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NEW YORK CITY-As was expected, the Empire State Development Corp.’s board of directors approved an amended General Project Plan for Brooklyn’s proposed Atlantic Yards project at a Tuesday morning meeting at its Manhattan offices. The move comes a day after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to give developer Forest City Ratner Cos. a break on financial terms for a parcel of MTA property FCRC needs to move forward with the arena portion of the project.

The cash-challenged MTA, which got a bailout from the State Legislature in May, says in a finance department staff summary that “in recognition of the impact that the financial and real estate downturn has had upon the economics of the original FCRC proposal, MTA staff and FCRC have negotiated other changes to this transaction.”

MTA finance department documents show that FCRC will now pay $20 million up front for the arena property, and $80 million in deferred payments for air rights. The annual payments will extend through 2031. That compares to 2006, when the negotiated price had been set at $100 million.

In 2004, the 8.5-acre railyard was appraised at $214 million. FCRC’s 2005 bid of $100 million was $50 million less than a similar bid by competing developer Extell Corp. that same year.

The new plan also scales down the Vanderbilt Yards upgrade. Originally, FCRC was required to build a nine-track rail yard that could hold 76 cars. In the modified GPP that appears to be fast tracking its way through the approval process, only seven tracks will be built, for a capacity of 56 cars.

Unlike a raucous public hearing on Atlantic Yards earlier this month, at which ESDC representatives warned of cuts to the project, order and procedure permeated Tuesday’s ESDC meeting. Board members listened to 40 speakers. The majority were project supporters, some wearing red ACORN shirts, while others sported blue “Build Atlantic Yards” buttons, all mixed with a smattering of hard hats and orange vests. Project supporter talking points included union job creation, minority participation, praise of FCRC’s track record in downtown Brooklyn and the eventual arrival of the Brooklyn Nets at the project’s arena.

Although outnumbered in the speaker roster, project opponents articulated concerns that included peppering the board with questions of transparency, oversight and taxpayer financed developments. There was even a moment of public policy theatre, when an Atlantic Yards opponent sporting a “Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” T-shirt used his entire allotted three minutes as a silent protest.

Later, board members assured the audience that they were indeed listening, that they did not speak or engage speakers because it was “never their intent to engage the witnesses.”

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