Skip to main content

In 2004, Forest City said an $80,000 income was too much for an affordable studio/1BR. Now that's in the works.

The demand for affordable housing in today's market is unending. Bisnow reported that Broadway Housing Communities' 124-unit development in Harlem's Sugar Hill drew 48,000 applications for the 98 affordable units. That's a .2% chance.

So the Atlantic Yards affordable housing--when it arrives, December 2015 at the earliest--will surely be in demand.

So, yes, the 73 low-income units and the 36 moderate-income units in the first tower will help the most desperate. 

The moderate- and middle-income units surely will be subscribed too.

But it's crucial to remember that the latter units-- 2012 estimated rents at right--would be way too expensive for most who rallied for the project.

(ACORN members were polled about support for affordable housing, but were not asked about affordable housing accessible to those in their income bracket.)

There's a huge mismatch at work between affordability by Brooklyn standards and affordability as calculated regionally. Affordable projects in New York City must base eligibility on regional Area Median Income (AMI), which is well above New York City income.

That means someone earning nearly $93,000 (as of 2012) could be eligible for an affordable studio, as noted in the graphics below--exactly what Forest City was decrying ten years ago.

The change

Over ten years, Brooklynites have not gained in their ability to pay for apartments, while affordability has grown ever elusive. Some 46% of New Yorkers are struggling to get by, a new report states.

As noted last week in a report from Comptroller Scott Stringer, from 2000 to 2012, median apartment rents in New York City rose by 75 percent (compared to 44 percent in the rest of the U.S.), while real incomes of New Yorkers declined.

About 400,000 apartments renting for $1,000 or less were lost--a sign that a project like Atlantic Yards, even if it had been fulfilled on the original schedule, would have been a drop in the bucket.

In some neighborhoods near the Atlantic Yards site, including Fort Greene, average real rents increased 50 percent or more over the 12-year period.

Who's to blame?

That makes the delay in Atlantic Yards affordable housing that much more poignant: the neediest have not seen their incomes grow, while overall area income growth has lifted the baseline for all affordable housing calculations, making it tougher to qualify for Atlantic Yards housing.

Project backers would blame the delay on opponents and critics. But Forest City's plans and promises were never realistic.

In November 2011, Bruce Ratner talked up his firm’s plan to build the world’s tallest pre-fabricated towers, an innovative, risky, and money-saving tactic, one that initially infuriated construction workers who’d aggressively rallied for Atlantic Yards.

The Wall Street Journal, without raising an eyebrow, reported Ratner’s rationale “that the existing incentives for developments where half the units are priced for middle- and low-income tenants ‘don't work for a high-rise building that's union built.’”

Of course, that’s exactly what Ratner proposed and the state approved--twice, after Ratner got permission to build at the density his firm found economically necessary. Sure, the economics had changed, but they had changed by 2009 when the state re-approved the project. (And, for the record, half the 6,430 units wouldn't be subsidized, just half the rentals: 2,250.)

And now, with the snag in Forest City's modular plan, its new joint venture partner/overseer, the Chinese government-owned Greenland group, plans to build three towers, two of them affordable, using conventional construction. Apparently now the numbers do pencil out.

The Atlantic Yards promise

In March 2004, Forest City's Atlantic Yards point man Jim Stuckey came to a Park Slope Civic Council-sponsored event, saying of Atlantic Yards housing, "From our perspective, we think creating affordable housing is for for teachers and nurses… electricians, police, for the average person who's working and trying to live in Brooklyn today. It's not creating housing for the doctors and lawyers and who people can afford a lot more than that."

Video courtesy of Battle for Brooklyn producers

"We feel there are a number of programs that exist today," Stuckey said. " For example, the city’s 20/30/50 program, the NewHOP program, you can have a family of one or two people earning as much as $80,000 and living in a studio or one bedroom apartment. You can have families of three or more earning as much as $140,000 and living in a one- or two-bedroom apartment. We don’t think that that’s affordable housing and we don’t think that many people here think that that's affordable housing."

Stuckey, however smooth and sympathetic he sounded, was missing some additional context. Later in the session, Rudy Bryant of the Pratt Center for Community Development noted that the median income in Brooklyn was about $26,000, so housing costs had to be substantially lower than the $80,000 Stuckey mentioned.

Changing AMI

Indeed, according to the 2005 Housing Memorandum of Understanding Forest City signed with ACORN, there were to be three affordable housing scenarios, all based on the then-current AMI of $62,800.

In the first scenario--the one initially promulgated to the the press--the income mix was the most affordable: the highest income for one person eligible to get subsidized housing would be $44,376.

In the third scenario--which Forest City soon adopted--the highest income for one person eligible to get subsidized housing would be $61,951.

Those numbers have changed. As of 2012, with an AMI of $83,000, the figure for one person had risen to $92,690, well above Stuckey's number. It's even higher now.

Reality vs. previous estimates

Other affordable housing proponents found that reality--the combination of gentrification and a shift in New York--has outpaced their seat-of-the-pants estimates of who should be eligible for affordable housing.

In 2006, Borough President Marty Markowitz said $80,000 should be a cap on incomes for those eligible.

In 2007, Council Member Bill de Blasio, now Mayor, said, “Definitely below six figures,” he responded. “Absolutely below six figures. Over $80 [thousand] I don’t think is what I’m thinking about, although there may be some exceptions.”

Now Atlantic Yards will offer the $93,000 studio.


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 (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, 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.

The previous graphic, from August 2017 (without the ghost B1)

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…

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 …