Skip to main content

At church meeting, a call for pressure on planned Atlantic Yards sale and new accountability

meeting yesterday at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill aimed to alert community members to elected officials' efforts to put conditions on the planned sale of 70% of the remaining Atlantic Yards project. (I wasn't able to attend, but I do have some video coverage.)

One key message: Atlantic Yards is a test case for balancing community concerns and a developer's bottom line, and the developer for now is winning.

"We were promised permanent living wage jobs, and housing, and that's not what's happening right now," meeting host Gerald Marcus Harris of the Brown leadership team told the more than 100 attendees.

Michelle de La Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, explained the work of the BrooklynSpeaks initiative and said that if developer Forest City Ratner completes the sale to the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, that means they'd be "cashing out before any of the major promises" are delivered.

"Broadly, we're talking about accountability," said Gib Veconi, who said that Atlantic Yards is unlike other public-private partnerships, because most do not have community representation on an oversight body.

Because of that, he suggested, "we've seen the deal change," from a full project buildout--he said an arena and 15 buildings (but it's actually 16) to "an arena and three buildings by 2022... from 2250 affordable apartments to just 300 by 2022." Note that latter numbers are what's required, but Forest City says it aims to build faster.

Veconi noted that Forest City promised 15,000 construction jobs, but there were "about 600 at the height of construction." (Forest City says 880 during arena construction, but all numbers are unreliable, given the developer's failure to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor promised in the Community Benefits Agreement).



Affordable housing

While there are 2,250 units of affordable housing promised, that doesn't mean 2000 families will get to stay in Brooklyn, since, of the 181 affordable units in the first tower now under construction, B2,, less than half will be affordable to people who make the average Brooklyn income (about $46,000), with only ten of them two-bedroom units suitable for families.

There will be 36 subsidized two-bedroom units but most will be available to moderate- and middle-income households.

The Greenland transaction is "a real concern, given the fact there is almost no oversight over the Atlantic Yards project... We're very concerned that... a foreign government will have more say on whether affordable housing gets built in Brooklyn than the elected officials who represent us."

So elected officials have asked that the sale not be approved until alternatives are studied, a new set of written commitments put the affordable housing on the original ten-year schedule, and oversight is reformed.

Attendees were asked to sign a petition that also appears on the BrooklynSpeaks site.
Dear Governor Cuomo:
Forest City Ratner promised the people of Brooklyn 2,250 affordable apartments at the Atlantic Yards project in exchange for hundreds of millions in public subsidies. Then it pushed back completing that housing for 25 years. Now Forest City wants to pull its money out of the project by selling a majority interest to a foreign developer.
That's an outrage to thousands of families in danger of displacement, and it's a raw deal for the taxpayers of New York State.
Brooklyn's elected officials have said the State should allow the sale only if there are new guarantees for affordable housing to be delivered when originally promised and appropriate oversight to make sure they’re enforced. I agree, and call on you to direct the Empire State Development Corporation not to let the deal move forward until those conditions are met.
I'd note that neighbors of the project want oversight for a much broader set of issues, including arena operations and project construction.

The local impact

Given the mismatch between the affordability of apartments and local impact, it's likely the project--as currently planned and scheduled--will have little impact on Community Board 8.

de la Uz explained that Area Median Income, established by the federal Department Housing and Urban Development, includes more affluent suburban counties, and AMI has continued to rise.

For example, New York AMI in 2000 was $57,000 for a family of four, but in CB 8, it was $35,000, so 60-80% of AMI would be affordable to Brooklyn residents. In 2010, New York AMI was over $70,000, but in CB8, it was $45,000. (The latter is actually a faster rise, despite what was said at the forum.)

So to truly impact the local community, "you have to go to a deeper level of affordability, 50% of AMI or below," she said. Meanwhile, CB 8 has gone from 93% African-American in 1990 to 65% in 2010.

"Why is this important?" de la Uz asked rhetorically. "For every five or ten years the project gets delayed, that means the folks that needed the housing when it was first approved are no longer around."

She noted that there's a 50% preference in a housing lottery for residents of the local community boards, but there's much more demand than supply. For 59 affordable apartments in the Atlantic Terrace building the Fifth Avenue Community sponsored, more than 5000 people applied.

Marjona Jones of the Brown Community Development Corporation reminded attendees how many attended protest rallies before the Barclays Center opened. "What happened after that? Nothing. Governor Cuomo was silent, the mayor kept talking about how great it was."

"We may need to leave because we're being priced out and pushed out," she said. "If we can't hold FCR accountable around this project, how are we supposed to hold a foreign corporation that has no investment in Brooklyn, that knows nothing about the working people in Brooklyn." Several people clapped.

"That was first time I've heard that much unity from elected officials," she said of the recent press conference, noting demands for a speedy timetable, with larger, family-friendly units, and "real affordability."

Personal concerns and the larger message

Several attendees lamented the loss of affordable housing in gentrifying neighborhoods, including efforts to raise rent-regulated rent via MCIs (major capital improvements).

Atlantic Yards won't solve the crisis, de la Uz acknowledged, "but it sends a signal to the development community" regarding public concerns. "If you're going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars [hundreds of millions, actually]  in direct and indirect subsidies, if you're going to get preference in terms of density, the ability to take over public streets, use eminent domain then we expect a fair exchange, and that's not what's happened here."

"Other developers are looking at how this development has been rolled out," Jones said. "We have to remain vigilant." She added that elected officials are "getting heat from the other side...we have to stand with them."

Renee Collymore, the female District Leader for the 57th Assembly District, criticized groups that signed the Community Benefits Agreement (which is not part of any state documents). "A lot of these groups are already in the pocket of the developer," she said.

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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).

As…

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…