September 21, 2012

No Vacancy, or, why does New York City have a housing shortage, with so many vacant apartments?

by Gregory A. Butler

How dare Gregory Butler rain on Bruce Ratner's big ribbon-cutting.

As every poor or working class New Yorker knows, the city has a chronic shortage of decent affordable housing. Single poor or working class adults routinely live with roommates, many people live with relatives rather than setting up housekeeping on their own, families often live doubled up with distant relatives or even families they aren’t related to because, in the words of populist former mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan, “the rent is too damned high” in this city.

Indeed the rents are too damned high – an average 2 bedroom apartment in Upper Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx or Brooklyn rents for about $ 1,800 a month. In the rest of Manhattan, an average studio apartment (one big room with a kitchen off to one side and a bathroom) rents for around $ 2,500/mo. If you need a 2 bedroom, it’s around $ 4,000/mo!

Those are the prices for “walkups” (apartments in buildings with no elevator, where you may have to walk up seven flights of stairs to get to your apartment). These apartments aren’t that big either. The average studio is around 250 square feet – a “large” (by New York standards) 2 bedroom might be 1,400 square feet. Almost always, electricity and gas are extra.

Needless to say, not a one of the 20,000 apartments [NLG: Actually 6,430 units, of which 2,250 are pledged to be "affordable" rentals] that billionaire [NLG: Actually, multi-Millionaire] Bruce Ratner is building in Prospect Heights will be affordable to the average working class or poor New Yorker, not even the so called “affordable” ones.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

September 19, 2012

Atlantic Yards Developers Continue to Dodge Agreements on Affordable Housing

The Surreal Estate
by Elise Goldin

I’m sure that it comes as no shock that developer Forest City Ratner continues to weasel its way around this promise. Despite next week’s opening of the shiny New Barclay’s Center, affordable housing will not even begin construction until sometime this Fall. City Limits details how current plans for affordable housing, known as “Tower 2” differ from original promises:

Housing is more geared towards middle income than low, rents more than $2,700 a month and fewer family sized units than promised…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 community’s initial optimism about Atlantic Yards and its potential benefits has waned rapidly, thanks to a lack of transparency on the part of HDC and Forest City Ratner. Aside from a few feeble protests, New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has stood by as Forest City Ratner continues reduce the number of family-sized units in Tower 2. Though the city has refused to provide Ratner with additional subsidy when asked, it has allowed the developer to adjust the number of 2-3 bedroom apartments in order to save money. This essentially limits the number of low-income families who will be able to call Atlantic Yards home, and welcomes single, shorter term and higher income residents. These adjustments to Forest City Ratner’s affordable housing plan were made in secret.


Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

September 11, 2012

Agency, Developer Wrestle Over Atlantic Yards Affordability

Affordable Housing Report

Culture of Cheating? You betcha.

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.


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

September 9, 2012

Crain's: Forest City to construct prototype module for prefab tower this month, will decide by Christmas; some revisionist history on consultant's role

Atlantic Yards Report

There are a few new tidbits in a Crain's New York Business article posted today headlined Legoland comes to Brooklyn: Decision looms on plans for world's tallest prebuilt towers in downtown Brooklyn.

(Of course, it's not "downtown Brooklyn.")

Here's the latest timetable for the long-delayed first tower, which would be the world's tallest modular building.:

What remains to be seen, however, is whether it actually gets built. Forest City will construct a prototype module this month and then decide by Christmas on whether to build modular towers or conventional ones. The choice hinges largely on whether Forest City can ink a deal with unions that would require them to take significant pay cuts to help the developer achieve its goal of lowering construction costs by up to 25%. Saving that money is especially important because 50% of the 4,500 rental apartments planned for Atlantic Yards are designated to be affordable or low-income housing. Forest City hopes that its system eventually will become a model for other large-scale developers.

"This could revolutionize how we do construction in the city," said MaryAnne Gilmartin, the Forest City executive vice president who is spearheading the project.

There's nothing as to how this might affect the promised jobs and tax revenues associated with the project. The modular gambit also might be used as a negotiating tactic with the labor unions. But if they're building a module, they already have preliminary cooperation with labor unions.

And saving that money is "especially important" not so much because there's subsidized housing but because a corporate developer deemed it so. After all, New York State approved the Atlantic Yards plan on the assumption that Forest City could build it.

Revisionist history

The article states:

Setting up a factory will be essential for Forest City, not just for this project, but also for any hopes it might have of churning out modules for other developers in the future. Nearly two years ago, Forest City launched its modular journey by tapping SHoP, engineering firm Arup and consultant XSite Modular to devise a plan.

The process actually started nearly three years ago, as I reported, when Forest City began work with a now-defunct firm, Kullman Construction.

After Kullman's second-in-command left, she formed a new firm, XSite Modular, that eventually became Forest City's partner. Kullman filed a lawsuit against XSite that was settled out of court, but not without some drama.

Gilmartin, angry at the breakdown in negotiations with Kullman and another outside part of the team, architect James Garrison, issued a threat, which Garrison described in an email to Kullman's Avi Telyas that was included in the legal file. "I had an unpleasant conversation with MaryAnne," Garrison wrote. "I was told they know the same people I know and they’ll make sure to fuck me whenever possible."

Not only is Kullman no longer extant, XSite bought the Kullman web address.

Factory coming?

To actually proceed, Forest City will have to start a factory, likely in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In early June, Real Estate Weekly quoted Gilmartin as saying the developer was "four to six weeks away from signing a lease for 100,000 s/f of factory space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard." That hasn't happened.

The plan for the first building is sophisticated, according to Crain's:

Adding to the challenge, the developer insisted that its tower transcend the dull uniformity for which modular buildings are known. Instead, its plan calls for a tower with setbacks outside and 24 different apartment layouts inside. That variety, however, led to a need for 225 different modules, which in turn require a more complicated frame.


Posted by steve at 10:48 PM

August 29, 2012

Details on Not-So-Affordable Atlantic Yards Apartments


Atlantic Yards Report writer Norman Oder reported in The Brooklyn Bureau that the first Atlantic Yards tower, on which work is scheduled to start this fall, will contain fewer family-sized units than promised and will be “disproportionately geared to middle-class families” with rents coming in at more than $2,700 a month.


Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

August 27, 2012

Agency, Developer Wrestle Over Atlantic Yards Affordability

Documents reveal tense negotiations between city housing officials and Forest City Ratner over the kind of affordable housing the first Atlantic Yards residential tower will provide. Turns out it's different from what the developer promised.

City Limits
by Norman Oder

Different from what Bruce Ratner promised? Shocker!

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.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From City Limits: How the first Atlantic Yards tower got more $2,700/mo. subsidized apartments (but nobody told the public)

Though no one said so publicly at the one public hearing regarding the tower, not only does the number of family-sized units fall behind Forest City's promises in the Housing Memorandum of Understanding and Community Benefits Agreement that 50% of the units, in square footage, be two- or three-bedroom apartments.

Also, the only way the total (20% of subsidized units) was achieved was to skew the units toward households earning six figures.

The documentation I discovered, via Freedom of Information Law request to the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC), offers insight into the otherwise oblique public comments by Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall last March at a meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

July 24, 2012

A Real Estate Industry Code: The Special Interests of Forest City Ratner vs. The Rest of the Real Estate Community And New York City at Large

Noticing New York

Ratner’s mega-monopoly should be broken because he is a bad dude, and, as I later testified at the hearing, it should also be broken up because, irrespective of whether he is a bad dude, monopolies (particularly a really big one like this) are deleterious the city as a whole and therefore to all the rest of us.

Further, I told my listener, I would make the point that Ratner’s over-scale and overly dense mega-project was a subsidy hog, that it misdirects scarce subsidy that should be divided up to better benefit multiple developers, not-for-profits and minority developers more likely to be among them.

“That's great,” my listener said, “you should be able to get a lot of real estate developers to come to the hearing and testify to the same thing!”

“No,” I said, “they won't be doing that.”

“Why?” asked my listener. “That should be something they should really want.”

I offered my explanation. “They won't do it, and they don't do it,” I said, “because the real estate development community has a code. They NEVER testify against each other. It doesn’t matter how preposterously greedy another developer’s proposal may be or how deleterious that proposal is to the rest of the real estate community and to the city at large; they won’t do it.”

“It’s a club in which Forest City Ratner is one of the biggest members,” I said. I told my listener that the powerful Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) always supports Forest City Ratner’s proposals even when those proposals are specific just to Forest City Ratner (and outrageous) notwithstanding that the Ratner proposals are not generally beneficial to the real estate board's members and can actually represent sacrifice or jeopardy for them.


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

July 18, 2012

Long-Awaited Housing at Atlantic Yards Moves Forward

by Cindy Rodriguez

The plan to build affordable housing at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn appears to be moving forward after the slumping economy caused major delays. The city's Housing Development Corporation will hold a public hearing Wednesday on the sale of about $92 million in tax exempt bonds that will be used to finance more than 360 apartments.

Forest City Ratner, the project’s developer, said half the units in the new building will be below market rates and while preliminary work has begun, formal construction is scheduled for late 2012.The development plan calls for 6,430 apartments to eventually be built at the site. The bonds would help pay for the first building to go up.

According to a 2009 plan issued by Forest City Ratner, the housing should've started shortly after construction on Barclays Center began. But city Councilwoman Letitia James said that never happened. "And so now here we find ourselves in 2012 planning on building this affordable housing which will probably not be built until 2013 some time," she said. James, a vocal critic of the large development project, said nevertheless she is happy the housing was moving forward.


Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Decoding first Atlantic Yards tower: "affordable" 2-BR rents from $726 to $3,112, murky financing plan, 20K square feet of "arena storage"

Atlantic Yards Report

HDC does its part to keep Atlantic Yards as opaque as ever.

The New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) has passed along some cursory information regarding plans for the first Atlantic Yards residential tower, aka B2, the 32-story, 363-unit subject of a public hearing [today] at 1 pm.

There's no information on the agency web site. I was told I would have to file a Freedom of Information Law request for underlying documents, which will not be available for perusal [today].

However, the agency did send a two-page fact sheet, which bears significant similarity to two previous fact sheets (below) prepared by consultants for Forest City Ratner, but don't necessarily provide useful information to those who may wish to comment publicly [today].

The agency may provide up to $92 million in bonds, part of a financing plan that includes Low Income Housing Tax Credits, HDC Second Mortgage & Developer Equity. But it's not clear what the mix would be.

Here are the highlights:

  • There's no mention if the building will be modular.
  • A subsidized 2-BR unit in the lowest range of affordability should rent for $726,25.
  • A subsidized 2-BR unit in the midrange of affordability should rent for $1,660/mo.
  • A subsidized 2-BR unit in the highest range of affordability should rent for $3,112.50/mo.
  • Of the affordable units, 20% will be 2-BR units, though developer Forest City Ratner's agreement with ACORN pledged 50% (in floor space) devoted to family-size units.
  • The building is heavily weighted to smaller units, perhaps because more transient singles/couples would agree the location trumps living over an arena.
  • The building will offer 20,000 square feet of "arena storage."


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

June 18, 2012


A/N Blog
by Tom Stoelker

Mayor Bloomberg evoked Fitzgerald today when he announced the deal between Sterling Equities and Related Companies to revamp Willets Point. “Today the ‘valley of ashes’ is well on its way to becoming the site of historic private investment,” the mayor said in a statement, referring to the gritty midpoint between Gatsby’s West Egg manse and Manhattan. The plan pegs its success to a mega entertainment/retail hub just west of the stadium, that sounds very much a part of a trend in projects that used to be called malls, but are now called retail/entertainment attractions.

More like distractions.

That the housing comes so late in the game has got more than few politians up up in arms. The Daily News reported early this week that City Coucilmember Karen Koslowitz was not pleased. It’s a pretty sensitive topic that was initially raises in The Wall Street Journal last month, which cited Willets Point and Atlantic Yards as examples of where housing was used to win favor with the locals but ends up being the last component of the project scheduled for completion.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

June 15, 2012

Catching up: optimism about arena-area retail rents, unmet promises in Williamsburg, auditions for Brooklyn Nets dance team

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up some stories that we missed, too. Here are some shortcut links:

The Wall Street Journal, Brooklyn Waits on Promise of a Park

It has become a familiar scenario across the city, as large developments such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Willets Point in Queens move forward: The promises made by the city and developers to overcome opposition change over time or are delayed long into the future.

The Real Deal, How the Barclays Center will transform Brooklyn retail leasing

NY Observer, Nets Debut Dance Team (Containing Only One Native Brooklynite) and Its Cheeky Moniker: The Brooklynettes


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Enough False Promises of Affordable Housing Development!

The SurReal Estate
by Elise Goldin

Meanwhile, in real news...

There is a major lack of affordable housing in New York City, and everyone knows it. When the government pushes large scale development projects, it is often the promise of jobs and affordable housing that win community support for the project. In the case of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn (the site of Barclay’s Center, the new Nets arena) developers promised to build over 2,000 units of low and middle-income housing. But as the arena’s construction is nearing completion, where is the affordable housing?


Photo: Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

May 30, 2012

Megaproject Developers Promise To Get Around To Affordable Housing Someday

NY Observer
by Kim Velsey

In a move that should shock no one, the developers of Atlantic Yards and Willets Point are dragging their feet when it comes to building the affordable housing components of their projects, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Atlantic Yards, crying “bad market,” has repeatedly delayed breaking ground on the 2,250 low- and middle-income units that were a major part of pushing the project through.

And Willets Point, promising another 1,750 affordable units, may finally have a development deal, but it will be a long time before any housing goes up. Housing is scheduled for the third stage of construction, long after the large retail center and hotel are finished.

Developers complain that unlike the other components of their boom-era projects, which can move forward even in an economy that is just regaining its footing, affordable housing is just not profitable (never mind that the other components of their project are). They’ll get around to it someday, of course. Just not anytime soon.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, No Housing, "Affordable" or Otherwise, at Atlantic Yards

Funny, all these many years we didn't just warn that Atlantic Yards wouldn't easily fulfill its promises, but rather it would be impossible to fulfill these promises. Shame they didn't listen to us before they demolished 22 acres.

Queens Crap, Did you hear the joke about Megaprojects and affordable housing?

Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

May 28, 2012

Housing Pieces Delayed

The Wall Street Journal
By Eliot Brown

The promise of more than 4,000 units of low- and middle-income housing was a significant selling point for two of the city's largest new developments, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Willets Point in Queens.

Today, they are moving forward, but the housing pieces have been pushed back for years behind other portions of the multibillion-dollar projects, as the boom-era visions are proving to be difficult to see through in a slowly recovering economy.


At Atlantic Yards, the project's centerpiece basketball arena is nearing completion. But developer Forest City Ratner Cos. has yet to begin any of the 6,400 units of housing it once anticipated being built by 2016—2,250 of which would be for low- and middle-income families. Forest City has cited higher than expected costs and an inclement market, although it plans to break ground this year on its first building with 175 below-market rate units.

The delays have frustrated officials and given fuel to critics of the project, which went through a contested public approval process before the recession.

"They should do the affordable housing up front, now," said Assemblyman James Brennan of Brooklyn, who said the low- and middle-income housing aspects should be accelerated. "The only legitimate selling point for the entire project was the affordable housing."


Posted by steve at 10:24 PM

March 28, 2012

FAC's Michelle de la Uz is appointed (by de Blasio) to City Planning Commission

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, on a City Planning Commission dominated by mayoral appointees, one person can't sway the body, but it's certainly a non-Bloomberg-esque move for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to appoint Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Perhaps de la Uz, whose group is a member of BrooklynSpeaks, may have some advice for the Planning Commission on the surface parking lot planned for the southeast block of Atlantic Yards.

At the very least, she might provide some real-world perspective on the project (as, presumably, Borough President Marty Markowitz's appointment, Shirley McRae, also does).


Posted by eric at 10:48 PM

February 26, 2012

Why so few larger apartments in first planned tower? Maybe it has to do with not gambling on the market-rate units

Atlantic Yards

Remember how Forest City Ratner said last month that the "goal"--actually a promise--of ensuring half the subsidized apartments (in square footage) would be larger units wouldn't be met in the first tower?

FCR executive said it had to do with the way city subsidies work. Perhaps, but consider that the 175 subsidized units would be the same configuration (mostly studios and one-bedrooms) as the market-rate units. And it's a lot less risky to rent smaller market-rate units than larger ones.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in a 2/13/12 article on market-rate condo units, Brooklyn Feels a Pinch: Few Family-Size Apartments in Borough:

Developers are often loath to gamble on larger units, especially in neighborhoods that are considered up-and-coming. A $1 million three-bedroom unit that doesn't sell is a much greater liability than a smaller unit.

After all, who's going to want to pay market-rate rents to live next to an arena? Likely those who value the location--the proximity to transit and nightlife. That suggests singles and couples, not families.


Posted by steve at 5:49 PM

November 21, 2011

Bruce Ratner, seeker of housing solutions for the city, or cost-cutter?

Atlantic Yards Report

Do what you love, the money will follow, especially if what you love is getting your cronies in government to help you make money.

From Crain's New York Business yesterday, Modular thinking could shape NY's future skyline: Bruce Ratner wants 32-story stack to rise at his Atlantic Yards:

Developer Bruce Ratner thinks he has found a solution to the city's vexing housing shortage and wants to showcase the answer at his massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

That suggests Ratner's motivation is civic virtue of some kind. It's a business, man.

Cutting costs

How about:

Developer Bruce Ratner was desperate to cut costs at his massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and is taking the risky step of building modular housing, which if it works, might be a solution to the city's vexing housing shortage.


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

November 19, 2011

What Could (Not Ever) Have Been at Ratner's Atlantic Yards


Here's a partial recounting of how the Atlantic Yards project changed from featuring starchitect Frank Ghery and affordable housing to a project which now has neither.

Fast forward to 2009, after a brief attempt at value engineering, when Bruce dumps Frank and his $1 billion of starchitecture for a more modest and universally reviled hangar vision drummed up by Ellerbe Beckett. That didn't go over so well, so SHoP was brought on to class up the proceedings later that year. Barclays Center broke ground in 2010 and is now trucking along nicely; as for that residential building, rumors about the modular build-out first lit up the 'wire back in March, and now: voila.

As many have pointed out, the repeated focus on subsidized housing from the beginning was what cleared many of Ratner's development hurdles; even back in 2005, Forest City Ratner promised that half the housing units would be reserved for tenants making less than $100,000 per year.


Posted by steve at 11:29 PM

November 18, 2011

Forest City seems to be backing off its pledge to have 50% of affordable apartments be larger units. What will Bertha Lewis say?

Atlantic Yards Report

As I've noted, the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA, below) requires an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM), who should have been reporting on the progress of the Pre-Apprentice Training Program, subject of a lawsuit filed this week.

Does the ICM enforce the housing pledge, part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between developer Forest City Ratner and ACORN? No, but there's need for oversight, because the developer seems to be changing the plan, providing more smaller apartments than pledged.

According to page 7 of the CBA, ACORN--or, now more likely, its successor New York Communities for Change--was supposed to "form and facilitate a Housing Council" for community input regarding those buildings.


It's not clear now who exactly is responsible, given ACORN's demise, but Bertha Lewis, the vocal leader of ACORN and backer of Atlantic Yards, has pledged publicly she would hold Forest City to its agreement.

So far, the signs suggest Lewis has a lot to ask about. Or, maybe she's been told: the CBA (p. 24) states that the developer "will not announce or agree to any material modifications in the 50-50 Program without the prior approval of ACORN."


Posted by steve at 3:43 PM

Bait-and-switch: Ratner says "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing. Which he proposed--and the state approved.

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a stunning contention in the Wall Street Journal article headlined Ratner Goes 'Modular' in Brooklyn, dated 11/18/11:

The project's planned 6,400 apartments—and particularly the 2,250 units pledged for low- and middle-income tenants—were a key selling point for the development when it was approved by the state over neighborhood criticism in 2006. It was later stalled by lawsuits contesting the use of eminent domain, and then slowed by the economic downturn.

