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Scruffy Feb 11, 2009 7:51 PM

1 Year!!

NYguy Feb 19, 2009 3:45 PM

City may have to service Hudson Yards bonds for longer than originally anticipated

Daniel Geiger

With development delayed in Hudson Yards, city will have to fund debt service on bonds for infrastructure in the meantime

The city will likely have to pay more debt service than originally anticipated for the $2 billion of Hudson Yards bonds that were issued in 2007 to finance the extension of the No. 7 subway line and other infrastructure projects on the far West Side.

According to documents released at the time of that bond offering by the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corporation, the agency that manages the funds, the city calculated that deferred tax payments and other charges tied to projected development on the West Side would be enough to pay the roughly $100 million of yearly debt service on the bonds by 2014.

But with the economy in the midst of a serious recession, that development could take substantially longer to materialize than the city’s 2014 timeline appears to anticipate.

Last week, for instance, the Related Companies, a Manhattan based real estate firm, negotiated a yearlong extension with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on having to place a roughly $43 million payment to secure development rights for the West Side rail yards, where Related has planned to eventually build a $15 billion complex of office, residential and retail buildings. In a release issued to announce the extension, the MTA cited the economic downturn and the “collapse of traditional commercial lending” as reasons for the delay.

But the rail yards isn’t the only super-project that has come under a cloud of increased uncertainty within the Hudson Yards district, a swath of land in the West 30s and 40s that city planners have envisioned transforming into an extension of midtown. The development of Moynihan Station, which would expand and revamp Penn Station while creating opportunities for large office towers and retail development in the direct vicinity of the transit complex, has stalled for lack of funds and issues surrounding its complexity.

In the face of economic headwinds and without the two large developments buttressing the area’s revitalization, smaller scale development such as residential construction that had begun to take off in the district during the real estate boom has also appeared to falter more recently.

According to Nick Samuels, a vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, which maintains ratings for the Hudson Yards bonds, proceeds from tax revenues and one-time charges in 2008 were $1.6 million and $6.9 million respectively. That’s a precipitous decline from 2007, when the city netted nearly $60 million in such payments, most of which appear to have been one-time charges because of the paltry payments in lieu of taxes in 2008, which, once established, become perennial payments.

Led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s championing of the area’s potential as vital expansion room during the prosperous years before the current crisis, city planners devised a plan to defer tax payments and the proceeds from the sale of additional development rights to fund an extension of the No. 7 Subway from its current terminus at Times Square to 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue.

The extension, along with other infrastructure improvements such as a long, tree lined boulevard stretching diagonally between Eleventh and Tenth Avenues, have been viewed as pivotal to attracting residents, tenants and new development to the area.

The city anticipated that it could take years for the area’s makeover to get started and so agreed to fund whatever portion of the bonds’ debt service was left unpaid in the event the area’s development proceeds proved insufficient. Despite the risks, the city’s method appeared to be an innovative way of harnessing the economic potential of the far West Side to fund its own transformation rather than burdening the city’s general budget with having to make the large capital outlays.

But if the economic downturn pushes development in the district years behind original projections and the city has to pick up the tab for the $97 million in yearly interest to service the bonds for an extended period, it could begin to lend credibility to early questions over the wisdom over the city’s decision to use the complex financing plan over a more conventional structure.

One issue is that the Hudson Yards bonds receive a higher interest rate than if the city had issued the bonds directly because the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corporation, even though it is backed by the city, has a slightly lower credit rating.

Another critique has focused on the city’s decision to discount tax payments in the Hudson Yards in order to spur development there, an incentive that some fiscal experts say will do little to encourage building in the area and only hamper the city’s efforts to generate enough cash flow when development does occur.

“I thought it was illusory that this was paying for itself,” said James Parrot, an economist for the fiscal watchdog group the Fiscal Policy Institute. “We criticized it on the grounds that the financing mechanism was making it harder to pay off the debt than if the city just put it in its capital plan and charged full property taxes.”

NYguy Apr 2, 2009 3:49 PM

Quote from an article in the Observer...

