Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Last minute Ratner goodies: $3m for parks, help on a high school, more

"Thank you Brooklyn," came the message from Forest City Ratner, announcing some additional programs to support the Atlantic Yards project, as well as a reduction to the height of the proposed “Ms. Brooklyn” building, ensuring that no building at the site will be taller than the 512-foot Williamsburg Savings Bank.

The additions include:

In addition to the commitment to eight acres of open space within the Atlantic Yards footprint, FCRC will invest $3 million to improve existing parks in and around the project.

(Does that include the $1.25 million+ for the Dean Street Playground comfort station?)

As part of the affordable housing program, FCRC has already agreed to build 600 to 1,000 affordable home ownership units on or off site.

(When exactly is unclear, depending on subsidies, as the developer's Jim Stuckey said in July.)

Today, FCRC announced that it will seek to build at least 200 of these affordable home-owner units on site (they will be part of the proposed 6,430 units of housing already approved as part of the Atlantic Yards FEIS/GPP).

(This was a response to a request from Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries. Was this in the cards all along?)

FCRC will also seek to build the remaining affordable home-owner units as close to Atlantic Yards as possible.

(The developer has been said to be eyeing a site in Crown Heights. That may be "as close... as possible.")

Forest City Ratner will also open a community affairs office on the project site that will be operated and staffed during all phases of the construction project.

(As opposed to the very sporadically open Atlantic Yards Information Center, in the Atlantic Center mall.)

In addition to these project specific elements, FCRC will also work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough.

(What does "work with" mean? How much might the developer actually contribute?)

Major concessions missing

The housing change, reported earlier today, represents some substance, but the rest of the announcement about building affordable homeowner units isn't new. The agreement to reduce the height of Miss Brooklyn, also reported earlier today, may seem to be a concession to Borough President Marty Markowitz; then again, the developer when the project was announced three years ago promised not to block the bank.

The other changes are relatively small.

Larger changes were not addressed, including issues like traffic mitigation, interim surface parking, and the design of open space.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gave a statement, reported by Bloomberg News, that didn't address those issues:
Silver, in a statement, said "I am pleased the developer is committed to addressing numerous community concerns through several specific actions that will result in significant neighborhood improvements.'' Those include affordable housing, open space, park upgrades and "conforming building heights to those of existing structures in the surrounding area,'' he said.

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