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MTA close to Ratner deal

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MTA officials confirmed last week that they expect to come to an agreement with developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) on the sale of the Vanderbilt Yards section of the 22−acre Atlantic Yards project.

Once the agreement is reached, FCRC has said it intends to break ground on the arena and 16 high−rise building project at the Flatbush⁄Atlantic Avenues intersection in the fall.

“There are discussions underway, but I wouldn’t be able to comment in terms of the talks,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. “The goal is to present something to the [MTA] board meeting on June 24.”

Ortiz said it is hoped that the board will vote on the proposal at that meeting.

Originally, FCRC had an agreement to purchase the 11−acre parcel from the MTA for $100 million in cash and $345 million in transit enhancements.

However, opponent lawsuits delayed the project. Between that and the downturn of the economy, the closing of the deal stalled.

With FCRC winning lawsuit after lawsuit, however, the two sides have returned to the bargaining table.

According to sources familiar with the discussions, while dollar amounts are still being discussed, the general consensus is that the deal will be “pay as you go” with guarantees that the entire project will eventually be built.

The first priority is phase one including the arena block and three residential high−rise buildings.

A forth building, once called the Miss Brooklyn Building, will start out as an open space until a commercial tenant can be found, sources said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the lead agency on the project, rejected that any changes to the General Project Plan means there has to be a another public review process.

The ESDC goes over all changes to the General Project Plan, but if the change is mainly aesthetic such as a change in some of the architect’s plans, that usually doesn’t constitute a significant enough change for another public review process, the spokesperson said.

“We can all agree having the project stalled doesn’t help anybody, especially when this project can bring forth jobs to residents of Brooklyn,” said the spokesperson.

The developments follow a recent raucous Senate hearing on the project last week at Pratt Institute, in which hundreds of community and union members repeatedly interrupted the proceeding with catcalls and demands that it’s time to start the project.

“We had 164 people there, all from the community,” said James Caldwell, president of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), one of the signatories of a Community Benefits Agreement with FCRC.

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