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No. 7 Train expansion dim as MTA railyards talks halt

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For the second time in five days, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority declared an impassethis time an apparent endin negotiations with Tishman Speyer toward development of the rail yards on Manhattan's far west side.

The failure of the talks also called into question the future of the extension of the No. 7 subway line.

"The MTA met today with Tishman Speyer," Jeremy Soffin, director of MTA media relations said Tuesday. "Despite the best efforts of both sides, a final agreement could not be reached. The MTA has now re-entered discussions with other interested developers and remains committed to timely development of these unique and valuable parcels of land on Manhattan's far west side."

Back in March Gary Dellaverson, the MTA chief, said both sides had met for hundreds of hours and even held talks on Easter night.

The MTA first reported a no-go in the discussions last Thursday, mentioning what it called Tishman Speyer's attempt to postpone finalizing the deal until a rezoning of the rail yard.

Nevertheless, the two sides agreed to meet Monday, but negotiating sessions on Monday and Tuesday were unfruitful.

"It's certainly not a positive development as far as the No. 7 is concerned," said Gene Russianoff, attorney for the transit advocacy agency Straphangers Campaign.

"All this building and commerce to be generated was central to a need for bringing the subway farther west," Russianoff said. "It's not good news for transit in general.'

The $2.1 billion project was to bring the No. 7, which begins at Main Street in Flushing, westward from Times Square to the Javits Center. A second station at 41st Street and 10th Avenue was scrapped because of the extra cost, although many criticized the decision as short-sighted.

Tishman Speyer's plan was to build eight million square feet of office space, at least 3,000 units of residential and 550,000 square feet of retail space as well as 13 acres of parks on the 26-acres next to the Hudson River.

The first step would have been construction of enormous platforms above the rail yards at an estimated cost of least $2 billion.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the West Side development should proceed despite a financial downturn.

"Putting these big projects on hold is exactly the wrong approach," Schumer said.

The MTA announced March 26 that Tishman Speyer had delivered the winning bid of just over $1 billion for the right to develop the rail yard.

The Tishman Speyer plan, detailed on its own Web site, was grand. Its centerpiece included a plaza resembling the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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