Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vornado in El Barrio?

According to Crain's (with an assist from Liz), the city is honing in on the selection of a developer for a swath of property on the eastern edge of 125th Street. And guess who may be coming to dinner? Yup. it our good friends at Vornado, the same folks who think that it's okay to evict a vital supermarket from an underserved Bronx neighborhood.

Here's the Crain's take: "Real estate sources tell Crain’s that the three companies vying for the roughly six-acre site are Vornado Realty Trust, General Growth Properties and Thor Equities." And the lovely aspect of all of this is that the city is proceeding through ULURP without the developer being named.

This, as we have seen in the Willets Point situation, doesn't make a whole lot of sense from the stand point of City Council oversight. Yet it appears that, according to Crain's, Council woman Melissa Mark-Viverito supports this end run: "Only recently have some strains among the parties begun to emerge. They stem from the city’s decision in March to start the rezoning process before selecting a developer. Though not unprecedented, choosing a developer during rezoning is unusual. Some community activists argue that rezoning without a developer weakens the city’s bargaining power."

EDC head Pinsky disagrees: "Conversely, Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp., claims that delaying the choice extends the competition.“We’ll get a better deal,” says Mr. Pinsky, adding that there will be plenty of time to examine the chosen builder’s proposal before the City Council votes on the rezoning."

We certainly hope so, since the scope of the proposal could become problematic: "The East 125th Street Development calls for the creation of a 1.7 million-square-foot complex, which will include a retail component anchored by a national chain, plus local shops, restaurants, cinemas, nightclubs and possibly a hotel. It will also have offices and specialized space for nonprofits. The plan also envisions up to 1,000 apartments, with at least 30% of the units reserved for low-income residents."

Who's tenanting the site could become a real issue here. And what about the potential for another supermarket? Yes, Pathmark's right up the road, but wouldn't this be a good opportunity for another market since the Pathmark deal was so heavily subsidizes and East Harlem has lost at least six local supermarkets?

Which brings us back to our buddy Steve Roth at Vornado. Mr Private Sector needs to be sent a very clear message that his little real estate company needs to become a good corporate citizen or else the 125th Street deal will go elsewhere (as will many others if he doesn't stop his company's efforts to evict the Key Food from Bruckner Plaza).

Tomorrow we will be gathering on the steps of City Hall to call attention to rising food prices and the declining number of supermarkets in the city. The Key Food situation will be front and center-and we believe that Melissa Mark-Viverito will be there to send a shout out to Roth and company; it's what known as the handwriting on the wall.