Wednesday, November 15, 2006

AY office jobs: from 10,000 to... 375

It sounded like a nice round number. When the Atlantic Yards project was announced, it was promoted as providing space for 10,000 office jobs. Now, after further cuts in the size of the project, it would provide space for only about 1340 jobs--and likely only 375 new jobs.

The news came in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released today by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which stated:
The amount of commercial office space has been reduced by approximately 270,000 gsf in the residential mixed-use variation and approximately 223,000 gsf in the commercial mixed-use variation.

That cut, from 606,000 square feet of office space, leaves about 336,000 square feet. In other words, the amount of office space has been cut 44.5 percent in this round, a far more dramatic cut than that in the amount of housing. And jobs fuel tax revenues more than does housing.

Divide 336,000 square feet by 250 square feet per job, and that means space for 1344 jobs, or, as rounded off in the FEIS, 1340 jobs.

Rounding down

But that's likely overstated as well. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in an analysis of an earlier configuration, calculated a 7 percent vacancy rate, which would mean 1250 jobs.

NYCEDC also suggested that only 30 percent of the jobs would be new to New York, rather than moved from Manhattan. That would mean only 375 new office jobs at Atlantic Yards. So much for the 10,000 jobs some columnists eagerly embraced.

Persistent optimism

Everyone knows there's a trend toward building housing rather than office space in Downtown Brooklyn, despite a rezoning. Still, the Final EIS persists in relying on both stale data and general observations, rather than an analysis of the current building plans--including the latest round of cuts.

In the Response to Comments section, the ESDC received this comment:
The DEIS assumes an increasing need for commercial space, an assumption based on the 2001 Group of 35 report, coordinated by Senator Schumer. However, the data in this report was gathered and analyzed prior to September 11, 2001. In addition, this report has not been widely publicized, nor has it received the public support required for it to be considered citywide policy.

The ESDC responded:
The Group of 35 report was not the only source predicting the need for commercial space. Although it is difficult to predict the exact amount of future growth with precision, studies show that Brooklyn will continue to grow in terms of both new residents and new jobs. According to the latest forecasts from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), the agency responsible for coordinating such forecasts throughout the region, Brooklyn is expected to add 60,000 jobs, 90,000 residents, and 40,000 households between 2005 and 2015; from 2002 to 2030, Brooklyn is expected to add approximately 162,000 jobs, 330,000 residents, and 120,000 households (see Chapter 1, “Project Description”). Using a general rule of 1 employee per 250 square feet (sf) of floor area, Brooklyn’s predicted employment increase of 60,000 from 2005 to 2015 will create the need for 15 million sf of additional development; the demand from 2002 to 2030 would translate to a demand for 40.5 million sf. In its Atlantic Yards statement, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) also predicts substantial growth in the tri-state (New York-New Jersey-Connecticut) region: 4 million additional residents and 3 million additional jobs by 2030, adding that much of this growth should be accommodated around the region’s transportation hubs, including Atlantic Terminal. As discussed in Chapter 2, “Procedural and Analytical Framework,” the EIS analyzes two program variations—residential mixed-use and commercial mixed-use—in order to allow the project to meet potential future greater demand for residential or office space in Downtown Brooklyn.
Reference to the Group 35 report was removed the section discussing citywide programs and policies affecting development in Chapter 3, “Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy,” of the FEIS; recommendations of this report remain in Chapter 1, “Project Description.”

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