Sunday, July 16, 2006

Times editorial gets it wrong on AY housing

An editorial in today's Westchester weekly section, headlined City on a Hill, discusses Forest City Ratner's proposed Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, and offers an error-laden paragraph about the developer's Atlantic Yards plan in Brooklyn:
That is one area in which the Ridge Hill plan can still be improved. Affordable housing is another. At another huge development in Brooklyn that Mr. Ratner proposes to build, an amazing 50 percent of housing units will be sold to low- and middle-income residents. It’s no coincidence that Brooklyn is home to one of the country’s noisiest and most energetic community organizations, Acorn, which Mr. Ratner took pains to make an early ally.

It's too bad the Times editorial page doesn't read the newspaper's own reporting. First, most of the affordable housing units would be rented, not sold to low- and middle-income residents.

Second, the "amazing" fact is simply incorrect; the number wouldn't be 50 percent. While initially it was proposed that 50 percent of all the project's units would be affordable, last year that was switched to 50 percent of the 4500 rentals--and the developer added 2800 market-rate condos, since cut to 2360.

Now, of 6860 proposed units, 2250 would be affordable rentals, or a little less than 33 percent. Forest City Ratner also offers somewhat vague plans to build 600 to 1000 units of for-sale affordable units; if 1000 units were built, the total percentage of affordable housing would be a little over 40 percent.

However, those for-sale affordable units likely would be geared to those in the "upper affordable income tiers." And many of the people at the session Tuesday already thought that the income ranges for the affordable housing excluded them.

To summarize:
1. Most affordable units wouldn't be sold.
2. The affordable percentage would not be 50/50.
3. Many attendees were dismayed by the affordable housing information session.
4. The affordable rental units would be rather small, and would occupy a small fraction--22 percent of the total square footage--of the project space devoted to housing.

When covering Forest City Ratner, business partner of the parent New York Times Company in building the new Times Tower, shouldn't the Times be careful to get the basic facts right?

[Update: The correction was incomplete.]

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