Monday, May 05, 2014

Blight? Draft SEIS admits what everyone knew in 2006: market around Atlantic Yards site was improving (updated)

Updated from post originally published 4/30/14.

From the Chapter 3C, Construction Socioeconomic Conditions, of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, there's a very interesting statement:
According to brokers in the area, the residential market was improving in the neighborhoods surrounding the project site around the time that the Project was announced in 2003. This trend was consistent with the residential market in this portion of Brooklyn leading up to the 2008 housing market crash.
It's interesting because it contrasts significantly with the Blight Study conducted on behalf of Empire State Development, which concluded that only the Atlantic Yards project could remove the endemic blight pinpointed on the project site.

That Blight Study was supposed to include a market study, including:
--Analyze residential and commercial rents on the project site and within the study area
--Analyze assessed value trends on the project site, and compare to sample blocks with comparable uses in the study area, such as the Atlantic Center

That never happened. Now, as a hearing on the Draft SEIS approaches tonight, we know the answer.

Update 5/5/14

I should acknowledge that a similar statement did appear in Chapter 4, Socioeconomics, of the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement:
As described under Existing Conditions, the socioeconomic profile of the ¾-mile study area has changed substantially in recent years. Between 1989 and 1999, median household income for the ¾-mile study area increased in constant dollar terms by 12.4 percent, compared with decreases in both Brooklyn (-8.0 percent) and New York City (-5.3 percent). At the same time, residential property values in the area increased. Between 1990 and 2000, the median contract rent increased by 18.9 percent in the ¾-mile study area, compared with about 10 percent in both Brooklyn and New York City.
...For example, median rent in the Prospect Heights subarea increased by approximately 25 percent between 1990 and 2000, the highest increase of all subareas in the ¾-mile study area, and 15 percentage points higher than the increase in Brooklyn over that same period (10.1 percent).
These data show a trend towards higher property values and household incomes, and data
compiled by local real estate firms indicate that this trend has accelerated since the 2000 Census in many portions of the ¾-mile study area.
Despite that, Empire State Development, the state agency that produced the environmental review and Blight Study, concluded that the project site was blighted and that only Atlantic Yards could somehow remove the blight.

So ESD contended--and surely still would contend--that, while the neighborhoods around the project site were improving, the site itself remained blighted.

That doesn't make sense--blight is supposed to be a corrosive phenomenon, spreading dangerously through cities, like a wave of arson in the South Bronx.

Also, and crucially for analysis of the Draft SEIS, now we know that the Blight Study was supposed to contain that market study that would have drilled down, analyzing trends on the project site.

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