Activists Pressure Pols on Northern Turn of the High Line; It's in Related's Rail Yards

By Reid Pillifant
April 2, 2009

The northern section was not transferred to the Parks Department in 2005, along with the rest of the line, because, at the time, the M.T.A. and the city were still unsure of their plans for the rail yards. The line’s current owner, CSX, appears willing to donate the remaining section of the High Line to the city at no cost, just as did with the preceding sections, but the city has yet to take up the offer.

The yards’ developer, the Related Companies, says it has included the High Line in its plans, and that it remains committed to preserving the northern spur as a public park. But Mr. Hammond would like to see the city take possession regardless as part of the land-use review process for the yards slated to start this summer. Related did not respond to requests for comment.

“It would just make us feel more comfortable for the city to be in control, and for the ultimate decision about the High Line to rest with the city, and not with a developer,” Mr. Hammond said after the meeting.

The city appears unwilling, at least for now, to publicly force Related into accepting the park. The High Line is just one of myriad issues to be settled in the re-zoning process of the western half of the rail yards, and some suspect Related would like to avoid a public guarantee in order to use the potential park as a bargaining chip for other deals, such as the amount of affordable housing or the inclusion of a school on the site.

NYguy Apr 3, 2009 3:44 PM


April 3, 2009

Plans to build a $15 billion district of housing, parks and office towers over the West Side rail yards won a key approval from the City Council yesterday, even though construction of the project has been delayed by the economic downturn.

The council, by a 48-0 vote, approved several zoning changes for the eastern half of the site, which officials at The Related Companies said is a sign that the project is moving forward, even though construction is years off.

Related officials say they expect to begin work on rezoning the western half of the 26-acre site later this year.

NYguy May 19, 2009 12:40 AM

They've completed the DEIS for the western half of the railyards...

Western Rail Yard Draft Environmental Impact Statement

On May 15th, 2009, the New York City Planning Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, acting as co-lead agencies, issued a Notice of Completion for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Western Rail Yard project.

A public hearing on the DEIS will be held at a later date to be announced, in conjunction with the City Planning Commission’s citywide public hearing pursuant to ULURP. Advance notice will be given of the time and place of the hearing. Written comments on the DEIS are requested and will be received and considered by the Lead Agency until the 10th calendar day following the close of the public hearing.

NYguy May 19, 2009 10:47 PM

Council Vote on Related’s Rail Yards Plans by Jan. 1

By Eliot Brown
May 19, 2009

If there was a race to get large development projects started in the city’s lengthy land-use review process, Stephen Ross and his Related Companies would be the clear winners.

On Monday, May 18, the Department of City Planning launched a long list of projects and initiatives into the seven-month-plus public approval process, two of them—the West Side rail yards and the Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory—belonging to Related. And based on the maximum length of that process—a length of time that many, but not all, projects take—this was the final round of proposed developments that will be guaranteed a vote before the current City Council.

In the wake of November’s elections, the Council’s membership will change somewhat, starting Jan. 1—and perhaps the mayor will, too—adding uncertainty for developers in what can be a highly political process. The land-use review process is a formalized forum for debate over development projects, at the end of which the Council gives its binding vote.

Also making the cut: the proposed 1,250-foot, Jean Nouvel–designed slender skyscraper that would rise adjacent to MoMA; the Bloomberg administration’s incentive program designed to boost the number of new grocery stores in poorer neighborhoods; and the city’s plans to rezone the Broadway Triangle in northern Brooklyn.

Not every developer can be as fortunate as Related. Multiple high-profile large planned developments have been seeking public approval, but did not make Monday’s list. To name a few: Extell Development’s proposed 8.2-acre, 2,500-apartment development at Riverside South; Steven Roth’s potential new office tower where the Hotel Pennsylvania currently sits; and Community Preservation Corporations’ plans to build 2,400 apartments in Williamsburg on the former Domino Sugar Factory site.

Financing is, of course, in short supply, casting doubt on the immediate viability of such projects. But developers can reap great long-term benefits from getting rezonings now, as they clear the way for quicker construction starts when the market returns; and they typically boost property values substantially with added density allowed on sites.

As is traditional in New York development, discord between the applicants and various community, labor and other groups marks the seven-month land-use review, which includes numerous public hearings.

A collection of organizations are fighting Related’s Kingsbridge Armory project in an attempt to win wage and other concessions. Residents who live across from the MoMA tower are vehemently opposed, calling it an out-of-scale development that should not be in a mid-block location.

