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Forest City: "100% affordable" building skewed toward six-figure earners fits "vision for all of Pacific Park"

It's "100% affordable," as Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton several times described the coming B3 tower at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street.

But don't look behind the curtain: it's fine, according to Forest City Ratner, to skew affordable housing for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park to middle-income households rather than, as long promised, spread more broadly. 

Nothing's changed, Cotton claimed, adding that Forest City's community partners--who long advocated for low-income households as part of ACORN--signed on. (Who knows?)

Looking more closely

I wrote 4/7/15 how B3, which will break ground in June, will include 303 subsidized, below-market units, but most two-bedroom units will cost over $3,000, and well over half the units will go to households earning more than $100,000. Instead

AYR estimates; note that chart shown at meeting had lower 2014 AMI and cited 152 units in Band 5
Questioning Forest City

Tonight, at the periodic Community Update meeting held to discuss Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park matters, resident Robert Puca commented on the chart showing the planned affordability for B3.

"I know everybody uses term 100% affordable," Puca said. "It’s 152 units for the highest income band... Was it always set up that way, or have things changed?

Only 20% of the affordable units--not 50%--were supposed to go to the highest-income band, and that band was supposed to max at 160% of Area Median Income (AMI), not 165%, according to the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding Forest City signed with ACORN in 2005.

Also, the low income units--the two lower bands--were supposed to represent 40% of the affordable units, not 30%, and were supposed to max at 50% of AMI, not 60%.

Planned configuration in B3 and B14, the two new all-affordable towers


But Cotton stuck to her guns.

“This is obviously a very mixed income building, which is frankly the vision for all of Pacific Park," responded Cotton. "So it fits into that vision well."

"The bands were determined early with ACORN, now renamed... so it’s what we call ACORN bands," she continued. "And so within all that affordability across 2,250 units, this is the selection that was put together for this building. It was made in determination with our community partners, Bertha Lewis , Ismene Speliotis, and HDC, HPD, and City Hall. So certainly these are all sorts of AMIs, from the lowest to what we call middle income, but it is definitely an all-affordable building, because they are subsidized units."

Promises and changes

By contrast, the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Final SEIS), issued by Empire State Development last June, assumed that the income range in the affordable housing would follow those long used in the ACORN agreement--with low-income bands maxing at 50%, and middle income bands at 160%--rather than the higher figure already agreed to by city officials last May regarding the next two towers.


From Final SEIS, Executive Summary


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