Note to all lease applicants: An Apple Store is strongly preferred.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority gave the iPad maker an unfair edge last year as Apple ruthlessly bid for its prime retail perch overlooking Grand Central Terminal, according to a scathing new report obtained by The Post.
A fresh audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the MTA last May allowed the California-based tech giant to set a daunting hurdle for rival bidders to clear in a tight, 30-day window – namely, that they be willing to front $5 million in cash.
“The competitive process followed by MTA . . . was at a minimum severely slanted toward Apple,” reads the report, submitted to MTA officials Friday and expected to be made public today.
DiNapoli’s report notes that Apple had been in private talks with the MTA for more than two years leading up to the bidding process.
In a saucy move that was rejected by the MTA, Apple even tried to get reimbursed by taxpayers for the initial $2 million it had paid the restaurant Metrazur to vacate the balcony atop the historic commuter hub, the report found – a deal that ultimately was worth $5 million.
Apple’s chic open-air shop has been mobbed with commuters and tourists since it opened last December, and it is expected to rake in hundreds of millions in revenue annually.
The cash-rich company didn’t respond to requests for comment yesterday.
MTA officials blasted the report, accusing DiNapoli’s office of “overt bias against the MTA and Apple.”
“This audit is not fact-based, and, accordingly, their opinion is worthless,” MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota said in a statement.
“The MTA’s lease process with Apple was open, transparent and followed both the spirit and letter of the law.”
MTA officials said Apple is paying $1.1 million in rent this year – four times what Metrazur had been paying.
Officials at DiNapoli’s office counter that the restaurant’s 12-year-old lease, which had been well below market rates, had been pushed even lower by $2.4 million in lease concessions it had won because of earlier MTA screw-ups.
As first reported by The Post last November, Apple won the space for its shop on Grand Central’s northeast balcony without agreeing to share a percentage of its sales with the MTA – the only retailer among 100 or so in the facility to secure such a deal.
Real-estate insiders say that will likely cost the MTA tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue. The MTA has countered that extra traffic lured by the Apple store will boost the value of its revenue-sharing deals with other outlets.
In July 2010, DiNapoli’s office published a lengthy audit of the MTA’s real-estate holdings that found lax record keeping, hundreds of vacancies and mediocre marketing of properties.