For the past decade or so, every Brooklyn politician has called upon the MTA to do something with the former NYC Transit HQ building at 370 Jay St. while the MTA has been waiting out the $150 million in capital funds they need to renovate the Downtown Brooklyn eyesore. Even as Kings County has enjoyed a renaissance of late, the big building atop the Jay St. subway stop has remained untouched but shrouded in scaffolding. NYU, we learned in October, wants to convert it into a Center for Urban Sciences and Progress, and the deal might just be moving forward as long as the price is right.
According to a report in Crain’s New York from New Year’s Day, the three stakeholders — NYC, the building’s owner, the MTA, its leaseholder, and NYU — all want to see the plan realized, but for the cash-strapped authority, the kicker will be the dollars. Daniel Massey writes:
All three parties to an NYU deal seem amenable to the idea, but money is the sticking point. 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.
“The real question becomes, what does the MTA want?” said a source close to the talks.
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. “We are working with the city to provide a facility that better serves the needs of the community and to ensure that the MTA receives fair value for the building,” an MTA spokesman said.
As Massey notes, it’s unclear how much money the city has leftover after delivering Roosevelt Island to Cornell. NYU, on the other hand, is not hurting for bucks and will have to contribute something to this project. The Crain’s story also notes that NYU’s new CUSP center will be working with the MTA by “giving university researchers access to scientific and engineering challenges it faces in coming years.”
As a Brooklynite, I’d like to see something happen with 370 Jay St. sooner rather than later. The borough has seemingly moved on while this building has been stuck in limbo. Yet, I recognize that the MTA needs to protect its bottom line. As both Columbia University and Carnegie Mellon University remain interested in the space, I have to believe something will happen sooner rather than later. Someone will blink first, but will it by the city or the MTA? Urban development history isn’t really on the authority’s side.