Skip to main content

Today, elected officials call for Atlantic Yards sale to be made contingent on faster housing timetable; will they request new oversight for full project?

Today a group of local elected officials, organized by the group BrooklynSpeaks, will call on the state to speed delivery of the affordable housing promised for Atlantic Yards as part of the condition for developer Forest City Ratner's planned sale of 70% of the remaining project (15 towers) to the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group.

And that sets up two ironies. First, it's not clear whether they will ask for effective project oversight that looks at issues beyond affordable housing--and there are several.

Second, affordable housing activist Bertha Lewis, developer Forest City Ratner's partner in the housing deal, has criticized today's press conference because some involved tried to delay the project--though she presumably would want the housing to be accelerated. (Then again, she's obligated to support the developer.)

The press release is headlined "Brooklyn’s Elected Officials Demand New Commitment for Atlantic Yards’ Affordable Housing in Advance of Sale of Forest City Ratner’s Interest in Project: Electeds Find the Delay Unconscionable and Call on ESDC to Negotiate New Agreements Guaranteeing an Expedited Construction Schedule."
What: Brooklyn elected officials representing the communities surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project (“Project”) call on Forest City Ratner Companies (“FCRC”), Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the New York State Empire State Development Corporation (“ESDC”) to accelerate the delivery of the 2,250 units of affordable housing promised at the site and acknowledge in the newly required environmental impact statement, the socioeconomic damage to the community from the delay. The coalition will also present demands that must be met before FCRC is allowed to sell a majority interest in the Project.
Who: Assembly members James F. Brennan, Karim Camara, Joseph R. Lentol, Joan L. Millman and Walter T. Mosley; State Senator Velmanette Montgomery; City Council members Letitia James, Brad Lander and Stephen Levin; Council member elect Laurie Cumbo; and U.S. Representatives Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velazquez, and Hakeem Jeffries.
When: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.
Where: 5th Avenue Committee, 621 DeGraw Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (at the corner of 4th Ave. and DeGraw Street), Conference Room.
Are they asking enough?

Keep in mind that the project was long publicly described as taking years, but government documents--first city and state funding agreements, then the Development Agreement--gave a longer leash, ultimately 25 years.

That makes a big difference in the number of units delivered per year, especially as the Area Median Income (AMI), the regional measurement on which eligibility is calculated, grows far faster than average household income in Brooklyn.

I likely won't be at the press conference, but I do have some questions. How, for example, might this work? Would a new Development Agreement be required?

If the delay in the housing points to general questions of the developer's credibility, would a new project oversight or governance be instituted? If so, would the governance entity look beyond the housing to examine such things as the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) and the promised Independent Compliance Monitor?

What about the free or discounted land for Atlantic Yards? Shouldn't some oversight entity take a look? What about impacts such as the continued leaking bass from arena concerts?

Or does the siren call of “affordable housing” trump everything? In fact, does accelerating the affordable housing mean sticks, carrots, or both? After all, the first building, now under construction, does not meet the developer's pledge that half the apartment s, in floor area, be devoted to family-sized units.

It's quite possible that a revised timetable would be met by new Mayor Bill de Blasio--who counts Lewis as a key ally and has pledged to get the housing done--throwing new money at the project.

In the Daily News

The Daily News yesterday offered Officials call on Atlantic Yards developers to hurry up affordable housing Group of 10 politicians call on site's new developer, Greenland Group, to accelerate construction of 2,250 units of affordable housing, promised as a condition of approval.
Angry community leaders plan to gather on Friday to protest the fact that affordable housing has not yet been built at the ballyhooed Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights.
The group of 10 elected officials wants the site’s new Chinese developer, Greenland Group, to accelerate the construction of 2,250 units of affordable housing, promised as a condition of approval for the redevelopment of the 22-acre site.
Actually, they want the state to require a new schedule as part of approving the sale. (Note: this is the first time the Daily News has reported the planned sale to Greenland; after the Wall Street Journal had the scoop, parent company Forest City Enterprises issued a press release, but the dailies ignored it.)

The article states:
“Despite the overwhelming need, it’s unfortunate that there really is no oversight and no one is holding Forest City Ratner accountable,” said Public Advocate-elect Letitia James, who has long opposed the project as a member of City Council.
Many who were priced out of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood are in desperate need of affordable places to live, added Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D-Fort Greene).
In October, in an effort to speed up construction, Forest City Ratner announced that it was selling a 70% stake in the site — excluding the shiny, new Barclays Center and the first residential complex already being pieced together — to Greenland.
While Forest City has said the sale would speed construction, rest assured that the sale could more easily be described as "an effort to shed risk and speed revenue."

The defenses

The article states:
“We are very focused on accelerating the housing,” said Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco.
Bertha Lewis, founder of the Black Institute, joined Forest City in blaming the delays on community groups that tried to block the project through a chain of lawsuits.
“You cannot today say to accelerate the affordable housing when, for 10 years, you’ve worked hard to delay it,” Lewis said.
A few of the electeds did, but most didn't. More importantly, the project was delayed even after it received public approvals.

Also note that before the project was passed, Forest City Ratner officials emphasized how fast it would get done, but later backed off those promises.

Lewis is contractually obligated to publicly support the project. See p. 2 of the original Housing Memorandum of Understanding. Also remember that, when Lewis moved from New York ACORN to head national ACORN, and the latter group was rocked by an internal scandal, she got Forest City to bail out the group with a $1.5 million loan/grant.

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 …

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…

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

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.


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…