Thursday, September 04, 2014

Before Quality of Life meeting, partial disclosure of changes, plans, but omissions re rent levels, condemnation, B2 troubles

At tonight's Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting--not quite a Committee any more, apparently-- Forest City Ratner will make a presentation (bottom) regarding the updated housing plan and upcoming construction activities. The meeting will be at 6 pm at the YWCA Community Room, 30 Third Avenue at Atlantic Avenue.

The document summarizes, among other things, previously announced plans to construct two all-affordable buildings and complete the project by 2025, plans to build a green roof on the arena and the railyard's west portal, plans to set up a new Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation to oversee the project, and (misleading) renderings of the first tower, at Carlton Avenue and Dean Street.

Click to enlarge
New is a slide (right) slides showing changes in logistics activity on Block 1129, the southeast block of the project, given the demolition of the one remaining building, and a shrunken amount of surface parking: 265 spaces during demolition.

The document mentions the new name Pacific Park and the joint venture with Greenland USA, the arm of the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, which has bought a 70% interest in the project going forward. But it's unclear whether anyone from Greenland will be there or be part of the presentation.

What are the gaps?

There are some significant gaps in the document, however, regarding the project. They include:
  • the expected rent levels for affordable housing (the document just addresses eligibility by income)
  • the ongoing effort to condemn the remaining buildings in the project site that are privately owned
  • the huge turmoil, including dueling lawsuits, over the much-hyped modular construction plan.
Also, as described below, the slide regarding the income eligibility for the next three buildings is misleading.

How much will rent be?

The one slide regarding affordability shows the income ranges for the upcoming affordable units, as a percentage of Area Median Income (AMI) but, crucially, not the rent levels.


So I made my own chart for the next two towers (not 461 Dean/B2), based on the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) term sheet for Bands 1-4, and HDC confirmation to me regarding Band 5. I'm not clear whether the HDC figures for low-income Bands 1 and 2 are adjusted to the actual rent--37% of AMI, not 40%, and 57%, not 60%), so those numbers might go down slightly.
Projected rents for two all-affordable Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park towers
What's crucial, of course, is that half the units in the next two towers--I've excluded the under-construction B2--would go to middle-income households paying nearly $3,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. That distribution differs significantly from the longtime promises regarding the project, as I wrote in a long article for BKLYNR.

A misleading slide (updated)

From Forest City Ratner, 2014
That first slide, also reproduced at right, is somewhat misleading and should have had a footnote.

It seems to describes the current income eligibility for the next three Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park buildings that will contain affordable housing.

Those income ranges in each band, as well as the level at which rents are set, are correct for the upcoming buildings, at 545 Carlton and 30 6th Avenue, as per NYC HDC documents.

However, there are discrepancies regarding the bands outlined in blue as they relate to the first tower--B2, or 461 Dean Street--since income eligibility should have some lower bounds, and rents should be slightly lower.

From Forest City Ratner, 2012
If you look at the graphic at left, from Forest City's own 2012 presentation about B2 and the one below right, from a NYC HDC letter regarding that tower, there are multiple differences.

Those eligible for Band 2 can earn up to 50% AMI, not 60%, and have a lower target rent, 48% of AMI, not 57% of AMI.

Similarly, Band 4 maxes at 140% of AMI, not 145%, and has a lower target rent, 120% of AMI, not 130%. And Band 5 maxes at 160% or AMI, not 165%, and has a lower target rent, 150% of AMI, not 160%.

Trying to make sense of it

From NYC Housing Development Corporation, 2012
Those earlier guidelines regarding B2 do stand, I am told this morning, so the chart at top needs correction.

Either Forest City was just being sloppy, or it didn't want to call attention to the fact that the rents for the next two towers would be higher--and the units less affordable--than in the first tower.

Yesterday, I tried to learn more. I queried ESD, which had forwarded the presentation. They told me I should try Forest City and HDC.

I queried Forest City, and got no response. I didn't query HDC, because I know what their documents say. This morning I got clarification from Forest City that the B2 bands do remain.

What rent difference means

Note, for example, the discrepancy between the chart below, prepared by Forest City Ratner in 2012, and the chart I prepared. For Band 2, the higher of the two low-income bands, a one-bedroom would cost $689. But that was set at 48% of AMI, not 57%. At the latter figure, a one-bedroom would cost $847.
From Forest City Ratner, 2012

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