Monday, January 06, 2014

Dissecting Forest City's modular fact sheet re location, phasing, CBA, and affordable housing

Deliveries of "mods" to the B2 tower under construction at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street likely will re-start this week, after pause that suggested, as I wrote, that the delivery and stacking last month was mostly a media event.

So,  it's worth analyzing the Atlantic Yards: B2 and Modular Fact Sheet (also below) issued 12/12/13 by developer Forest City Ratner for that media event.

The location

The $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project is the redevelopment of 22 acres in downtown Brooklyn...

Or, rather, Central Brooklyn/Prospect Heights/near Downtown Brooklyn.

What's the first phase?

The first phase of the project, as per the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), includes the arena and five other buildings,

Yes, as per the FEIS. By contrast, according to Forest City's own business plan, the first phase includes the arena block and four towers on Block 1129, the southeast block currently used mostly as a surface parking lot.

The CBA: participation vs. commitments

Forest City signed a historic, legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement [CBA] to ensure significant, on-going participation in the project by community stakeholders.

The CBA used to be about much more than "participation." The company claimed in a 2008 affidavit and a 2011 legal filing that the CBA contained "carefully articulated commitments to the local communities."

In a 2009 press release, the CBA coalition claimed that the "CBA membership is comprised of local leaders who love their neighborhood and have their fingers on the pulse of the needs of the community's most vulnerable--children and senior citizens."

Affordable housing for whom

Per City requirements, preference [for affordable housing] will be given to residents living locally, members of the NYPD, other City of New York employees, as well as mobility-impaired, sight-impaired and hearing-impaired people. 50% of the total affordable units will be reserved for members of CB 2, 3, 6 & 8.

While the press release does outline the overall distribution of subsidized units in the first tower, as noted in the graphic below, it does not explain two crucial details: the monthly rents, and the distribution of units by both size and income "band."

From Forest City Ratner press release
More detail came from the New York City Housing Development Corporation, which disclosed how the subsidized 2 BR units would range from $648 to $2740 in rent, according to 2012 income levels--which likely will have risen by the time the tower opens in late 2014.

However, the average would be $1946, because the distribution of those units is skewed toward the highest of the affordable "bands."


As I reported in 2012, Forest City Ratner agreed to increase the number of subsidized 2 BR units from 20 to 36 under pressure from HDC.

That was accomplished by disproportionately assigning those units to households in the highest affordable "band," those earning up to 160% of AMI: $132,800 for a family of four, or $119,520 for a family of three. (At that point, there were to be 17 of the most expensive subsidized 2 BR units, not 16.)

With 76 studios, 69 1 BRs, and 36 2 BRs, this first building departs significantly from Forest City's pledge in the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding, incorporated into the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, that half of the affordable housing--in floor area--be devoted to 2 BR and 3 BR family-sized units.

Housing partner Bertha Lewis even wrote, "Half of all affordable rental units will be two- and three-bedroom units."

Also unmentioned is that 10% (or 225) of the units in the project overall, according to public statements by  Lewis, were supposed to be for seniors. That's promised as a goal on p. 25 of the Community Benefits Agreement. However, since those units may be concentrated in one or more buildings to provide services, maybe they will come later.

Local impact

Note that the document stresses reduced local impact but doesn't mention the four overnight deliveries of mods planned five nights a week. Those deliveries were never studied--nor disclosed until a month ago.

Atlantic Yards: B2 and Modular Fact Sheet, Dec. 12, 2013

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