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In exit interview, DBP leader Reed insists luxury housing helps affordability

There were a couple of interesting nuggets in NY1 Online: Former President of Downtown Brooklyn Talks Future of Borough, posted 8/11/16, summarized as "Tucker Reed, the former president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, discussed the redevelopment of downtown Brooklyn and the future of the borough with Errol Louis."

Trickle-down affordability?


"All of this growth necessitates a conversation about, and a real commitment to, infrastructure. The original plan for Downtown Brooklyn was for office space, we ended up with residential," he said. "It's been very helpful for the borough, because it helps keep affordable--all that supply means that other parts of Brooklyn won't become unaffordable as new residents are given the option of living in Downtown Brooklyn. But you need new schools. You need additional sanitation service. You need more open space."

Host Louis was skeptical: "You're suggesting that the building of market-rate, or even luxury housing Downtown, brand-new housing, might sort of halt gentrification right there at the waterfront , and prevent it from spreading further out. That of course is not really the experience of most people watching."

"Look, the conversation about affordability in the city, and it's great to have one, and we've been suffering from a housing crisis for decades," Reed responded, "and this administration, Mayor de Blasio has been very active in tackling it head on, as was his predecessor Mayor Bloomberg [who whiffed on affordability in the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning--ed.]. But it's simple supply and demand.  [Isn't a whole lot more supply needed to move the needle?] And often this conversation becomes very complicated, because people have strong feelings, 'cause it impacts their lives, and it impacts the quality of their life. But the answer to the affordability question is that we need more  housing period. We need more luxury housing, we need more mid-market housing, we need more affordable housing."

He went on to tout the transit infrastructure in Downtown Brooklyn and then the mayor's proposed BQX streetcar (backed, by the way, by developers in the DBP as well as Reed's old employer, Two Trees).

He also suggested that institutions of higher education in Downtown Brooklyn might monetize their real estate and build "additional student housing, space for programs," following NYU's formula in Manhattan.

Back to luxury housing

At about 8:22, Louis cited the advent of needle-like buildings. "Normally, I think--because I remember what it was like before, 'Hey full speed ahead, develop whatever you can develop, so it doesn't look like, y'know, the old Albee Square mall.'... Does the future have to be a 1000-story spire [surely he meant 100-story] for luxury residents..."? 

"Look, does it have to be for luxury residential?" Reed responded. "No. it should be a mix of uses. But my humble opinion.. we should not be afraid of embracing the 21st-century city, and that means density, and that means height, and that means place where you have the transit infrastructure."

Sounds like his embrace of the "iconic" office building proposed for Site 5 of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

"We need to be building four or five of those [residential towers] every month just to keep pace with what's coming," he said, citing the demand for housing. Well, that's if luxury housing is the solution to a seemingly intractable problem.

Louis asked if the developers were on board, "betting on an endless supply of wealthy people?"

"The reality is the vast majority of product being built in Downtown Brooklyn is not luxury housing, it's rental," responded Reed, setting a rather fine distinction between luxury condos and market-rate rentals. "Many of them have affordable components. So we don't really have a deep luxury condo market yet."

What next?

What's Reed doing next? 

"I'm going to do a little of my own thing now," he said, "working with a company called Hello Alfred, which is working on a personal assistant service to bring to the masses," for the millenial generation.

"And I'll start thinking about some of my own development projects," he continued. "Affordability is something that --I'll always be a public sector guy in my heart, and affordability matters to me. So affordable housing projects, and really looking the opportunity for more office creation in Brooklyn
I think there's a ton of pent-up demand that's not being met now. And I'd like to figure ways in the private sector to be part of the solution."

Based on the path of his predecessor, Joe Chan, Reed could go to Empire State Development, the state authority that oversees/shepherds Atlantic Yards. Or if he's working on office creation, perhaps he'll intersect some day with the Site 5 project.