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

The issue is not just "affordable" units but level of affordability. Which should've been recognized in 2010.

For those wondering if developer Greenland Forest City Partners can meet the 2025 affordable housing deadline by building three "50% affordable" towers, as indicated in a state document I published yesterday--or even by building two towers, with one "100% affordable"--there's something important to remember.

From the Development Agreement
As I wrote in April 2019, the project's guiding Development Agreement--screenshot at right--simply defines affordable units as those "subject to income and rent restrictions" as part of a city or state regulatory agreement.

Rents must be set at no more than 160% of Area Median Income (AMI) or, if higher, the highest percentage of AMI used in city or state housing programs. (So far, they've gone up to 165% of AMI.) Unmentioned was that a certain fraction must typically be low-income units for tax-code purposes.

A middle-income skew

From BrooklynSpeaks
But that leaves room for a disproportionate amount of middle-income units rather than moderate-income ones, as in two "100% affordable" towers, 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth, as I've written, and as described in the screenshot (right) from a BrooklynSpeaks forum last October.

"Each one of these units gets negotiated out with the agency that’s going to give us benefits," said Ashley Cotton, then an executive with Forest City New York (formerly Forest City Ratner), at a 6/7/17 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, "Every single one is treated differently… depending on who the mayor is, who the agency is... They have their policy goals too."

Indeed, the purportedly guiding Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that original developer Forest City Ratner signed with the advocacy group ACORN, and which was incorporated into the purportedly binding Community Benefits Agreement, was superseded by the Development Agreement.

Even as overall AMI has steadily increased, the ceilings for low-income eligibility have risen to 60% of AMI, rather than 50%.

One question is whether political pressure, and/or leadership, can generate more lower-income units going forward, as BrooklynSpeaks has advocated. I suggested that options seemed limited, but stay tuned.

A missed opportunity in 2010

Looking back, I realized that I, as well as other journalists and advocates, missed this key detail when the Development Agreement was belatedly released in early 2010, in hard copy and in large binders.

The main news I reported was that the Development Agreement offered 25 years to build the project, until 2035, rather than the expected ten or 15 years.

That indeed was big news, though it was barely covered by others. But the fine print offered key wiggle room regarding affordability, as well.

The format of the release--in hard copy with limited time frame, rather than searchable digital files--made it more likely something might be missed. And the frenzy of ongoing coverage of the project made it tougher to drill down.