Now Forest City has told government officials that the high proportion of affordable apartments has made it difficult to make the economics work for the towers, despite a surprisingly strong rebound in the rental market.

Previously, the company asked the city for additional subsidy to make the first Atlantic Yards tower move forward, to no avail.

Mr. Ratner said Thursday that the existing incentives for developments where half the units are priced for middle- and low-income tenants "don't work for a high-rise building that's union built."

He added that he had "accepted the fact that we're not going to get more subsidy."

(Emphasis added)


Ratner proposed a development that, at least in part, contained half subsidized units, (Atlantic Yards is supposed to have 6430 apartments, as approved, with 1930 condos and 4500 rental units. Half of the latter would be subsidized, "affordable" units.)

Ratner proposed a development that would have high-rise towers built by union labor. The promised quantity of jobs and amount of housing won him support from unions, advocacy organizations, and elected officials.

He never said he couldn't do what he proposed. In fact, he got a state override of zoning that would allow a the buildout his firm calculated was necessary to deliver profits.


Posted by steve at 3:38 PM

November 17, 2011

Affordable housing moves ahead... at Hunter's Point South

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's New York Business yesterday reported: Queens housing project to be all 'affordable': Originally pegged at 75% subsidized housing for the middle class, Hunter's Point South will be 100% affordable, a city official announced Wednesday:

The first phase of the huge Hunter’s Point South project on a 30-acre waterfront parcel in Long Island City, Queens, will be 100% affordable housing, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel announced Wednesday afternoon.

How exactly they calculated they could make this project work as all affordable--more subsidies?-- remains unclear, but a Related spokesman said the team was "thinking creatively and working collaboratively."

What's the biggest project?

Crain's noted:

When completed, Hunter's Point South will be the city’s largest affordable housing complex built since Co-Op City opened in the Bronx in the 1970s.

By contrast, Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin has claimed Atlantic Yards "is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city, because of its commitment to produce 2250 units of housing."

Forest City is supposed to announce plans for the long-delayed first tower by the end of the year.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

November 8, 2011

DOB Commissioner hints at sea change (including FCR's plans?): "you have to figure out how to build bigger, and better, and modular"

Atlantic Yards Report

Given the city's housing squeeze and numerous illegal units (such as apartments in single-family houses), policy analysts and even city officials are now grappling with the idea of supplying new forms of housing, such as small but updated single room occupancy (SRO) units and multiple units attached to a house.

That was the subject of an intriguing conference yesterday titled "Making Room," sponsored by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and The Architectural League of New York.

I'll have some more coverage in another post but first would like to focus on the comments of Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Robert LiMandri, who seemed skeptical toward the new ideas--which would generally add density without changing the overall scale of neighborhoods--and supportive of an alternative: building towers via lower-cost modular construction.

It sounded very much like the DOB has been having serious conversations with developers--say, Forest City Ratner--that want to do exactly that.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

July 18, 2011

Mayor Still Looks to Building and Zoning to Ease Housing Crunch

Gotham Gazette
by Tom Angotti

Albany last month finally found a way to continue rent regulations in the city. But the new regulations barely address the bigger issues facing housing in the city -- long-term affordability for most tenants and homeowners.

The city’s long-term sustainability plan, PlaNYC2030, does acknowledge that challenge. And in its update released earlier this year, the Bloomberg administration takes these efforts a bit further, acknowledging the importance of saving housing and the neighborhoods where people live. However, that too falls short because the mayor still puts the priority on zoning to promote new housing and give short shrift to preserving our neighborhoods.

Some projects , including Hunters Point, define affordable by using the official area median income, which is almost twice as high as the median in New York City. Thus, most people with low incomes will not be able to afford these homes. Another large project slated for affordable housing, Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, has yielded only a basketball arena after some eight years of planning.


Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

July 1, 2011

“Battle For Brooklyn” Deleted Scene: Bertha Lewis’s Non-Response To Low-Income Tenants Kicked Out Of Affordable Housing At The Atlantic Yards Site

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White probes this recently posted outtake from Battle for Brooklyn:

Most of what had to be excised from a 90-minute film, if included, would have been extra damning of the cabal of mega-project supporters Bruce Ratner collected around him while waving cash for those willing to sell out the community for private benefit. One big piece of the story left out of the film is the role of ACORN.

A deleted scene from the movie involving ACORN has been uploaded to the web by Michael Galinsky, one of the film makers of “Battle For Brooklyn.” As a piece that wound up on the cutting room floor, it is a good clue to the superfluity of superb material the film makers amassed and had to make choices about.

The scene is a three-minute drama involving an exchange between ACORN’s Bertha Lewis and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldstein following a press conference in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. In the clip Goldstein is trying to get Ms. Lewis to appreciate and understand that developer Forest City Ratner’s plan is resulting in the low-income tenants living in property being acquired for the project getting kicked out of their affordable housing, something that was directly contrary to what, minutes before, Ms. Lewis told a gaggle of reporters. She'd told them this wasn’t happening. Ms. Lewis is imperiously dismissive of Mr. Goldtein's concern, reflexively going out of her way to disclaim the obvious connection between what Goldstein is describing and Forest City Ratner.


Posted by eric at 6:32 PM

June 28, 2011

Bloomberg's New York

Open City: Blogging Urban Change
by Jerome Chou

The administration also used zoning and incentives to encourage the development of new condominiums and public amenities like the High Line to attract and retain the highly-educated, highly-skilled people that elite businesses employ. The effects of this strategy are visible in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, but also in Harlem and Williamsburg, Flushing and Long Island City. “This is all about class,” [Julian] Brash states. “It’s really a city for the well-off.”

I spoke with Brash about Bloomberg’s New York, and the specific tools and strategies that people can use if they want to influence neighborhood change.

You mention affordable housing. Bloomberg did launch a plan to create 165,000 units of low- and middle-income housing units, in parallel with his strategy to build luxury housing.

The administration was pushed to include affordable housing in a bunch of different development plans, like Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards. I think they realized after a few years that throwing a bone in that direction would circumvent a lot of political headaches. But I think affordable housing just runs at cross-purposes with the luxury city approach.

The city’s affordable housing policy right now is gentrification. People who don’t make a lot of money—people who are middle class or upper-working class—they can move into gentrifying neighborhoods like Sunset Park or Flatbush. That’s how people get affordable housing. And those people are conflicted and full of self-loathing because they know they’re gentrifiers. That’s been the case for twenty or thirty years.


Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

June 8, 2011

Pratt Center on 421-a renewal plans, which extend subsidies without affordability: A Luxury Housing Subsidy New Yorkers Can't Afford

Atlantic Yards Report

According to a new issue brief by the Pratt Center for Community Development, the 421-a tax exemption to support new housing, cost New York City nearly $755 million last year in foregone taxes, or two-and-a-half times the level of property taxes forgiven under the program just five years earlier.

Now, the state legislature is poised to renew it, part of negotiations on rent regulation, the Pratt Center notes that it has produced only 5700 units of affordable housing over some 25 years.

What news outlets have picked up this news? Just City Limits, as far as I can tell.

The failure of reform legislation

Brooklyn readers should note the failure of reform legislation, announced just about the time that Atlantic Yards was first approved.


Posted by eric at 7:59 AM

May 23, 2011

Project Puts Brooklyn First

The Wall Street Journal
by Dana Rubinstein

Profit is the lodestar of most building design in New York City. So it is the rare and refreshing development that is driven by something other than revenue maximization.

Take the case of 212 S. Oxford St., a 10-story red brick and aluminum cooperative development on Fort Greene's Atlantic Avenue border. From its bathroom vanities to its bamboo floors, the building is steeped in and guided by ideology: more precisely, by the desire to propagate an economically integrated society in rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn.

"We want something that fits into the Brooklyn culture," says Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a community development and social justice organization based in Gowanus that is the co-developer of the building, named Atlantic Terrace. The building's motto is "Made in Brooklyn."

The development sits on Atlantic Avenue and South Oxford Street, right next to the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls developed by Forest City Ratner Companies. All fall within the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, of which Atlantic Terrace is the final piece.

Before the Fifth Avenue Committee's involvement, the site, a former gas station, had lain fallow for more than 20 years. When the committee and Magnusson Architecture and Planning, who are co-developers on the project, won the development rights in 2003, they had a brownfield on their hands, with seven tanks leaking lead gas into the soil below. Extensive remediation followed.

Today, from the soundproof windows of 212 S. Oxford, visitors can see cranes lifting pieces of the Nets arena into place across Atlantic Avenue.


NoLandGrab: While Bruce Ratner has yet to even put a shovel in the ground for any housing, Atlantic Terrace and its nearly 75% affordable units is complete. Why is Ratner in line for any affordable-housing subsidies when other developers obviously do it better, faster and less expensively?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Terrace, across from arena site, seeks "new Brooklyn retailers"

The good news, according to the sponsor Fifth Avenue Committee, is affordable housing (subsidized co-ops for households ranging from $34,970 to $115,380), LEED gold certification, locally-crafted finishings, and common amenities open to both subsidized and market-rate tenants.

Going local

The Journal reports:

Even more principled: the 11,400-square-foot ground-floor retail space is being marketed primarily to local tenants. "We've received some interest from some national chains," says Heather Gershen, the director of housing development for the Fifth Avenue Committee. "We think it's important for people to get fresh produce, milk, the morning paper. We would like to see some of the new Brooklyn retailers."

Or, as Ms. [Michelle] de la Uz puts it, "There's already a mall."

Yes, the site borders Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls.

While the article mentions Atlantic Yards, unmentioned is that the expected size of the latter project scotched the Fifth Avenue Committee's plans for solar power on the Atlantic Terrace roof.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

March 29, 2011

On Brian Lehrer, HPD Commissioner says FCR's request for additional housing subsidy "was not a good public investment"

Atlantic Yards Report

Today on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, the host asked Rafael Cestero, who's leaving his post as Commissioner of the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD), about the report that HPD had declined Forest City Ratner's recent request for an additional $10 million in additional subsidies--beyond the $14 million for 150 units--for the first residentail building.

"One is, we have a set of programs that we use across the city... that fall within certain subsidy parameters that make sense for taxpayers and make sense for the city," Cestero responded. "We felt that the additional subsidy that Forest City was requesting... didn't meet those parameters and, frankly, that we felt was not a good public investment to go beyond what we have already committed."

"We want to see housing built there. We're all deeply committed to seeing not just the arena built, but to see... the affordable housing built," he added, "but we think the parameters that we've laid out, the program that we've laid out, allows that project to go forward."

Clearly, for Forest City Ratner, it doesn't. They want a better deal than other developers.


Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

Cuomo’s H.E.L.P. History Potentially a Pertinent Factor Vis-à-vis Ratner’s Atlantic Yards’ Dense Modular Construction

Noticing New York

It seemed worthwhile to take the Way Back Machine for a spin to retrieve for present-day consideration what may be some pertinent background vis-à-vis Forest City Ratner’s announced intention to build the tallest prefab modular building in the world and then, perhaps, to proceed to build the densest thicket of such buildings imaginable. (See: Friday, March 18, 2011, The Real Question to Ask About the Ratner Bait-and-Switch Approach on Atlantic Yards and Friday, March 18, 2011, A Ratner Bluff on the Not-So-Fab Prefab Modulars? A Second Opinion.)

A mere score of years ago, Andrew Cuomo was using modular to build some of his H.E.L.P. projects, projects that provided transitional or permanent housing for homeless families. This was back when Mr. Cuomo, now governor of the state of New York, was just the son of the then governor of the State of New York, his father Mario. (See: Housing for Homeless Approved, by James Feron, Special to The New York Times, April 24, 1990.)

Why is this important? Because Mr. Cuomo is the decision maker to who controls ESDC (the “New York State Urban Development Corporation” doing business as the “New York State Urban Development Corporation”) and could thereby, with relatively little difficulty, pull the plug on Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Mega-monopoly to send Mr. Ratner packing. He should.

Although it is potentially pertinent background, it should not be thought that Mr. Ratner is proposing to build in the footsteps of Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Cuomo was never building the sort of tall buildings or high-density project that Mr. Ratner is talking about and he did not push the envelope beyond tested technology as Mr. Ratner proposes to do. Mr. Cuomo promised high quality cost effective design (donated by contributing architects), he did not engage in a bait-and-switcheroo that started with a promise of premium starchitecture via the likes of Frank Gehry.

Click through for an interesting trip back to 1990. What was Michael D.D. White doing back then?

A note of disclosure: I was the attorney in charge of working on these H.E.L.P. projects with Mr. Cuomo at the New York State Housing Finance Agency which provided financing.


Posted by eric at 9:59 PM

March 19, 2011

The Week in Pictures, March 18

The New York Times

Atlantic Yards makes it into the Times' Week in Review slide show as the paper makes an attempt at giving the project a hard look.

In a bid to cut costs at his star-crossed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the developer Bruce C. Ratner is pursuing plans to erect the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 34-story tower that would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site.


Posted by steve at 10:10 PM

February 23, 2011

Gotham Gazette: CPC's New Domino plan prompts criticism of affordable housing policy, but loan recipients offer pragmatic support

Atlantic Yards Report

In Gotham Gazette, Brian Paul, a fellow at the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development, writes critically of the city's trickle-down affordable housing policies, and Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), the lead developer on the New Domino.

Not only has CPC been willing to partner with some questionable developers--the New Domino is not the first relationship with Isaac Katan--but it has focused on (mostly) luxury development on the fringe of gentrification, with its affordable housing lending concentrated in poor neighborhoods.

(A more detailed study in Williamsburg, from 2007, concluded that inclusionary zoning—which provides increased development rights in exchange for including affordable housing—has worked well on waterfront parcels, but not on smaller upland parcels.)

An AY parallel

In July 2007, I noted Some AY echoes in Williamsburg's New Domino plan (& hype). Paul's analysis suggests another parallel, that with ACORN, which argued that it was pragmatically pursuing an imperfect deal with a developer.

Critics, however, might argue that ACORN was compromised by accepting money from the developer.


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

February 22, 2011

ESDC in 2009 promised B2, first affordable housing tower, wouldn't be delayed; is hold-up due to search for bank financing or new subsidies?

Atlantic Yards Report

The first tower planned for the Atlantic Yards arena block is delayed yet again, even though, when the project was re-approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in 2009, the agency asserted that at least that building--Building 2, at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street--was on track.

According to the June 2009 Technical Memorandum:

These potential delays due to prolonged adverse economic conditions would not affect the timing of the development of the arena, the transit access improvements, the construction of the new LIRR rail yard, the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge or the construction of Building 2. It could, however, delay the construction of some of the remaining buildings on the arena block as well as the Phase II sites.

It's unclear whether the delay is caused by the unavailability of affordable housing bonds, bank financing, or both.

But as of August 2009, as the Times reported, the developer was already seeking additional affordable housing subsidies, beyond the standard incentives.

A month later, Bruce Ratner told his company's favorite reporter:

“They [opponents] are 100 percent wrong about the affordable housing. It’s another red herring. We’re required to build affordable housing and it has been my personal commitment from the very beginning,” said Ratner.

If and when the building gets started, construction should take 18 months.


Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

February 16, 2011

Quinn proposes one-stop shop for affordable housing (which takes Ratner out of the loop)

Atlantic Yards Report

If City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has her way, people who seek affordable housing in Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project won't have to go through the developer (and be solicited to be a project advocate).

Rather, there will be a one-stop shop. From Quinn's State of the City address yesterday:

In fact, if you were to rank the biggest problems in New York City based on the number of calls and emails we get at the Council, then housing would be number one.

We can’t keep New York City a place that is growing and diverse if people of every income can’t find an affordable place to live. And when I say a place that’s affordable, I don’t mean a place that’s falling apart.

So let’s talk about one of the most frequent housing calls we get. Even as we work to create more affordable units, New Yorkers tell us it’s incredibly difficult to access the ones we’ve already built.

That’s because in a 21st century world - where you can do everything online - we still make people apply for housing using 18th century technology.

If you want to enter an affordable housing lottery, in most cases you actually have to send a postcard to the developer – of each individual building - then wait for them to mail you the paperwork, fill it out and mail it back.

So we came up with a common sense solution – a one stop online application for affordable housing.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

January 11, 2011

Express support for affordable housing in Manhattan

Save the Lower East Side

Atlantic Yards is offered up as an example of what not to do.

Tuesday Jan. 11 is the deadline for community comment submissions (send to on SPURA -- the largest vacant land area south of 96th Street -- a rare opportunity for the creation of affordable housing, and a part of Bloomberg's plan to create or preserve 165,000 affordable units, including 60,000 new units to be created. How many of these 60,000 new units SPURA will contribute depends in part on what our community says.

CB3 is currently working towards a plan of 800 affordable units, and a total residential ratio of 50% market-rate to 50% non-market-rate. The non-market-rate housing will comprise

20% low-income housing,
20% moderate (<$100,000 income) & middle income (<$130,000 income) housing, and
10% senior housing.

In other words, the CB plan, if built, would result in at least 1,600 residential units, about the size of one EV block of six story tenements.

Whether the city will respect the community agreement is an open question. Look at what happened to Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: By "look at what happened to Atlantic Yards," we're not sure whether they mean the refusal to entertain the UNITY Plan (despite Extell's higher bid for the Vanderbilt railyard), or the "Community Benefits Agreement" whose "benefits" consist, as of now, of unenforceable promises and the whims of "market realities."

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

December 29, 2010

No Vacancy: Why Empty Condos Aren't Becoming Affordable Housing

Boom-time overbuilding left thousands of units vacant. But a city program to convert them to affordable housing has found the market uncooperative.

City Limits
by Diana Scholl

We've all seen the half-built boom-era condos and thought: "Wouldn’t it be great if this could be low-income housing? Everybody wins!”

So why hasn’t that happened yet?

In May 2009 City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City’s Department of Housing and Preservation and Development (HPD) unveiled the Housing Asset Renewal Plan (HARP). Politically, it sounded great. The idea was to kill two birds with one stone: Build much-needed affordable housing while at the same time heading off the potential blight represented by what Quinn described as “tarnished trophies of the building boom.” The $20 million initiative provides developers and banks incentives to turn unused condo units into middle-income housing.

In her State of the City address that February, Quinn said, “These vacant apartments now represent our best asset in the fight for affordable housing.” The original estimate was that up to 500 units could be made affordable.

Flash forward almost two years after Quinn’s prophecy, and not one HARP deal has been signed.

Avi Rosenthalis, coordinator of Right to the City-New York City (RTC-NYC) advocates more publicly and community-owned residential properties. “The city is working under the premise that affordable housing must be profitable,” Rosenthalis says. In Right to the City’s recent report on vacant condos, it argues for using eminent domain to seize vacant residential buildings and turn them into affordable housing, and for using tax foreclosures to facilitate the conversion of tax delinquent vacant residential buildings in low-income communities into quality affordable housing.

Right to the City is currently looking into vacant buildings that would qualify for city takeover. The group proposes that these buildings be turned into community land trusts—non-profit entities that buy and manage land for the purpose of providing low- to moderate-income housing. Homeowners within a community land trust are only permitted to sell their homes back to the land trust or to another low-income family, guaranteeing that the units of housing remain permanently affordable.

“We’re talking about Robin Hood-type options,” Rosenthalis says. “These are the most feasible options on the books. But it takes political will.”


NoLandGrab: Unfortunately, the only political will in New York City is for the reverse Robin Hood — taking from the needy to give to the likes of Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Why I don’t like inclusionary zoning

Market Urbanism
by Stephen Smith

An article critiquing inclusionary zoning pays homage to Bruce C. Ratner.

Finally, I’d like to point out that discussion of “inclusionary zoning” and “affordable housing” suffers from serious framing problems. Like “compassionate conservatism” and “enhanced interrogation techniques,” it’s hard to argue against something with such a nice-sounding name. Sometimes the language and idea of affordability and inclusion is even co-opted by developers using politics to argue for their harebrained eminent domain and massive public subsidy schemes – Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner won ACORN’s support for the project by giving them millions and the right to manage the affordable housing units that were to be constructed.


Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

October 17, 2010

Left for dead, local Acorn remnant revives activism

Crain's New York

ACORN, shill for developer Bruce Ratner has new new name, New York Communities for Change. This article looks at the state of NYCC.

Here we see that Bertha Lewis has departed:

Though NYCC's mission is the same as Acorn's was—housing, education, jobs—much has changed for an outfit better known for organizing than organization. Bertha Lewis, Acorn's longtime public face in New York, left to start up the Black Leadership Institute, which focuses on immigration. Accounting firm Condon O'Meara McGinty & Donnelly and law firm Hughes Hubbard led a restructuring that included forming two new nonprofits—one can accept tax-deductible donations, the other can engage in political efforts.

Help is brought in to try to clean up NYCC's image:

Mark Peters, the state's former chief public corruption prosecutor and a partner at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, came in to head one of the boards and make NYCC “bulletproof” to critics. “We've done a lot of work building fail-safe systems,” he says.

Someone still seems to think there will be 2,250 units of affordable housing for the Atlantic Yards project, even though only a small portion of those units are likely to ever be built.

An NYCC study expected soon will assert that major landlords discriminate against Section 8 tenants; lawsuits will follow. The post-Acorn group also remains a player at Atlantic Yards, working with the city and developer Forest City Ratner to ensure that 2,250 units of subsidized housing get built near the new Nets arena.

NoLandGrab: It should be interesting to see NYCC try to cash in on promises made by Bruce Ratner to Bertha Lewis regarding affordable units in residential towers that have evaporated from the Atlantic Yards project.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Missing from the Crain's article about ACORN's successor in New York: Ratner bailout, housing doubts

In a Crain's New York Business article headlined Left for dead, local Acorn remnant revives activism, here's the one reference to the connection between New York Communities for Change and Atlantic Yards:

The post-Acorn group also remains a player at Atlantic Yards, working with the city and developer Forest City Ratner to ensure that 2,250 units of subsidized housing get built near the new Nets arena.


  • the ability of Forest City Ratner to claim Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability, thus delaying the pledge regarding housing
  • the fact that a good chunk of the housing would be at or above market
  • the fact that Forest City Ratner bailed out national ACORN with a $1.5 million loan/grant in late 2008.

Posted by steve at 8:43 AM

October 10, 2010

Ad for Market-Rate Condo at 212 South Oxford Street


On one hand, this listing doesn't mention that the building in question will be across the street from the new Nets arena. On the other, it should be noted the building is an example of development that received state, city and federal subsidies and has delivered more than 50% affordable units. You won't get that kind of percentage in the residential towers of Atlantic Yards and likely a small percentage of the affordable units promised will ever be built.

Amazing corner duplex penthouse with full city skyline views from your own private rooftop terrace! This 1,818 sq ft apartment has 2 full bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms and large home office or convertible 3rd bedroom. Atlantic Terrace is a 10-story, new development coop that is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification. The apartments feature eco-friendly design including recycled materials, energy efficient appliances, and separate zoning for central air & heat and abundant light & air. The 7 duplex penthouses feature double height living rooms, Bosch appliances and spacious private terraces. Ideally located in Ft. Greene, just steps from Atlantic Terminal, this full service elevator building will offer a doorman, a gorgeous lobby, on-site underground parking, a lounge, a live-in-superintendent and a 3000 square foot landscaped GREEN common terrace! The units feature beautiful bamboo flooring, Energy Star appliances, and sleek recycled glass and concrete countertops and sustainable cabinetry that are MADE IN BROOKLYN. The monthly maintenance includes heat, cooking gas, water and all common costs. The maintenance is 34% tax deductible. The low closing costs of a new development coop create a great opportunity to make Atlantic Terrace your new home today.


Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

September 30, 2010

FCR's Gilmartin claims affordable housing goes to (four-person) households earning only up to $90,000 a year; she's off by one-third

Atlantic Yards Report

The errors just keep on comin'.

Well, you could say Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin explains affordable housing better than she did at a public appearance in July 2009, when she was unable (or unwilling) to describe the monthly rent range.

But you couldn't say she was fully able to explain it at a public meeting last night, given that she significantly downplayed the availability of subsidized housing to middle-income tenants.

She suggested that affordable housing for families of four would be limited to households earning up to about $90,000.

Actually, affordable housing would be available to those earning up to 160% of Area Median Income (AMI), or $126,720 for a family of four.

That means rents near or above $2000 a month for most affordable units (for four persons), under even the most optimistic scenario.

The follow-up

She was asked the definition of affordable housing.

"The definition of affordable housing as outlined by housing agencies," Gilmartin responded, noting that 100% of AMI is for a family of four is $79,200.

"What we do from that... families of four... making anywhere from 30,000 dollars a year to approximately 90,000 dollars a year would qualify for the housing based on those guidelines," she said.

But that significantly evades the actual configuration.


Posted by eric at 2:00 PM

September 7, 2010

From "Intractable Democracy": Tom Angotti on "No More Affordable Housing Scams"

Atlantic Yards Report

In Intractable Democracy: Fifty Years of Community-Based Planning, a new collection of articles and interviews by and with people associated with the Pratt Institute City and Regional Planning Program, there's an interview with former Chair Tom Angotti, now a professor in the Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.

Angotti, who writes pungently in Gotham Gazette about planning issues, including Atlantic Yards, and served as a consultant for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, tells his interviewer:

I've co-organized a conference that's coming up in a week called "No More Affordable Housing Scams." It comes out of a lot of dissatisfaction that what we fought for--and Pratt was really instrumental in this too--was inclusionary zoning, but that's not what we got. What we got was a very poor stepchild; it's not mandatory, and it's not truly affordable, because it uses the area-wide AMI--area median income--instead of using the median income for local neighborhoods. So it's been the Trojan horse that brings luxury housing to communities like Harlem's 125th Street, the Lower East Side and so forth, and people are looking for an alternative, looking for a way out of these "scams."

The issue of AMI also applies, of course, to the subsidized housing destined for the Atlantic Yards site. As officially planned, only about half of the 2250 units would go to families at 80% of AMI, the upper bound for the category the Daily News defined as "the real Brooklyn."

And it could be far more skewed for the first tower, which, under five of the six scenarios contemplated, would have 60% to 80% of the units at 165% of AMI.


NoLandGrab: Note that the conference Angotti references has already transpired.

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

August 16, 2010

HUD housing policy conference includes no affordable housing advocates

Bankers and academics will debate the administration's housing policy without help from, say, community organizers
by Alex Pareene

Brooklyn's biggest affordable-housing-free affordable-housing project makes a cameo in this critique of an Obama administration housing conference.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan has exactly the sort of resume that would impress Meritocrat-in-Chief Barack Obama. Degrees from Harvard, a master's in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and even a master's in architecture. He word for HUD in the Clinton administration, and then, most importantly, went on to work on housing and development for our nation's foremost technocrat executive, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Which should've immediately disqualified him.

The Bloomberg administration has a wretched and largely ignored history of promising affordable housing and never delivering. (Not to mention the worst failure of the Bloomberg era: homelessness. It was at historically high levels even before the great financial crisis and no serious attempts at ameliorating it ever developed.)

The Bloomberg housing plan was to give land to private developers, for pennies, in exchange for the promise to build affordable housing for middle and low-income families, and then just not do anything, at all, when the developers simply ignored their promises and built nothing but luxury units. This happened on the Williamsburg waterfront, and it's happening right now near my neighborhood at the Atlantic Yards. Those developments are the norm, not exceptions.


NoLandGrab: A reader points out that it's not true that only luxury units are being built in Williamsburg, nor planned for Atlantic Yards. The reality is perhaps even worse — subsidized units which in many cases rent at market rates.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

August 10, 2010

Bertha Lewis May Be Rethinking The Smacker She Gave Bruce Ratner Now


Based on this post from Atlantic Yards Report, it doesn't sound like the non-profit's constituents are going to be able to afford any of the apartments at Atlantic Yards.


Related coverage...

Curbed, Back in the U-S-S-Yards

After analyzing a whole bunch of reports, charts, stats and—oops, sorry, we fell asleep for a moment there—Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder writes that the first wave of Yards affordable housing might not be so affordable: "In five of the six scenarios contemplated for the first housing tower, the monthly rent for most of the affordable apartments would range from $2287 to $3790, depending on household size." Well someone's got to pay for the billboard!

Posted by eric at 9:12 PM

Orwellian, almost: that first Atlantic Yards tower most likely would have most "affordable" units at market rate

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) asserts that "Whatever the pace may be for the delivery of the many public benefits of the [Atlantic Yards] Project, the nature of those benefits remains the same."

I wrote yesterday that such a claim was poppycock--of course affordable housing and tax revenues arriving at a vastly slower schedule would make a difference.

Here's another reason why: the nature of those benefits, at least when it comes to the first subsidized housing units, would in fact change.

Remember, the Atlantic Yards affordable housing was sold to the public and supported by ACORN as a way to help the poor. Forest City Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun swore in a 1/25/08 affidavit (p. 5) in a case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review:

“Furthermore, pursuant to an innovative Community Benefits Agreement, the FCRC affiliates that sponsor the project are contractually bound to provide a wide array of far-reaching benefits to the historically most disadvantaged segments of Brooklyn’s communities…”

(Emphasis added)

Not only is that claim contradicted by the fact that a majority of the subsidized units would be unaffordable to ACORN's constituency, it's quite likely that the first building would be even less affordable to that constituency.

In five of the six scenarios contemplated for the first housing tower, the monthly rent for most of the affordable apartments would range from $2287 to $3790, depending on household size. Those are the kind of unaffordable rents that ACORN members have cited in arguing for the project.


NoLandGrab: But hey, don't worry, 'cause as Bertha Lewis likes to say, those affordable units will be on the same floors as the market-rate units. You won't even be able to tell which are affordable and which are not!

The chickens have come home to roost, and they've knocked all the acorns off the tree.

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

August 5, 2010

Is The Domino Sugar Factory M.O.U. Sweet With No Substance?

MultiFamily Investor

The Domino Sugar Factory site is the second biggest multifamily development project in Brooklyn behind Atlantic Yards.

In 2004, the Refinery LLC purchased the 11.2 acre Domino Sugar Factory complex on the waterfront of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at 314 Kent Avenue, for just over $55 million.

The Domino Sugar Factory and Atlantic Yards thus share two qualities: magnitude and location.

They also share a third point:

For years, a development team proposing to build a $1.5 billion luxury apartment complex on the former Domino Sugar factory site in Williamsburg has vowed that 30 percent – or 660 – of the project’s 2,200 apartments would be affordable units.

The 30-percent affordable-housing promise, however, has been memorialized in a “Memorandum of Understanding” that both the city and the development team of CPC Resources and Isaac Katan recently signed off on. However, as even the document notes, this M.O.U. is a non-binding agreement.

City officials have not articulated why they have failed to implement language guaranteeing 30-percent affordability.

There is no guarantee the property will now be sold to another developer, who could then ignore the M.O.U.

Followers of the Atlantic Yards saga and this blog must have a sense of deja vu: Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project is one such example. Its M.O.U. has come under fire for not legally holding developer Bruce Ratner fiscally responsible if the project doesn’t get delivered as planned.


Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

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 [], 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 9:26 AM

July 20, 2010

New Domino plan passes key hurdle with no essential modification; is affordable housing subject to same loopholes as with Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to big developments, you always have to look behind the curtain. And when it comes to the controversial New Domino development in Williamsburg--the second-largest in Brooklyn, after Atlantic Yards--the land use process, the affordable housing, and the urban planning all deserve another look.

Notably, the project has been justified because of the promised affordable housing, but, as with Atlantic Yards, the developer won't commit to building the housing in the announced timetable.

So the likely loopholes should be part of the public discussion.

And here's a number you haven't seen in print: $2.5 million, which is (nearly) the total the New Domino developer spent on lobbying in the last five years (details below).

I posed several questions to the New Domino developers, including whether the 660 units had to be built in ten years, whether the timing or number of units is subject to subsidy availability, and whether the developer--as in some Community Benefit Agreements--was required to put money in an affordable housing fund up front.

"I apologize, but no one is available at CPC Resources to answer this inquiry," spokesman Richard Edmonds responded.


NoLandGrab: Hey, at least he apologized!

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

July 17, 2010

Cool “New Jersey Nets” images

NBA & Basketball


Taken on a bitterly cold day in late January, not long after plans to build a new basketball stadium and high-rise complex on this site were first announced.

For a closer look at the Atlantic Yards project and its effects on the surrounding neighborhood, I strongly recommend Tracy Collins’ excellent collection, Atlantic Yards: [De]Construction of the Neighborhood.

Photo by Genial 23, via Flickr


Posted by steve at 7:58 AM

June 7, 2010

In Queens, a major affordable housing project involves multiple sites and competitive bidding

Atlantic Yards Report

Heard about the affordable housing project, unlike Atlantic Yards, in which public land is divided into multiple sites for which competitive bids will be solicited?

From a New York Times article today headlined City Proceeds With Big Middle-Income Housing Project on Queens Waterfront:

After four years of planning and delays, the city will start soliciting bids on Monday to begin building what could become the city’s largest development for middle-income residents in 40 years.

The Bloomberg administration, which is heavily subsidizing the project, is asking developers to compete to build 1,000 apartments on a once industrial strip of Queens land known as Hunters Point South, where Newtown Creek enters the East River.


Posted by eric at 11:06 PM

May 15, 2010

Public Advocate Asked About Jobs, Affordable Housing

The Local (NY Times Blog)
By Alison Stephen

The issue of affordable housing to be built as part of the Atlantic Yards project was part of a meeting with Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, hosted by the Brown Community Development Corporation (BCDC) at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church.

The BCDC leadership committee also expressed concern about the amount of affordable housing planned for the Atlantic Yards site. Emphasizing his role as a watchdog, Mr. de Blasio pledged to look into the Atlantic Yards project’s plans to create affordable housing.


NoLandGrab: de Blasio knows very well that the affordable housing component for Atlantic Yards is dependent on city and state subsidies. He called for an end to subsidies for the project during his campaign for Public Advocate. Although he probably wasn't thinking of subsidies for affordable housing, de Blasio has kept his stance on Atlantic Yards ambiguous. Don't expect him to do much more than "look."

Posted by steve at 7:03 AM

May 12, 2010

Another push to turn luxury condos into affordable housing, but cost is unclear; report proposes eminent domain for condos but slams it for AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Can 4000 empty luxury condos, including some in and around Downtown Brooklyn, really be converted into low-income housing owned by a community land trust or the New York City Housing Authority?

Several activist groups say yes, though their proposals--involving tax foreclosure and the use of eminent domain--are thin on the actual number of condos that might qualify, given that only a fraction are in empty buildings rather than simply languishing on the market.

Still, a report issued yesterday makes some policy recommendations that deserve discussion: development tax breaks should be suspended, and owners of buildings who warehouse their units for more than a year should be assessed fees.

The report criticizes New York State for using eminent domain "to pave the way for large-scale, luxury development projects," such as Atlantic Yards, the "vast majority of which will be luxury, market-rate housing despite the proliferation of failed luxury housing that already currently exists in this area."

(The report says AY will help" further the gentrification of low-income communities." By contrast, ACORN, Forest City Ratner's partner, contends the project will help fight gentrification. The Empire State Development Corporation says gentrification was already happening in the areas nearby.)

Also, given the large number of market-rate units yet unsold, the report implicitly casts doubt on projections by Empire State Development Corporation consultant KPMG that condo prices in AY towers would reach $1217/sf in 2015.

Here's some more news: money-bags Bruce Ratner owes the city $240,000 in back taxes for 80 DeKalb.

Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb, according to a Brownstoner tipster, is supposed to be 50% rented. If it's in tax arrears, I'd bet it's less that the building is vulnerable to foreclosure than Forest City Ratner maintaining cash flow.

Or maybe it's more complicated. FCR also missed a mortgage payment at 10 MetroTech, which is the main component of the block-wide complex that includes 80 DeKalb.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner has gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in handouts from the taxpayers, and he can't make good on less than a quarter-million in arrears?

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

May 11, 2010

4,000 new luxury condos sitting vacant

Units are in 138 buildings that owe city $3.8 million in back taxes; study recommends seizing and converting them to low-income or affordable housing.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Here's more evidence that the housing component of Atlantic Yards is a long, long way off.

There are more than 4,000 new luxury condominium apartments in the city that are sitting vacant and unused, according to a comprehensive new report due to be released Tuesday afternoon. What's more, the units are in 138 condo buildings that owe the city a total of $3.8 million in back taxes.

Right to the City-NYC, a coalition of community organizations, will unveil its detailed report, "People without Homes, & Homes without People" at a press conference Tuesday afternoon in Harlem with officials from the boroughs. The report identified and tallied units in completely and partially finished buildings in six neighborhoods with sizeable low-income populations: downtown Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, Harlem, Bushwick, the South Bronx and the West Village/Chelsea.

Across the six surveyed neighborhoods, 74 buildings with 1,159 units were completely vacant, while 190 building with 2,933 units were partially vacant.

In the 72-page report, Right to the City recommends that the city convert the empty condos to public housing or community land trusts. It even suggests that the city seize the vacant condos through eminent domain. In addition, the group said the city should suspend tax breaks for developers and impose fees on building owners who warehouse their units for more than a year.

“In a city where a record number of families are going homeless every night, this report shows us that there is an opportunity to turn some of these problematic buildings into real community benefits,” said Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn, who will be joined by Council members Melissa Mark Viverito and Leticia James at the press conference, in a statement.


NoLandGrab: And speaking of the homeless, we know Bruce Ratner's record when it comes to sheltering them.

Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

April 21, 2010

Orwellian, almost: mayor claims commitment from Ratner to build affordable housing in first tower, but it's really the other way around

Atlantic Yards Report

I finally figured out why Crain's New York Business last month proclaimed as news that the first apartment tower in the Atlantic Yards project would consist of at least 50% subsidized, "affordable" units.

Because Mayor Mike Bloomberg said so.

And, at the time, I didn't notice how "Orwellian, almost" it was, given that the mayor claimed that he'd gotten a commitment from developer Forest City Ratner, while the real news was that the developer could only make a commitment if he was ensured scarce city subsidies.

(Forest City Ratner has long promised that the first tower would be 50% subsidized, as in this 5/5/08 press release, also embedded below.)

From the press release

On the occasion of the March 11 arena groundbreaking, the press release from the mayor's office deviated from the official press release (both embedded below), in part, by adding this:

In the first phase of development, which includes four buildings, Forest City Ratner Companies committed that at least 30 percent of the housing units would be income-targeted. Mayor Bloomberg also announced today that the City has secured an additional commitment from the developer to ensure that at least 50 percent of the units in the first residential building will be affordable to a mix of low-, moderate- and middle-income families.

(Emphases added)

An additional commitment from the developer?

Forest City Ratner won't build subsidized housing unless there are sufficient affordable housing subsidies; that's in the Development Agreement, which allows for eight renewable one-year delays in the absence of subsidies.

So the news was really that Bloomberg has implicitly made a commitment to subsidize that tower.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, If Bloomberg's fortune comes from selling financial information, should he be trusted on such municipal issues? Not when it comes to AY

New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis, in a column yesterday (Mayor Bloomberg right on the money in supporting community banks) hailing Mayor Mike Bloomberg's effort to change a state law and allow government agencies to put their money into community banks and credit unions, wrote:

The movement will get a huge boost if New York City government follows suit, particularly with the added credibility supplied by a mayor whose personal fortune was earned selling financial information.

It's a plausible observation, but, when it comes to the mayor's performance on Atlantic Yards, it doesn't hold water.

