Skip to main content

At announcement of affordable housing seminars, celebratory air out of sync with reality of some not-so-affordable units

The flyer is here and in Spanish here
It's surely progress, the series of seminars announced yesterday to inform people how to apply for affordable housing lotteries, helping them ensure they properly fill out applications and try to clean up their credit.

But the press conference yesterday at Borough Hall, led by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, with several elected officials, developers' representatives, and nonprofit organizers, had an air of celebration and triumph out of sync with the reality.

"They're removing the 'No Vacancy'' sign," declared an effusive Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. "1100 [affordable] units will no longer be out of reach for the everyday Brooklynite."

"This is so Brooklyn can stay in Brooklyn," declared 35th District Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who said the idea for seminars grew out of conversations she had on the campaign trail.

"We are extremely proud of our affordable housing program at Atlantic Yards," declared Forest City Ratner's Melissa Burch, the only developer's representative to speak at the press conference. (Forest City will have the largest amount of subsidized units, and its CEO co-chairs the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.)

Actually, the affordability of the coming subsidized units was glossed over significantly, as well as the difficulty of winning a highly competitive lottery, even with 50% of the units set aside for residents of the local Community Board (or Boards) where the project is located.

Subsidized ≠ "low income"

Though Rob Solano of Churches United for Fair Housing--the sponsor of the first seminar--spoke with emotion about ten people sharing a bathroom, and people having to sleep on couches, many of the affordable units will be out of reach of such low-income residents.

(The first seminar is tomorrow at 6:30 pm at Brown Memorial Baptist Church, 484 Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill. RSVP to Churches United for Fair

No one at the press conference explained who'd be eligible for the 1100 units. Nor did they appear to welcome questions. DBP President Tucker Reed took three questions and chose, as the last questioner, someone who clearly wasn't press (no pen, notebook, or camera).

 Melissa Burch of Forest City, CM Laurie
Cumbo, BP Eric Adams, DBP President
Tucker Reed, from L-R. Twitpic via Adams
When I asked Reed afterward how the 1100 units were split among low-, moderate-, and middle-income units, he said he didn't know but I could contact the developers. (Affordable housing simply means households pay 30%--or sometimes 35%--of their income, which can vary greatly.)

Subsidized may top market rents

A significant slice of the coming subsidized units will be low-income units, and those households especially could use the help applying for the lottery.

However, a good number of the subsidized units will be well out of reach for those households. Well, we do know that, of the 600 units coming in the next two all-affordable Atlantic Yards towers, half the units would rent to middle-income households earning up to 165% of Area Median Income (AMI), with rents based on 160% of AMI.  

For 2013, 100% of AMI is $85,900 for a family of four and $60,200 for a single person, according to Housing Connect NYC, which has information on lotteries for city-subsidized buildings.

At 165% of AMI, a single person could earn $99,330 and be eligible for subsidized housing. If rent is 30% of $96,320 (160% of AMI), the monthly tab would be $2,408.

Those numbers should rise by 2015. Even according to 2013 figures, that subsidized unit would be more than the cost of a studio at the new Oro 2/BKLYN Air tower in Downtown Brooklyn, which lists rents from $2,315, Brownstoner said last week.

Querying Cumbo

I caught up with Cumbo after the press conference, and asked whether two-bedroom units renting for some $3400--as could be the case for middle-income subsidized units at Atlantic Yards--represented affordable housing for her constituency.

"That seems to be one of the bigger challenges," she allowed, after I noted how the actual affordability of the units was not announced until the day after the news broke. "While there has been a celebration of this... the question still comes up: affordable to whom?"

(Cumbo joined a celebratory press release at the time, saying, "I thank the Governor, the Mayor and the community advocates for making sure this project was done right. I am grateful for all the community members who fought the good fight to keep Brooklyn, Brooklyn.")

The deal to ensure that Atlantic Yards affordable housing would be built in ten years did not come with clarity on the distribution of affordability, though 40% of the subsidized units should be low-income ones. While the deal "may not be great by some standards," Cumbo said, "it was a way to come to a middle ground, it's going to expedite the process."

From the announcement

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership explained the program:
Despite this, developers often have a hard time filling that quota, with lottery applicants often deemed ineligible for minor errors in their applications or poor credit. Enter a unique program spearheaded by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, in conjunction with State Assemblyman Walter Mosley and City Council Member Laurie Cumbo and some of the area’s largest real estate developers including Acadia Realty Trust/Washington Square Partners, BFC Partners,Forest City Ratner Companies, Steiner NYC LLC, and Two Trees Management Company, to help area residents better compete for the units coming online.
Five free seminars on financial empowerment will be led over the next year by housing advocates so area residents have the credit history they need to qualify for housing lotteries, as well as in-depth orientations on the application process.
Nonprofit groups hosing future seminars include the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Pratt Area Community Council, and the Mutual Housing Association of New York, which is Forest City Ratner's partner on Atlantic Yards affordable housing.

More coverage

Here's coverage of the press conference:


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…