The development process for the West Side Rail Yards could be on the verge of an important milestone, which comes as a surprise to many who assumed this process would be slowed in the wake of economic uncertainty and the recent shakeup in state government.
The New York Times reported this weekend that the MTA is close to choosing a bidder for the 26-acre site, Manhattan’s largest development plot. Of the five developers who originally bid on the rail yards site, only two are still being considered. Charles Bagli of the Times names the bid by Tishman Speyer as the favorite and quotes real estate executives as saying that the MTA will likely make a recommendation at its board meeting this Wednesday. Also in the running is a joint venture by the Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust.
According to the article, The Related Companies, considered by many to be the front-runner, lost some ground last week when Newscorp, their anchor tenant, pulled out. Extell also withdrew its bid last week, and Brookfield Properties withdrew in late February, though they are still open to teaming with another developer on the site.
Both Tishman Speyer and Durst/Vornado have said they support at least partial preservation of the High Line at the rail yards, but both developer plans include demolition of sections of the structure. Tishman Speyer’s plan proposes keeping the entire structure except for the spur over Tenth Avenue at 30th Street, while Durst/Vornado’s plan tears down the spur, along with the entire portion of the structure along Twelfth Avenue. Friends of the High Line has met with both developer teams during this process, and we’ve made the case for full preservation of the High Line. The MTA has stated that preserving the High Line is its preference, as long as it doesn’t hinder construction or prove cost-prohibitive.
Friends of the High Line is also beginning to work with our new governor, David Patterson, on this issue. We’ve been in touch with the governor’s staff, and we’re confident he will be a strong ally in the movement to preserve the entire High Line. Governor Paterson has a strong environmental record and a proven interest in listening to community concerns regarding large-scale developments. We look forward to working with the new governor on our most important advocacy issue, and we will continue to work with the MTA and their selected developer to ensure the High Line’s full preservation.