Skip to main content

NYU's Been chosen to head HPD over Speliotis (ex-ACORN)

It's tough to read the tea leaves regarding Mayor Bill de Blasio's housing-related appointments. Yes, he's prioritizing equity and affordable housing. But what exactly will that mean regarding Atlantic Yards?

As commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, he's chosen academic Vicki Been, who's a more centrist choice than another serious candidate, Ismene Speliotis, formerly of ACORN and now Mutual Housing Association of New York, which is currently one of Forest City's housing partners and essentially a successor to ACORN.

Been has been procedurally critical of Atlantic Yards, noting in 2007 that the Community Benefits Agreement is outside the governmental process ("The community could be whoever asserts they represent the community.")

Last October, on Brian Lehrer, she agreed the goals of the project, in the abstract, were absolutely appropriate, but had the process gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, "we would have much more discussion about how much subsidy should go into those affordable units."

But Been is now working for the mayor, who may prioritize getting Atlantic Yards done and thus putting more subsidies there.

Speliotis was the architect of the Atlantic Yards affordable housing plan, which is a 50/30/20 (market/moderate- and middle-income/low-income) plan that, in its original incarnation, offered a larger chunk of moderate-income units than most. It also promised 50% subsidized units (in floor area) would be 2BR and 3BR, which is not the case for the first tower.

At a July 2012 hearing on that tower, she said, "We agree, more needs to be done. We need more affordability, we need more larger apartments. We need to take the example, and the step Forest City started, where other developers refused to go.. So we need to get started."

Press coverage

A 2/7/14 article in the Daily News, Mayor de Blasio To Name Vicki Been To Lead Housing Preservation And Development: Sources:
Our Matt Chaban reports: Vicki Been, who had been a frontrunner to take over the city Planning Department, will instead take over the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. From Mayors Ed Koch through Michael Bloomberg, the agency has been at the forefront of building and restoring affordable housing in the city.
While it may not have been her first choice, the Housing Department post is still a plumb assignment for Been, who has spent two decades at NYU running the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.
She will be expected to deliver on the mayor’s ambitious campaign promise of to create 200,000 homes affordable to low- and middle-income New Yorkers.
Helping her in this endeavor will be Gary Rodney, the new president of the Housing Development Corp., which finances roughly $1.5 billion in affordable housing each year. It is the third largest housing financier in the country, paying for thousands of units annually and doing more business than most major banks.
Rodney worked at the agency during the Giuliani and Bloomberg years before leaving in to work at private affordable developers BFC Partners and Omni New York, where he is currently executive vice president.
...“Carl and I feel, and [Deputy Mayor] Alicia [Glen], we all feel that this is about using the planning process to achieve a bigger set of strategic goals -- that includes the creation of affordable housing,”de Blasio said in the Blue Room this afternoon.
...Been was displaced from City Planning -- the mayor even joked about forcefully submitting Weisbrod’s name for the job at Friday’s presser -- but her appointment displaces a top candidate for the Housing Department, Ismene Speliotis, who the administration has been pursuing for months, according to sources.
Speliotis runs the Mutual Housing Association of New York, which has been developing low-income housing in East New York, Brownsville and other Brooklyn neighborhoods since the 1980s.
Speliotis was the architect of the Atlantic Yards housing pla

The Daily News reported:
For-profit affordable housing developers have also been lobbying against her appointment, for fear the progressive Speliotis might diminish their profits.
The announcement

Politicker reported yesterday, De Blasio Appoints Members of Housing ‘Dream Team’:
Mayor Bill de Blasio this afternoon rolled out the members of his housing team, promising a “total reset” of the previous administration’s approach to public housing.
Shola Olatoye will serve as the new chair of the New York City Housing Authority, Cecil House will continue to serve as NYCHA’s general manager, Vicki Been will head the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and Gary Rodney will serve as president of the Housing Development Corporation, Mr. de Blasio announced at a press conference at the Lincoln Houses in Harlem.
“We are going to take a new approach to this crisis that holds nothing back,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement announcing the new hires. “From doing more to protect tenants in troubled buildings, to innovating new partnerships with the private sector, to forging a new relationship with our NYCHA communities, every decision we make will focus on maximizing the affordability of our neighborhoods.”
Ms. Olatoye previously served as vice president of the New York Market Leader for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to building and preserving affordable housing for low-income residents, according to City Hall. She previously served as vice president and senior community development manager of HSBC Bank and the director of community outreach at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.
Ms. Been is currently the director of New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, and is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on land use and affordable housing. Sources say she had originally been tapped to chair the city’s Planning Commissioner, but was pushed out of the post so the mayor could appoint the chair of his transition team, Carl Weisbrod, instead. Her appointment was first reported by the Daily News.
The press release

Shola Olatoye appointed NYCHA Chair, Cecil House to serve as NYCHA General Manager, Vicki Been to head HPD, Gary D. Rodney to direct HDC
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced four key appointments to his administration, pledging to expand access to affordable housing and upgrade the city’s aging public housing stock. The mayor laid out a range of strategies to reach those goals, including launching inclusive housing programs that serve both low-income New Yorkers and the middle class, developing innovative strategies to leverage new capital to spur housing production and preservation, and working across city agencies to maximize every opportunity to address the affordability issues facing New Yorkers.
The mayor named Shola Olatoye as chair of the New York City Housing Authority, with Cecil House serving as the authority’s general manager. The mayor also appointed Vicki Been as the commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and Gary D. Rodney as president of the Housing Development Corporation.
The administration is working toward a goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade and addressing longstanding health and safety repair issues affecting the city’s more than 400,000 housing authority tenants.
“We are going to take a new approach to this crisis that holds nothing back. From doing more to protect tenants in troubled buildings, to innovating new partnerships with the private sector, to forging a new relationship with our NYCHA communities, every decision we make will focus on maximizing the affordability of our neighborhoods. These agencies are going to work together as a collective to lift up families and make this one city—where everyone rises together,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mayor de Blasio has committed to fundamentally changing the city’s relationship with its public housing tenants. NYCHA is the nation’s largest public housing authority, and its aging buildings are in dire need of health and safety repairs, and upgrades to make them more resilient.
Leading those efforts will be Shola Olatoye, an experienced coalition builder with an extensive background leading community-based development across the five boroughs. Olatoye will focus on strategic goals like expanding employment opportunities for NYCHA residents, developing plans to retrofit buildings, and more fully supporting tenants—including the 40 percent of residents over the age of 62.
Olatoye will be joined by Cecil House, who will continue to serve as the New York City Housing Authority’s general manager, a position he has held for the past 18 months. House will focus on continuing to reduce repair wait times and improving the resiliency of buildings to severe weather.
“I am honored to be asked by the mayor to run New York City’s Housing Authority. Everything we do will be focused on improving the quality of life for our tenants, especially protecting their safety. This is an enormous opportunity. Public housing helped people in my family. I want it to do the same in the future for others,” said incoming NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye.
“I cannot wait to work with Shola and this administration to make New Yorkers proud of their public housing again. We’ve never had a leadership this committed to making that happen, and to treating our NYCHA tenants with the same respect as every other tenant in this city. We are ready to roll up our sleeves, get to work, and change the way we do business,” saidNYCHA General Manager Cecil House.
As commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Vicki Been will be charged with protecting tenants, rehabilitating troubled buildings, and finding new opportunities to create affordable apartments. Been is the Director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, and is a national leader on land use, urban policy and affordable housing. Most recently, she has worked extensively assessing the impact of Superstorm Sandy on housing and neighborhoods.
“We’re going to take a much more aggressive approach to protecting and building affordable apartments that responds to the crisis we’re in. From apartments approaching the end of their subsidy to homes lost to Superstorm Sandy, we need faster and more innovative strategies that seize every opportunity to keep apartments affordable and accelerate the pace of bringing new ones online,” said incoming HPD Commissioner Vicki Been.
As president of the Housing Development Corporation—the city’s housing finance arm—Gary D. Rodney will play a critical role in the preservation and creation of affordable apartments. Rodney is currently Executive Vice President for Development of Omni New York LLC, where he financed community-based affordable housing projects that rehabilitated some of the most distressed buildings across the five boroughs.
“This work is truly a collaborative effort that includes housing advocates, community groups, developers, lenders, and an administration committed to long lasting affordable housing. We are going to continue to foster existing partnerships and aggressively seek out new ones to put more shovels in the ground, rehabilitate more distressed buildings, and really push the mayor’s affordable housing plan. Most importantly, we will continue to find creative ways to finance the best quality housing hat will be affordable to all New Yorkers,” said incomingHDC President Gary D. Rodney.
About Shola Olatoye:
Shola Olatoye comes to the de Blasio administration from an exceptional career in community development finance, housing advocacy and real estate.
Throughout her entire career, Olatoye has been an agent of change and manager of complex and large collaborations, effecting urban neighborhood revitalization. Olatoye has a wealth of experience in both the private and public sectors, and a unique ability to leverage both to create public-private partnerships aimed toward preserving and creating affordable housing and communities. Most recently, Olatoye was Vice President and New York Market Leader for Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit that has helped build or preserve more than 44,000 affordable homes for lower-income New Yorkers and invested more than $2.5 billion in and around the city. At Enterprise, Olatoye has overseen a cross-functional team that works with community partners, the public sector and private capital sources to build and preserve approximately 3,000 affordable homes per year in New York City.
Olatoye has also overseen a number of public-private partnership initiatives at Enterprise, including a 2013 project the East Harlem Center for Living and Learning located in East Harlem, in which Enterprise provided more than $12 million in debt and equity to create a new 151,000-square-foot multi-family, mixed-use development with 88 new affordable apartments, a 58,000-square-foot K-8 charter school, and 6,000 square feet of office space dedicated to not-for-profit organizations. Olatoye has also served as a Vice President and Senior Community Development Manager of HSBC Bank; Director of HR&A Advisors, Inc., an advisory and economic development consulting firm; and Director of Community Outreach at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc.
Olatoye is the daughter of a Nigerian immigrant and working class mom, who hails from Bedford Stuyvesant. She lives in Harlem with her husband and two sons.
About Cecil House:
Cecil House has deep management experience, and the familiarity with New York City’s Housing Authority to truly understand where it needs the most attention to fix what has long been a broken system.
As the current general manager of the housing authority, he leads a staff of more than 11,000 employees and manages an annual budget in excess of $3 billion dollars in federal, state and local assistance. He has a proven track record of implementing reforms that respond to the needs of NYCHA’s tenants.
Since joining the housing authority in August 2012, House has designed and implemented a comprehensive plan to reduce the authority’s backlog of repair and maintenance requests. By January 2014, the average time it takes NYCHA to respond to maintenance requests had dropped to just 10 days from 134 days in January 2013, and from 249 days to 48 days for skilled repairs. Prior to joining NYCHA, House was Senior Vice President for the Operations Support Business Unit and Chief Procurement Officer for California Southern Edison (CSE), one of the largest electric utilities in the United States. House has also held senior management roles at the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G) in New Jersey, and was an attorney in the New York City offices of the law firms McDermott, Will & Emory and Debevois & Plimpton.
The son of a coal miner and a nurse’s aide, House was raised in Virginia and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia; a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School; and an M.B.A. from Columbia University. House lives in Manhattan with his husband, T.J. Stevenson, and their three children.
About Vicki Been:
Vicki Been brings a strong record of advocating for housing equity with a focus on the intersection of land use, urban policy, and housing, especially in New York City. From writing one of the first articles on the distributional fairness of environmental and land use policies, to her research on the fairness and effectiveness of foreclosure responses, focusing on neighborhoods, families, and children, Been has a keen understanding of the issues everyday New Yorkers face when looking for affordable housing.

Been most recently served as the Director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, the Boxer Family Professor of Law at NYU School of Law and Affiliated Professor of Public Policy of the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Been graduated from Colorado State University and received her J.D. from New York University School of Law. Been has served as a Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and an Associate Professor of Law at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Been lives in Greenwich Village with her husband Richard Revesz, the Lawrence King Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at NYU School of Law. They have two children, Joshua and Sarah.
About Gary D. Rodney:
Gary Rodney brings more than a decade of experience financing affordable housing development, and is considered an emerging leader in the industry. Rodney previously served as Executive Vice President for Development of Omni New York LLC, a leading developer of affordable housing in New York City and the state.
In his role at Omni, Rodney was directly responsible for securing the acquisition and preservation of 5,500 units of affordable housing in New York and Massachusetts—with an aggregate transaction value of approximately $950 million. Prior to joining Omni, Rodney was the Director of Development for BFC Partners, a New York City-based real estate development company that specializes in green, mixed-income, mixed-use developments in neighborhoods around the city. From 2001 to 2006, Rodney served in various roles at the New York City Housing Development Corporation, beginning his career at the agency as a project manager and rising to Vice President for Development in 2005.
Rodney has also worked for the New York City Housing Partnership, managing the development of retail, residential, and mixed-use homeownership projects, and at the Lower East Side Business Improvement District (BID), where he was the Economic Development Coordinator. He received his B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1997 and a Masters of Urban Planning from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in 1999.
The son of Haitian immigrants, Rodney lives in Tarrytown with his wife, Joan, and their three children.


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 January 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 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't be so cheap.

As …

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).


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…