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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)

As 962 Pacific faces resolution Tuesday at City Council, with more affordability than (pending) AAMUP & likely big profit for applicant, will CM Hudson forge a deal?

The proposed 962 Pacific Street development, which sailed through the City Planning Commission after much debate at Community Board 8, faces a resolution by Tuesday, with votes scheduled by the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, and then the Land Use Committee.

Looking SE from Grand Ave. & Pacific St. toward
vacant 962 Pacific parcel (Photo: Norman Oder)
There's been some press--likely furthered by the developer's camp--noting the project would include more affordability (48 of 150 units) and job-creating space than similar spot rezonings and even the pending Atlantic Avenue Mixed-Use Plan (AAMUP), while portraying Council Member Crystal Hudson's resistance as irrational.

Hudson, at a Jan. 23 Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises hearing, criticized 962 Pacific as "seeking to get ahead of the final comprehensive plan," which would include improvements in streetscape, public space, and other amenities, and noted that the "draft rezoning proposal is just that. a draft," implying that it could improve and demand more.

"The only practical effect of denying [Nadine] Oelsner’s application would be to delay the project — and its much-needed apartments, child care center and manufacturing space — for a year or two," the pro-development Real Deal wrote Jan. 26. "Given the vicissitudes of the economy and financing, it could even kill it. Oelsner has already borrowed $11.5 million just to get to this point."

From The Real Deal
Some caveats

That all deserves some caveats, including the likelihood that Hudson, who thanks to the informal policy of member deference would typically hold sway with her colleagues, is negotiating a compromise, as she did in 2022 with two rezonings on Atlantic Avenue.

(They promised 35% affordability, while 962 Pacific, so far, would offer 32%, albeit in a smaller building.)

First, while the empty lot at 962 Pacific has been portrayed as shovel-ready--an argument for passing the spot rezoning ahead of the AAMUP--there's no certainty that passage would lead to construction, given the absence of the 421-a tax break or a replacement.

What passage might mean is that Oelsner's HSN Realty could sell the parcel to a developer, which, when conditions improve could still be ahead of most other developable sites in the AAMUP area. That gives Hudson ammunition to ask for more.

From a previous developer presentation, with an earlier affordable configuration

Profit potential

Note that the $11.5 million loan--including an additional $3 million in October--from a non-bank source with presumably higher interest rates, covers not just 962 Pacific but a separate parcel at 975 Atlantic Avenue.

An upzoning vaults the value of the property. For the 176-unit 1010 Pacific, an immediately adjacent parcel, the developer flipped the site soon after the rezoning was approved in 2019, selling parcels that cost $8.5 million for $20.25 million.

Yes, 962 Pacific would offer more affordability, without studio apartments, but the property is surely more valuable, given rising rents and the expectation that the new building would join, ratner than precede, adjacent new construction.

The land cost for the larger 1050 Pacific, a somewhat larger building down the block that gained from a spot rezoning, was $48 million, again without the same affordability requirements.

"Getting to a yes"

"Over the past two years and during my campaign, I've stated clearly that this neighborhood needs a comprehensive development plan," Hudson said at the hearing. "It must not be rezoned in a piecemeal approach, project by project, and a comprehensive plan is exactly what I've been leading in partnership with the local community and the Department of City Planning."

Part of that may be practical, part of that may be posturing.

Perhaps the key testimony at the Jan. 23 hearing--put aside members of the 77th Precinct Clergy Council, who in an echo of some Atlantic Yards hearings, testified fervently about the affordable housing possibilities--was Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), a non profit community development corporation.

"I've also been a member AAMUP steering committee," she said, "And I'm here today to testify in support of 962 Pacific Street."

What she didn't say--and coverage in The Real Deal and Brooklyn Eagle also neglected to report--was that FAC and the 962 Pacific applicant are already partners on the planned affordable housing, and that FAC likely will get the $50,000 in anti-displacement funds the applicant has promised.

It wouldn't be the first time the Brooklyn Eagle printed what reads like a press release produced by the developer's team.

That to me means that a potential side agreement, with FAC as signatory, that commits the developer to promises beyond the land use process should not be called a "Community Benefits Agreement."

FAC, de la Uz said at the hearing, "would like to work with Council Member Hudson and the Oelsners to get to a yes on this project. As counsel Richard Lobel noted, the Oelsners have offered to do a Community Benefits Agreement to memorialize the commitments that go beyond what is required under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing," or MIH.

What's at issue

That means 32% affordability, and deeper affordability. "which I think it's particularly important given the displacement that was that was mentioned earlier," de la Uz said. She noted that changes in MIH would require a citywide text amendment that could not come before AAMUP passes.

Overall, while the applicant originally promised 25% affordability and the Land Use Committee requested 35%, the CB 8 Board vote supported the applicant's revision to 32%.

So there may be flex for Hudson to ask for more.

“It’s going to be hard to find a small developer like us that is committed to Brooklyn,” Oelsner told The Real Deal. “If this project gets in the hands of another big developer, they’re not going to have the thoughtfulness to give back.”

That, of course, is a self-serving statement from an applicant with a Port Washington address and a Charleston, SC, residence. Which is why promises from any developer should be locked in.

962 Pacific has a contract to pay one of its lobbyists through Feb. 8, this coming Thursday.