Spinning for Ratner

Rather, Bloomberg has been more than willing to spin for Forest City Ratner, though he and his staff haven't completely gotten their ducks in a row. Consider the press release issued March 11 on the occasion of the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking.

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

March 29, 2010

City Hall News article accepts claim of ACORN Housing's successor that it's unaffiliated with ACORN; AY housing murky but Lewis says role continues

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder debunks claims by Mutual Housing New York (aka ACORN) that they are not an ACORN affiliate.

City Hall News reports, in an article headlined ACORN Housing Arm, Battered by Federal Funding Ban, Lives On that, yes, Mutual Housing New York will continue to work on the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal.

However, the article credulously accepts the explanation that ACORN Housing Corporation was always separate from ACORN and fails to mention crucial elements in the Atlantic Yards deal, such as ACORN's pledge to publicly support the project and Forest City Ratner's $1.5 million loan/grant to national ACORN.

Not an affiliate? See page 20 of the 7/23/09 report by the Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Whatever the politics behind the report, the documents cited speak for themselves.)

Steven Kest, Executive Director of ACORN, explains to a funder that Mike Shea: Executive Director, ACORN Housing Corporation, is among “the following people... working for affiliated organizations."

(Emphasis added)

The Atlantic Yards deal

The article states:

MHANY will also be charged with leasing and marketing the roughly 2,250 units of affordable housing built at the controversial Atlantic Yards site in Prospect Heights. Advocates say ACORN’s shuttering has thrown the Atlantic Yards plan—which has already changed several times—into disarray.

“One of the big issues of course is that nobody has any idea when this affordable housing might be built,” said Jo Anne Simon, a lawyer and activist with the Brooklyn Speaks coalition, which is lobbying for accountability at the Atlantic Yards site. “And of course ACORN was there to ensure not just that it was built, they were going to be managing that property.”

Bertha Lewis, the CEO of ACORN, said in an interview that she was unsure how the Community Benefits Agreement the group signed with Forest City Ratner would have to be amended to reflect the change in organizations. But she insisted that ACORN would continue to live on in some way in order to enforce the housing provisions in the agreement.

“I don’t know what we would have to technically do,” she said, adding, “ACORN still exists, and Bertha Lewis still exists.”

ACORN's not doing much enforcing, given that the Development Agreement requires only 300 units in 12 years.

And ACORN, not merely required by the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding to publicly support the project, gained $1.5 million from the developer to limp along, bailed out temporarily, and folding only after the groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

ACORN Housing Arm, Battered by Federal Funding Ban, Lives On

City Hall News
by Sal Gentile

The nationwide community organizing group ACORN may be shutting down, but its non-profit housing developer, ACORN Housing Corporation, lives on.

The organization, which manages and develops affordable housing units in New York, has gone through a re-branding of its own, changing its name to Mutual Housing NY. Ismene Speliotis, the group’s executive director, said that was ACORN Housing Corporation’s original name when it was founded in 1986.

Speliotis said the group is neither an affiliate nor a subsidiary of ACORN, but that it has nonetheless been hurt by Congress’s decision last year to ban federal funding for ACORN or any of its “allies,” a term Speliotis said is overly broad. A court has since deemed Congress’s decision unconstitutional, though the Obama administration is appealing.

“We’ve tried to make it clear to the government that MHANY is a separate entity, that it’s always been a separate entity,” Speliotis said. “If the law says ‘don’t fund ACORN,’ and then we say, ‘we’re not ACORN,’ and then somebody decides that we are ACORN even though we’re not ACORN, then it’s a bit of a problem.”


NoLandGrab: Sounds to us like ACORN is playing a shell game.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

March 26, 2010

ACORN's Original Sin

Critics of the expiring activist group say it was driven by the vision of Saul Alinsky. If only that were true.
by Jesse Walker

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN, will shut its doors as a national operation next week. A wellspring of activism for four decades, the left-wing group has gotten more attention lately for a series of scandals, from an embarrassing embezzlement case at the top of the organization to the hidden-camera videos that captured low-level employees doling out advice on how to operate a brothel without raising red flags at the IRS. Republicans hated the group, which they loved to link to the ideas of the veteran activist Saul Alinsky, a demon figure on the right. But the primary problem with the organization—a trouble running deeper than either corruption or ideology, one with lessons for grassroots activists across the political spectrum—is that ACORN wasn't Alinskyan enough. It may have emerged from the community organizing tradition that Alinsky helped to found, but it also rejected some of his most important advice.

Advice like not getting into bed with companies whose projects you should by all rights be fighting against.

Consider one recent financial relationship. As my colleague Damon Root has reported, ACORN allied itself with Bruce Ratner, the real estate and sports tycoon who is using eminent domain to seize and demolish private homes and small businesses in Brooklyn, allowing him to build a 22-acre development called the Atlantic Yards. Under other circumstances, ACORN might have fought against this sort of mass eviction, but in this case the group agreed to lend Ratner their "political might" and "political cover." (The phrases come from ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis, in an interview with the Regional Labor Review.) In exchange, Ratner would include some allegedly affordable housing in the plan, which ACORN would (quite profitably) help to operate. Perhaps more importantly, Ratner gave the group $1.5 million at a time when it was desperately short of cash. The results, Root writes, included "large numbers of noisy ACORN members present at every Atlantic Yards public hearing, press conference, and media event—including an August 2006 event trumpeting 'community support' for the project where Bertha Lewis acted as MC."

Atlantic Yards is the sort of state-corporate partnership that earlier generations of community organizers fought against, bringing pastors and housewives and union men and business owners together to stop the threat to their homes. Saul Alinsky battled urban renewal plans in neighborhoods ranging from Woodlawn in Chicago to Chelsea in New York. Whatever flaws you might find in Alinsky's political vision, I can't imagine him endorsing Ratner's land grab.


Posted by eric at 9:28 PM

March 25, 2010

What Progressives Must Learn from the ACORN Debacle

by Rinku Sen

I’ve been expecting it for months, but I was still bummed to see the official announcement: ACORN, a decades-old community organizing powerhouse, will be closing its operations permanently as of April 1.

I’m not [an] ACORN apologist. The organization had some serious quality-control issues, and hasn't always played well with others. The embezzlement could have been handled more forthrightly, for example, and in the struggle over Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards stadium project, a number of New York activists charged ACORN with cutting an inadequate deal with developers. I am struck now, though, by the ease with which a 40-year-old stalwart could be taken down with a flimsy, if concerted right-wing smear campaign. Some of the challenges ACORN faced are commonplace among progressive organizations and leaders. Loose internal oversight combined with poor media and communications skills left the organization prey to shoddy corporate journalism, all of which contributed to this outcome.


NoLandGrab: Activists don't think ACORN's deal with Forest City Ratner was inadequate — they think it was flat wrong.

Posted by eric at 8:54 PM

March 21, 2010

Public Editor: Times was wrong about ACORN, should have assigned one reporter to follow narrative (and what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Today, in a remarkable but late mea/nostra culpa headlined The Acorn Sting Revisited, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt agrees that the paper misled readers by describing James O'Keefe as presenting himself as a pimp in some heavily edited videos.

Hoyt writes:

Here is what I found: O’Keefe almost certainly did not go into the Acorn offices in the outlandish costume — fur coat, goggle-like sunglasses, walking stick and broad-brimmed hat — in which he appeared at the beginning and end of most of his videos. It is easy to see why The Times and other news organizations got a different impression.

...But I am satisfied that The Times was wrong on this point, and I have been wrong in defending the paper’s phrasing. Editors say they are considering a correction.

(Hoyt, of course, has never addressed the Times's failure to cover--and later, minimal coverage--of ACORN's bailout by Forest City Ratner.)

For Atlantic Yards watchers, perhaps the key Hoyt passage was this:

The report [on ACORN] by Harshbarger and Crafts was not covered by The Times. It should have been, but the Acorn/O’Keefe story became something of an orphan at the paper. At least 14 reporters, reporting to different sets of editors, have touched it since last fall. Nobody owns it. Bill Keller, the executive editor, said that, “sensing the story would not go away and would be part of a larger narrative,” the paper should have assigned one reporter to be responsible for it.

The same goes for Atlantic Yards, where the Times sent an AY rookie to cover the March 11 groundbreaking.


NoLandGrab: But the paper covers the heck out of the Nets' silly promotions, carnival hype and community outreach, all of which have questionable news value — and always forgets to mention the business relationship between the team owner's role in developing the paper's headquarters building.

Posted by eric at 10:30 PM

March 11, 2010

Affordable housing deal at Atlantic Yards

Crain's NY Business
by James Comtols

Thursday's long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for the Barclays Arena at the edge of downtown Brooklyn came with some surprises.

At the ceremony at the site of the vast Atlantic Yards development, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city has secured a commitment from project developer Forest City Ratner to ensure that at least 50% of the units in the first residential tower to be built will be affordable to a mix of low-, moderate- and middle-income families.

The developer hopes to begin construction on the first residential tower in the spring of next year and the second six to nine months later. Forest City expects work to start on the third tower six to nine months after that.


NoLandGrab: What Forest City expects, and reality, are two very different things. Forest City expected the Nets to be wrapping up their fourth season in Brooklyn next month.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Crain's whiffs on affordable housing

Norman Oder writes that Crain's surprise is no surprise at all.

Crain's New York Business thinks this is news...

Um, any all-rental building would be 50% affordable--that's the financing plan.

This represents "progress" only compared to the not-so-affordable plan contemplated for the first building, with most units at a very high Area Median Income.

Posted by eric at 11:01 PM

March 5, 2010

The iffy requirements for Block 1129 affordable housing and even iffier gap regarding construction over the railyard

Atlantic Yards Report

The incredible shrinking benefits of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards superboondoggle now come with amazing stretching timelines able to leap decades in a single bound:

At a press conference Tuesday, BrooklynSpeaks reminded us of requirements, first reported by AYR, that Forest City Ratner has to build only 300 units of affordable housing on the arena block within 12 years.

But the developer is supposed to build more, in the part of the project--Phase 2--beyond the arena block.

As it turns out, the Development Agreement, as excerpted below, requires 500 additional affordable housing units, to be built on Block 1129, the southeast block destined for interim surface parking.

How long do they have? 25 years.


Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

February 23, 2010

Catching up on the ACORN story: Brian Lehrer, Politico, City Room

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest ACORN news — really a non-story, akin to a new coat of paint on a termite-ridden house — still needs some straightening up by AYR's Norman Oder.

The ACORN story and Atlantic Yards, including my role, got three mentions today in the media, and all needed some corrections.


Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

An ACORN development deal lives on

by Ben Smith

Smith follows up on his Brian Lehrer appearance, but for some reason seems incapable of crediting Atlantic Yards Report. He does, however, shed some light on how Forest City Ratner views the metamorphosis of NY ACORN into New York Communities for Change.

This morning, WNYC's Brian Lehrer asked me what would become of one of ACORN's most prominent New York projects, a "community benefits agreement" the group signed with a real estate developer [aka "Forest City Ratner"] seeking political support for a huge, subsidized project in Brooklyn [aka "Atlantic Yards"].

A blogger [aka "Norman Oder"] opposed to the project, which would include a basketball arena for the Nets, speculated today that the agreement with Forest City Ratner over the Atlantic Yards could transfer to the national group. But an official at the company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the developer continues to work with what he sees as New York's renamed, but otherwise unchanged, ACORN.

"The people that we deal with still exist," said the Forest City official, noting that Jon Kest, ACORN's top official, is now a key player at the new New York Communities for Change, and that the developer will work with that new group.

"It’s ACORN by a different name — all the players are the same," the official said.


NoLandGrab: Apparently, "New York Communities for Change" haven't really changed anything.

Additional coverage...

City Room, Restart, Acorn Edition

The Atlantic Yards Report was among the first to notice, early Monday morning, the rebranding effort. New York Acorn had been engaged in the effort to include moderately priced housing as part of the Brooklyn renovation project.

NLG: "Renovation project?" Why didn't they say so sooner? If we'd only known they were just changing the wallpaper and replacing the cabinet hardware, we wouldn't have spent the past five years opposing Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 4:40 PM

ACORN By Any Other Name

WNYC Radio [The Brian Lehrer Show]

City Hall editor Edward-Isaac Dovere, and senior political writer Ben Smith join Brian Lehrer to discuss the reorganization of New York ACORN, which is now calling itself New York Communities for Change. The inevitable Atlantic Yards question comes up around the 9:40 mark.

Brian Lehrer: And recently, in New York, it wasn't only the right that hated ACORN, it was opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

Ben Smith: They were among the first to notice yesterday this transformation.

BL: And does this affect their deal with the Atlantic Yards developer to take a lot of money from them to administer community benefits agreements?

BS: Now that is a great question. I have not seen anywhere that Ratner has renegotiated with them. I suspect it gets Bruce Ratner off the hook in terms of even having any responsibility to any group. His community benefits agreements were always negotiated privately with the lowest bidder, essentially, which happened to be ACORN. And because it was a private agreement I don't really see whether Ratner is bound by it at all.


NoLandGrab: Hate ACORN? No. Have big problems with ACORN providing critical political cover for a terrible project in return for a contract — and a bailout? Yes.

Commenter Norman Oder adds:

I don't hate ACORN; however, having watched their role in the Atlantic Yards project (which they are contractually obligated to support), I've grown increasingly skeptical.

Oder also reported earlier today that it's unlikely that the reorganization of New York ACORN will affect the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

Posted by eric at 2:34 PM

While New York ACORN has supplied public support for Atlantic Yards, the Housing MOU points to national ACORN

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder wonders how ACORN's cosmetic makeover into "New York Communities for Change" might affect the organization's relationship with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

I wrote yesterday that New York ACORN, Forest City Ratner's key partner in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, has been renamed New York Communities for Change.

But is FCR's formal partner the New York organization, no longer extant, or national ACORN?

The point person for the agreement was always Bertha Lewis of New York ACORN, as noted in this city press release. Also, New York ACORN (most recently located at 2-4 Nevins Street in Brooklyn) certainly has supplied people to rally for the the project.

But the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in May 2005 simply by ACORN, as was the Community Benefits Agreement.


More ACORN coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The ACORN story goes national, some sunlight on the new organization, and lingering questions from ACORN foes in Congress

Well, the New York ACORN story that I broke yesterday (though the Villager had the gist earlier) turned into national news after City Hall News--which has led the investigation into the curious activities of the ACORN-affiliated Working Families Party--advanced the story.

Only Gothamist, however, noticed the Atlantic Yards angle.

Gothamist, ACORN Shuts Down, Rebrands

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Are doubts about Atlantic Yards affordable housing one piece of Bloomberg's revised housing goal?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News reported yesterday on Mayor Mike Bloomberg's affordable housing plan:

Gone is the mayor's first-term goal of creating 92,000 affordable units and preserving 73,000.

The 2014 goal in a report Bloomberg plans to release Monday is now 60,000 new units and 105,000 preserved.

Surely the delayed and more doubtful plan for Atlantic Yards affordable housing plays a small role in those calculations.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

February 15, 2010

Gentrification, "Brooklyn's Roommate Belt," and how housing code changes could produce more affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at some less-apparent factors shaping New York City's housing market.

You can't just blame developers, or Wall Streeters with cash to burn. One important driver of gentrification may be the housing code, which makes it hard for developers to build low-cost studio apartments, instead aiming at larger apartments and luxury studios.

Former Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) fellow Denali Dasgupta, now a Policy Analyst in the New York City Comptroller's Office, at the Dreamland Pavilion Conference last October contended that the cause may be less market forces than market failure.

And a revision in regulations might produce a lot more affordable housing, I'd suggest, leaving less opportunity for projects like Atlantic Yards, however questionable, to be seen as saviors.


Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

February 9, 2010

Award of No-Bid Mega-Monopoly Means Forest City Ratner Hopes To Claim an Awful Lot of Housing Subsidy, ALSO Without Bid

Noticing New York

Forest City Ratner is looking to glom onto an awful lot of housing subsidy with respect to its proposed Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. If you’re interested in knowing how much, this article attempts to close in on that figure. It’s in the neighborhood of about at least half a billion dollars, probably a fair amount more and the transaction has been set up so Forest City Ratner can blackmail the public for that money.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

February 5, 2010

City to Bronx Community About a Homeless Shelter: ‘Not in Your Backyard’

The New York Times
by Sam Dolnick

When New York City shuts down a 10-bed shelter in the Bronx because of bureaucratic bullheadedness, it's big news to The Times. When that same city kicks out dozens of families and shuts down a shelter in Brooklyn on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday so The Times's development partner can knock it down and build a parking lot... well, that's not news that's fit to print, apparently.

In the perpetual battle against homelessness in New York, the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center in the Bronx was only a bit player, with about 10 beds in its gym. But offering space for even a handful of destitute people meant something to those who benefited from a warm, safe place to sleep, as well as to those who helped provide it.

But this winter, when New York’s homeless population is above 37,000 and shelters are working to increase capacity, the gym now sits empty at night because city officials have ordered the program to close.


Posted by eric at 6:09 PM

January 15, 2010

Asked for current Atlantic Yards affordable housing plans, NYC HDC sends back resolutions more than three years old

Atlantic Yards Report

If developer Forest City Ratner and its government partners have concrete plans to build affordable housing at the Atlantic Yards site, they haven't yet made moves to implement them.

In a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, I asked the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for "documents that describe the current plans and timetable for affordable housing at the [Atlantic Yards] site, including the public costs/bonds involved."

What I got back was old hat: a collection (see below) of 20 documents, each a Resolution of Declaration of Intent, passed by the HDC board between 7/20/04 and 1/8/07, adding up to more than $2.2 billion in bonds.

They do not assure tax-exempt bonds for a measure of affordable housing; they simply mean that a developer may apply for such financing.


NoLandGrab: Once again, we guess we should just trust Forest City's "guarantee." Uh huh.

Posted by eric at 1:03 PM

December 8, 2009

603 Dean

Photo, by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

603 Dean Street near Carlton Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

This building, currently a homeless shelter, would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

The building behind 603 Dean, 750-754 Pacific Street, would also be demolished.

The vacant lot next to it used to be the Ward Bread Bakery.

As reported yesterday, by Atlantic Yards Report:

Residents in a two-building shelter for homeless families in the Atlantic Yards footprint just got some not-so-sunny holiday greetings, as the facility is slated to be closed by January 15.

A mandatory meeting at Pacific Dean will be held tonight "to provide details and help you through the transition," according to a message distributed to residents.

The buildings typically house more than 90 families. Some will be moved to permanent housing, others to another shelter.

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

December 7, 2009

Isn't It Time For ACORN to Stop Shilling for Ratner and Atlantic Yards?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In the wake of the ACORN scandals, ACORN commissioned and internal review of its practices. A report on the findings from that review was released today [pdf]. Executive Director Bertha Lewis said, "The report is part vindication, part constructive criticism and 100% road map to the future."

The report inluded nine recommendations for ACORN as a "roadmap to reform and renewal, if implemented in their entirety in concert with other measures to regain the public’s trust."

Here is recommendation number one from the report:

  1. ACORN should return its organizational focus to its core competency – community organizing and citizen engagement empowerment, with related services – and transition away from the provision of services that may be provided more effectively and efficiently by others.

Taking this to heart should mean that the organization—which has received a $500,000 gift and a $1 mllion low interest loan as a bailout from developer Forest City Enteprises and is contractually obliged to support and promote the Atlantic Yards project—should stop shilling for a developer and a project that is abusing eminent domain to displace low-income tenants, spending hundreds of millions of scarce public dollars on a money-losing arena, shutting down a long-term homeless shelter to make a parking lot, and yet, does not guarantee any "affordable" housing.


Posted by eric at 9:49 PM

November 27, 2009

ACORN’s Flagrant Eminent Domain Abuse

David Horowitz's Newsreal
by Matthew Vadum

The relentlessly sanctimonious radical advocacy group-cum-organized crime syndicate has become the leading cheerleader for the real estate development that is slated to use eminent domain to remove the poor people it claims to represent.

