Skip to main content

In tale of Giuliani influence, insight into the flexibility in size of affordable housing units

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on a new blog, Rudy Veritas, by Rudy Giuliani's ex-aide, Russell Harding, who ran the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and just happens to be a felon (embezzlement, child porn) recently released from prison.

One of the tales, which so far can't be independently verified, regards Harding's role in getting Judith Nathan, the girlfriend and future wife of the still-married Giuliani, an Upper East Side apartment at below-market rent. Harding's post is interesting not merely because of the favor offered, but in the insight into how much flexibility the city allows regarding the size of apartments designated as affordable housing.

Market-rate units are bigger

Harding's tale involves the 80/20 program, involving 80% market-rate units and 20% low-income units, which more closely resembles Forest City Ratner's project at 80 DeKalb Avenue, rather than the Atlantic Yards project, for which the rental towers--though not the ones containing condos--would contain 50% market-rate, 30% middle- or moderate-income units, and 20% low-income units.

As I wrote, though the state Housing Finance Agency requires that 20% of the units be affordable, it requires that only 18% of the floor area be devoted to those units, thus allowing for somewhat smaller units. For 80 DeKalb, FCR plans to devote 18.6% of the floor area to affordable units.

For an earlier incarnation of Atlantic Yards, as I wrote 7/15/06, the affordable units, at an average of 675 square feet, would represent about 33% of the total number of units but only 22% of the housing square footage. Now, the 2250 units would represent 35% of the 6430 total units, and, at 675 sf, they'd represent about 24% of the 6.79 million square feet of housing.

Now that doesn't necessarily mean that the market-rate housing would make up the entirety of the remaining housing square footage--it's not clear to me how common spaces are treated.

Still, it strongly suggests that market-rate housing take up a disproportionate share. And, as Harding's tale shows, government officials may have some impact on the amount of that share. In other words, it's negotiable--an issue worth watching if and when the HDC provides bonds for the first affordable housing tower the developer plans.

Now, the Bloomberg administration appointee running the HDC, Marc Jahr, is a professional in the field, rather than a political appointee like Harding. On the other hand, Jahr, at least in one press report, seemed curiously unconcerned about the potential shortfall in housing bonds for Atlantic Yards. That suggests that AY would be a political priority.

The negotiable size of apartments

Harding writes on his blog:
The person I reached out to was Jeff Blau, President of the Related Companies. HDC and Related had together produced a number of buildings as part of the federal government’s 80/20 housing program.

In exchange for receiving lucrative triple tax-exempt financing, the developer of an 80/20 sets aside 20% of his newly constructed luxury building’s units for low-income tenants. Manhattan is dotted with these buildings and almost no market-rate tenant knows that their neighbor is low-income and is paying a fraction of their market-rate rent.

I placed a call to Jeff and explained what I needed and where the request had come from within the parameters I had promised [Giuliani aide] Tony [Carbonetti]...

The difficulty for me with her living arrangement was that she had probably wound up living in a Related 80/20 building possibly financed with HDC bonds and even likely with a mortgage held by HDC. I never asked the address of where she lived just in case a reporter ever questioned any possible HDC connection. I could honestly say I had no idea where Judith Nathan lived. Having the Mayor’s girlfriend living in a government-sponsored building paid for with triple tax-exempt bonds, at a sub, sub market rate rent, having been negotiated by his appointee, would have been a scandal.

The further difficulty for me was that HDC was constantly involved in negotiating new 80/20 projects with Related. The inherent conflict in any 80/20 relationship is that the developer wants to devote as little of his building to the low-income tenants as possible. While the law states that 20% of the building’s units must be dedicated to low-income tenants, the developer can design the floor plans of the apartments to give the market-rate tenants, say 85% of the square footage, while the low-income tenants receive 15%. That is exactly what Jeff Blau was trying to do. The law is silent on that point. It is perfectly legal as long as 20% of the total units are dedicated low-income even if they are shoeboxes. That is of course if I were stupid enough to sign off on such plans.

Related was the most aggressive developer in trying to minimize square footage for low- income tenants.
It was getting harder and harder to drive bargains with Related while they were playing landlord to the Mayor’s girlfriend. I knew if Blau went to Carbonetti, a friendship I had subsequently brokered, I would lose.

Fortunately, we stuck by our guns on all matters. We never caved on any square footage issues and always made sure that the amenities in Related’s 80/20 properties were up to the same standards as our other developers. Nevertheless, I always knew we could lose the battle should Blau or Related’s Chairman, Steve Ross, decide to pick up the phone. Rudy would never, ever side with us over Judy’s landlord.

(Emphasis added)


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…