Pols to MTA: Lease 370 Jay Street
by Daniel Bush
Feb 04, 2009 | 6664 views | 0 0 comments | 104 104 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Elected officials led by Borough President Marty Markowitz met one hour before the MTA's public hearing in Brooklyn last week to put pressure on the authority to lease its vast, nearly abandoned building at 370 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

At the press conference, Markowitz urged the MTA to lease the building in order to reduce the authority's $1.2 billion budget, a move that would also allow private developers to revitalize the site.

The Board of Transportation building, which sits above the Jay Street/Borough Hall subway station, has been almost completely vacant for many years. The building is owned by the city and operated on a long-term lease by the MTA.

MTA spokesperson Jeremy Soffin said the authority needs the building and is committed to spending $150 million to renovate the site. Soffin said the MTA expects to move employees into the building as early as 2012, and complete the renovation project by 2016.

The Jay Street building is one of the most valuable of a group of underdeveloped buildings elected officials are urging the cash-strapped MTA to lease or sell to help shore up the authority's finances.

"With the recent revelations regarding the MTA's budget deficit this plan seems even more foolhardy today," Markowitz said in a statement. "The building is prime, prime real estate. It's time the MTA takes serious steps in leasing it."

For several years, the building's lower story has been covered in scaffolding, and its once impressive façade has fallen into disrepair.

Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a non-profit development corporation, called the building a blight on the neighborhood.

"The MTA has not acted responsibly with 370 Jay Street," said Chan.

Chan said that even if, in the near future, the MTA only leased a section of the building it would generate tens of millions in revenue for the authority and help turn the building around. This move, coupled with the eventual leasing of the entire building to Brooklyn companies, said Chan, would bolster local business and save the MTA from its costly planned renovation

"We would love to work with the MTA and local leaders to come up with a way not to have to spend $150 million," Chan said. "We're committed to make sure this asset is neglected no longer."

State Senator Daniel Squadron, who also attended the press conference, criticized the MTA for refusing to consider this and other options recommended by the DoBro business community.

"The MTA doesn't care about Downtown Brooklyn," said Squadron.

Soffin said the MTA needs the building space for its own Brooklyn-area employees, many of whom currently work in at least three buildings the MTA is leasing in other parts of Downtown Brooklyn. To move them in there, Soffin said, the building has to get renovated first.

"We agree it is an eyesore," Soffin said. "That's why we committed to address the appearance [of the building] in the short-term."

Soffin said the $150 million renovation would turn the building around, though the project will take time.

"I understand it's frustrating that this is taking a long time," he said.

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