By far the largest project to start the public review process on May 18 was the West Side rail yards, of which Related is the designated developer (though it has yet to sign a contract for the land with the M.T.A., the owner). The eastern half of the site is already rezoned, so it is the western half that will be the subject of the approvals, and the accompanying debate.

Based on a framework agreed to in 2007 by the Bloomberg administration, the M.T.A. and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the western half of the project calls for up to 6.4 million square feet of development, including up to 5,762 apartments.

The debate with the community is likely to revolve around familiar issues: The local community board has repeatedly expressed its desire to see the giant towers reduced in scale, and more affordable housing on the site, as currently it will be 20 percent of whatever Related builds as rental buildings. (The city is also building two developments with more than 300 subsidized apartments as part of the project.)

“The biggest problems are still its scale, which hasn’t changed one bit,” said Anna Levin, co-chair of a Community Board 4 land-use committee. Ms. Levin added that she is pleased with the improvements Related has made to the design of the open space.


Image of massing layout for the western half, from the DEIS released last week...

NYguy May 28, 2009 5:36 PM

Steve Ross' Vision for the West Side

The seven-month public rezoning process kicked off last week for half of the West Side rail yards, the 26-acre development site just south of the Javits Center on the far West Side. Here’s a look at some of the plans from Stephen Ross’ Related Companies, the site’s designated developer. (That said, Related has yet to sign a contract for the project, which would ultimately entail $15 billion or so in new development. The contract is scheduled to be signed by January.)

Above, plans for both the eastern and western half of the yards. The eastern section (between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues) was rezoned in 2005, and now the western half is up for public approval.

NYguy May 29, 2009 6:43 AM

Zoning for the western half of the yards...


As required in the proposed zoning, building massing and heights would gradually decrease from Eleventh Avenue and West 33rd Street to Twelfth Avenue and West 30th Street. The tallest building on the site would be the commercial building in the northeast corner. Taller residential buildings are proposed generally in the eastern and northern portions of the Development Site, and shorter residential buildings in the southwest quadrant of the Development Site (see Figure S-9). Building heights would generally range from approximately 40 to 70 stories, or 350 to 950 feet. WC-1 would be the tallest, at 850 to 950 feet, WR-6 would be between 650 and 810 feet, and WR-7 would be between 550 and 710 feet.

South of the commercial building on Eleventh Avenue, WR-1 would be approximately 700 to 800 feet high. To its west WR-5 would be shorter at approximately 500 to 700 feet. Along West 30th Street, buildings would also decrease in height from Eleventh Avenue to Twelfth Avenue. The tallest building at the southern portion of the Development Site would be located at
Eleventh Avenue, at approximately 650 to 810 feet (WR-2). Directly west of this mixed-use building would be an approximately 550 to 710-foot-tall mixed-use building (WR-3). The shortest building on the site would be at the southwest corner of the site, at a maximum height of 450 feet (WR-4).

THE BIG APPLE Jun 3, 2009 3:12 AM

I like the Brookfield plan. That was the best one.

hunser Jun 3, 2009 4:55 PM

so no supertalls for rhe hudson yards ... :( when are they going to realize that nyc needs new supertalls so badly?! :hell:

Dac150 Jun 3, 2009 5:39 PM

You never know, just as plans changed to this they can change again. If companies want in, the believe me the developer will find a way. It's just a wierd time right now for that so they have to plan something the get something. Doesn't mean that what you see now is what you'll get, though I do feel this is another case and point time to building for the future.

NYguy Jun 3, 2009 9:04 PM


Originally Posted by hunser (Post 4285372)
so no supertalls for rhe hudson yards

Not on the western yards, no. The tallest tower there is estimated to be no higher than 950 ft, but we are years away from a specific proposal there. The larger towers will be on the eastern yards, and although those towers would be developed sooner, we are still not close to any actual proposal there either.

philvia Jun 4, 2009 7:23 PM

this has gone from awesome to fail... so sad.

NYguy Jun 4, 2009 10:39 PM


Originally Posted by philvia (Post 4287709)
this has gone from awesome to fail... so sad.

