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So, how many former footprint renters are returning in new towers? Forest City won't say (though 2012 article predicted 17)

How many former residents of the Atlantic Yards footprint, who agreed to leave in response to a pledge by developer Forest City Ratner to be relocated to a comparable apartment in the project--and have their rent in the interim subsidized--will be back?

It's a mystery.

And Forest City won't say, though a Daily News in November 2012 reported that 17 former tenants had taken the deal, and were expected to move into the first tower, 461 Dean. (Also see WNYC coverage.) Of course, that building was expected to be completed in two years, not four.

At a public meeting this week, I asked how many former footprint residents had moved into the project or were moving in. Forest City external affairs chief Ashley Cotton said she had no information, but told me to check back.

I did, and was told by a spokesman, "Thanks for reaching out, but this is not information we’re going to share." (I also contacted some of those previously named as accepting the deal, but haven't heard back.)

Speculating on reasons

I can speculate on the reasons why either significant consistency or inconsistency with previous pledges might be awkward for Forest City, which is the sole owner of 461 Dean. (The rest of the project, outside the arena, is being developed by the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners.)

Perhaps delays, as well as other factors, mean that fewer people are moving in, and thus compliance with that 2012 plan is down.

(Keep in mind that the number was a fraction of the number of total; the Daily News reported that "209 renters living in the area were offered the relocation agreement or a cash payment averaging $85,000, according to an FCR official."Also note that the cash payment, for some, had to make up for the loss of rent-regulated housing, typically well below market, as well as repairs some made on their properties and the disruption of construction outside their homes.)

From Atlantic Yards CBA
Alternatively, perhaps, all those households are moving in. If so, that's 17 fewer apartments--among the 181 total below-market units--for which the 84,000-plus 461 Dean lottery applicants were competing, and lowered those longshot chances even more.

Either way, it's the kind of thing that that an Independent Compliance Monitor, required by the project's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) but never hired, would report on.

The pledge

According to the 2005 CBA, as shown in the graphic at right, currents residential tenants with at least one year's tenure were pledged "reasonably comparable living space in a new unit within the Project, at their then current rent and a reasonable relocation allowance." 

If such as space is not available, the developer would pay the "difference in rent for a reasonably comparable living space... to the extent reasonably practicable in the Neighboring Community."

That offer, which was also incorporated into the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan, was criticized in 9/28/06 comments on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement by South Brooklyn Legal Services (SBLS), which represented tenants in the project footprint.

From SBLS comments
As stated in the document excerpted below right, SBLS warned that the offer "does not effectively preserve the right to return" because the agreement to pay excess rent "expires if the project is not built or if the tenant does not take occupancy in the new development within three years," or if the project is not built or the tenant publicly opposed the project.

SBLS warned that, given the scope of the development and the estimate that the project's first phase wouldn't be done until 2010, "it seems probably" that the agreements would expire.

However, as I wrote in December 2006, the Final Environmental Impact Statement indicated an improved offer:
The sponsors have also agreed to pay the difference, if any, in rent between the tenant's current rent and the rent for the comparable interim unit until such time as the tenant is relocated into a new unit in the proposed development. This agreement would terminate only if the project were abandoned or the tenant breached its obligations.
So that left it open-ended, which was wise on both parts, given delays in launching the project and finishing the first building. At the time, an SBLS lawyer told me there was no longer a gag order, but the definition of "breached its obligations" was under negotiation.

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