ACORN, which has long prided itself on fighting the so-called gentrification of neighborhoods as rising property values force the poor to move, has taken money from the project’s developer and signed a binding agreement forcing it to stand behind the project no matter what.

In the world of corporate shakedowns it is commonplace for liberal activist groups to use the money they extract from a supposed “donor” to fund operations, but it is very unusual for a group to take money in exchange for betraying those it is supposed to represent.


Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

November 19, 2009

New market-rate units at FCR's 80 DeKalb building would be cheaper than some AY affordable housing (as of 2006!)

Atlantic Yards Report

If you have any doubts that Bruce Ratner's economic analysis and financial projections for the Atlantic Yards project are bogus, check out the figures from Ratner's other residential project the next neighborhood over.


In July 2006, Forest City Ratner projected that the most expensive "affordable" studios in the Atlantic Yards project would rent for $1861 a month.

That was over market-rate then--and it still is. Forest City Ratner's new 80 DeKalb building in Fort Greene will offer studios at $1795 a month, according to the Brooklyn Eagle.

Given that the Area Median Income (AMI) has gone up since 2006, the rent for AY units would be higher now--and likely would be even higher when and if units are built.


NoLandGrab: Yes, you heard it right, some "affordable housing" units at Atlantic Yards would be more expensive than comparable market-rate housing. That's totally sick, considering that housing advocate Bertha Lewis declared that she will "fight to the death to get this project done."

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

How ACORN Profits from New York’s Eminent Domain Abuse

Bruce%26Bertha.jpg Big Government Blog

Damon Root explains how ACORN stands to benefit from eminent domain abuse at Atlantic Yards, leading ACORN head Bertha Lewis to declare, "I’ll fight to the death to get this project done."


Posted by lumi at 6:40 AM

October 27, 2009

How 2005 fudge from the mayor's office on AY affordable housing led the Times into a 2009 error it won't correct

Atlantic Yards Report

Back in 2005, Mayor Bloomberg's office overstated the City's role and commitment to affordable housing in Atlantic Yards, which found its way into an October 2009 article in The NY Times, which has informed Oder that the paper has no intention of setting the record straight, since the "reference to Atlantic Yards captured a specific moment in time."

[T]he Times claims that city officials were "signing off" on an "agreement" to help finance the Atlantic Yards affordable housing, even though the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), excerpted at right, involved only Forest City Ratner's subsidiary Atlantic Yards Development Company and the advocacy group ACORN, not the city.

The error, as noted below, apparently was derived from a mayoral press release that inaccurately announced the deal as a fait accompli.

The bottom line: an error reprinted is an error, even if it can be attributed to a seemingly reliable source.

The larger context: the amount of time the Times spent in responding to me--and rather defensively denying that readers could be misled--could better have been used to print a correction or clarification regarding the article at hand.

Read the rest of the article to find out how Times staffers put their heads together and still got it wrong.

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder has a point — maybe the article "captured a specific moment in time," but it still erroneously cited "The city’s agreement to help finance the plan." There wasn't and still isn't a signed agreement with the City.

If Oder wasn't burning his time reminding the Times of this fact, few people would know otherwise.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

October 24, 2009

Affordable? U.N. Puts a Questioning Eye on New York’s Housing

The New York Times
By Mike Reicher

Everybody knows New York City is an expensive place to live. But the United Nations wants to know if affordable housing is so tough to come by that it actually violates human rights.

The United Nations has assigned an official, “a special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing,” to check the city’s affordable housing. The rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, is to tour the city for the next three days with housing advocates and city officials to “hear the voices of those who are suffering on the ground,” she said.


Housing advocates will be taking Ms. Rolnik to the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn to see the results of the government’s use of eminent domain to seize property; to the New York City Housing Authority’s Grant Houses in Harlem to see how public housing residents live; and to the Bronx to meet residents whose landlords are in foreclosure.


NoLandGrab: "rapporteur - One who is designated to give a report, as at a meeting." Yeah, I never heard of that word before, either.

So, did UN "special rapporteur" on housing visit Atlantic Yards site? Not quite

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder adds clarity to this story.

So, is the United Nations "special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing," a Brazilian urban planning professor who's briefly visiting New York, actually going to see the Atlantic Yards site?


Actually, no. I called around and learned that Rolnik this afternoon is learning about displacement and gentrification issues in and near Downtown Brooklyn from her host, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE). But she has no time to visit the AY site.

The City Room post did not make it clear whether the host was a housing advocacy group like ACORN, which favors the project, or a group like FUREE or the Fifth Avenue Committee, which oppose or criticize the project.


A fact sheet prepared by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative for Rolnik's visit shows a critical stance toward AY:

Eminent Domain and Predatory Development
Developer Forest City Ratner is constructing 16 skyscrapers and a $950 million sports arena in the Prospect Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Besides relying heavily on the use of taxpayer subsidies, the Atlantic Yards project extensively utilized eminent domain, which allows the state of New York to seize private properties, homes and businesses, and transfer them to commercial developers.

Actually, eminent domain is planned but not actually used.

And maybe it's for the best that Rolnik didn't get to focus on Atlantic Yards. The housing issue would require her, for example, to sort out ACORN's role. That has flummoxed the New York Times, which has a lot more time to devote to it, and led some housing advocates to strain in ACORN's defense.

Posted by steve at 8:49 AM

October 22, 2009

State must keep Ratner on hook for affordable housing

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

The nine words in the Sept. 17 Empire State Development Corporation staff memo defy all previous agreements made between [Bruce] Ratner and the state about the developer’s requirement to include a sizeable number of below-market-rate units in the mega-project.

Previously, those units were an iron-clad promise. Now, according to the new language, the affordable housing is merely “subject to governmental authorities making available … affordable housing subsidies.”

Make no mistake: Ratner has always said that he would build the 2,250 rental units with the help of taxpayers, who pay for those housing subsidies as part of a larger goal of keeping the city affordable and its neighborhoods comprised of families of mixed incomes.

Of course, we are confident that a developer of Ratner’s reputation will make good on his prior promises to build the affordable units, which gave the project virtually all of its political support.


NoLandGrab: It's impossible to tell if whomever wrote the Brooklyn Paper's editorial was smirking or rolling his or her eyes when writing that last paragraph, but as far as we're concerned, Bruce Ratner's reputation is the precise reason why we've never trusted a thing about the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 11:24 PM

New state-Ratner deal has ‘clause’ for concern

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kutzman

The Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman scrutinizes the dirty little secret about Bruce Ratner's new-n-approved deal with NY State:

State development officials are drafting a new deal with Bruce Ratner that will give the Atlantic Yards developer a loophole out of the project’s main selling point: thousands of units of affordable housing.

New language quietly inserted into a Sept. 17 lease proposal between the Empire State Development Corporation and the Downtown-based developer now make the construction of the long-promised 2,250 units of below-market-rate housing “subject to governmental authorities making available … affordable housing subsidies.”

None of the prior agreements — including two approved general project plans as well as the Community Benefits Agreement that Ratner signed four years ago with several local groups — made the affordable housing conditional on any state or local support. Ratner was required to build the units whether subsidies were available or not.

And such subsidies are in very short supply.
If anyone should be upset about the change in language, it should be Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s chief organizer, [Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Candace] Carponter suggested. But under the agreement, ACORN and Lewis are contractually barred from saying anything negative about the project, and, as such, both maintained their optimism this week.


Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

October 21, 2009

Acorn’s Woes Strain Its Ties to Democrats

The NY Times
By Jim Rutenberg

The Atlantic Yards myths persist in this recent article about ACORN's ties with the Dems and the Obama administration, through HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan (emphasis added):

Mr. Donovan included Ms. Speliotis in a group of affordable housing specialists with whom he consulted frequently, current and former city officials said.
And she and Ms. Lewis appeared to help Mr. Donovan deliver a coup for Mr. Bloomberg in 2005 when Acorn endorsed a huge Brooklyn development he was supporting in the face of local opposition.

Acorn backed the plan in return for an unusual promise from the developer, Forest City Ratner, to make half of the 4,500 rental apartments that it was proposing — along with a new Nets basketball arena — available to poor and middle-class families at below-market rates.


NoLandGrab: As usual, nothing about Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized eminent domain-abusing Atlantic Yards overdevelopment is quite as it seems.

Two years ago, Norman Oder reported on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report, that some of these "affordable" apartments would rent above market rate.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

October 20, 2009

The Times mentions FCR's bailout of ACORN only parenthetically, claims city agreed to help finance AY housing plan

Atlantic Yards Report

In a front-page article last Friday, October 16, the New York Times finally reported that the controversial housing activist group ACORN had been bailed out by a $1.5 million grant/loan from developer Forest City Ratner, a partner with ACORN New York on the Atlantic Yards project.

But that wasn't the point of the article, headlined Acorn’s Woes Strain Its Ties to Democrats.

Rather, the information was presented parenthetically, a variation of "rowback," which former Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent described in his 3/14/04 column as "a way that a newspaper can cover its butt without admitting it was ever exposed."

Beyond that, the article cited "[t]he city’s agreement to help finance the [Atlantic Yards housing] plan."

That overstates the city's commitment, which is no more than conceptual, and should be corrected, given that it could mislead readers into thinking that the affordable housing--the major source of political support for the project--is guaranteed.

Just how long has it taken The Times to get around to reporting on Forest City's bailout of ACORN?

In this case, the Times wasn't publishing an unacknowledged correction, as is typical with "rowback," but providing information it owed its readers months ago--and without acknowledging the delay or that the information had been published elsewhere.

Consider this sequence:

  • the bailout occurred in August 2008
  • a Times reporter knew about it in September 2008 (and called ACORN's actions "incredible")
  • it was reported by me in December 2008
  • I sent an open letter to the Public Editor in April 2009
  • it was mentioned in a Congressional report in July 2009
  • the New York Post mentioned it nearly a month ago

The Times's vague formulation placed the bailout in context of the long Atlantic Yards fight, but did not mention the date it occurred.


NoLandGrab: Better late than never?

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

October 13, 2009


Its reputation suffering, ACORN is hampered from delivering needed counseling to lower-income New Yorkers - and it's not clear who will pick up the slack.

City Limits
By Eileen Markey

The ACORN scandal means it just got harder. The New York City office of the national group (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) that advocates for low- and moderate-income people is among the major providers of foreclosure counseling in the city.

In the organization's defense, national CEO Bertha Lewis highlights some of the group's local advocacy:

Lewis points to the New York affiliate's campaign to keep Brooklyn's affordable 5,881-unit Starrett City development from going market-rate; its lobbying in support of the 421-a program used to encourage real estate developers to set aside units for low-income people; and its record securing “economic multipliers” like food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit for 150,000 New Yorkers over the past five years as more indicative of the group's contributions to the city. Under Lewis' leadership, ACORN also supported the controversial Atlantic Yards mega-development because it included plans for affordable housing, a move that drew the ire of some usual allies.


NoLandGrab: Lewis betrayed "usual allies" when she got down with some unusual bedfellows.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

October 4, 2009

Washington Post article on ACORN's loss of foundation funding omits Forest City Ratner bailout

Atlantic Yards Report

The Washington Post reports, in an article headlined ACORN Losing Funding From Big Foundations:
The liberal political organizing group ACORN, battered by the release of embarrassing videos and allegations of financial mismanagement and fraud, has also been losing support from several major foundations.

The Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Bank of America have stopped funding the group and its affiliates over the past year and a half.

Who's made up the slack?

While not trying to be comprehensive, the Post cites two funders still on board:
One local group said it has no plans to change the terms of a $50,000 grant awarded this summer. The Collaborative for Education Organizing, part of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, sponsored a project aimed at organizing parents of District public high school students to advocate for change in the classroom.

...All of their funders are concerned, Kettenring said, but some have responded by continuing, or even increasing, their support. They include the Needmor Fund, a family foundation based in Toledo that gave about $150,000 a year to local organizations affiliated with ACORN.

Missing: a $500,000 grant and $1 million loan from Forest City Ratner.


NoLandGrab: We don't really think the Post and The Times, those bastions of liberalism, are intentionally burying the link between ACORN and the "do-gooder, liberal" Bruce Ratner, but it is one of those things that make you go hmmmm.

Posted by eric at 9:19 PM

October 2, 2009

What Forest City Ratner told Sheldon Silver (but not the public): affordable condos depend on "appropriate subsidy"

Atlantic Yards Report

As I've written, the affordable rental units planned for Atlantic Yards are not guaranteed but rather dependent on available public subsidies.

The same goes for the affordable condos promised by developer Forest City Ratner upon project approval in 2006.

Though the developer did not mention such caveats in its public announcement, it did offer such caveats in a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that I recently obtained via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. Beyond that, the pledge has never been memorialized in project documents, despite a 2009 update to the Modified General Project Plan.

This is part of a pattern; as I wrote in June, the Empire State Development Corporation, while the Atlantic Yards project approached approval in December 2006, never revealed how project funding depended on scarce housing bonds, and Forest City Ratner's 2005 bid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ignored the need for such bonds to build the residential buildings.

Click thru for Bruce Ratner's weasel words.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

ACORN's talking points vs. ACORN's reality: how ACORN members are clueless about the actual rents at AY affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

I already pointed out, in my coverage of the July 29 public hearing on Atlantic Yards held by the Empire State Development Corporation, that some people testifying on behalf of ACORN had no clue about the actual terms of the affordable housing agreement.

The written testimony, as I describe below, was equally uninformed.

At the hearing

During the hearing, one ACORN member, George Finley said that the deal with “Forest Ratner” made housing, including private houses, available to those earning $20,000 or less. As the housing chart below shows, very few households earning $20,000 a year would be eligible, and none for private houses.

(From the transcript: Now, in the first beginning, we asked for 50 percent affordable housing, that's rentals and also private houses, two-family houses and one-family houses. And they had to be for people who made $20,000 a year or less, less than $20,000 a year. Now just like Ms. Bertha Lewis got up here and told you that no matter what you hear in the public, we have the original contract with Forest Ratner and the downtown community of Brooklyn. So we going to ensure and assure that we have enough affordable houses and rentals and enough affordable houses that you can buy and you can pay for them before you die. You won't still be paying mortgages, you know, the rest of your life.)

This kind of misinformation misleads ACORN members and the public.

In fact, it's a reminder that, just as the recent subprime crisis involved irresponsible lenders and irresponsible borrowers, the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal involves obfuscatory and irresponsible sponsors and supporters.

Lewis's testimony

At the July 29 public hearing, ACORN CEO and Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis, in her aggressively theatrical style (at 1:30 of the video above), "And if you quote something, tell the truth and have the facts."


NoLandGrab: Back atcha, Bertha.

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

September 24, 2009

ACORN’s Advocacy for Poor Fuels Attacks from Right

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

The Eagle's managing editor defends ACORN from attacks by the Right — with a caveat.

First, let me make it clear that I am by no means a total fan of ACORN. I think that the Brooklyn ACORN chapter’s rah-rah, 100 percent support of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project is at best unrealistic, at worst self-serving.


Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

September 22, 2009

If Forest City Ratner has breached its deal with ACORN, why has ACORN maintained support?

Atlantic Yards Report

ACORN, we should remember, has stuck by Forest City Ratner even though the developer has likely breached the deal ACORN signed.

A reader points out that, in writing about public comments by the president of New York State ACORN, I left out part of the May 2005 Housing Memorandum of Understanding, agreed to "take reasonable steps to publicly support the project by, among other things, appearing with the developer before the Public Parties, community organizations, and the media."

The ACORN obligation

The preamble states:
As long as the Project will include the ACORN/ATLANTIC YARDS 50/50 Program as described in paragraph 1, ACORN agrees to take reasonable steps to publicly support the project by, among other things, appearing with the developer before the Public Parties, community organizations, and the media.

The 50/50 program

What was described in paragraph 1?
Developer shall develop fifty (50%) of the Residential Project as affordable housing in accordance with the ACORN/ATLANTIC Yards 50/50 program. Based on a projected number of units of 4,500 the affordable commitment will be 2,250 units.

However, just a week after the press conference announcing that deal, Forest City Ratner announced changes, proposing either an addition of 1500 market-rate condos while maintaining the same amount of office space, or reducing the office space and planning for 2800 condos. Now the number of proposed condos has been reduced to 1930.

As noted in Paragraph 5 of the MOU, if the number of units in the project should increase "for any reason that the Developer determines to be economically necessary," the developer and ACORN would try to follow the 50/50 program.

Have they done so? Forest City Ratner has agreed to build 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units, not matching the announced 1930 condo units. But that agreement has never been part of documents approved by the Empire State Development Corporation.


Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

September 21, 2009

Is ACORN's Atlantic Yards Connection the Real Scandal?

Gothamist's John Del Signore recaps today's NY Post ACORN article and points out that the story is only "news" if you haven't been paying attention:

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's quid pro quo relationship with community organizing group ACORN is public knowledge, but now that the group is on the hot seat for those hidden camera humiliations, the Post takes another look. For years, ACORN has rallied its members to enthusiastically support the construction of Ratner's $4.9 billion NBA arena, and in exchange ACORN would help manage tenants for the 2,250 affordable-housing units still planned for Atlantic Yards, to be built someday in the unforeseeable future.

ACORN also got a $1 million loan and a $500,000 grant from Ratner last September to weather some financial trouble. That's not really news for those who've been following the embattled project closely, but the article does feature a juicy quote from Patti Hagan, a Prospects Heights activist and former operative for ACORN’s political arm. She tells the Post, "ACORN is a corrupt organization that had its silence bought by Ratner." But that's not exactly controversial either, since ACORN's Director Bertha Lewis has herself admitted that Ratner essentially bought ACORN's "political cover."


Posted by lumi at 7:22 PM

The New York Post discovers (and downplays) ACORN's deal with Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that the national organization ACORN has been in the news, after a video sting operation exposed some unwise advice from low-level employees, the New York Post mentions, in passing, something far more significant: developer Forest City Ratner's bailout of the national organization, with a $500,000 grant and a $1 million loan.

The scandal has nothing to do with ACORN's housing management role, and ACORN's role in helping decide who gets to live in the affordable housing units involves running a lottery. (Yes, there are ways lottery marketers can ensure that certain groups are informed about applying, though it's likely Atlantic Yards housing would get much publicity.)

And it's not news that ACORN would earn fees for marketing the units.

The $1.5 million bailout is much bigger news, because it shows Forest City Ratner stepping in after major foundations, which had previously supported ACORN, stopped contributing after an embezzlement scandal.


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Group can $core on Atl. Yards

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Despite a string of scandals that recently led Congress to cut off its federal funding, ACORN still stands to make millions of dollars off its support for Brooklyn’s controversial Atlantic Yards project, The Post has learned.

The left-wing organization -- longtime boosters of the $4.9 billion NBA arena and residential- and office-tower project -- says it expects to be tapped to market and help decide who gets to live in the coveted, but long-delayed, 2,250 affordable-housing units planned for Atlantic Yards.

This, after Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner helped bail ACORN out of financial trouble last September with a $1 million loan and a $500,000 grant, according to memos.

The work would include community outreach and screening people to determine qualified applicants, and then scandal-scarred ACORN would be entrusted with overseeing a lottery system to choose who gets the housing. Ratner’s firm is expected to manage the housing.

When asked how much ACORN might make off Atlantic Yards, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development referred questions to Ratner, who said via a spokesman it wasn’t the “appropriate time” to make such “decisions.”


NoLandGrab: While Atlantic Yards beat reporter Rich Calder plays it straight, we have to wonder if the Post editorial page's hatred of ACORN will trump its love of Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Looking at ACORN's testimony before the ESDC: boilerplate support without any acknowledgment of doubt

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder fact checks and analyzes local ACORN head Pat Boone's testimony in support of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project at last week's board meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation:

...ACORN, according to the May 2005 Housing Memorandum of Understanding, agreed to "take reasonable steps to publicly support the project by, among other things, appearing with the developer before the Public Parties, community organizations, and the media.

