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Showing posts from April, 2014

In 2004, Forest City said an $80,000 income was too much for an affordable studio/1BR. Now that's in the works.

The demand for affordable housing in today's market is unending. Bisnow reported that Broadway Housing Communities' 124-unit development in Harlem's Sugar Hill drew 48,000 applications for the 98 affordable units. That's a .2% chance.

So the Atlantic Yards affordable housing--when it arrives, December 2015 at the earliest--will surely be in demand.

So, yes, the 73 low-income units and the 36 moderate-income units in the first tower will help the most desperate. 
The moderate- and middle-income units surely will be subscribed too.

But it's crucial to remember that the latter units-- 2012 estimated rents at right--would be way too expensive for most who rallied for the project.

(ACORN members were polled about support for affordable housing, but were not asked about affordable housing accessible to those in their income bracket.)

There's a huge mismatch at work between affordability by Brooklyn standards and affordability as calculated regionally. Affordable proje…

New deputy mayor wants to redefine "affordable" by using neighborhood or borough AMI; will that be part of new Atlantic Yards subsidy?

Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing policy is coming tomorrow and likely will have multiple elements, including new incentives trading density for affordability. Already, unions have proposed wage cuts, policy mavens suggested a transit-oriented focus and streamlined approvals (among other things), and a nonprofit executive called for real and permanent affordability.

(WNYC has a preview, citing an increased capital budget, new tax incentives, a huge push for preservation, potentially transferrable air rights, new rules for a higher percentage of affordable units, protections for rent-regulated apartments, and better supportive housing/homeless services.)

Could "real affordability"--not keyed to regionally-based Area Median Income (AMI)--be a possibility? It's not on WNYC's list.

From Alicia Glen's balancing act, in Crain's Insider 3/23/14, regarding the city's new deputy mayor for housing and economic development:
Ms. Glen also wants to redefin…

With value of Brooklyn Nets rising, Ratner finally planning to sell that remaining 20% share

Yes, Forest City Enterprises'  20% share of the Brooklyn Nets is finally on the market, and likely will get a good price. The Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown reports:
Developer Bruce Ratner is looking to sell his company’s 20% stake in the Brooklyn Nets, and has tapped investment bank Evercore Partners to advise him on the sale, according to multiple people familiar with the team. As I reported in October 2012, Forest City--a real estate company--was not wedded to keeping the team, which was used to leverage a real estate project. ("That was really the impetus to it, really, bringing professional sports back to Brooklyn," Ratner claimed in May 2010.)

"We're currently evaluating the economics of the team in Brooklyn," executive Jim Lester said obliquely in 2012, according to a webcast of an Investor Day event. "As [arena/team CEO] Brett [Yormark] said, the sales going well. Player salaries are expensive, and the new CBA penalizes franchises for ha…

On eve of hearing, Forest City discloses plan to accelerate elements of platform construction, delay permanent railyard

With a public hearing on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS) coming Wednesday, developer Forest City Ratner has suggested that it can accelerate building of the platform needed for vertical development over the Vanderbilt Yard--but it does not provide a firm timetable and also asks for 15 months' delay in the required completion of a permanent railyard.

A letter from Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin to Empire State Development (ESD) President Kenneth Adams was posted today on the ESD's Atlantic Yards site and is reproduced below.

Accelerating certain work

Gilmartin wrote:
As a result of our recent partnership with the Greenland Group, Atlantic Rail Yards, LLC (ARY) will be in the position to accelerate the construction of certain platform and building and foundation work, which, if done concurrently with the construction of the yard, would have several benefits. It would accelerate our ability to complete the construction of the platform …

As hearing on Atlantic Yards environmental review approaches, an FAQ

See update on Forest City's plan to accelerate platform construction.

From 5:30-9 pm tomorrow, Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/enabling Atlantic Yards, will hold a public hearing at LIU  (75 DeKalb Avenue, Room HS107) to accept comments on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS) and changes to the Modified General Project Plan.

Below, a partial FAQ.

