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New York's MTA to soon seek bids for big Manhattan site

NEW YORK, May 8 (Reuters) - New York’s mass transit agency on Tuesday said it will soon seek developers for a vast 26-acre Manhattan rail yard, hoping to get a top price in a real estate market where big tracts of land are difficult to find.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the biggest U.S. mass transit system with some 8 million daily riders, wants to raise $1 billion by selling assets to fund new projects, including new tunnels and a Second Ave. subway.

“It’s certainly in the best interests of the city and state that we’re able to maximize our revenues,” an MTA spokesman said, ahead of a series of public hearings on how the land should be used before the MTA issues design guidelines for would-be developers by the end of May.

The western half of the site, which stretches from 11th to 12th Ave. in Manhattan, was appraised for as much as $1.3 billion.

New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wanted the land for an Olympic stadium until the state government decided against that plan, had offered $300 million for it.

Eager to spur development, the Republican mayor allocated the MTA some $2 billion to extend the No. 7 subway, which now stops in Times Square, to the west midtown site.

The Mayor’s spokeswoman was not immediately available.

The MTA is collaborating with the city in deciding what development will be allowed on the western half of the site. The eastern half of the site, which runs from 11th to 10th Ave., was rezoned for mixed use in 2005.

Community advocates want enough open space for parks, while preservationists do not want the northern stretch of the High Line, an abandoned elevated rail line, which runs into the site, to be torn down.

Asked about the High Line, whose southern stretch will become a park and possibly a new museum, the MTA spokesman replied: “I think we would like to see it remain if that can happen without having a major impact on the revenue that the MTA gets from the site.”

Many other questions have yet to be resolved, including whether the MTA will sell or lease the property, he said.

How much affordable housing will be included, and the precise mix of residential and office buildings has not been finalized, the spokesman said, but noted the MTA will not sell its rail yards.

Instead, developers will have to build a platform, which could cost some $400 million, over the Hudson Yards where the MTA will continue to store and maintain trains.