So that's why Pat Boone, president of New York state ACORN, was speaking. Her boilerplate support deserves closer analysis.

Boone raised no doubts about Bruce Ratner's vague construction timetable, the lack of affordable-housing guarantees if limited housing-construction subsidies are not available, and that only 14% of the planned housing units will be available to ACORN's main constituency, low-income families.


Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

September 19, 2009

Tough week for ACORN

The Sports ITeam Blog (Daily News)

We now know that there are no guarantees when or if affordable housing in the proposed Atlantic Yards project will be built. This certainly doesn't bother Forest City Ratner or its paid-for ally, ACORN.

It’s been a tough week for ACORN and its chief executive Bertha Lewis: Conservative activists Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe (no relation to I-Team member Michael O’Keeffe), released secretly recorded videos that apparently show ACORN employees in Brooklyn, Baltimore and Washington advising them on how to evade taxes and buy a house to use as a brothel.

To the right-wing crusaders have long accused ACORN of voter-registration fraud and other sins, the videos were proof that the community-organizing group is a pit of corruption. Washington officials moved quickly to cut ties to the organization. The House of Representatives voted to deny federal money to the community organizing group (ACORN’s critics claimed has received an estimated $53 million in federal aid since 1994). The Senate voted to deny ACORN housing and transportation funds. The Census Bureau, which had planned on using ACORN to conduct the 2010 census, cut ties with the group.

But one longtime ally -- Nets owner Bruce Ratner -- will continue to stand with the bruised and battered organization. Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said ACORN has been a forceful advocate for civil rights and working families, and the company isn’t about to abandon its friend simply because of criticism from Fox News.


“We like working with ACORN,” a Forest City Ratner executive told the Brooklyn Paper in 2005. “They have that radical feeling, they really fight for what they believe in. We just love their history, how they started, and feel it really represents what we're working to do here.”

The final version of a state plan for the project weakened guarantees that promised affordable housing would get necessary funding, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Law by Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder suggest. A draft of the plan said state and city subsidies would be available to fund affordable-house units, but that language was deleted in later drafts. The current plan says the affordable housing is "expected" to be paid for with tax-exempt bonds from city and state housing programs.

ACORN has not protested; Atlantic Yards critics say that may be because the organization, which had been rocked by an embezzlement scandal, received a $1 million low-interest loan and a $500,000 grant from Forest City Ratner last year.

“We’d argue that ACORN has actually sold out its core constituency as there is likely to be very little ‘affordable’ housing if Atlantic Yards is ever built,” Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards’ main opposition group, wrote on its Web site this summer, “and what ‘affordable’ housing there may be will nearly all be UNaffordable to those ACORN claims to represent.”


Posted by steve at 10:40 AM

September 3, 2009

Bargaining for Brooklyn: insights into Vito Lopez's influence and how affordable housing lotteries work

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder adds Nicole Marwell's "Bargaining for Brooklyn: Community Organizations in the Entrepreneurial City" to his continuing education on all things Atlantic Yards:

[The book has] become surprisingly relevant to observers trying to understand political power in North Brooklyn and beyond, given the role of Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Vito Lopez.

Also, as I describe below, the book offers insight into the not always fair lotteries used to winnow applicants for affordable housing--an issue that should be on the Atlantic Yards radar screen.
Marwell also describes how housing lotteries work--an instructive example for those watching Atlantic Yards, given that, should affordable housing be built, it would be distributed via lottery.

(Actually, there might be multiple lotteries, or parts, given that half of the subsidized units would be reserved for residents of Community Boards, 2, 6, and 8, and ten percent of the total for seniors.)

Marwell writes that lotteries can be gamed somewhat--though, I suspect, given the intense publicity over Atlantic Yards, the chances would be lower.

Still, housing organization ACORN, partner with developer Forest City Ratner, would be under intense pressure from its members--the people who showed up, in many cases clueless and hopeful, at public hearings to tout the projects--to deliver the units to them, or at least to help position them for the best chance at such scarce housing.

Keep in mind that only 900 of the promised 2250 affordable units would be low-income (under 50% of Area Median Income, or about $35,000 for a four-person household), and that only a fraction of those units would be delivered in the first building or two.

Also note that even proponents, like former Empire State Development Corporation CEO Marisa Lago, have said it's highly unlikely that the project would be built in a decade, as officially promised, and that there's no evidence that there are sufficient affordable housing subsidies--or that the ESDC can require the timetable to be met.


Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

September 2, 2009

An F train express, East Side Access, and affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report goes slightly off-topic to explore the concept that improved subway infrastructure, such as running an F-train express, has an "important side-effect...: increased production of housing, and thus more affordable housing."

In other words, boosting infrastructure might be a better bet to produce affordable housing than unquestioning support for Atlantic Yards, a lesson AY boosters like Bill de Blasio (who also supports the F express) may not recognize.

(Could it be that there's no activist organization like ACORN behind the more generalized benefits of improved transit? Yes, I know the Straphangers Campaign supports the F Express, but they don't mobilize people the way ACORN does.)


Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

August 31, 2009

Weaker plan to finance Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards housing project

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

The final version of a state plan for developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project weakened guarantees that promised affordable housing would get necessary funding, new documents show.

Ratner has pledged to build 2,250 units of affordable housing as part of the proposed Nets arena and 16-tower project, but critics have questioned whether he'll ever come through.

There are many reasons to doubt Ratner's promises, but one of the more recent ones is because — get this — there aren't any guarantees of affordable housing in the state documents approving the project.

ACORN director and Atlantic Yards backer Bertha Lewis said she wished public officials would stop "mucking about" with the plans, but expressed confidence all the promised apartments would get built.

"Bruce Ratner's never wavered," she said. "I never look for anybody else to ensure these guarantees. We look directly to the developer to ensure the guarantees."

The only problem with that is that the only "guarantees" are laid out in the Community Benefits Agreement, which are essentially unenforceable, especially since ACORN is already in hock to Ratner to the tune of $1.5 million.

In an e-mail also obtained by Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC counsel Steve Matlin acknowledged there's no guarantee that funding will be available - but said that's Ratner's problem.

"Forest City will take the risk that adequate housing programs are in effect," he wrote. "The bottom line is that the affordable housing requirements do not go away if housing benefits are inadequate or are not available."


NoLandGrab: "Forest City will take the risk?" "The affordable housing requirements?" Hardly, since essentially, there are no requirements, except in the flimsy CBA. The risk is the public's, in that the state has approved a project largely on the promise of affordable housing that may well not ever materialize.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Daily News follows up on the housing guarantees, gets quotes out of FCR, ESDC, and ACORN, lets them off easy

Norman Oder follows up on the Daily News's follow-up of his story in greater detail, natch.

Well, it's nice that the Daily News, alone among the press, followed up on my article last Thursday questioning the guarantees for Atlantic Yards affordable housing, but the omissions and errors deserve attention.

The article, headlined Weaker plan to finance Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards housing project, was posted today though, I'm told, was actually in the paper Friday.

The Daily News asked the ESDC and the developer about the housing and their answers were reminiscent of that old Marx Brothers line, "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"

Posted by eric at 8:50 PM

August 27, 2009

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Documents Show Ratner and NY State Provide No Guarantees for Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing

Journalist Norman Oder, on his Atlantic Yards Report, shows today that there are no guarantees that developer Forest City Ratner will build the 2,250 units of affordable housing promised for the Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. There are no guarantees that the developer will build any affordable units at all.

Based on documents obtained by Freedom of Information Law requests, Oder makes it clear that Ratner is only required to seek funding through subsidies for affordable housing. The documents reveal that if the developer is unable to get the funds he wants he doesn't have to build the number of units he's promised. Ratner is not required to get the funds and there is no understanding by the Empire State Development Corporation whether there will be room for all of those units under the annual allotments of housing bonds for New York City and State.

The General Project Plan, which is the proposal's governing document approved in 2006, originally had provisions that nearly guaranteed Atlantic Yards affordable housing. But those provisions never made it into the final version. The Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) released in late June also does not include those provisions guaranteeing affordable housing.

The public comment period on the MGPP ends on August 31st and, presumably without those guarantees, the Empire State Development Corporation is expected to rubberstamp the MGPP on September 17.

"We've expected all along that Forest City Ratner and New York State have no documented guarantees that Atlantic Yards will include 2,250 affordable housing units. Now the evidence shows it is true: there are no affordable housing guarantees for Atlantic Yards," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "There should be a political firestorm over this from all of the elected officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, who've supported Atlantic Yards for the affordable housing, but we won't hold our breath on that."

The Atlantic Yards Report article, "Documents show affordable housing guarantees considered but discarded; no apparent effort to ascertain if housing bonds were sufficient," is at:

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

Documents show affordable housing guarantees considered but discarded; no apparent effort to ascertain if housing bonds were sufficient

Atlantic Yards Report

Big scoop here!

Norman Oder has been trying to get to the bottom of what assurances were made or discussed about whether or not the affordable housing component of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject would ever get built and, if so, when.

Documents he received, via Freedom of Information Law request, indicate that provisions that nearly guaranteed Atlantic Yards affordable housing were part of the drafts of the General Project Plan, but never made it into the final version.

These documents show that drafts of the official project documents included a requirement that the bonds for affordable housing be approved, along with a provision guaranteeing a percentage of the affordable housing in Phase II of the project. These requirements were dropped before the official vote to approve the project by the Public Authorities Control Board.


If the volume cap on available housing bonds, administered by the city and state, gets exhausted each year without room for Atlantic Yards housing bonds, the affordable housing component of Atlantic Yards could be jeopardized, or at least delayed well beyond the official decade-long buildout. Oder sought information as to whether this important issue was discussed before the official plan approval. One document shows it was, but the information was redacted. "The bottom line: they discussed it, but we don't know what they said."

So, did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), during its approval process for Atlantic Yards, evaluate whether there'd be sufficient tax-exempt housing bonds to meet the ten-year timetable for 2250 affordable units?

Documents received in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request suggest no; in fact, the state considered but rejected a General Project Plan provision that stated explicitly that approval was needed for affordable housing financing.

Thus, it's likely the ESDC board approved the project in December 2006--and will re-approve the project next month--without any assurances the affordable housing could be built as promised.

Moreover, the State Funding Agreement signed in September 2007 gives the developer a pass, asserting that a good faith application for housing bonds was expected to lead to their receipt--without evaluating whether such bonds would be available.

Also, it's not clear whether the ESDC can enforce any affordable housing requirements if the funding is not available.

Read on...

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

August 26, 2009

Mystery Downtown Development Going Affordable

Citing a NY Post article, Brownstoner is wondering what Downtown Brooklyn luxury condo building is "in talks with the city to unload their unsold units as affordable housing."

NoLandGrab: Hard times in the luxury condo market don't bode well for Atlantic Yards. Also, if NYC can increase the amount of affordable housing out of unsold inventory, then what is the justification for overspending on Bruce Ratner-built affordable units?

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

August 3, 2009

At what Forest City Ratner calls a press conference, the temporary alliance between Bertha Lewis and Marty Golden

Atlantic Yards Report

Only in the surreal parallel universe of Ratnerville will you find Republicans rallying with leaders and members of ACORN:

Though several Atlantic Yards backers (union leaders, Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City) made speeches for the cameras, the stars, so to speak, were State Senator Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) and ACORN Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis.

They make for some strange bedfellows.

The ethically-challenged Golden, for example, has long sided with the real estate industry, not tenant groups, in refusing to support the repeal of vacancy decontrol, which currently allows rent-stabilized apartments to leave the system. ACORN, of course, opposes vacancy decontrol and recently led a rally outside Golden's office.


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

ACORN, the disconnect in the crowd, and the absence of facts regarding affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explore's ACORN's cognitive dissonance, which could be found in spades at last week's public hearings:

The housing advocacy group ACORN sure inspires loyalty in its followers, given that dozens showed up last Wednesday, attired in red, to the public hearing held by the Empire State Development Corporation regarding the Atlantic Yards project.

What ACORN does not do, however, is keep its members informed about details in the Atlantic Yards affordable housing agreement. Nor do those members apparently feel obligated to get their facts straight. Testimony from its members on Wednesday was heartfelt, but often distracting, erroneous, or even pie-in-the-sky.
Also unmentioned: ACORN, by virtue of the 2005 Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding, is obligated to publicly support the project. Also, ACORN has been bailed out by Forest City Ratner, gaining $500,000 in grants and a $1 million low-interest loan.


Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

July 29, 2009

Lunch will be served...

Apparently there IS such thing as a free lunch...

ACORN, the Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) signatory and receiver of a financial bailout from Forest City Ratner, is calling supporters to rally for the project outside today's public hearing — free food and drink will be provided.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

July 22, 2009

Colbert and ACORN's Bertha Lewis Have a Chat

Via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Stephen Colbert has a chat with ACORN National Director and Forest City Ratner partner Bertha Lewis in a segment called Better Know a Lobby - Acorn. (Remember, ACORN is in debt to Forest City Enterprises)

From The Colbert Report:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a Lobby - Acorn
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford


Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

July 17, 2009

Would 40% of AY affordable units be above market? Market-rate studios in Brooklyn's tallest building offer evidence

Atlantic Yards Report

Seems like some 40% of Atlantic Yards promised "affordable" housing units are slotted to be more expensive than market-rate rents charged in other buildings. And you can't chalk up the premium to a "Frank Gehry design" anymore.

Three years ago, in July 2006, Forest City Ratner projected that "affordable" studios for the highest "band" (141%-160% of Area Median Income, or AMI) of those gaining access to subsidized units would cost $1861 a month. Given that AMI has gone up since then, the rent would be higher now, and likely would rise when and if units are built.

However, reports the New York Observer, when the 51-story Brooklyner opens next year, studios are expected to start at about $1550 per month. The studios will be small, 350 to 400 square feet. The affordable Atlantic Yards studios would average 400 square feet.

In other words, a significant slice of the subsidized housing--perhaps 900 of the 2250 units, as I wrote in April--would track or exceed market prices.


Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

NYT Misleads in Editorial on Census and ACORN
By Matthew Vadum

ACORN's deal with Bruce Ratner to promote Atlantic Yards and administer the affordable housing units is cited as one of the reasons that The NY Times has gone soft on ACORN's ties with the Obama administration.

Then there's the newspaper's woefully inadequate coverage of its business partner Bruce Ratner's ACORN-assisted land grab related to the taxpayer-subsized proposed Atlantic Yards project right in the newspaper's own backyard in Brooklyn, but perhaps I digress.


Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

July 7, 2009

ACORN's Lewis, interviewed unskeptically in journal focused on labor issues, maintains AY deal is a success

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder supplies a little fact-checking for an article devoid of it.

An immersion in the Atlantic Yards story can lead to some hard truths about people we consider professionals:

  • Elected officials repeat Forest City Ratner talking points and imaginary numbers ginned up by a paid FCR consultant
  • Elected officials miss the chance to pose tough questions to government officials (though they can recover)
  • Appointed officials actively mislead the public at an oversight hearing
  • A distinguished civil liberties lawyer makes campaign contributions to Brooklyn machine politicians
  • Wall Street analysts fail to ask tough questions about an issue that demands skepticism.
  • Academics avoid scrutinizing an organization that passes an ideological litmus test

The latter is the lesson of an unskeptical interview in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Regional Labor Review headlined ACORN’s Fair Housing Fight in Working Class Communities: A Conversation with ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis.

The section of the interview regarding Atlantic Yards consists of two open-ended questions and long soliloquies by Lewis, with no interpolation for fact-checking.


NoLandGrab: Lewis talks about how the Atlantic Yards affordable-housing agreements and Community Benefits Agreement "worked," but history, not Bertha Lewis, will be the judge. The project has yet to, and may never, break ground, and the disposition of that affordable housing, certainly 2,250 units of it, is very much in question. But one can't really say that ACORN got played by Bruce Ratner, 'cause they're holding 1.5 million of his dollars.

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

ACORN’s Fair Housing Fight in Working Class Communities: A Conversation with ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis

Regional Labor Review
by Niev Duffy

Q: Bottom line, why do you think [Atlantic Yards] worked?

BL: I think it worked because, one, we were very clear on what we wanted and we had solutions to what we wanted. We had a way to show this developer by spreadsheets and other stuff, we spoke development language. We actually understood what we were talking about, and we had a concrete proposal. Two, we were valueadded: one, in expertise; two, in political cover – let’s face it – and political might and our ability to fight them.

You know, you make an analysis as if you’re going to lose. But we would have put up a hell of a fight, and they didn’t want to fight with us. So you have to be big enough, deep enough, have the expertise, have a real plan. You can’t come to these folks with vagaries. You know, “We want affordable housing.” “When do you want it?” “Now.” “What does it look like?” “We don’t know. You figure it out.” You can’t do that. You really have to know your shit.

So that’s why I think it worked. I think we were the right group at the right time with the right stuff in the right place, and finally you have to have a willing partner. As I said, we’ve met with developers for 30 years, and they just have contempt. I’m going to give the devil his due. Forest City was willing to sit down, like I say, bring their bean counters, bring their lawyers, bring their experts and actually sit at the table with us and not talk to us like we were children, actually have real conversations. They wanted to find a way to do this.

article [PDF]

NoLandGrab: Bertha Lewis called Bruce Ratner the devil, not us.

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

June 15, 2009

Affordable housing in Atlantic Yards project could mean just 300 units in 12 years, 120 of them low-income (or ten a year)

Atlantic Yards Report

Over the years, "affordable housing" has become the big selling point for Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized Atlantic Yards megaproject. As evidenced by last month's public hearing, details on how much housing will be built when and for what cost are still pending. However, the picture that's emerging isn't as impressive as Ratner and politicians would have you believe:

One element of the testimony May 29 at the state Senate oversight hearing on Atlantic Yards deserves more attention: a city official acknowledged that Phase 1 might result in only 300 affordable units.

What he didn't say was that Phase 1 could take 12 years--after the delivery of property via eminent domain--and that the 300 subsidized units would include 120 low-income units.

In other words, just ten low-income units a year over 12 years would go to the prime constituency of ACORN, the organization that signed the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with developer Forest City Ratner.

Of the promised total 2250 affordable units, 900, or 40%, would be low-income, or up to 50% of Area Median Income. The rub is that Area Median Income, which is based not only on New York City but some wealthy suburbs, is a good deal higher than the median income in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Public officials and Ratner don't want to cough up real figures because the inescapable conclusion would be that the same affordable housing resources could be devoted to other projects which would deliver more badly needed affordable units more quickly.

Posted by lumi at 6:34 AM

May 26, 2009

Former Lehman Brothers banker to head New York City’s Housing Authority

World Socialist Web Site

In an article about the new appointee to the NYC Housing Authority, one resident in the Walt Whitman Houses points to Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-abusing Atlantic Yards megaproject as an indication of Mayor Bloomberg's affordable housing priorities.

Robert noted that multimillionaire developer Bruce Ratner’s project to develop a sports arena complex in the neighborhood would evict people from their homes.

“They’re building a big stadium to move the [professional basketball team] Nets to, with new condos all over downtown Brooklyn—look around. They want us gone. If you could look at all the contracts and the plans, you’d see that the developers have blueprints of all the housing in the area, including the developments, and they have this property divided up among themselves. The public doesn’t know what’s going on.


Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

May 18, 2009

Why Atlantic Yards affordable housing will be long-delayed, and why ACORN can't complain

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite the rhetoric, there are couple of important things to know about the promises regarding Atlantic Yards affordable housing.

First, should the project proceed, the housing will not be built on a schedule close to that originally promised.

Second, ACORN, signatory to the affordable housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the Community Benefits, owes Forest City Ratner $1 million and is in no position to complain about delays.

Today Norman Oder examines:

In bonus coverage, at "considerable agency time and expense" the Empire State Development Corporation FOIL's Norman Oder again.


Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

May 13, 2009

Whither AY affordable housing: how little can they get away with building? Were promises ever realistic?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder breaks down the affordability of Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" and the possibility that the government will not be able to deliver the subsidies and that it will take decades to happen.

