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July 27, 2010

For the New Domino, newly unveiled MOU casts doubt on affordable housing promises

Atlantic Yard Report

Last week, I raised questions about the guarantees of 30% affordability in the New Domino plan in Williamsburg (which approaches a full City Council vote on Thursday).

Now Williamsburg Greenpoint News+Arts advances the story, reporting:

Unlike the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning of 2005, which spelled out the inclusionary housing goals and benefits in the zoning text, the affordability aspects within the New Domino proposal are in a separate letter, a non legally binding document called a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

...In the case of the New Domino plan, the “out” lies not just with the city but with the developer CPCR as well. From a copy of the actual MOU (see at end of article) for the proposed New Domino plan, exclusively obtained by WG News + Arts, paragraph 9 in the text clearly states:

“Whereas, this MOU is not a legally binding instrument and is only intended to set forth the understandings of the parties without creating any legally enforceable rights or obligations.”

If it sounds too good to be true, remember that in other famous MOUs that have so far not been fully met, if at all met, like the second MOU attached to the Atlantic Yards proposal, developers were actually required to pay fines and restitution if the deal were to fall apart.


Related coverage...

Williamsburg Greenpoint News+Arts, New Domino Development Goes to a Vote in City Council w*/ no Guarantees for Community

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], City set to approve Domino plan -- without guarantees

NY Observer, At New Domino, Affordable Housing Promise More of a Pledge

Alas, this resembles the groundwork of many a development project in New York. While a good number of developers do end up delivering on promises, other projects are sold to the public on the promise of certain public benefits (in exchange, the public's representatives grant approvals), only to see those benefits eroded over time as they prove difficult or impossible to fulfill. A couple other case studies to look at: Battery Park City, once meant to be mostly below-market rate housing; and Atlantic Yards once meant to have a green roof and a Frank Gehry-designed arena.

Posted by eric at July 27, 2010 9:26 AM