Groups want MTA to reopen bidding on property

NEW YORK -- Three public interest groups and a union went to court Monday to force the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to reopen bidding on the West Side rail yards with the goal of getting more money for the property, where the New York Jets plan to build a 75,000-seat stadium.

The four groups say in papers filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court that the MTA, which runs the nation's largest mass transit system, violated its statutory duty by not getting as much money as possible for the land and did not conduct a fair and open bidding process.

The MTA board voted 14-0 on March 31 to accept the Jets' $250 million bid for the rights to develop the property. The agency rejected a $760 million-plus bid from Madison Square Garden, whose owners sued.

Lawyers for MSG said the MTA, with its politically appointed board, approved the Jets' bid because the stadium is a project that mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki wanted.

Bloomberg has said he hoped that a new stadium, which would cost about $2.2 billion to build, would help attract the 2012 Olympics to New York.

State Sen. Eric Schneiderman, a lawyer for the four groups, said the MTA's appraisal in 2004 showed that the property was worth $923 million. He said MSG's study showed the property to be worth a similar amount.

Schneiderman said that after getting a capital allocation in Albany of $15.4 billion for the MTA, the agency "the very next day sells a billion-dollar property to the Jets for $250 million."

The four groups that sued the MTA are Common Cause, the New York Public Interest Group Straphangers Campaign, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Local 100 of the Transport Workers' Union.

A call to the MTA for comment was not immediately returned.