Still too early to say on this. We have to see what gets proposed, especially on the eastern yards.

koolkid Jun 5, 2009 3:58 PM

Definitely still too early. Besides, i do prefer the larger/taller towers to be more inland, away from the waterfront. That way, they'd stand out more rather than block out the towers behind them. So far I'm not all too disapointed with the heights, although they better get rid of all that useless green space, fast...

NYguy Jun 6, 2009 11:15 PM


Originally Posted by koolkid (Post 4289675)
Definitely still too early. Besides, i do prefer the larger/taller towers to be more inland, away from the waterfront. That way, they'd stand out more rather than block out the towers behind them. So far I'm not all too disapointed with the heights, although they better get rid of all that useless green space, fast...

That green space is mandated. It's also mandated that the taller towers be farthest away from the waterfront, so there will be a stepped back approach to the river.

NYguy Jun 9, 2009 12:09 PM


June 9, 2009

Fresh off of today's public opening of the High Line Park, advocates for the project are turning their attention to saving one last unprotected section of the old rail trestle that snakes around the edge of the West Side rail yards.

Friends of the High Line want this section, running about a half-mile along 30th Street -- from 10th to 12th Avenue, then turning north to 33rd Street, along the edges of the rail yards and a block from the Javits Convention Center -- to be set aside as park space.

"It would be fantastic," Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

The Related Companies has been chosen by the MTA to develop a combination of office and residential towers, along with parks, a school and a cultural facility, on a platform over the 26-acre rail yards.

While Related officials have said they would include the High Line in their development plan, Friends of the High Line want the city to officially set it aside for preservation as part of a city rezoning for the site that is now under review.

"It's great that the High Line is in their plans, but there is no regulatory guarantee," said Peter Mullan of Friends of the High Line. "We feel that now is the time for that process to go forward along with the new zoning."

A forum on Related Companies' plans is to be held tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in the Fulton Center Auditorium, at 119 Ninth Ave.

mrnyc Jun 9, 2009 11:58 PM

i think we have proved today, by the opening of the first section of the high line park, that it would be foolish to mess with the highline. however, i have attended community meetings about westside railyard development and related refuses to commit. in fact they even specifically alluded to wanting to tear down the spur because it's in their way on that corner.

hopefully this changes with new designs, but still the city really needs to protect this railyard section of the high line. hells bells on it's northernmost terminus the high line curls down to the ground right at the door of the javits convention center, a dream for nyc conventioneers!

NYguy Jun 10, 2009 12:09 AM


Originally Posted by mrnyc (Post 4297251)
i think we have proved today, by the opening of the first section of the high line park, that it would be foolish to mess with the highline. however, i have attended community meetings about westside railyard development and related refuses to commit. in fact they even specifically alluded to wanting to tear down the spur because it's in their way on that corner.

They have long been saying that it would impede construction. Basically what they would do is remove it and replace it later. The only problem with the High Line at that point is that it would actually be lower than the platform the buildings will be built on.

Still, its in the latest plans to keep it there, and it would be an amazing experience to have that last link connecting the High Line to Hudson River Park.

mrnyc Jun 10, 2009 3:39 AM

no, unless that is new related did not talk about saving the spur. in fact although they were officially non-committal they made it clear it was in the way and they wanted to tear it down (in fact its not pictured at all on those renders). so as far as the spur goes i hope they have changed their minds, but this is exactly why the city must step in to protect the rest of the high line.

edit: re-reading your post i think you may have misinterpreted. the "spur" is just the part of the se corner that goes across 30th st and hangs over 10th avenue (another great future cut-out viewing platform!).

however, i will add they did verbally commit to keeping the rest of the railyard high line. that is, the major section that turns west, runs up 12th ave and wraps around the railyards to w34th st. that is what you see in renderings.

however, while i applaud related for facing the public, i wouldn't trust one bit of this verbal discussion to any developer. activism is still vitally important to protect the whole railyard section. here's news about the next cb4 forum:

Western Rail Yards Public Forum: June 10
We need your support at a Community Board 4 public forum on the Western Rail Yards - the next critical step in securing the High Line's full preservation.

Wednesday, June 10
6:30 - 8:30 PM
begins at 6:00
Fulton Center Auditorium
119 Ninth Avenue, between 17th and 18th Streets

for more clarity here is the map visual where you can clearly see the endangerd "spur."

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