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A de Blasio flashback: he supported AY for "over 3000 low-income units" (nope); "I will take what I can get"

I recently found the original copy of a document I cited nearly seven years, when then City Council Member Bill de Blasio, at that point aiming to be Brooklyn Borough President and now of course our city's mayor, explained his support of Atlantic Yards with a sloppy, erroneous reference.

The interview was in the Spring 2008 issue of the Park Slope Reader.

"I’ve supported Atlantic Yards because it will provide over 3000 units of affordable housing to low-income residents and it will bring more local jobs to the neighborhood," de Blasio claimed.

Actually, the plan was and is to include 900 low-income apartments, among 2250 subsidized rentals, and potentially 600 to 1000 for-sale affordable units, of which a "majority... will be sold to families in the upper affordable income tiers," according to the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Forest City Ratner signed with ACORN. (The plans for the for-sale units are far more fuzzy than plans for the rentals.)

Low-income does not mean "affordable," but de Blasio apparently didn't care about the distinction. Or is it that, as an October 2013 profile in Politicker  indicated, he was said to be "a surface guy, total surface. He’s not in the weeds."

The "surface" now is that two towers will have 100% affordable units (but be matched by 100% market-rate rental buildings, which was never planned). So de Blasio can say "affordable" even as the affordability drifts upward--even in the low-income categories--from the income "bands" targeted in the ACORN agreement.

As I reported, half the units in the next two towers would go to households at the income band that requires some $3,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

de Blasio's concerns, and his changes

"But I’m not happy about many aspects of the project as it exists today," de Blasio said in that interview. "Many of the buildings are too tall and can be lower; the scale of many of the buildings simply doesn’t fit in with the surrounding neighborhoods."

As I pointed out, if the buildings are too tall, the project would likely have to shrink, which would lessen the amount of affordable housing that de Blasio supported.

Go forward to a 7/31/12 speech de Blasio gave at NYU Wagner’s School of Public Service:
Post-2008, the world has changed and it’s time for our development process to catch up. History will judge us, not just on whether we saw the iceberg ahead, but whether we mustered the will and had the focus to change course.
We can’t afford a process rife with delays, subject to knee-jerk NIMBYism and tangled in bureaucracy. The process we have now distracts from and impedes the things that should matter in this economy: creating good jobs and affordable housing for our workforce of today and of tomorrow.
...But when it came to the criteria that mattered above all others—good jobs and affordable housing—it was clear that Atlantic Yards would help stanch the bleeding in an area facing huge problems of affordability.
...What have all these experiences taught me? First and foremost—when given the choice to grow or to sit idle, we need to grow and we have to be aggressive about it.
Thus, when the New Yorker on 9/11/13 asked Bill de Blasio, Friend of Real-Estate Developers?, the answer was "friend." The article quoted David Von Spreckelsen, president of Toll Brothers City Living, regarding de Blasio's support for a project in Gowanus:

To that end, de Blasio had two key concessions he wanted, the developer recalls: organized labor would handle the construction and twenty per cent of the project needed be slated for affordable housing. The parties agreed easily on the affordable-housing requirement, but were far apart on the use of union workers.

“We indicated this is very atypical for a Brooklyn residential project and that it would put us at a competitive disadvantage,” Von Spreckelsen said. “He told us to meet with certain trades and some of them we came to an agreement with and a number of them, we didn’t. But Bill said, ‘I trust you. You guys have always done what you said and I will take what I can get.’”
(Emphasis added)

The project has since been scuttled by Superfund designation, but the anecdote is revealing: "I will take what I can get."

Former Bloomberg housing commissioner Rafael Cestero described de Blasio as "a pragmatic progressive. I wouldn’t expect that much of a difference [with Bloomberg].”

Indeed, as the New Yorker pointed out, that reference to "knee-jerk NIMBYism and tangled in bureaucracy” sounded "not all that different from the man he was trying to replace."


  1. Anonymous1:19 PM

    "surface" says it all. not even skin deep.
    Just like the creepy "progressives" around him justifying all the excluding grassroots people from any decision making process and selling out every principal they facilitate on a daily basis in their minds with some bizarre cauterization of conscience and reality.


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