Friday, February 14, 2014

Commenters say Atlantic Yards should have larger apartments, as pledged; state says it's up to subsidy programs

Those who've looked closely at Atlantic Yards know that the first tower, now under construction, departs significantly from Forest City Ratner's promises to build family-size units with two and three bedrooms.

Several commenters on the Draft Scope for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) brought this up, but were essentially smacked down in the Response to Comments document (bottom) that accompanied the Final Scope for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Phase 2 of Atlantic Yards.

In other words,  Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, will not require family-sized apartments, despite developer Forest City Ratner's earlier promises.

But it's certainly possible that the mayor and governor will stretch/direct subsidy programs to help Forest City fulfill those promises.

(The Final Scope was issued 2/7/14 by ESD, but the actual court-ordered SEIS will not arrive until sometime in the spring. I'm excerpting the Response to Comments document in several posts.)

Delay in larger apartments criticized

The concern was expressed both by project critics, including BrooklynSpeaks, and supporters, like Amelia Adams, then of New York Communities for Change, the ACORN successor, and now a senior advisor for Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito:
Comment 27: The number of total units, levels of affordability and number of bedrooms must be studied in the SEIS in conjunction with the timing of when those particular units are expected to be built in Phase II of the project. Providing a majority of 2- and 3-bedroom units later in the project's development, for instance, will impact on the socio-economic make-up of the community in meaningful ways. (Brooklyn Speaks, George, Fifth Avenue Committee)
This Phase II needs to happen expeditiously because affordable housing is scarce. This won’t solve the problem that the city has, it will put a small dent in it, but the city just has an issue with actually finding affordable housing for working families or for low income families. And on that note, we really need to push the tiered income and mix up the apartments. We really need to push for two and three bedrooms so that actual families can call downtown Brooklyn their neighborhood. (Adams)
State says it's not required

The ESD essentially said that it depends on available subsidy programs:
Response: Project commitments related to the proportion of on-site housing that will be affordable, the size of the affordable units, and the income tiers qualifying applicants for affordable housing, remain unchanged since the FEIS, and, as described in the FEIS, the inclusion of larger 2- and 3-bedroom units is subject to the terms and conditions of the City and State affordable housing programs that are being utilized for this housing. The SEIS will summarize the requirements of the project documents with respect to the phasing in of affordable housing in the Phase II program. With respect to the existing scarcity of affordable housing, please see the response to Comment 28. Neither the project documents nor the SEIS preclude a more rapid project completion, which was analyzed in the 2006 FEIS.
Unmentioned is the gap between the definition of affordable housing as used by city funders and Forest City Ratner's pledge in the much-hyped Community Benefits Agreement to ensure that 50% of the subsidized units, in floor area, would be family-sized units.

The Community Benefits Agreement was not signed by the state or city and is thus irrelevant to the project as approved, ESD has said.

Atlantic Yards, Response to Comments on Draft Scope for Supplementary EIS, Feb. 7, 2014

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