Yonkers officials have taken a step toward their goal of removing a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus depot from a valuable 3½-acre property along the city’s redeveloping waterfront.
Following a public hearing on Nov. 28, the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency authorized its attorneys to move forward with the process of taking the parcel of land at 59 Babcock Place by eminent domain.
The property, which stretches north of Alexander Street and west of Ravine Avenue, is owned by New York City and leased to the MTA. Yonkers officials say the land is necessary for the city and private developers to carry out the master plan for waterfront redevelopment.
“It’s basically blocking a pretty big development from happening,” Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said of the bus depot, which is used by the MTA to service bus lines in the northern Bronx. “There is no value to the residents of the city or the county, and we are certainly paying the bill when it comes to the wear and tear on our community.”
Spano said the eminent domain authorization allows the IDA’s attorneys to take the matter to the court system, where a judge will determine the property’s value. In a third-party appraisal of the MTA bus garage site, the property was valued at roughly $6 million, according to Yonkers officials.
According to the IDA’s lawyers, Harris Beach and Pauline Galvin, once the property has been appraised, the IDA will make a good-faith written offer to purchase the site. The offer will state that New York City can either accept the payment in full or reject the initial offer but accept the offer as an advance payment and reserve the right to pursue additional compensation.
“If there are no objections or defenses, the state Supreme Court will order the filing of an acquisition map, meaning the property will vest in YIDA,” IDA attorneys said in a statement. The acquisition could happen in the first half of 2018, they said.
The city plans to use a portion of the property to extend Alexander Street and open access to residential and commercial developments that are in the works. Officials say the land could also help with infrastructure and parking necessary to execute the master plan for the Alexander Street waterfront corridor.
The land is adjacent to Manhattan-based Extell Development Co.’s proposed six-building, 1,395-unit luxury rental apartment complex, which would be on 22 waterfront acres stretching from the former British International Cable Corp. property at 1 Point St. to the closed Excelsior Packaging plant at 159 Alexander St.
The bus depot also sits north of a 609-unit apartment complex on Alexander Street planned by developer AvalonBay Communities Inc.
Spano said his administration has attempted for years to negotiate a relocation deal for the facility with the MTA and New York City. In 2015, Spano sent a letter to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio expressing his frustration with the prolonged process and his hopes that the situation could be resolved without resorting to the courts.
Since that time, Spano said, his administration has made a number of attempts to find a new site for the MTA bus depot and has held multiple conversations with officials of the deBlasio administration in New York City.
According to Yonkers officials, New York City refused to discuss the relocation of the garage unless Yonkers agreed to pay the city $45 million. New York City in 2005 paid $10.5 million to acquire the property from Liberty Lines Express.
Requests for comment from New York City officials were not returned at press time.
The Yonkers City Council in 2015 approved an initial condemnation proposal for the MTA property. Spano, however, said initiating the process through the IDA is more appropriate since that agency is expected to be involved in the overall Alexander Street redevelopment project.