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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Revealed: developer plans first three towers over railyard as "50% affordable." To meet housing deadline, that would be major challenge.

The developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, a newly disclosed document suggests, plan to build three 50% affordable towers over the first block of the railyard, thus potentially meeting the deadline to deliver 2,250 affordable units by the May 31, 2025 deadline.

If so, Greenland Forest City Partners faces a significant challenge, given that the platform over that block, scheduled to start this year, could take three years.

After that--assuming no construction could start until platform completion--GFCP (dominated by Greenland USA) would have less than two-and-a-half years to build three large towers, with a total of nearly 900 affordable units and the same number of market-rate ones. That's a lot of product.

The buildout is possible--after all, this project is no stranger to overtime and weekend work--but not at all easy. That's why various observers, such as Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, have expressed skepticism that the deadline can be met.

And, perhaps, why Greenland has refused to disclose its plans publicly, while pledging it will meet its obligations. In other words, this plan too could change.

If the deadline isn't met, the developer faces fines of $2,000 per unit per month. Then again, the notion of "affordable" offers significant flexibility to produce income-restricted units for middle-income households.

Building over the railyard

Parcels B5, B6, and B7, with a total of 894 affordable units, would be the first three towers on that first railyard block, between Sixth and Carlton avenues and Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue, as shown in the document above. (The project schematic is at right.)

This unofficial graphic I helped produce has not
yet been updated regarding expected affordability 
The document, Exhibit M to amended project documents, was acquired via a Freedom of Information Law Request to Empire State Development, the state authority that oversees/shepherds Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

Exhibit M is from 9/10/19. It makes reference to, among other things, a diminished amount of parking on the project site, with 758 spots on the southeast block, which was publicly revealed in November 2019.

It does not mention any plans for Site 5, which is purportedly moving ahead, and could contain housing as well as office space.

It is not implausible that affordable housing at Site 5 could be used to help meet the deadline of 2,250 affordable units, and thus take the place of units in one of the railyard towers.

Alternatively, another strategy would be to make one of those first three towers over the railyard "100% affordable." That's the strategy I saw described in a 12/17/18 letter shared with immigrant investors, but neither confirmed nor commented upon by ESD or the developer.

It that strategy were followed, it could be possible to meet the housing obligation with two towers, rather than three, which would be a faster buildout. As of the latest document, B5 would have 650 units with 325 affordable, B6 550 units with 275 affordable, and B7 588 units with 294 affordable.

Were B7 not built, it looks like the larger B5 would have to be "100% affordable," not B6.

Previous plan

A previous Exhibit M, from December 2018 (right), indicated the possibility that two, rather than three, of the towers over the first railyard block would be 50% affordable.

It also indicated that another tower, B8, over the second railyard block, between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, would be 50% affordable.

But it seems extremely unlikely that it would be built in time, given the challenge of building the platform over the second railyard block.

A changed east end of the project?

So the updated schedule front-loads the 50% affordable buildings.

It also leaves the possibility that the last three towers (B8, B9, and B10) would have little or no affordable housing, leaving market-rate residents as a significant fraction of those taking advantage of the open space. That said, tax policy may ensure that some affordability is included.

The four towers on the southeast block, also with the best access to that open space, include one condo building, one "100% affordable" (but skewed to middle-income households) building, and two planned towers that would be at least 25% affordable.

Drilling down on affordability

The most recent Exhibit M should not be seen as definitive. For one thing, it indicates that B8 would contribute 97 affordable units. It seems highly unlikely that that tower would be built by 2025.

Also, it indicates that B12 and B13, on the southeast block, would each contain 63 affordable units, while the announced total is at least 25%, or 100, with the possibility of 33%, or 120. Hence my annotation.

If B8 doesn't contribute affordable apartments, and B12 and B13 each contain 100 such units, that would make up 74 units of the 97-unit shortfall. If they each contain 120 units, that would wipe out the shortfall, with a surplus of 17 units.

Drilling down on other issues

Also, Exhibit M, at least in the vertical column, indicates 1,065 parking spaces, while the total has been cut to 1,000. It seems quite likely that those 65 spaces will be eliminated from Site 5.

Somewhat curiously, footnote 5 indicates that "Phase 1 Properties may include below-grade GSF," or Gross Square Feet.

I suspect that refers to the recently approved "recreational" space below B12 and B13, which will accommodate a Chelsea Piers fitness center and field house, purportedly a swap for parking.

However, Phase 1, at least according to that document, is just the towers around the arena, not towers to the east.


  1. Anonymous10:53 AM

    What is worth recognizing is that this puts the affordable units significantly closer to the many public transportation options available at Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center. The second half of the rail yard at the eastern end of the project is probably the least well served from a public transit perspective (unless you love dodging the traffic at the intersection to walk to the less-than-reliable C train). Everyone will have their preferences on whether it is better to be closer to green space or transit, but I would think that for the elderly, individuals with mobility issues, and parents of small children, being a block from the many subway lines and LIRR at Atlantic/Barclays Center will be a bigger amenity than some shady green space.

    1. Maybe. And perhaps the green space will be the selling point for the remaining units.


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