Video touts "how the community won accountability" for Atlantic Yards affordable housing, acknowledges need to make future units more affordable
|At event: Comp. Scott Stringer and Council|
Member Laurie Cumbo, via NYC Politics
As I wrote last week, FAC and BrooklynSpeaks can celebrate success, notably the new 2025 deadline and penalties for delays in the housing.
"Until now, the Atlantic Yards project has really been the worst of both worlds," says Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue committee. "We've had a multi-billion dollar project that has really fueled speculation, gentrification, and displacement. At the same time, the affordable housing that was supposed to mitigate those gentrification and displacement pressures has been delayed."
Each year affordable housing units are delayed, fewer African-American residents will be eligible to receive community preference in the lottery, the narrator explains, and attorneys elaborate on the concept of "disparate impact."
"After we completed our legal research, we met separately with Forest City Ratner and Empire State Development," states Veconi. "They concluded that it was preferable to agree to accelerate affordable housing than to risk the potential of a civil rights lawsuit."
Unmentioned is the pressure on Forest City to get the pending deal done to sell 70% of the project going forward to the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, and the increasing attractiveness of Brooklyn real estate, as well as the benefit to the pending partnership of producing affordable housing that would get higher rents.
The reasons to celebrate
Though the new timetable doesn't mean the housing is ten "ten years ahead of the current schedule"--as framed in a TV clip in the video--Marjona Jones of the Brown Community Development Corporation says, more accurately, "it does give us access to affordable housing sooner."
de la Uz notes that the promises are now part of a government agreement, not a side agreement, and that liquidated damages will be deposited in the New York City Housing Trust Fund, which serves low-income families (see page 2 of this letter).
Getting to affordability
At about 7:25 of a video lasting 10:40, the narrator addresses affordability, noting that federal AMI is far higher than Brooklyn income.
After Veconi's quotes, de la Uz points to the importance of the timetable, because federal AMI increases three times faster than local AMI. (I'm not sure about that, because HUD AMI was actually dialed back for 2014.)
The narrator says the agreement did not address affordability, as the lawsuit did not have a basis to challenge city subsidy policy.
Well, that's a question mark. It may not have been part of the lawsuit, but they didn't have to give the agreement their blessing. They had some leverage. Without a peek inside the negotiations--remember, Public Advocate Letitia James said, "To negotiate this deal behind my back is totally unacceptable"--we can't be certain.
Going forward, learning lessons
de la Uz states, "There really is an ongoing need for advocacy to make the affordable units at Atlantic Yards affordable to Brooklyn's families."
That's a question for the yet-to-be established Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation. But the groups involved, by downplaying or ignoring the levels of affordability as they announced the settlement, already missed an opportunity.
The narrator notes that rezonings, even with affordable housing, tend to accelerate gentrification, so "the accountability of such projects must be insured so promised affordable housing is delivered on a timely basis to meet the needs of populations threatened with displacement."
"The Atlantic Yards settlement represents the culmination of seven years of advocacy by community groups and local elected officials to achieve accountability at a major development project," states Veconi.
"I think it's very important for people to realize the extent that the groups and the individual plaintiffs were willing to go to to demand that they were heard, by the developer and by our elected officials," Jones says.
"This is really critical, because more and more affordable housing is expected to be provided by public-private partnerships," Veconi continues. "We have to show that the community can fight for accountability to hold developers to hold developers to the promises they make."
As noted, they haven't done that regarding affordability in the next towers.
Renee Mintz, a resident of Community District 3, says, generally, "I feel really good about being a part of this, because what it says to me is that anybody can get together and make sure that their story is told and that the people are heard."
Developers and government have an obligation to help mitigate the effects of gentrification and displacement in the communities in which projects are allowed to develop," the narrator concludes. "Although continued vigilance will still be required, the Atlantic Yards settlement shows that coalitions of civic organizations, affordable housing advocates and elected officials who are strategic and stay the course can be successful in impacting public policy, and in ensuring accountability."
Only at the end is there mention of Greenland buying a stake in Atlantic Yards, and the renaming of the project to Pacific Park.