For months, Mayor Bloomberg has dangled the possibility of picking two winners for the city’s tech campus competition. He even left the possibility open while announcing that the New York City Economic Development Corporation would give the full $100 million grant to Cornell-Technion to build an applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. Now Crain’s is reporting that between the remaining contestants, NYU’s Downtown Brooklyn proposal may have “taken center stage” over Carnegie Mellon’s Navy Yard campus and Columbia’s Manhattanville proposal.
Although Crain’s says NYU, the M.T.A., and E.D.C. all want to make a deal to help revitalize Downtown Brooklyn, “but money is the sticking point.”
Back in October, NYU was asking for $20 to $25 million from the city and pledged spending $450 million on the 200,000 sq. ft. space. Now that someone actually wants the blighted building that has frustrated officials for year, the M.T.A. is asking for more:
“NYU has asked the city for $20 million to help buy out the MTA, based largely on numbers thrown around during previous attempts to revive the beleaguered building, sources familiar with the proposal said. But the MTA’s asking price has now ballooned to $50 million to $60 million.”
As Crain’s reports:
“The MTA controls the site via a master lease and has the right to stay in the building as long as it is using it. The 459,000-square-foot property contains vital communications equipment, and the negotiations hinge on just how much it would cost to move or replace it.”
At the press conference announcing Cornell-Technion’s big win, city officials seemed somewhat optimistic about the ability to find the financing for a second project, even without any of the $100 million in play. “Obviously the city budget funds other projects,” said the source, “If there’s a way to make it work with other funding, that could be a possibility. If there’s philanthropy we can do, then we might be able to get somewhere.”
UPDATE: Another City Hall source offered some clarification on the MTA’s position. As we originally mentioned back in October, the $20 to $25 million that NYU pledged to build the center was allocated in part to cover, “infrastructure improvements and moving out old MTA equipment.” The latter appears to be the real issue because the 459,000-square-foot property still contains vital communications equipment for the MTA.
“It’s pretty integral signalling equipment, it has to do with running the train lines,” said the source who believed the infrastructure was currently in use by the agency. “The tough piece of 370 Jay has been that that equipment is there.” The source also noted that it wasn’t so much that the cost “ballooned” as that estimates to relocate that equipment has varied through the years, including when the MTA was contemplating putting out an RFP to redevelop the building. “Clearly neither of those estimates was the city’s estimates,” said the source, who also seemed optimistic about the ability to reach a deal with NYU and the MTA.
Even if NYU’s Downtown Brooklyn project was selected as a second winner, that might not necessarily leave Columbia and Carnegie Mellon out. “I think we’re still working on creative ways to do all of them,” said the source. ” Even without the $100 million, we wondered? “There are other ways to create incentives for people to pursue these projects,” the source offered obliquely.