Friday, October 02, 2009

What Forest City Ratner told Sheldon Silver (but not the public): affordable condos depend on "appropriate subsidy"

As I've written, the affordable rental units planned for Atlantic Yards are not guaranteed but rather dependent on available public subsidies.

The same goes for the affordable condos promised by developer Forest City Ratner upon project approval in 2006.

Though the developer did not mention such caveats in its public announcement, it did offer such caveats in a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that I recently obtained via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. Beyond that, the pledge has never been memorialized in project documents, despite a 2009 update to the Modified General Project Plan.

This is part of a pattern; as I wrote in June, the Empire State Development Corporation, while the Atlantic Yards project approached approval in December 2006, never revealed how project funding depended on scarce housing bonds, and Forest City Ratner's 2005 bid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ignored the need for such bonds to build the residential buildings.

Announcement in 2006

Upon approval by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) on 12/20/06, Forest City Ratner told the public:
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. 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). FCRC will also seek to build the remaining affordable home-owner units as close to Atlantic Yards as possible. (The Community Benefits Agreement already calls for half of the proposed 4,500 rental units to be affordable and low-income, all of them on site.)

(Emphases added)

The letter to Silver

Developer Bruce Ratner was even more careful in his correspondence with Silver, the key vote among the three members of the PACB.

Ratner wrote:
As you know, FCRC has already agreed with ACORN to provide 2,250 affordable, rent stabilized units and an additional 600-1000 units of Affordable Home Ownership units, on or off site. FCRC will further commit to seek to build the affordable home ownership units as close to the Atlantic Yards site as possible, including but not limited to the following neighborhoods: Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, Park Slope. Moreover, FCRC will seek to build 200 of these affordable home ownership units directly on the Atlantic Yards project site provided we receive the appropriate subsidy required to fund these units, and assuming the density levels approved in the ESDC GPP are maintained. These 200 units are part of the 6,430 units of housing approved as part of the Atlantic Yards FEIS/GPP. We will further seek to make the affordable home ownership units affordable to families with income up to 150% of AMI and to make homeownership opportunities available to families with incomes below 100% of AMI.

(Emphases added)

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