Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jeffries: no stimulus funds for railyard, but maybe for affordable housing

If City Council Member Letitia James, a staunch opponent of Atlantic Yards, opposes the use of federal stimulus funds for the project, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who's more on the fence, thinks money might be spent on housing--but not a new railyard.

"I’m unconvinced that the railyards are the appropriate place for the money to be spent," Jeffries said yesterday after I asked whether federal money should relieve developer Forest City Ratner of a previous obligation.

"It’s clear to me that a much stronger case could be made to spend stimulus money on affordable housing," given that it responds to "a permanent need."

I had queried him to amplify some quotes in an article in this week's Courier-Life chain, which could have left the impression that he supported stimulus money for a new Vanderbilt Yard as long as Phase 1 of the project contained affordable housing.

Courier-Life article

The article states:
"The highest priority should be placed on the creation of jobs and desperately needed affordable housing and I will not support the use of federal stimulus money on any project that does not substantially address these areas," said Jeffries.

Jeffries said he would not support stimulus money going for the Atlantic Yards project unless developer Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation committed to affordable housing at the front end of the development.


How much affordable housing?

However, the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments already requires that 30% of housing on the arena block be affordable (though the number of affordable units depends on the amount of total units).

Jeffries told me that he thinks the percentage of affordable housing in the arena block (Phase 1) should equal the percentage promised for the project as a whole, 38%, and the percentage should be 50% if stimulus funds are used.

As it happens, the rental buildings would have 50% market and 50% affordable units, divided into 20% low-income and 30% middle- and moderate-income. The first residential tower is planned as such a 50/30/20 building, while the affordability percentage for the other buildings is unclear.

"I don’t believe we should have a discussion about the availability of federal stimulus money unless the developer and the ESDC (Empire State Development Corporation) commit to" 50% affordable housing, he said.

He said that he and State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (who's an AY opponent) expect to discuss the stimulus issue with representatives of the governor's office and that he hoped to talk to Rep. Yvette Clarke and Sen. Chuck Schumer to learn their goals regarding the stimulus package.

Funding from NYC HDC

But the funding for such housing would come from the New York City Housing Development Corporation, I pointed out.

"ESDC should be playing the role of coordinating all of the relevant state and city agencies," Jeffries said. That does appear to be ESDC's role; however, in the case of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, it has deferred to the New York City Department of Transportation.

There doesn't appear to be much in the stimulus bill directed at housing like that promised for Atlantic Yards, though there is a small expansion of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and there is discretionary money for each governor.

1 comment:

  1. Stimulus money should not go to Atlantic Yards.

    Assemblyman Jeffries should realize that any stimulus money that goes towards Atlantic Yards, whether it is earmarked for housing or transit or whatever, will fund, and prop up, the arena—a facility with a financing and ownership structure that is unworthy of stimulus funds.

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