Skip to main content

At CB 2, minimal info on 461 Dean, but other discussion of affordable housing and the coming "Brooklyn Behemoth"

Truth be told, there was little illuminating about Forest City's presentation to Community Board 2 last night regarding the upcoming 181 units of affordable housing at 461 Dean Street, the modular tower also known as B2. (They similarly presented at CB 6.)

And presumably the presentation tonight to Community Board 8 will be similar: no details about the units but rather a reminder that information will be available this month, with online applications via NYC Housing Connect and paper applications via Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY). Applicants must choose one only.

MHANY is a successor to ACORN as a signatory of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement and Housing Memorandum of Understanding. MHANY's Ismene Speliotis and Forest City Ratner's Elizabeth Canela said they would be back at a future meeting with more specifics, including affordability. (I outlined the range, as detailed in 2012, in my article.)

But even a brief visit to the CB 2 meeting last night was interesting. District Manager Rob Perris said something a bit ominous. Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) President Tucker Reed said something a bit provocative, and U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said something a bit odd.

Perris's alert

In his report to the board, Perris alerted them to the unspecified but seemingly in-motion plans by Greenland Forest City Partners to move 1.1 million square feet from the B1 site at the Barclays Center plaza to Site 5, currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell's and already approved for 439,050 square feet--a giant office tower I've dubbed the "Brooklyn Behemoth."

Controversial land use projects, he noted, tend to come to the board only at two times of the year: summer, and between Thanksgiving and Christmas. "We have this sort of half-announced proposal," he said, noting there isn't much detail, but scoping--the first stage in the state process--for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is expected to begin this spring.

He noted that B4, the second-largest project tower, at the northeast corner of the arena block, "is in play" too, with plans to switch it from residential to office space. "There seem to be very few details, but we're going to begin review relatively shortly," he said.

The review will be a state review, and any role by the affected Community Boards will be advisory, but that at least would ventilate questions and concerns.

The DBP's report

The DBP's Reed and colleague Alan Washington presented an update on in-process residential, office, and retail construction. Reed acknowledged that the unanticipated influx of residential units since the 2004 rezoning had strained the infrastructure, leading to proposal for more park space (the Brooklyn Strand) and the School Construction Authority's promise to add 1,800 new school seats.

"We don't have the ability to slow down residential growth," he said, but a "fresh look" at zoning could mandate new office space and affordable housing.

Board member Maisha Morales, who described herself as a business owner displaced from the Albee Square Mall and said more than 1,000 residents had been displaced [I'm not sure of the numbers], aked what the DTB was doing for affordable housing.

Reed noted that the DBP doesn't "do anything ourselves," but said, "I totally agree with you about affordable housing. It's not nearly enough." The 1,000 or units coming rely significantly on city land dispositions in the BAM Cultural District, with the low land price helping foster for affordability.

The mayoral administration is considering various rezonings to mandate affordable housing, Reed noted, but Downtown Brooklyn is not on that list--which he said may be a lost opportunity, given that rising land costs (see below) are changing the equation.

He described the issue as "contentious" on the DBP's board, which I'd note consists significantly of landowners and developers trying to maximize profits. "From a public policy perspective," he said, without mandatory inclusionary zoning, "that pipeline of mandatory affordable is going to dry up."

Reed said he thought the increased numbers of people living in Downtown Brooklyn "is finally going to move the needle on office" space, given that some people would like offices closer to their homes.

Rising land prices

Land prices in Downtown Brooklyn have been skyrocketing, Reed said, from $80 per square foot "a year and a half ago" to an asking price of $500 per square foot. (In June 2015, he said similarly, "Land values in Downtown Brooklyn alone, over the last 18 months, have gone from $80 a square foot to 500 [dollars]," so let's assume some flex in his timeline.)

Currently most transactions are in the "high 200s" or "low 300s"--meaning sales around $300 per square foot.

Note that, upon the deal with Greenland Holdings to develop most of Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner said in December 2013, "the total anticipated costs yield an expected average cost per square foot of approximately $180-$220 per square foot, prior to vertical development.” In other words, high then, a seeming good price now, albeit with an adjustment for affordable housing.

Jeffries on affordability

Rep. Jeffries, who was back in his wide-ranging district, gave a brisk, friendly overview of some of the issues in Washington, notably criminal justice reform.

Whatever people thought about Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, said Jeffries--who was alternately critical and supportive--it's important that they take advantage of the available affordable housing.

That was an understandably politic message, but Jeffries went on to muddy the waters by saying that, because of the need for affordable housing in the area, his efforts added Community Boards 2 and 3 to the zones eligible for the preference in the housing lottery: 50% of the units will go to residents of Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8.

That struck me as odd, and perhaps pandering to the CB 2 audience, because CBs 2, 6, and 8 were always considered part of the neighboring community (see the Community Benefits Agreement), eligible for the preference, because the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park footprint is shared by all three districts.

I queried Jeffries as he was exiting the meeting and he confirmed, as I'd suggested, that the preference was added during 2007 state legislation to reform the 421-a law. As I wrote, it was plausible to add CB 3, given its proximity to the project area, as well as the serious need for affordable housing. (It also surely helped Jeffries, then an Assemblyman, aid current and future constituents.)

But he maintained that both CBs 2 and 3 were added at the time. Not so--while the legislation did cite all four CBs, previous documentation--including at a 2006 Forest City Ratner-sponsored session on affordable housing--already mentioned CBs 2, 6, and 8.


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…

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 …

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …