Wednesday, April 20, 2016

If B4 tower won't include affordable units, will they go into Site 5? Developer won't say.

Unofficial mock-up of proposed plan, with larger Site 5 
tower and no B1 tower over the arena/plaza 
On 6/27/14, Governor Andrew Cuomo and other officials announced a plan that set 2025 as the deadline for the Atlantic Yards affordable housing--after the longstanding ten-year timetable had been extended to 25 years, with an "outside date" of 2035.

The compromise also included this pledge:
Ensuring sustained development of affordable housing by requiring that the project developers will provide 35 percent of the completed units at the site as affordable housing units until 1,050 affordable housing units are built. This new deal ensures that the delivery of affordable units does not lag behind the creation of market rate units.
After 1,050 units, then the percentage of affordable units could drop, for a time, to 25 percent, until it was raised with a final buildout of three 50/50 (affordable/market-rate) towers.

Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, who helped negotiate that new timetable, warned--as I wrote 4/6/16--that if the B4 tower at the northeast corner of the arena block is switched from residential space to office space, the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park won't meet that 35% threshold.

What about Site 5?

He brought up the issue at the 4/13/16 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting, suggesting that affordable units might have to go into the new tower at Site 5 (which I've dubbed the Brooklyn Behemoth), to keep the ratio as market-rate residential units are built there.

Tentative plan, as of 2014, with B4 as residential tower; click to enlarge 
(So far, that tower is expected to have--at least--office space, condos, and retail.)

"How many affordable apartments will be going into Site 5?" Veconi asked Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton, representing the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture.

"I have no idea," Cotton responded.

"Well, you have an architect," Veconi said, referring to Cotton's statement earlier in the meeting that they were "working to select" an architect. (Surely they are farther ahead on their plans than they are ready to disclose.

"You and I had this conversation," Veconi continued in a firm tone. "I just want to emphasize: at some point in the very, very near future, you guys need to explain where the affordable apartments that were supposed to be in B4 are going to go. I’m assuming that there are some apartments that are going to go into Site 5, and not very many of them can be started without affordable apartments in parallel. If B4 is being marketed [for new investors], and being marketed presumably with the expectation of a conversion to office, the public needs to understand how that threshold will be met.

"I totally agree," Cotton responded. She just didn't provide a timetable when the plans would be disclosed.

So the questions linger: What will be the solution to meeting that 35% threshold? Or can/will they find a loophole to avoid meeting the requirement?

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