Why is there a hearing? Wasn't the project already approved?

Atlantic Yards was approved in 2006. After Forest City Ratner in 2009 reopened terms of the business deal--gaining 21 years to pay for the Vanderbilt Yard, rather than pay the promised $100 million on time, and getting ESD to agree to multiple rounds of eminent domain, again saving the developer cash flow--Atlantic Yards had to be reapproved.

OK, so why now?

Because, after re-approving the project, ESD signed a Development Agreement that gave Forest City 25 years to build the project, without disclosing it to the pub…

Atlantic Yards housing not permanently affordable; units in first tower would last 35 years; stay tuned for tweaks

Also see FAQ on upcoming hearing.

Surely the biggest selling point for Atlantic Yards, outside the "new home team," has been the promise of affordable housing, an amorphous concept that no one dares oppose in the abstract.

There are lots of reasons to be skeptical about the housing promises, but one aspect has gained very little attention (including from me): the housing would not be permanently affordable. The affordable units in the first tower, for example, would last some 35 years.

No wonder documents from Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/enabling Atlantic Yards, do not address the issue of permanent affordability. And ESD was somewhat cagey with me when I inquired about this basic fact.

A 35-year term (or 30-year one) is not out of line with many other subsidy programs in New York City. However, in some cases, as with the recent agreement at the Domino site in Williamsburg, the housing will be permanently affordable.

In fact, the city's…

Work on B2 clearly slows, as only six modules delivered in two weeks; sixth floor to start in June, not May

Now that B2, the first Atlantic Yards tower, is officially delayed a year, it looks as though developer Forest City Ratner has seriously slowed down. According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated today and issued by Empire State Development after preparation by FCR, about 117 modules have been delivered and installed.

That's only six more than the number two weeks earlier, or barely more than .5 module a day, considerably below the 3 modules per day pace in the previous two weeks. The building requires about 930 modules.

In fact, the total of "approximately 117 modules" is fewer than the 122 modules claimed to the New York Times a week ago. (Are they going backward? Did they fib to the Times? Is the current document unreliable?)

Also, while the alert two weeks ago said erection of 6th floor modules would begin in May, now the plan is to begin that in June.

Other elements in the new alert:
• Alleyway drainage plumbing between B2 and the arena h…

Forest City "generally" in compliance with environmental protocols re Atlantic Yards construction. Locals have their doubts.

Community critics seek increased oversight regarding Atlantic Yards, such as an independent board to ensure fewer violations of construction rules, but the state says everything's pretty much OK.

Chapter 3A: Construction Overview of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS) issued by Empire State Development, suggests everything's mostly fine, though some improved protocols are coming.

It's tough to take that on faith. For example, it contrasts with the July 2012 report, commissioned by the community initiative Atlantic Yards Watch, that catalogued violations of the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC) in much detail. And it's been impossible to get records in a timely manner.

It's true changes have been instituted since then, as noted in the Draft SEIS, and there are fewer complaints. But there's also been a lot less construction. The announced changes suggest there was room for improvement.

And though the Construction Overview…

As public hearing approaches, multiple messages but basic divide: Forest City wants free hand, while critics seek accountability, enforced timetable

As a public hearing approaches Wednesday, April 30 on the court-ordered Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS), a familiar divide--albeit with different particulars--recurs in the Atlantic Yards saga.

Developer Forest City Ratner (plus, presumably, its allies) wants a gentle hand from the state overseer/enabler of the project, Empire State Development, while community critics, against all past evidence to the contrary, urge a faster timetable and additional oversight.

The hearing will be held from 5:30 to 9 PM at Long Island University, 75 DeKalb Avenue, Room HS107.

Written comments on the Draft SEIS will be accepted through 5/12/14, while written comments on minor changes to the Modified General Project Plan--shifting some bulk from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of the project, and cutting the number of parking spaces--will be accepted through 5/30/14.

Hearing background
The Draft SEIS was ordered by a state judge after Empire State Development gave Forest City Ratner 25 …