Friday, March 11, 2011

A year after the ceremonial groundbreaking for the arena: Where's the affordable housing? The other promised benefits? The Carlton Avenue Bridge?

A year after the ceremonial groundbreaking (coverage, columns) for the Atlantic Yards arena, what have we?

Yes, Forest City Ratner can invite their useful enablers, like Daily News columnist Denis Hamill and Nets Daily's "Net Income," to the top of the Atlantic Center to cast their appreciative eyes on an arena rising. And a sports fan blogger can chronicle the construction.

Barclays Capital, thanks to naming rights the state gave away, can use the arena as a giant billboard, helped by a good deal for branding the adjacent subway and rail station.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets' majority owner, can bask in his newfound global profile, enabled by the myopic media.

What about the benefits?

But what about the rest of the project and all the promised community benefits, the justification for city and state subsidies, and override of zoning, and other special assistance?

The first tower is delayed, despite promises from the developer and happy talk from the city.

The job numbers are far smaller than promised--last month, 150 workers were reported by FCR to be at the site.

Projected tax revenues? Inevitably well below estimates, given delays in the project, especially the office tower, Building 1.

The open space? Well, they'll make a temporary plaza on the arena block instead of Building 1 and the Urban Room.

The Carlton Avenue Bridge? Forest City Ratner, rather than come up with $14 million on its own, wanted state taxpayers to put up $9 million.

The timetable? Bruce Ratner, who in May 2008 insisted that "We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018," asserted last September that a decade was "never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.”

The mayor's Orwellian housing promise

The day of the groundbreaking, the mayoral press release used the word "affordable" seven times, stating:
In the first phase of development, which includes four buildings, Forest City Ratner Companies committed that at least 30 percent of the housing units would be income-targeted. Mayor Bloomberg also announced today that the City has secured an additional commitment from the developer to ensure that at least 50 percent of the units in the first residential building will be affordable to a mix of low-, moderate- and middle-income families.
As I wrote last August, that was Orwellian.

Given the reduced market for a building without subsidies, the crucial commitment would come not from the developer but rather from the city and its housing agencies to provide sufficient subsidies.

Even that seems to have hit a snag.

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