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

Flashback, 2014: after new affordable housing deal, PA James cited lack of trust in developer; opponent Goldstein presciently predicted project wouldn't be finished by 2025

My recent post on Tish James's run for Governor sent me back to this 6/27/14 ABC/7 report (via Yahoo) headlined Deal to expedite affordable housing near NYC arena, which deserves a closer look, not just for some errors and misreadings, but also for criticism from the then Public Advocate and a prescient warning by an Atlantic Yards opponent.

This came on the day of a (misleading) New York Times scoop on a deal to ensure that the project's 2,250 affordable housing units would be built by May 2025--ten years before the then-current deadline (which had been extended to 2035) but still well past previous predictions.

And that was the day that Empire State Development, the state authority ovbrooerseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, approved and announced an agreement with developer Forest City Ratner to start two "100% affordable" towers within the next year, among other things.

This averted a threatened lawsuit, on fair housing grounds (that delays would particularly impact local black residents displaced and unable to take advantage of the local preference in city housing lotteries) by the coalition BrooklynSpeaks. 

And that would have put a wrench in the announced and expected investment by Greenland USA, an arm of the Shanghai-based Greenland Group, to take a majority share of the project--which they did, and soon renamed it Pacific Park Brooklyn.

From the report

The anchor led off:
In a deal that could impact thousands of families in need of affordable housing in New York City: after 11 years of red tape and several lawsuits. state and city officials today agreed with the developer of the Atlantic Yards project to build more than 2200 units near the Barclays Center. So why now? Political reporter Dave Evans explains.
Well, there was always an agreement to build 2,250 units, and 181 were already on the way in the B2 (461 Dean St.) tower. This announcement regarded the timing.

And while the more than 2,000 units coming would be for "families," that's only if a significant fraction are defined as singles or couples, given the large number of studio and one-bedroom apartments.

How much housing at stake?

Evans began:
When the Barclays Center open it got glowing reviews but not one single apartment as promised nearby was ever built. Yet today a new agreement on Atlantic Yards to build 6000 new units, about a third of them will be affordable and instead of finishing it all in 2035, it has to be done 10 years earlier in 2025.
The agreement only regarded the 2,250 units of affordable housing, not the 6,430 total units. And while it was implied that the entire project would be finished by 2025, there was (and remains) no such requirement for the market-rate units.

Alphonso David, Counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, spoke:
So more than 2000 affordable units will now be created 10 years earlier. That's why this is incredibly important for Brooklynites.
That was the party line. It was "incredibly important" that the affordable units would have been created by 2016, the initial deadline. And only half the affordable units are guaranteed to Brooklynites--people from the four surrounding Community Districts.

Not enough framing

Michelle de la Uz, a leader of BrooklynSpeaks: 
"It's a combination of relief. accomplishment, and a an optimism."
That's a partial quote, cut off for the necessity of brevity, but it squares with de la Uz's general mindset at the time, which was to look on the bright side of the deal, which--crucially, and unmentioned--didn't deal with the affordability level of the future units. 

That meant that the two "100% affordable" buildings were skewed to middle-income households.

Timing questions

From the report:
Most of the new buildings will be built on a platform over this rail yard. If the developer doesn't start construction within the next year, then it faces a fine of $5 million. 
That implies that the fine refers to construction over the platform, though it referred only to the two planned "100% affordable" buildings, which were to be built on terra firma, with much lower construction costs and no complicated platform, or deck, which is needed for six towers.

That platform was supposed to start in early 2020, but has not launched. The first of two phases could take three years.

Appropriate skepticism

From the report:
Still a lot of residents here in Brooklyn just don't believe the developer. [quoting Daniel Goldstein] "I am a betting man and I would bet you that we won't see this project finished in 2025." 
Goldstein, the most prominent opponent of the project, should've made that bet. Within four years, we learned that the full project likely would not be finished by 2035--see my August 2018 article.

More recently, the failure to move ahead on the platform makes it very unlikely that the affordable housing deadline would be met, raising talk about a possible "fix," whether that be an extension or an exemption from the $2,000/month fines for units not delivered.

From the report:
Daniel Goldstein fought developers for years and so did the new Public Advocate. [quoting Letitia James]: "To negotiate this deal behind my back is totally unacceptable."
Tish James says incentives given to Forest City Ratner and a new wealthy Chinese investor are costing taxpayers too much. [quoting James] "A number of community residents did not have any trust and faith in Forest City Ratner. This is just another example of how they're fleecing taxpayers."
Well, it's unclear if that summary of James's views--the incentives were too costly--was accurate, but the problem was something else: there were no assurances that the units would be sufficiently affordable.

As to whether residents should have "trust and faith" in the developer--including the future development joint venture--James was right. But the "fleecing of taxpayers" should be interpreted not as costing taxpayers too much as much as not getting them sufficient value. 

Note that James's views on the project moderated--and fluctuated--over times.

Developer defense

From the report:
Developers claim lawsuits and the recession forced them to slow down. Now they say they're back. [quoting Ashley Cotton, then of Forest City]: "Obviously Barclays Center's been an amazing success. But this project is always about housing. We've been committed since the beginning to build affordable housing."
Well, lawsuits, the recession, and the failure of Forest City's ambitious, risky plan to build the entire project via modular construction--which didn't work out. 

And, of course, that commitment to build affordable housing shifted from promises in the Community Benefits Agreement to a configuration with less emphasis on low- and moderate-income units.

And Cotton is long gone from the project.

What next?

From the report:
Some construction nearby is already underway. This part of Brooklyn will be watching closely to see that a lot more is coming soon. At the Barclays Center, Dave Evans, Channel 7, Eyewitness News.

 Well, unfortunately, not enough of Brooklyn has been watching.

Comments

  1. I definitely have been watching a d waiting for these (affordable units) for low incomes to pop up in these almost finish 2 towers, the plank road and I think another tower, I guess just waiting and watching, my gray hair grows faster than these delay low income units, senior affordable housing units, any one? Smh

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