Skip to main content

The rhetoric evolves: Atlantic Yards, once "affordable *and* middle-income housing," is now significantly "affordable middle-income housing"

I write separately how the housing in the next two "100% affordable" towers skews mainly to middle-income households who'd pay more than $2,000 for a studio apartment and more than $3,000 for a two-bedroom unit--and how Mayor Bill de Blasio has fudged the issue.

Do remember this: such obfuscation would be much tougher if Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn was discussed using rhetoric that was common through 2006.

For the first few years after Atlantic Yards was announced, the developer and project supporters used a more precise, if less self-serving, locution: "affordable and middle-income housing." Only later was it all generalized as "affordable," which papers over the vast differences in expected rents.

After all, "affordable" technically means only "income linked," in which households spend 30% of their income on rent. The 4,500 rental units would proceed under the 50/30/20 program, with 50% market, 20% low-income, and 30% moderate- and middle-income.

The reticence to use the term "affordable" for below-market but relatively high-priced units likely reflected the understanding that a subsidized, income-linked unit that now rents for more than $3,000--to a household earning nearly $140,000--fits few New Yorkers' notions of "affordable."

Three types of housing, not two
Forest City's presentation, May 2005 City Council hearing

For example, at the December 2003 launch of Atlantic Yards, developer Bruce Ratner said "that housing doesn’t mean only market-rate housing, it means middle income and it means affordable housing."

In a 1/19/04 Gotham Gazette essay, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the project's biggest booster, said Atlantic Yards would create "affordable and middle-income housing for the Brooklynites who need them."

At a 5/4/04 City Council hearing, then president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation Andrew Alper described plans for "substantial affordable housing, middle-income housing, and market-rate housing."

At that hearing, Forest City point man Jim Stuckey said "we are committed to doing real affordable housing, real working-class family housing, real middle-income housing, and real market housing as well."

"Fifty percent market, that is what the presentation said," Stuckey said during the hearing, adding, "Thirty percent middle-income, 20 percent affordable."

At the hearing, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum reinforced the phrasing: "Forest City Ratner has committed to make affordable and middle-income housing."

Council Member Letitia James challenged Markowitz about how households earning up to $142,000 could be eligible for subsidized housing under city guidelines. "Clearly, Mr. Borough President, that would not be your definition of affordable housing, correct?" she asked.

"Well to me affordable housing, middle-income housing is somewhere in the area of 50 to 80 thousand dollars, affordable housing is below that," Markowitz responded.

(In more than ten years, the upper bound has risen under city guidelines, but the eligibility for Atlantic Yards housing has risen far more than than inflation applied to Markowitz's figures.)

At a second Council hearing, on 5/26/05, Stuckey said "we have agreed to do 4,500 units of affordable, middle income and market rate housing."

In March 2006, Ratner told investors, "When we first announced this project, before any community came to us, I said 50% of rental units will be affordable and middle-income."

In July 2006, Forest City executive Bruce Bender said in a press release that "the affordable and middle-income housing program will be handled via a lottery system as required by City rules."

That month, Stuckey told Brian Lehrer that "we will be creating a significant amount of affordable and middle-income housing."

Diminished rhetoric

Such rhetoric mostly tailed off, likely because the simple notion of "affordable" could be a magic mantra in an ever more expensive city.

At some point, even the term "middle-income" became dicier, such as in this July 2007 quote from Bender: “We said we will do 50 percent of rentals as affordable for low- and moderate-income families, and we will."

But it didn't die completely In July 2011, Forest City issued a somewhat deceptive memo opposing a proposed bill that would allow a state subsidiary to oversee Atlantic Yards. In one phrasing that was not self-serving, Forest City divided the subsidized housing into "affordable" and "middle-income."

In a March 2012 softball interview, Ratner promoted modular housing to the New York Times: "We need to figure out economic ways to build our cities, ways in which we can build affordable housing or middle-income housing.

Atlantic Yards = middle-income housing?

Speaking to the real estate industry in a February 2010 panel, Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin was asked about housing for the middle class.

Atlantic Yards, she said, "is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city, because of its commitment to produce 2250 units of housing, affordable housing but not just the 20 percent of the 80/20 formula, but actually incomes that range in the 80 to 150 percent of AMI, which is where the middle class sits."

It is not the "most ambitious middle-income housing project," but it is an ambitious program.

And Gilmartin was right to suggest that the middle-class--which incorporates both moderate-income and middle-income housing as officially defined--would get more subsidized units than low-income residents.

In fact, the middle-income housing is growing every more expensive, not merely because of the increase in Area Median Income (AMI) but also because the city has allowed the percentage of AMI assigned to certain affordable "bands" to increase.

So it's all been muddied. The Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" was sold to, and supported by, community groups like ACORN that represent poor and working-class people, not middle-income residents.

It's all "affordable" now."


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).


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…