Saturday, June 13, 2015

Promoting 550 Vanderbilt condos in "Downtown Brooklyn," that 421-a tax break, and some fawning Times coverage

There are more than a few strange things connected with the promotion of the first Atlantic Yards condos, at 550 Vanderbilt, which have listings on Corcoran and are the subject of a fawning New York Times article on the front page of tomorrow's Sunday Real Estate section, First Condos Soon for Sale at Barclays Center Site (the print headline is "Builders Pledge to Make It Snappy").

(I've annotated the article at Genius, pointing out the acceptance of developer language as calling the 8 acres of open space a "public park," and the failure to mention the 421-a tax break, among other things. More details below.)

First, what's up with that New York Times photo (right) of the "Pacific Park Brooklyn development site"?

While the article does also have a map, there's no indication on the photo, at least, of the 550 Vanderbilt location, which I've indicated with a purple line.

Despite the need for shorthand, it's tough to call that a "Barclays Center site."

Note that it's not exactly "company" for the Barclays Center if a condo opens nearly two blocks away. (See map further below.)



Downtown Brooklyn?

Then, bizarrely, we have Corcoran (see screenshot at left), declaring that 550 Vanderbilt is located in Downtown Brooklyn. (Streeteasy more accurately places it in Prospect Heights.)

That was Forest City Ratner's promotional lingo for years, claiming that the Atlantic Yards site, which is in Prospect Heights, was part of Downtown Brooklyn. That allowed them to suggest that the distinct increase in scale and bulk was in line with the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning.

The reason it's bizarre is that, by Corcoran's own definition of Downtown Brooklyn, this building doesn't qualify at all.

Note, at right, these boundaries: "Runs from the BQE on the north to Atlantic Avenue on the south and Flatbush Avenue on the East to Cadman Plaza on the West."

I've outlined those boundaries in the map below left (click to enlarge).

As you can see, it's easy to find the BQE at the northern border and Cadman Plaza on the west. The box in the center shows the intersection of Atlantic Avenue on the south and Flatbush Avenue on the east.

The red marker shows the location of 550 Vanderbilt. That's not even close to being within the boundaries of Downtown Brooklyn. Even the Barclays Center, on the other side of the intersection, south of Atlantic and east of Flatbush, doesn't qualify.

By contrast, Corcoran's own listings place the Newswalk condo, at 535 Dean Street and opposite the middle of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site, in Prospect Heights.

The boundaries are defined as "Runs from Flatbush Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the north, Eastern Parkway to the south and Bedford Avenue to the east." (That actually extends the border of Crown Heights several blocks to the east. Prospect Heights stops at Washington or Classon Avenues.)

Even more strangely, the text within the Corcoran listing of 550 Vanderbilt identifies it as Prospect Heights:
Also, from Corcoran:
The First Condominium At Pacific Park
Designed inside and out by celebrated architect COOKFOX, 550 Vanderbilt brings 278 exceptional condominium residences to the heart of Brooklyn. The holistic design of the building takes cues from the neighboring brownstones of Prospect Heights, while expansive windows maximize views and ensure light-filled living. From studios to four bedrooms, the carefully planned layouts are distinguished by luxurious finishes and modern details. Gracefully adjoining Pacific Park’s 8-acres of green space, 550 Vanderbilt will enjoy the unprecedented wealth of services, amenities, and conveniences of Brooklyn's newest neighborhood.
(Emphases added)

Note that the listing points to the "neighboring brownstones of Prospect Heights." Also note the time travel implied, since 550 Vanderbilt won't "gracefully adjoin Pacific Park's 8-acres of green space" until that space is finished in 2025 (though it will arrive incrementally).
A very nice tax abatement

From Corcoran:
Designed inside and out by celebrated architect COOKFOX, residents will enjoy an elevated experience in urban living. Not only does a full amenities suite await you, including a lounge that opens to the outdoors, a library, 8th floor roof terrace, as well as resident storage and access to underground parking, but through your own lobby you will be connected to 8-acres of lush green space! 550 Vanderbilt will have a 421a tax abatement, a gym, an attended lobby and a live-in resident manager. In addition, you are surrounded by 5 historic neighborhoods, cultural landmarks, and a transportation hub ready to take you anywhere. 550 Vanderbilt is a condominium like no other, providing its residents with an extraordinary opportunity to connect with community and nature, all in the very heart of Brooklyn, New York City’s most exciting borough.
This makes a big deal, especially for the cheaper units. Shouldn't this selling point make the news coverage, given that 421-a reform is a huge issue in Albany? Remember, Atlantic Yards got a special "carve-out" in 2007 to preserve 421-a benefits in buildings that contain no affordable housing.








From the Times


As I point out in my annotation of the Times article at Genius, which quotes only the developers and an architect, there's no mention of:
  • marketing the condos in China
  • the 421-a tax break
  • the use of EB-5 funds 
  • the distorted renderings
Moreover, the discussion of several things is inadequate:
  • the deal to speed construction
  • the affordability of the subsidized housing
  • the impact of litigation on development progress
  • the problems with the modular building at 461 Dean Street
  • the claimed "public park"
  • the way the condo would "bridge" Prospect Heights and Pacific Park
  • the fact that the announced public school is not approved

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