Skip to main content

From BP Adams, suggestions about new development sites, and proposals to maintain affordable housing

A month ago, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams issued a ten-page report, Housing Brooklyn: a Road Map to Real Affordability for Brooklynites (also below).

It's definitely the beginning of a conversation, because it tosses out some ideas that are costly, complicated, and politically dicey. But it does represent a contrast with the work of predecessor Marty Markowitz, who was a little light on policy.

The complications were hinted in a 12/1/14 Wall Street Journal article headlined Brooklyn Borough President Wants to Revive Stalled Development Projects: Proposed Sites Snarled in Legal and Environmental Difficulties.

After all, as the WSJ reported, "many of the sites cited in the report haven’t been exploited because they came with hurdles, including environmental remediation [at Gowanus Green], pending litigation [at Broadway Triangle in Williamsburg- and the cost of decking over rail yards."

And one site, part of parking lot at the Brooklyn Army Terminal at the Sunset Park waterfront, would conflict with the de Blasio administration's push for industrial jobs at the complex.

Finding new sites

The article, actually, focused on the first prong of the report, to identify sites for new affordable housing, including city-owned parking lots in neighborhoods like Brighton Beach, Bensonhurst, Canarsie, Flatbush, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay.

Other sites mentioned in the report (though not the WSJ) include the Livonia Avenue Corridor in East New York, the Fulton Street Corridor in eastern Bedford-Stuyvesant and Ocean Hill, Gateway Estates near Spring Creek in East New York, Greenpoint Hospital, the Brownsville Community Justice Center, and Coney Island.

Adams suggested that New York City Housing Authority properties, including parking lots and air rights, "represent a great opportunity for developing affordable housing," but hedged on any proposal--perhaps recognize the pushback to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's proposal--by calling for "consultation with community stakeholders, community boards and local elected officials."

As for decking the 37th Street and 62nd Street corridors, the Coney Island yards, the Coney Island Rail Depot, and the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza, that could work--but would require a significant cost analysis, which was certainly not performed.

(With Atlantic Yards, the MTA's appraisal for the Vanderbilt Yard apparently underestimated the cost of a deck, but the sense that Forest City had the inside track meant there was no real competition.)

The report also suggests that government agencies work with faith-based institutions "to provide the financial and technical expertise to make best use of these untapped development rights." In many recent cases, those rights have been sold on the open market.

Changing zoning rules and tax laws

The report also suggested adding a zoning bonus to previously upzoned areas like DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Plaza, certain blocks in Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope’s Fourth Avenue, sections of Washington and/or Vanderbilt Avenues in Prospect Heights, Kings Highway and certain avenues in Midwood and Homecrest.

The report suggested that the city "revisit the parking requirements in Downtown Brooklyn so that developers who make use of the reduction in the parking requirements are also required to use the affordable housing bonus." Also, parking requirements should be reduced or eliminated in other transit-rich neighborhoods in exchange for affordable housing

The report recommended zoning that "permits more residential density, revises manufacturing and automotive districts and transforms low-rise commercial use to medium-density contextually developed housing" in areas such as:
Broadway corridor—sustainable East New York corridors—Gowanus’ Fourth Avenue—Sunset Park’s Eighth Avenue—Empire Boulevard (as part of a preservation- based rezoning of Crown Heights)—Atlantic Avenue corridor (Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights)—Nostrand Avenue (Brooklyn Junction to Kings Highway)— McGuiness Boulevard and sections south of the Navy Yard.
Maintaining affordable housing

The report argues that the city "should work to minimize the loss of affordable housing by requiring that such units remain affordable in perpetuity" rather than the 30-50 years typically tied to financing obligations. (The affordable units in the first Atlantic Yards building to start construction, B2, would last 35 years, and presumably the other buildings will be similar.)

"Otherwise, the accomplishments of today are lost before future generations get to share in the benefit of housing affordability," the report states. It's easier to require affordability if it's all government-owned land.

It also recommends selling city property to non-profit developers since its the mission of many to produce affordable housing.

Spreading the word

The report recommends partnering with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to spread the word about affordable housing.

It also recommends "multiple tiers of affordability to provide opportunities for low- and middle-income residents," with the tiers further split "so that someone with higher income qualifying for the same unit as someone with lower income does not have a significantly lower rental burden."(That's not the case with Atlantic Yards so far.)

It recommends extending preference boundaries beyond the community district so more people are eligible, as well as local preference for displaced residents, as well as projects that encourage seniors who are raising children

Going forward

The report concludes:
The recommendations made here are the beginning of a conversation that must continue in collaboration with local elected officials, community boards, neighborhood civic groups and other stakeholders to determine the best use of city-owned properties, the most effective way to implement policy and zoning reforms and the allocation of the needed Capital Budget appropriation and other financing mechanisms to achieve permanent affordability for Brooklynites. Brooklyn Borough Hall looks forward to continuing this dialogue and moving forward with an agreed upon agenda.
“Brooklyn no longer has any area that is undesirable,” Adams told the Wall Street Journal. That's not quite true, when you consider how many are leaving "Brooklyn" for "Brooklyn-like" neighborhoods in places like Jersey City. In other words, they want the gentrified lifestyle, not the location.


  1. Anonymous11:32 AM

    How do we address the same developers (Tolan) who say they build affordable housing and it's not when the residents are left with millions of dollars of construction defects. What do you when your developer is Donald Capcoccia, L&M Development & BFC Development all with connections with Empire State Development & a large donor to Gov. Cuomo. There seems to be no tracking mechanism in place to track previous buildings with construction defects, complaints to the Attorney Generals office and loans taken out by NYCHDC to make the repairs. Where is the oversight at HPD? How do they track the bad developers?

    1. You're making some serious charges here... but without specific details, they don't have weight. Can you point to specifics?


Post a Comment

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…