Friday, June 19, 2009

Brennan, other elected officials urge MTA to delay June 24 vote, say hasty decision may hurt transit system

In a letter sent yesterday, seven elected officials asked Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Acting Executive Director Helena Williams to delay the June 24 vote to modify the deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard, saying a "hasty decision may be detrimental to the needs of the transit system" and that the public and elected officials "should have a fair opportunity to present their views."

Rather than pay the full $100 million in cash promised, Forest City Ratner has reportedly offered $20 million for the segment of the railyard needed for the arena block, with the rest to be paid later. Details have not been confirmed.

Brennan in the lead

The officials are Assemblymembers Jim Brennan (who released the letter; click to enlarge), Joan Millman and Hakeem Jeffries; State Senator Velmanette Montgomery; and City Council Members Letitia James, Vincent Gentile and John Liu. Gentile and Liu do not represent districts near the project footprint; Liu is running for Comptroller and signed onto the letter after it was initially sent.

Not participating--and I don't know whether it's a disagreement or a question of logistics--are two other Council Members running for higher office, David Yassky and Bill de Blasio. Nor is Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who had suggested at a conference that MTA board members might be violating their fiduciary duty by accepting the new figure, but has not commented since.

Pressing the MTA

In the letter, the officials not only asked for details of Forest City Ratner's proposal but also questioned whether the MTA was obtaining fair market value for its assets, as required by law.

They also referenced the letter sent earlier in the week by Sen. Bill Perkins asking tough questions about the deal, including why a new bidding process and a new appraisal were not considered.

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