Agency, Developer Wrestle Over Atlantic Yards Affordability

Agency, Developer Wrestle Over Atlantic Yards Affordability

August 28, 2012 at 11:34 am

The much-delayed first housing tower at Forest City Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn, where half the 363 units have long been promised for “affordable housing,” seems poised to get millions in city housing bonds.

While this 32-story building—on which Forest City aims to break ground this fall—would broad-ly meet the pledge the developer signed with housing advocacy group ACORN to ensure that 50 percent of the rentals be subsidized, it otherwise diverges from that promise. Not only would it contain far fewer family-sized units than pledged, those two-bedroom, two-bath units will be disproportionately geared to middle-class families, not low-income ones, with rents more than $2,700 a month.

It also differs from what city housing officials aim for in mixed-income affordable housing financing, as well as what Forest City proposed in previous underwriting submissions to housing officials.

Documents unearthed via the Freedom of Information Law, and further queries, show that only nine of the 35 subsidized two-bedroom units would go to households currently earning less than $35,856 for a family of three (with rents at $835 monthly), while 17 would be reserved for the highest affordable income “band,” those earning 140-160 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), or between $104,580 and $119,520 for a family of three.

The documents also reveal that the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) protested Forest City’s initial plans for Tower 2, saying there were too few family-sized units.

HDC’s counterproposal did not hold Forest City to its promised goal that 50 percent of the affordable apartments, in terms of floor area, be devoted to two- and three-bedroom units. But Forest City insisted on modifying the deal further, and HDC mostly relented.

Other documents indicate that, while city housing officials were unwilling to grant Forest City an additional direct subsidy, they were willing to adjust other aspects of the financing package—such as the unit mix—to make the project financially viable.

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