Former MTA head: Moynihan Station confusion threatens Hudson Yards

By Alec Appelbaum | January 30, 2008 04:02PM

Richard Ravitch, who guided the Metropolitan Transportation Authority through rough financial times in the early 1980s, says the state has been so secretive with its West Side plans that it has muddled the MTA’s effort to sell the massive Hudson Yards site to a developer.

Ravitch, also a developer and former mayoral candidate, turned his wrath on the state government last night at a panel discussion at the Museum of the City of New York on development plans for the Far West Side. He said that the state has failed to disclose its plans for transforming Penn Station into a thriving mixed-use center, imperiling any plans for the blocks west of the station.

“Until people know what to expect there,” Ravitch said, “it will be a very serious impediment to any development to the west.”

The state’s Empire State Development Corporation is working with a joint venture of the Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust to move Madison Square Garden into the old Farley Post Office building and create the new Moynihan Station. The Garden has not agreed to a final plan and has talked about renovating its current site if a deal doesn’t happen.

Meanwhile, the MTA is considering bids from five developers for rights to build 26 acres over Hudson Yards, the rail facility further west. The city has raised $2 billion in bonds to extend the 7 line to 33rd Street and 11th Avenue. But it’s unclear how far costs will exceed that amount and how the city will pay for creating a planned boulevard between 10th and 11th avenues.

Ravitch charged that the five developers who submitted bids — Brookfield Properties, Extell Development, Tishman Speyer, Related and a joint venture of Vornado with the Durst Organization — have loaded their proposals with conditions that reflect their uncertainty and will end up costing more public money. “This is planning gone amok,” he said.

Other parties in the Moynihan project, including all levels of government and the Garden, have been negotiating feverishly over how to balance safety, civic space, retail access and building height there. The city has proposed a subdistrict that would “sprinkle” air rights around the site and the blocks to the west.

Anna Hayes Levin, a Community Board 4 leader who has monitored the Hudson Yards process, said that the public needs to see concepts for Moynihan Station before Hudson Yards can sensibly proceed. All the parties are still working through their requirements, Levin said last night, which probably prevents the state from showing designs it would later have to amend.

“We are planning a large public roll-out on this project soon,” Empire State Development Corporation spokesperson Warner Johnston told The Real Deal, “but we are not planning to share designs until later this year.”

The MTA could choose a developer for Hudson Yards as early as March.