The civic watchdog group that helped derail Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for a stadium at the Hudson Yards site has thrown a bone to the bidder that is considered the long-shot for the 26-acre project.
In a letter sent yesterday to Metropolitan Transportation Authority executive director Elliot Sander, whose board will choose a winning bidder by March, the Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee praises Brookfield Properties for an urban design it says is more inviting to the public.
“The smaller yet more distinctive commercial plaza, residential park and 30th Street Promenade in the Brookfield plan help create a greater sense of inviting public space in the heart of a varied city,” the letter states.
The committee fuses several groups, including the local community board, that have proven potent in tempering development on the Far West Side.
Brookfield’s bid had looked to experts like a gamble or a spoiler because it lacks the financial security of an anchor tenant and violates the MTA’s guidelines for covering the active railyard on the site with superblocks and a large park. But the coalition’s praise for Brookfield may induce the MTA — or the winning bidder — to regard Brookfield more seriously.
Bids by the Related Companies, Tishman Speyer and a joint venture of the Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust all meet the MTA’s requirements.
The notion of preserving an urban mix and continuing Manhattan’s street grid, which the Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee advocated while opposing the stadium, could gain importance as the MTA ponders who will deliver the largest and most feasible bid.
By stressing various uses and parcels, the Brookfield bid and the coalition’s letter both indicate that the site will grow in uneven pieces as the market dictates.
Some observers have argued privately that a plan that depends on one anchor tenant concentrates power too tightly at an uncertain moment in the city’s economy. A development expert, who asked for anonymity, said, “We’ve heard from the MTA that they would prefer an a la carte development. There are only five bids and none is perfect; they might try to merge some of the bids. To that end, the letter is helpful because it helps raise which elements are the best.”
As negotiations proceed, a winner eager for the coalition’s blessing may tap some of Brookfield’s ideas. The letter hints that all developers may like something about Brookfield’s more piecemeal approach, stating that “all of the development teams have commented to us informally that they find the RFPs’ design requirements unduly confining.”