'll have to buy the land in a process much like that faced by the New York Jets, who want to build a West Side stadium on the Hudson Rail Yards site in Manhattan, also owned by the MTA.

“The process will be similar to what the West Side rail yards were. We think that’s a good process, we’re very happy with the way it came out, and that's the way we'd like to go,” MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow said Wednesday.

This week, the MTA posted a Request for Proposals, or RFP, for the Atlantic Rail Yards on its web site. It's mostly boilerplate, saying the bidders need to show they can foot the bill for the project and have experience with large scale development.

Critics of Ratner's plan were pleased by the news that other developers would be able to bid on the property. One opponent, Brooklyn City Councilwoman Letitia James, also wants the MTA to release an appraisal of the site to help establish fair market value.

“The concern in the community is that it is a rigged process, and that's it's really set up for basically one developer, and that is a sweetheart deal," said James. “It would be nice to know the appraised value of Vanderbilt Yards, also known as Atlantic Yards. They made a commitment to the community that they would release their appraisal, and they have yet to do so. So this is a step in the right direction, but we have a long way to go.”

The MTA says an appraisal is being conducted, but wouldn't say when it's going to be released. All bids on the Atlantic Rail Yards are due July 6th.

Ratner has said he would like to start construction on the Nets arena and housing units in September 2006.

His development company, Forest City Ratner, said in a statement it was expecting the RFP: “We have said repeatedly that we would pay fair market value for this land, and the RFP process is one way to determine that value."

The MTA opened the Hudson Rail Yards in Manhattan to public bidding earlier this year after several bidders came forward. In the end, the MTA agreed to sell the land to the Jets, despite the fact that Cablevision offered more money.

Cablevision owns Madison Square Garden and is the lead opponent of the plan to construct a football stadium on the West Side. The Jets deal is now being held up in litigation, after Cablevision complained that the bidding process wasn't conducted fairly.

That lawsuit says the MTA did not choose the best deal and did not conduct a fair bidding process, in part because the agency gave developers less than a month to submit bids. Initially, the MTA negotiated exclusively with the Jets, but it opened up the bidding amid criticism it was giving the team a sweetheart deal.
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