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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/what's coming/what's missing, who's responsible, + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

Should Atlantic Avenue rezoning allow 23 stories? Is more bulk the formula for affordable housing? CM Hudson points out another tactic. (And there's more.)

I haven't attended all the meetings of the Atlantic Avenue Mixed-Use Plan, sponsored by the Department of City Planning (DCP) at the behest of (mainly) Council Member Crystal Hudson but I've observed that, despite the significant effort to inform attendees and gather community input, it comes with a strong "City of Yes" tide inspired by eager-to-build Mayor Eric Adams.

There's a logic to that--the city needs more housing units, at least if coupled with neighborhood improvements--but some important recent history and controversy have been ignored or downplayed, notably recent spot rezonings on and near Atlantic (as I've noted in my coverage of the kickoff meeting and a Land Use workshop).

That context also would've been important at the most recent workshop, excerpted below in videos. 

Notably, as shown at right, a slide presentation (in full at bottom) left the impression that buildings 23 stories--well beyond those previously promoted by DCP or approved in spot rezonings--would deliver the most affordable housing, given the city's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program requirements of 20% to 30% affordability, depending on rent levels.

The blocks to be rezoned, from Vanderbilt to Nostrand avenues. From DCP

That's not the recent record, however. 

Those spot rezonings, guided by DCP and approved by Hudson and the Council without any further neighborhood improvements, promised 35% affordability, more than required under MIH, while offering developers increased bulk and height (17 stores) beyond the guidelines proposed by Brooklyn Community Board 8. (Those guidelines, part of CB 8's M-CROWN plan, were not adopted by the city.)

Map by Kaja Kühl. Rezoning in light blue pending. Potential apartment counts are from
Environmental Assessment Statements and include areas beyond the parcels owned by applicants.

So the current "community-led planning process for an inclusive, mixed-use stretch of Atlantic Avenue and neighboring blocks in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant," as officially stated, is being steered by the professionals at DCP (and allied city agencies) and the consultants at WXY hired to manage the process. 

Also note that the 23-story example, as shown in the slides, may be a framing tactic to make the 17-story template--which DCP had apparently been recommending to developers--more palatable to the public.  

(The next round of working groups starts next week, to "help review and finalize community recommendations": Streets, Infrastructure, Open Space, May 22; Economic Development, Human Capital, Services, May 24; Land Use, Density, Housing, May 30. All will be 6:30–9 pm at Fort Greene Council's Grace Agard Older Adult Center, 966 Fulton St. More info here.)

Looking more closely

That bulk and height achieved in last year's spot rezonings seems lucrative for developers--note, for example, the effort by property owner Elie Pariente, to shield the price he paid for the 1034-1042 Atlantic parcel until after the spot rezoning was approved last year. 


In other words, had that price become public earlier, revealing Pariente's cost basis, Hudson would have had data to press for greater concessions.

And if a 17-story building along Atlantic can deliver 35% affordability (and profit), well, that should've been part of the AAMUP presentation. 

Moreover, if "front-running" developers are buying (or negotiating purchases) of parcels in the AAMUP area, anticipating those sites will gain lucrative development rights after the city approves a rezoning, shouldn't the Council consider tactics like a transfer fee or flip tax--as proposed in a 2020 report from the Pratt Center for Community Development.

From the presentation

As shown in the video above, WXY's Adam Lubinsky guided attendees regarding varies of potential density and different zoning designations.

At the far left of the slide below is lower density, buildings four to five stories, which Lubinsky said would likely not be seen by Hudson or DCP as making sense.

He described how larger buildings, with more Floor Area Ratio (FAR), could yield more total units. A separate slide, as shown below, described the number of affordable units each building could yield, as a percentage of the total.

The trade-off, he said, is "you get bigger buildings, you get more affordable homes," so he encouraged attendees to think about where they'd want to see such density and where they'd want to maximize the affordable units. (Obvious answer: on broader streets.)

Hudson's comment

In one of the few unscripted moments--putting aside the attendee report-backs--that I've witnessed, Hudson, who'd been watching from the back of the room, asked for an opportunity to speak.


"I think the way this is presented assumes or implies that the only way to get affordable housing is density and so I just want to challenge that a little bit," Hudson said, "and make sure that people understand that there are other tools that we have, including utilization, or acquisition I should say, of publicly owned property in order to get 100% affordable housing."

"Nothing is of course guaranteed," she said, "but I just wanted to push back on this and not leave people to believe that the only way to achieve more affordability is to increase density."

Indeed, as explained during the presentation (and shown in the slide at right), there are two city-owned sites nearby, outside the rezoning area (and closer to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park) slated for 100% affordable housing.

Asking for more

What Hudson didn't mention--though I suspect it will come up at some point in the discussions--is that spot rezonings have delivered greater affordability. 

That suggests that the city needs to re-think MIH and/or recommend other ways to get more out of landowners/developers, whether it be increased affordability, impact fees, or flip taxes.

For now, all this discussion concerns what city bureaucrats, local (and future) residents, and other area stakeholders might recommend, and those attending meetings are necessarily a relatively small fraction of constituents.

Meanwhile, a private land market, involving real estate brokers, landowners, and investors/speculators, is likely percolating along. It shouldn't be ignored.