Skip to main content

FCR's Gilmartin: AY "the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city" (no, and that's not what sold ACORN)

‪Now that people are talking about the possibility of the first Atlantic Yards tower, let's remember that Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards point person, MaryAnne Gilmartin, told a real estate industry panel last year that Atlantic Yards "is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city."

That's a remarkable statement because 1) it's not true (though it is ambitious) and 2) the Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" was sold to, and supported by, community groups that represent poor and working-class people, not middle-income residents.

Who was the housing for?

That's not to say middle-income New Yorkers don't need housing help. But Atlantic Yards would never have drawn the public support it did had it not been perceived as helping those most struggling.

For example, in an affidavit filed 1/17/08 regarding a state court challenge to the environmental review, Gilmartin stated that the Community Benefits Agreement represented "carefully articulated commitments to the local communities," with "lack of affordable housing" one of the issues "that have plagued communities within Brooklyn."

That sounds a lot like the interests of ACORN, but even back in 2006 there was a disconnect between the rents for affordable housing planned at Atlantic Yards and the expectations of those seeking that housing, as many found it unaffordable.

Gilmartin's remarks

Gilmartin spoke at a panel, Real Estate: A Local Business with Global Concerns‬" held at at New York University’s Schack Institute, 2/23/10.



As shown above, at about 1:35:38, a questioner suggested that housing for the rich and the poor would sort itself out--I'm not so sure of the latter--but asked, "Where do we put the middle class?"

"I'll certainly jump in," Gilmartin responded, "because of Atlantic Yards, and what Atlantic Yards really means in terms of the project. It's way more than an arena. And in fact it is is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city, because of its commitment to produce 2250 units of housing, affordable housing but not just the 20 percent of the 80/20 formula, but actually incomes that range in the 80 to 150 percent of AMI [Area Median Income], which is where the middle class sits."

Counting the units

Actually, Atlantic Yards is by no means "the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city." It would contain 900 low-income units and 1350 middle- and moderate-income units.

By contrast, as the state Division of Housing & Community Renewal's list of State Supervised Middle Income Housing Developments indicates, Co-Op City in the Bronx has more than 15,000 units and Starrett City in Brooklyn has nearly 6000 units.

Neither, however, are close to New York City's center. But the Hunter's Point South development in Queens is supposed to have "[u]p to 5,000 housing units, 60 percent of which will be affordable to middle income families."That means 3000 units.

The city's language may be more tentative than the promises of 2250 units (900 + 1350) at the Atlantic Yards site, but remember, the latter depends on sufficient subsidies.

The middle class


Gilmartin continued, "And certainly people know that in New York City there is a housing crisis for that particular group of people, because if you're a fireman, a teacher, it's very difficult to find housing, particularly close to a city center. And I think that, when you look at a place like Downtown Brooklyn and you think about the creation of 2250 units of housing, and the challenges that we've had to put that together, and it's not just the challenges associated with the litigation, it's public policy, it's the cost of building that housing…"

It's not Downtown Brooklyn, though it would be in nearby Prospect Heights.

The costs


She identified multiple costs: "The fact of the matter is that building high-rise, that is, something over eight stories, that can be delivered efficiently and cost-effectively, with union labor, in a place where you have land costs. Those are the three challenges: land costs, high-rise construction, and union labor. When you put the three of those in the mix and you try to deliver affordable housing, it is quite challenging. And that's why the government policy, and the government incentives, and keeping land costs to a manageable number so that a private developer would actually put that kind of housing online, is essential."

Well, Forest City already got $100 million from the city for land acquisition. It is expected to gain concessions from unions, and perhaps even use much less costly modular construction.

But it's a bit disingenuous for Gilmartin to complain about the cost of high-rise construction. After all, Atlantic Yards was sold to the public, via supporters like ACORN's Bertha Lewis, because of the presumed enormous quantity of housing. And by building a much larger quantity of housing than existing zoning would permit, Forest City could use market-rate units to cross-subsidize the affordable ones.

Meeting the challenges


"And so, I think that you're absolutely right, it is one of the great challenges in a city like New York, to deliver quality middle-income housing for the workforce. We call it workforce housing, too," Gilmartin concluded. "And so I share your frustration. I actually believe that Atlantic Yards is so important because of the fact that it represents a pioneering effort to put that kind of housing online in a quantity that surpasses most anything that's been done in a dense downtown location."

In her last remark, she was more circumspect, and thus more accurate, about the scope of the project.

Whether it gets done as promised is another question. Atlantic Yards was supposed to be done in a decade. But the Development Agreement allows 12 years for Phase 1 and 25 years for the project as a whole, and it need not be built in full.

Comments

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 Matzav.com 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…

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 …

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…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …