In recent days, [Forest City Ratner CEO] Ms. [MaryAnne] Gilmartin has met with Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, to talk about the next three buildings and the possibility of additional housing subsidies for apartments for poor and working-class families.“We’re going to drive a tough but fair bargain so we can get this project moving,” Ms. Glen said. “We’re not happy about the pace of construction. But we think that modular is something we should continue to pursue across the city.”
|Hyping rents to immigrant investors|
After all, the next three towers are supposed to be built via conventional construction, not modular.
And, at a July 2009 public Q&A session, Gilmartin said carefully, “Forest City does not expect to ask for more subsidy.”
In November 2011, then CEO Bruce Ratner acknowledged he didn't expect additional subsidy from the administration of Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
New subsidies, aid for Chinese government
But "expect" is one of those weasel words that allow for changing situations.
Now there's a new administration, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, with a focus on affordable housing. Then again, the value of the market-rate housing in the Atlantic Yards project has surely shot up, with Forest City and its marketing allies doing their best to hype rising rents.
The irony of course is that Forest City's new joint venture partner, the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, will own 70% of the project going forward and thus reap the benefits. That joint venture should close in June.
When it was politically prudent to be somewhat tough on Atlantic Yards, in an 8/28/09 Public Advocate debate, candidate de Blasio, then a Council Member facing two Atlantic Yards critics (and one other supporter), tried to thread the needle.
“I support the 3,000 units of affordable housing, I support hundreds and hundreds of jobs at a living wage and I think we still have a chance at achieving that,” de Blasio said. “But no more subsidies. That project has gotten all the subsidy it deserves. And they either have to figure out a way to make it work or we should pull the plug.”
(There would be 2250 units of affordable rentals, plus perhaps 200 subsidized condos.)
“And it’s never been about the arena; the arena to me is a sidelight,” he continued. “The issue is about the creation of affordable housing and the creation of jobs in a neighborhood that was rapidly gentrifying. We need to make sure there is an opportunity for people to live in this city. So many people have been forced out by the incredibly rapidly rising cost of housing.
Asked whether the housing would be built, de Blasio called it “a fair concern... We have to get evidence from the company involved that they're going to be able to create the affordable housing they committed and the jobs they committed. If not as I say, pull the plug; if yes, carry forward but no more subsidies."
It was odd for him to say no more demolitions, because, in that, de Blasio was repeating talking points from April 2008.
The original interpretation? Forest City Ratner has changed its plans in numerous ways, but the single biggest one, about which de Blasio was noticeably silent, was the revision in June of the deal for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, saving Forest City more than $100 million and leading to a smaller, rather than larger (as promised), permanent railyard.