So the project may have been approved with no inquiry as to whether there would be enough bonds to support Forest City Ratner's plans.

I can't be certain, but several months ago, I filed a Freedom of Information Law request, asking the ESDC if it had considered the availability of tax-exempt bonds in evaluating Atlantic Yards. I haven't gotten an answer. Each month I get a letter telling me they're still looking for responsive records.

Maybe the Senate hearing can get some answers.


Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

May 1, 2009

Brownstoner double whammy

Prepping for Something Big at City Tech

Brownstoner has got the news that soil testing is underway for "City Tech Tower," a joint venture between the school and Forest City Ratner. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the current plan is for an un-tower-like 350,000-square-foot academic building of eight or nine stories.

Development Watch: Atlantic Terrace Tops Out

While no one can reliably tell you when Forest City Ratner affordable housing will get built at Atlantic Yards, Brownstoner is reporting that the Fifth Avenue Committee just topped out the Atlantic Terrace project, directly across the street from the project everyone loves to loathe.

This place is great news in terms of affordable housing: Roughly 70 percent of the units are earmarked for low- and moderate-earners.

NoLandGrab: Case in point, if Bruce Ratner was truly focused on building affordable housing, his megadevelopment scheme would be well on its way by now.

Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

April 18, 2009

Quinn, Jeffries, Towns Look to Reverse-Engineer Development Bubble

City Hall

Here's a plan to make use of luxury living units now sitting empty after the housing bubble has burst.

Flatbush Avenue was once a hotbed of development in the new downtown Brooklyn. Glittering towers filled with pricey condos began to dot the landscape, rezoned by city planners ushering in a would-be renaissance.

Developers cheered that vision, rallied by the surging housing market. They even advanced into the heart of Kensington, four miles down the road, where yet another 107-unit luxury project began to take shape.

Now, just three years after ground-breaking, those plans have unraveled. The towers are vacant relics of the housing bubble. The Kensington project, not even complete, faces foreclosure and possible demolition.

Some see the failed projects as nothing more than monuments to a reckless development era. But others have seized them as an opportunity to try and reverse-engineer the city’s housing bubble by paring down the city’s condo glut and adding to its affordable stock.

Housing advocates and policymakers are piecing together plans to convert many of those luxury units into cheaper ones, either through subsidies, affordable housing programs or new tax incentives. Or perhaps even government intervention.

“There are hundreds of units of empty luxury apartments that developers are unable to sell or rent because of the declining housing market,” said Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), whose district includes some of the newest high-rises in Brooklyn. “It makes sense to figure out a way to convert those empty luxury units into affordable housing for the community.”

The plan is seen by advocates and even some developers as a creative if untested strategy for easing the city’s housing woes as credit tightens and prices plummet.


NoLandGrab: Maybe - just maybe - there are already enough luxury units on the market and no need to use public subsidies to create thousands of units for the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

Posted by steve at 6:54 AM

April 10, 2009

As AMI climbs, a significant slice of Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" seems to track market

Atlantic Yards Report

How much of the Atlantic Yards affordable housing would be, in the words of a July 2006 Daily News editorial, "real housing for the real Brooklyn"? Only about half.

The newspaper defined that cohort as those "on waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 vouchers." Those seeking Section 8 assistance must earn 50% or less of Area Median Income (AMI). Those seeking public housing can earn up to 80% of AMI. Currently, with the AMI $76,812, that means a four-person household could earn up to $61,540.

Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White recently broke it down, in a post pointing out that the rent for four-person households in the more expensive 900 "affordable" apartments--or 40% of the 2250 total subsidized units--would be $2304 and $2880.

That's at and above many market-rate units in the adjacent neighborhoods. Sure, there are two bedroom apartments that are more expensive, but they may be much larger or with luxury finishes. The Atlantic Yards affordable housing would be (nominally) designed by Frank Gehry, well-located near transit and subject to rent stabilization, but they almost certainly would not have luxury amenities, and they could be as small as 775 square feet.


Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

March 19, 2009

Atlantic Terrace rising

Photo, Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Across the street from the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise development plan, the Fifth Avenue Committee is building the Atlantic Terrace affordable-housing development, a stark reminder that if affordable housing was a priority for Atlantic Yards, the megaproject would probably already be underway.

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

March 5, 2009

Foreclosure Crisis: Q&A with Acorn Home Defenders

Storefront for Art & Architecture

Thursday, March 5, 7pm
Foreclosure Crisis: Q&A with Acorn Home Defenders
Moderated by Jose Esparza

On Thursday, Feb. 19, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) members in eight cities kicked off their Home Staying campaign, a new tactic to fight the foreclosure crisis. Teams of ACORN Home Defenders - volunteers from local communities - will employ civil disobedience as needed to help people who have faced foreclosure to stay in their homes until a comprehensive federal solution has been put in place.

A screening of footage from the first Home Defenders actions in NY State and a survey of the current nationwide housing crisis will be followed by an open discussion between ACORN and Home Defenders representatives and the audience on the legitimacy and effectiveness of civil disobedience strategies in this context.


The Storefront for Art & Architecture is located at 97 Kenmare Street in Manhattan.

NoLandGrab: Someone might want to ask ACORN why, when the bank seizes your home in a foreclosure, it's bad, but when the state seizes your home so Bruce Ratner can build a basketball arena, it's good.

Posted by eric at 3:05 PM

February 23, 2009

ACORN's Bertha Lewis Agrees With Community Opposition to Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn lets ACORN's Bertha Lewis make an important point:

"It's the most American thing you can do, is protect your home and protect your community."

**Please Note: We do not post this video as commentary on ACORN other than to show that Ms. Lewis takes the same position on homes and community that the opposition to Atlantic Yards takes (YouTube doesn't permit editing the clip). We invite Ms. Lewis and ACORN to join us in defense of homes and community against the community wrecking Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards onslaught.


Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

January 21, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Flasher

Adobe Flash Flasher While many people are looking forward, AYR today offers a couple of flashbacks.

Flashback: the lack of a schedule for Phase 2 was evident when the CPC considered Atlantic Yards

On 9/25/06, some two years and four months ago, the City Planning Commission considered a proposed minor scaleback in the size of the Atlantic Yards project. That was orchestrated.

So was a cut in the flagship tower Miss Brooklyn. “We really do believe the height it’s proposed at is really appropriate,” the Department of City Planning's Regina Myer said at the time. I wondered if that set the stage for a negotiated trim at a later date, and that turned out to be true.

But what's striking is how officials and critics pointed to the likelihood that the 11 towers of Phase 2 might not be constructed on schedule.

Flashback: four years ago, ACORN's Lewis scoffed at getting paid by Forest City Ratner

Since the beginning, we've wondered why NYC ACORN signed a deal with Bruce Ratner that wasn't in the best interest of most of the group's membership. Revelations last year that Forest City Ratner bailed out the national organization restores our faith that everything happens for a reason.

A little more than four years ago, Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), scoffed when a questioner wondered if the organization was being paid by Forest City Ratner for its support of the developer's Atlantic Yards project.

Today, Lewis is the chief organizer of national ACORN, as it recovers from an embezzlement scandal, and Forest City Ratner has bailed out the organization with a grant and loan worth $1.5 million.

The situation is not exactly analogous: national ACORN is the beneficiary, not New York ACORN, and the Atlantic Yards project is no longer pending approval but has gained state approval.

But Lewis's outrage at the question is belied by the organization's current dependency on the developer.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Bloomberg A.D.

The Observer
By Eliot Brown

It looks like NYC Commissioner of Department of Housing Preservation and Development Shaun Donovan is a shoo-in for Obama's secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But what are the hurdles for a post-Donovan HPD?

And part of the plan relied on affordability requirements in a few key mega-developments, such as the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn that planned over 6,400 units of housing, more than 2,200 of which would be for low- or middle-income families.

But with financing in short supply and the market for new development at a standstill, affordable housing production is taking a hit across the board. Development in the rezoned areas is expected to proceed far more gradually; demand for the federal tax credits has dropped as banks have no profits on which to be taxed; and large projects including Atlantic Yards are stalled with an uncertain future.


Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

January 6, 2009

WINTER IN construction workers should respond to the meltdown

A call for construction workers to unite with tenants, and the rest of the working class
by Gregory A. Butler

Union carpenter/writer Gregory Butler calls upon workers in the building trades to resist a push by contractors for deep wage-and-benefit concessions, and presents a novel affordable-housing plan.

In New York City, we have an easy answer before us – all those abandoned buildings stopped in mid build because the banks cut off the developer’s credit line!

We should demand that the City of New York use eminent domain to seize those abandoned buildings, use public funds to finish building them and turn them over to the New York City Housing Authority to serve as low income housing.

Suddenly dropping thousands of low income units into the housing market will serve to pull down overall rents, opening up housing opportunities for the middle income population.

What about Atlantic Yards, which is pledged to use union labor?

One thing we should absolutely NOT do anymore is to totally subordinate ourselves and our unions to the contractors, the developers and their trade associations.

Louis Colletti is not our friend – neither is Donald Trump – or Larry Silverstein – or Steve Ross – or Bruce Ratner – or any of the other developers… they are our class enemies, the people we have to struggle against to get what we need, both narrowly as construction workers and more broadly as part of the working class.

We and our unions need to stop being shills for their narrow commercial interests and their taxpayer subsidized megadevelopments!


Atlantic Yards Report, Militant union carpenter: unions shouldn't compromise with contractors or support Atlantic Yards

Norman Oder provides some context, and cites some of Butler's earlier writings.

Butler wrote critically in September 2008 about a lack of union militancy:
Although New York developers, building owners, not for profit community groups and governmental entities continued to increase their use of non union contractors over the next decade - and as wages and working conditions sharply deteriorated for those non union tradespeople, the unions made very sparing use of their members power on the jobsites.

For instance, only 2 union rallies were held in all of Brooklyn (New York City’s most populous borough) during this decaded - and one of them - the larger of the two events - was to support developer Bruce Ratner’s deeply unpopular Atlantic Yards luxury housing/office building/New York Nets basketball arena project in Prospect Heights.

Later, he added:
The general response of the Building Trades has been to tag along behind the bosses - symbolized in New York by all the rallies that have been held to promote unpopular megadevelopment plans - like the Johnson family’s Hudson Yards Stadium for the Jets on the West Side of Manhattan or the Atlantic Yards stadium/office building/luxury hirise development that billionare developer Bruce Ratner and centimillionare music producer Jay-Z want to build in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

December 14, 2008

With NYC's Donovan as HUD chief, affordable housing help likely--and for AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times reports today:
President-elect Barack Obama has picked the widely respected housing commissioner for New York City, Shaun Donovan, to be the secretary of housing in his cabinet.

...As chief of New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Mr. Donovan is in charge of the Bloomberg administration’s $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace Plan to build or preserve 165,000 units for to low- and moderate-income families, housing up to 500,000 residents, by 2013.

It's probably good news for cities and affordable housing. Advocates have called for much more direct federal aid for public housing and other assistance, including tax-exempt financing, to finance affordable housing.

As I reported in June 2006:
...Before Congress, HPD’s Shaun Donovan offered two proposals to increase funds available to the city; one would “allow for 'recycling' or 'refunding' of multi-family bonds after principal repayments or pre-payments of the bonds.” The second would involve “raising the allocation of volume cap for high cost areas” like New York. (As HPD commissioner, Donovan also serves as chairman of the HDC.)

New York City needs a lot more "volume cap," an allocation of federal tax-exempt financing for projects like the proposed Atlantic Yards affordable housing, which has been jeopardized by a funding crisis. Such an increase could lessen the expected significant delays in the AY housing (which of course wouldn't get started until the project moves forward).


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

December 9, 2008

Advocates says housing subsidy too high for CityPoint units, urge HDC to reconsider

Atlantic Yards Report

When the issue is affordable housing subsidies, an applicant shouldn't be asking for more per unit than has been established for other projects.

That was the lesson of a public hearing held yesterday by the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC), a first step to consider $400 million in low-interest financing for some 810 units--perhaps 20-25% affordable--at the the CityPoint tower planned at the Albee Square Mall site in Downtown Brooklyn.

Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), a fierce critic of the effects of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, brought several members to protest the CityPoint plan.

But the most effective testimony came from Paula Crespo, a planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development working with FUREE, who pointed out that the $1.9 million in bonds requested per unit was "extremely high." Some HDC projects have required only $150,000 to $400,000 per unit, she said.


NoLandGrab: Is it any wonder that we have a housing crisis in New York when the taxpayer-subsidized financing for each unit in an apartment building in which 20% of the housing will be "affordable" is equivalent to the mortgage for a prime Brooklyn brownstone?

Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

December 4, 2008

ACORN takes $1.5 Million from Ratner

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

The local chapter of ACORN helped get Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project approved. Now, the developer is helping out the non-profit housing group.

An ACORN spokesman says Forest City Ratner gave it half a million dollars, and is loaning the group another $1 million at a difficult financial time.

Critics of Atlantic Yards say the donation further erodes ACORN's integrity and will limit its ability to stand up to the developer in the future. ACORN's spokesman, Jonathan Rosen, says the assistance won't affect ACORN's independence, and it'll continue to fight for affordable housing around the city.


Rosen's statement prompted Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to wonder:

Well then, how come not a peep out of ACORN as Ratner halts his work, focuses solely on a frivolous billion dollar arena and rarely even mentions affordable housing, let alone builds any.

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

November 13, 2008

Willets Point affordable housing offers more moderate-income housing than AY

Atlantic Yards Report

While similar in percentages to the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal, the Willets Point plan emphasizes housing for low- and moderate-income families, while the Atlantic Yards plan offers a wider range of units, including those aimed at middle income families earning more than six figures.

The Times reported:
The deal requires that 35 percent of the project’s 5,500 housing units be set aside for families who make less than $99,840 a year, or 130 percent of the city’s median income of $76,800. The original plan reserved just 20 percent of the units for families of those income levels.

It's hardly clear, as with Atlantic Yards, whether there are bonds and other public funding mechanisms to fulfill the affordable housing promises.


Posted by eric at 2:21 PM

November 8, 2008

Paging Jane Jacobs? Panel takes on where and how to build affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report turns in 2,894 words about Wednesday's panel discussion "Housing New Yorkers in the 21st Century", sponsored by the Municipal Art Society.

HPD Deputy Commissioner for Development Holly Leicht said New York has to be maintain diversity, and pointed out that the city must support not only low-income housing but also housing for those of middle and moderate incomes.

(Such “workforce housing” actually would be a majority of the planned Atlantic Yards subsidized housing; the irony is that most members of the low-income group ACORN, which “negotiated” the AY affordable housing agreement, wouldn’t qualify for those units, as those seeking housing discovered at a July 2006 AY affordable housing information session.)
Leicht went on to discuss how a more transparent process has emerged in which the public gets a sense of the trade-off between affordability and density--a process, I pointed out yesterday, absent from the Atlantic Yards plan.


Posted by amy at 7:37 AM

November 3, 2008

ACORN: No Business Like Poverty Business

The New American
by Gregory A. Hession

"The essential news source for freedom-loving Americans," aka the house organ of the John Birch Society, concludes a scathing four-part series on ACORN.

The business of harassing business appears to be good business for ACORN. It routinely runs Jesse-Jackson-style corporate shakedowns, which often result in corporate "contributions" or partnerships in which ACORN is paid to provide "education" to the target. One example of many is Household Finance Corporation, which was targeted by ACORN and eventually ended up paying ACORN to run a program to educate people about mortgages and loan terms. It also gets sweetheart deals to join in land development and housing projects such as Forest City Ratner's giant Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, New York, where it will profit from marketing "affordable" housing units.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

October 31, 2008

At ACORN, Who IS Paying Attention to Atlantic Yards?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn explains how, in accordance with a signed contract, ACORN is holding up its end of the bargain, while Forest City Ratner hasn't and can't:

In May, 2005 ACORN partnered with Ratner to build Atlantic Yards' 2,250 "affordable" housing units out of what is now a proposed total of 6,430 housing units. That partnership included the following contractual obligation between ACORN and Forest City Ratner:

As long as the Project will include the ACORN/Atlantic Yards 50/50 Program* as described in paragraph 1, ACORN agrees to take reasonable steps to publicly support the Project by, among other things, appearing with the Developer before the Public Parties, community organizations and the media as part of a coordinated effort to realize and advance the Project and the contemplated creation of affordable housing. (Emphasis added)

Three and a half years later ACORN is still fullfilling that contract to promote the project in the media (albeit not aggressively) despite what is plain for all to see: Forest City Ratner either has no intention or no ability (or both) to fulfill its commitment to that "50/50 affordable" housing program. Ratner doesn't have the money to do it, doesn't have the land to do it, and doesn't even bother to show a model of Phase 2 of the project plan which contemplated the large majority of the "affordable" units. He also has no contractual obligation with New York City or New York State to ever complete Phase 2. Our surmise is that the developer has no intention of fufilling his commitment to ACORN.

Read more about how ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis appears to be "unaware of the current status of the project."

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

October 16, 2008

FBI investigates ACORN for alleged fraud

Officials say FBI is looking at results of office raids in several states

Associated Press, via

WASHINGTON - The FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election.

A senior law enforcement official confirmed the investigation to The Associated Press. A second senior law enforcement official says the FBI was looking at results of recent raids on ACORN offices in several states for any evidence of a coordinated national scam.


NoLandGrab: ACORN signed the "affordable housing" memorandum of understanding with Bruce Ratner. Should Atlantic Yards be built, the organization will be under contract to administer the "affordable housing" units.

However, if many of these allegations prove true, then ACORN might become too "toxic" to maintain its major-player status in NYC politics.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 PM

October 13, 2008


ACORN_Logo.gifThe story of irregularities in ACORN's get-out-the-vote drives has been making local news nationwide:

McCain's campaign has demanded Obama's ties to ACORN, an activist organization that runs voter-registration drives, be probed. Registration cards the group submitted prompted fraud investigations in Nevada, Connecticut, Missouri, and at least five other states - and included some with the names of Dallas Cowboys football players. Bertha Lewis, a chief organizer for ACORN who is well known in New York City politics, issued a detailed rejoinder with ACORN leader Steve Kest, saying status quo forces were playing up isolated irregularities to deter voter registration. Lewis has been co-chair of the state Working Families Party. She drew paparazzi-style notice in 2005 by grabbing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's face and kissing him on the lips when ACORN and the city reached a certain participation deal with developer Bruce Ratner on Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project.


NoLandGrab: For the record, Bertha Lewis kissed Bruce Ratner on the lips at the press conference as well.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

September 27, 2008

In tale of Giuliani influence, insight into the flexibility in size of affordable housing units

Atlantic Yards Report does the math behind the mysterious sizing of affordable housing units - an equation that involves Giuliani, a felon running the HDC, and Judith Nathan:

Harding's tale involves the 80/20 program, involving 80% market-rate units and 20% low-income units, which more closely resembles Forest City Ratner's project at 80 DeKalb Avenue, rather than the Atlantic Yards project, for which the rental towers--though not the ones containing condos--would contain 50% market-rate, 30% middle- or moderate-income units, and 20% low-income units.

As I wrote, though the state Housing Finance Agency requires that 20% of the units be affordable, it requires that only 18% of the floor area be devoted to those units, thus allowing for somewhat smaller units. For 80 DeKalb, FCR plans to devote 18.6% of the floor area to affordable units.

For an earlier incarnation of Atlantic Yards, as I wrote 7/15/06, the affordable units, at an average of 675 square feet, would represent about 33% of the total number of units but only 22% of the housing square footage. Now, the 2250 units would represent 35% of the 6430 total units, and, at 675 sf, they'd represent about 24% of the 6.79 million square feet of housing.


Posted by amy at 11:29 AM

September 19, 2008

475 Dean


Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

475 Dean Street near 6th Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

This building would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

August 21, 2008

The reality behind FCR's 80 DeKalb deal (and the implication for AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posits that the stories being written about Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb financing are missing the real story.

The FCR project, along with three others, was selected among 14 projects for the state agency's bonds, because "we view [the 80 DeKalb project] as an efficient use of a scarce resource," said Priscilla Almodovar, President and Chief Executive Officer of HFA. "[T]he developer agreed to limit its allocation to $1.5 million per low-income unit--lower than our $1.7 million ceiling--and agreed to permanent affordability for its low-income units rather than for just 30 years.

The larger question is whether a similar fate awaits Atlantic Yards. Though the financing of Atlantic Yards remains murky, it's reasonable to speculate that, given the significant amount of subsidies and tax breaks for Atlantic Yards, plus the advantage of eminent domain, Forest City Ratner may be able to successfully compete for the scarce pool of tax exempt bonds offered by the city Housing Development Corporation by asking for somewhat less per unit than other 50/30/20 projects that include 50% market-rate units, 30% middle-income units, and 20% low-income units.

And that's an argument for a full accounting of subsidies and public costs for AY, before such a decision is made.


NoLandGrab: As usual, Oder offers up some helpful background, elucidates the subsidies, and wraps it all up in the context of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Ratner announces financing for 80 DeKalb

80DeKalb-2.JPG, Forest City Closes $167 Million Financing for Downtown Brooklyn Residential Building

The full press release from Forest City Ratner announces that the company "has closed on $167 million in construction financing for 80 DeKalb, a 335,000-square-foot residential building on DeKalb Avenue in downtown Brooklyn."

The Real Estate Observer, New Glassy Tower to Join Fort Greene Mini-City

The glass building will join the Forte Condo (at Ashland Place and Fulton Street), and the soon-to-be-built Danspace project across the street to form a small mini-city on the edge of Fort Greene, bordering Downtown Brooklyn -- but a taste of the 16-skyscraper-and-arena Atlantic Yards complex to come.
[A]ccording to the release.

"The New York State Housing Finance Agency selected 80 DeKalb to receive $109.5 million in tax-exempt bonds and $27.5 million in taxable bonds. The lending institutions involved in the transaction were Wachovia Bank, N.A., and Helaba (both co-agents providing the credit enhancement to the $137 million in bonds issued by HFA), as well as the National Electrical Benefit Fund, which provided a $10 million mezzanine loan and $20 million of credit enhancement."

Boring as that might seem, it's an achievement to get that sort of financing in this market, in which many of the Wall Street shops have stopped lending, and borrowers are forced to approach more traditional, and more conservative, balance sheet lenders.

NoLandGrab: It's less of an achievement when the state housing authority is backing most of the bonds. Also, the word on the street is that Ratner had to get the bonds from the State because the City of New York is more inclined to provide tax-exempt bond-financing for projects with a higher component of affordable units (50/30/20).

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Funding Set For Ratner’s First Brooklyn Apt. Building

Unlike most 80/20 developments, 80 DeKalb will remain affordable for 99 years, according to Ratner. For the initial 35 years, 62 affordable units will be made available for households earning up to 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) and 11 units for households with incomes up to 40 percent of AMI. For the remaining years, all of the affordable units will be made available for households earning up to 90 percent of AMI.

NoLandGrab: For those trying to wrap your head around all of the fanfare, this means that after 35 years the income-ceiling for applicants for the "affordable units" will be raised for the remainder of the program. Bottom line, it's less affordability for the long term.

The Brooklyn Paper, Ratner’s first tenants

This head-scratching explanation is probably our favorite bit of spin of day:

Some critics have argued that state affordable housing bonds are too generous. Indeed, the state’s $109.5-million tax-free financing will create just 73 afforable units — a cost of $1.5 million per apartment.

But a spokesman for the Housing Finance Agency said such back-of-the-envelope calculations miss the larger point.

“We don’t finance only the affordable units in a building; we finance the entire building because the developer has committed to having affordable units in it,” said the spokesman, Phil Lentz. “So our contribution is actually $300,000 per unit. We don’t finance buildings that are exclusively market rate.”

NoLandGrab: So NY State justifies its generosity by reminding taxpayers that we are not only helping to finance the affordable units but the market-rate units too!?!

One other note: Chuck Ratner got it right in the press release where he stated, "It's also a tribute to our New York team and the relationships they have built in both the public-sector and private-sector financing community." Though this deal closed in a shaky lending environment, the backbone of the deal, the state-backed tax-exempt financing, couldn't have happened without the Ratners' deep political ties.

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

July 24, 2008


Noticing New York

Michael White digs into the recently unearthed ACORN scandal — and scores points for a witty headline.

Do you know about ACORN’s top-management cover-up of a million dollar embezzlement? The cover-up discovered just a few days ago lasted for eight years. I am figuring our local state and city government officials must now be in a tizzy evaluating what to do about the national housing and advocacy group.

As with any cover-up, the standard questions need to be trotted out for the standard basic investigative due diligence. Who knew what, and when did they know it?

Who needs to be asking those questions? Any government agency that has been doing business with ACORN, is currently doing business with ACORN, or may have planned to do business with ACORN.

In New York, we’ve definitely got some of those agencies. And in New York, there is another set of impinging questions that must, perforce, be examined concerning ACORN and the proposed $4.4 billion Atlantic Yards megadevelopment which ACORN has complicitly helped design as a subsidy sponge. A bunch of New York State agencies are going to have to ask these questions and the rest of us in the broader New York community are going to be wanting answers too.


Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

July 18, 2008

National ACORN's (episode of) scandal, and NY ACORN's dubious Brooklyn stadium deal (in 2000)

Atlantic Yards Report

ACORN founder [and former national director] Wade Rathke wrote 3/1/07 on his blog about AY:

Surprisingly, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the divide among the Park Slope liberals and others who were unwilling to join us in making the diversity of the community the core issue.

As Norman Oder examines ACORN NYC's role in a previous Brooklyn stadium controversy, you gotta worry that Rathke's head scratching might be genuine; if so, he missed the part about how Bertha Lewis cut a deal and sold out her coalition partners, who, incidentally, fought on.

The result was a win-win for everyone involved: local stakeholders benefitted from the renovation of the Parade Grounds, the Mets built the minor league ballpark in Coney Island (a location much better served by public transporation) and jobs were created.

But Bertha Lewis's penchant for being a solo broker for the community left one journalist a little suspicious. From Oder's interview with Neil deMause:

Q. Was there a parallel with the Atlantic Yards affordable housing agreement signed by ACORN?

A. It just happened much earlier in the Nets deal. She sold out or bought in, depending on how you want to put it, very early. Ok, fine, if you’re going to give me what I want, then I’ll go for it. There are arguments for doing CBAs [Community Benefits Agreements] where, if developer does do enough things for the community, then that’s OK, people buy in.

The problem of course is that Bertha didn’t get together with everybody in the community and say, OK, let’s figure out what the community wants, and let’s present a list of demands to Ratner and, until you make us all happy, we’re not going to go along with it. It’s that I’m going to cut a deal for myself and everybody else is then the enemy.

So, yeah, speaking of people who’ve lost credibility. I mean, ACORN’s done a lot of good things, and I’m sure Bertha has done good things in her time, but she definitely has this capacity for selling her support for projects based more on narrow self-interest of her and the organization rather than what’s good for community or the city. That’s disappointing, to say the least.


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that ACORN stands to profit financially from Atlantic Yards by acting as the administrator for the project's affordable housing component.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

July 16, 2008

I.R.S. Could Crimp Bloomberg's Big Plans

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Observer's lead real estate reporter takes an in-depth look at New York City's furious efforts to preserve tax-exempt financing for its favorite son, Bruce Ratner.

As the Bloomberg administration scrambles to get its development projects in the ground amid a slowing economy and a waning political term, two major planned initiatives the city has championed face a formidable hurdle: the Internal Revenue Service.

For the financing plan for the Atlantic Yards housing and sports arena complex in Brooklyn, and for one being considered for the planned middle-income-housing mega-complex at Hunter’s Point South in Queens, the city would need a favorable ruling from the I.R.S. or face substantially higher costs for both projects. Negative rulings from the federal agency could result in tens of millions of dollars in added costs, putting up new obstacles to major developments that have already seen ambitions scaled back.

For both projects, the city wants to use tax-exempt financing, a method that lowers costs substantially—perhaps more than 15 percent—with the bulk of the savings coming out of federal tax revenues.

And, at least in the case of Atlantic Yards, the I.R.S. is rather wary, as it has called the financing method a “loophole” that it has ordered closed.


NoLandGrab: We haven't rooted this hard for the IRS since "The Untouchables."

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

July 13, 2008

Funds Misappropriated at 2 Nonprofit Groups

The NY Times
By Stephanie Strom

NYC ACORN, the group that signed the Atlantic Yards affordable housing pact with Bruce Ratner, and which professes to advocate for the underserved, has been concealing a dark secret for several years. Even after the discovery of the misappropriation of nearly a million dollars by the founder's brother, the national organization decided not to disclose the fact to its own board and continued to keep the brother on the payroll.

NYC ACORN Director Bertha Lewis, who signed the housing agreement with Bruce Ratner, is now interim national director.

A whistle-blower forced Acorn to disclose the embezzlement, which involved the brother of the organization’s founder, Wade Rathke.

The brother, Dale Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from Acorn and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000, Acorn officials said, but a small group of executives decided to keep the information from almost all of the group’s board members and not to alert law enforcement.

Dale Rathke remained on Acorn’s payroll until a month ago, when disclosure of his theft by foundations and other donors forced the organization to dismiss him.

“We thought it best at the time to protect the organization, as well as to get the funds back into the organization, to deal with it in-house,” said Maude Hurd, president of Acorn. “It was a judgment call at the time, and looking back, people can agree or disagree with it, but we did what we thought was right.”

The amount Dale Rathke embezzled, $948,607.50, was carried as a loan on the books of Citizens Consulting Inc., which provides bookkeeping, accounting and other financial management services to Acorn and many of its affiliated entities.

Wade Rathke said the organization had signed a restitution agreement with his brother in which his family agreed to repay the amount embezzled in exchange for confidentiality.

Wade Rathke stepped down as Acorn’s chief organizer on June 2, the same day his brother left, but he remains chief organizer for Acorn International L.L.C.

He said the decision to keep the matter secret was not made to protect his brother but because word of the embezzlement would have put a “weapon” into the hands of enemies of Acorn, a liberal group that is a frequent target of conservatives who object to its often strident advocacy on behalf of low- and moderate-income families and workers.

Wade Rathke said he learned of the problem when an employee of Citizens Consulting alerted him about suspicious credit card transactions. An internal investigation uncovered inappropriate charges on the cards that led back to his brother.

“Clearly, this was an uncomfortable, conflicting and humiliating situation as far as my family and I were concerned,” he said, “and so the real decisions on how to handle it had to be made by others.”

The executive director of New York Acorn, Bertha Lewis, who has been named director of an interim management committee set up to run the national group’s day-to-day operations, said Dale Rathke was paid about $38,000 a year but that none of that money was used to pay back Acorn.


NoLandGrab: This makes you wonder what else ACORN has been keeping from its constituents and supporters. Keep in mind that ACORN stands to profit financially from Atlantic Yards by acting as the administrator for the project's affordable housing component.

Posted by lumi at 4:28 PM

June 26, 2008

ACORN on Displacing Residents and Businesses ...In Coney Island

This was brought to our attention by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

From Crain's:

...“Here we go again,” said Bertha Lewis, executive director of Acorn. “The administration is proposing yet another mega-project that will displace residents and small business.”...

Ms. Lewis is talking about Coney Island.

Posted by lumi at 4:27 AM

June 12, 2008

As Cranes Fall and People Die

Economic Development for Whom?
by Judith Levine

In an essay decrying the conventional wisdom that in a construction boom, accidents will happen, Brooklyn author Judith Levine fingers a ubiquitous bogeyman.

Developers—like Forest City Ratner, preparing for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards—demolish affordable housing to build “sub-market-rate” housing, which is unaffordable to most New Yorkers. Meanwhile, the City announces that budget cuts will force 15% rent rises in public housing and the closing of community centers and programs.

Perhaps City Hall has always been a wholly owned subsidiary of the equivalent of Forest City Ratner. Perhaps there’s never been a time when New Yorkers didn’t wake up to the sound of jackhammers, when life here was not noisy, crowded, and chaotic. When workers did not fall to their deaths from skyscrapers and cranes.

But the question is always the same: who benefits?

The job of public officials is to ensure that the answer is the public—not just developers, but the rest of us.


NoLandGrab: Well, we know Bruce Ratner and his cronies benefit. The check for everyone else is in the mail.

Posted by eric at 2:33 PM

June 3, 2008

Elected officials sign development pledge, but the question is money

Atlantic Yards Report


On Saturday, the highlight of the Peoples’ Accountable Development Summit--part of the Fifth Avenue Committee’s South Brooklyn Accountable Development Initiative--was a pledge from elected officials to uphold a list of Accountable Development Principles, listed at right.

Those signing the pledge included City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky, Rep. Yvette Clarke, Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Jim Brennan, State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams, and City Council candidate (and 52nd A.D. Democratic District Leader) JoAnne Simon. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Borough President Marty Markowitz sent representatives to sign the pledge. The principles are honorable; while some, such as the goal of accountable process, do not require more money, others do depend on a commitment of funds.

The main component is a redefinition of affordable housing, calling for making units "truly affordable to people in the neighborhood"--a dig at projects like Atlantic Yards, which contains a significant slice of subsidized units--2250 of 4500 planned rentals, plus 200 of 1930 onsite condos--but which are not necessarily affordable to average Brooklynites. While there's a 50/50 pledge regarding the AY rentals, when that pledge was announced, it applied to the project as a whole; now it would be 38%. Note that "truly affordable" is not defined.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

May 25, 2008

Affordable housing DOA

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

Here is a story that reminds us: although a developer might tell you that he's providing affordable housing, they only get built when, and if, public funds are available to pay for them.

The leaner, meaner real-estate market has forced one of the city’s major developers to eliminate more than 200 affordable housing units from his 660-apartment complex in Downtown Brooklyn.

John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes supermarket chain and possible mayoral candidate, told The Brooklyn Paper that he is moving ahead with his project, which was halted in February, and that it is now no longer the mixed-income community he originally proposed.


He also couldn’t scrounge up the city and state affordable housing bonds, so he cast off those politically popular below-market-rate units.

The loss of those subsidized apartments provides a cautionary tale for other mega-developments, like Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, where thousands of affordable units have been indefinitely delayed, that promises of below-market-rate housing are only as strong as the availability of taxpayer subsidies.


Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

May 16, 2008

By the numbers

Bergen Record

The Nets kicked off sales Thursday of a portion of their luxury suites for the proposed Barclays Center, which they hope to open in Brooklyn by the end of 2010. Some seating facts:

64 "Level A" luxury suites, priced at $190,000 to $450,000

54 "Level B" luxury suites, priced at $155,000 to $400,000

12 Court-level "bunker" suites, priced at $540,000

3,200 Premium "club" seats, price not set but probably more than $150 per game

2,000 Upper-level seats for $15


NoLandGrab: Interesting that the Nets also remembered to promote the promised 2,000 $15 seats. Those, of course, won't be on sale for a very long time. Most likely, though, they'll be available much, much sooner than any of the units listed below.


Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

May 6, 2008

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: New Frank Gehry Atlantic Yards Design:
"Ridiculous" Design Has No Impact on Stalled Project

Renderings Only Show Phase 1 of Project

Leaving Out Bulk of "Affordable" Housing

BROOKLYN, NY— Today Forest City Ratner and its architect Frank Gehry released new designs for a portion of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The architectural renderings show a new design for the project’s proposed arena and 2 other buildings in Phase 1 of the project. But the developer shows no rendering at all for Phase 2--the larger part of the project--which is planned to encompass about 78% of the 2,250 "affordable" units. A State Funding Agreement provides no timeline whatsoever for Phase 2 and the developer has not provided a credible timeline for Phase 2.

"The new design from Frank Gehry is no better than the last--in reality it has gone from the absurd to the ridiculous aesthetically and programmatically," said Ron Shiffman, Professor, Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment and a New York City Planning Commissioner [1990-1996]. The fact that there isn’t a new design released for Phase 2 concerns me greatly. It seems like there is no plan for the bulk of the affordable housing, which would be in Phase 2. To destroy buildings of significant quality that could house people and jobs for what looks like an open-ended series of parking lots, rather than housing that could be affordable to low and moderate income area residents, is terrible planning and policy."

The New York Daily News published the Frank Gehry renderings as an exclusive. The paper reports that the so-called "Miss Brooklyn" signature skyscraper, is now called simply "Building 1." The reduction of that tower from 620 feet to 511 feet was announced as a "concession" on December 20, 2006 when the project was approved by the Public Authorities Control Board. Today marks the first time the reduction has been shown in a rendering. The rendering does not show the project’s massive scale as it relates to the surrounding neighborhood; its only context is a dark void explaining nothing about the projects context.

The NY Post published exclusive renderings from the Municipal Art Society (MAS) which show the project fully built out within the existing neighborhood context, as well as built only in part (an arena. and one building) surrounded by newly demolished, blighting parking lots. Apparently the MAS renderings were motivated by the March 21 NY Times interview with Mr. Ratner where the developer described the trouble he was having getting his project off the ground.

"Mr. Gehry and Mr. Ratner can release redesigns of Atlantic Yards’s buildings every week if they’d like, but that wouldn’t respond to the core reasons for the widespread opposition to the project," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The new designs are a fantasy. The project lacks committed financing (including tax-free housing bonds and a bond for the arena), an anchor tenant, and the land needed for the project, while Ratner faces vigorous litigation, a frightening credit market and exponential increases in construction costs. His project is in serious jeopardy. So when he says he ‘anticipates’ it will be completed in 2018, it's simply not credible. It means nothing."

DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them DDDB is 501c3 non-profit corporation supported by over 4,000 individual donors from the community.


Posted by lumi at 4:18 AM

May 2, 2008

Interest groups split after squabble over affordable housing at Willets Point

NY Daily News (Queens Edition)
by John Lauinger

How does the battle over Willets Point differ from the battle over Atlantic Yards? Well, for one thing, ACORN was on the side of those fighting the abuse of eminent domain — or at least they were until 10 days ago.

A Willets Point business association has parted ways with an influential housing advocacy group, claiming it exploited them to wage an affordable housing battle with the city.

The Committee to Save Willets Point, which includes more than 100 small businesses in the so-called Iron Triangle, said they were misled and misrepresented by the nonprofit organization ACORN.

"It has become apparent to our committee that ACORN's goals and ours are not the same, and that it's not useful for us to collaborate in the fight to preserve the livelihoods of the hard-working people of Willets Point," the committee wrote in an April 21 letter to ACORN.

"They were always trying to put words in our mouths," Olaya said, adding that his members' main concern is to have their businesses relocated.

"If the city wants to negotiate, we want to negotiate," Olaya added, charging that ACORN never told them their line in the sand would be 60% affordable housing or bust.


NoLandGrab: 60%! Is that what ACORN was demanding for Atlantic Yards before they started "negotiating" with Bruce Ratner?

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

April 29, 2008

Development Watch: Atlantic Terrace

Here's one development near the Vanderbilt Railyard, featuring a lot of affordable housing, that's actually going forward as scheduled.

While the future of affordable housing at Atlantic Yards is unclear, there's been some progress on Atlantic Terrace, the mixed-income development a stone's throw from the AY footprint. There was a ceremonial groundbreaking for the project back (rendered at right) in October, and workers have dug the big hole that'll eventually get filled with 80 co-ops, 50 percent of which will be affordable to low-income families and 20 percent of which will be affordable moderate-income earners. Last year there were stories in the Observer and Post about how plans for solar panels on the building's roof had to be scrapped because the looming shadows of AY high-rises would interfere with harnessing sunshine. Perhaps dark days for AY help that design facet see the light of day.


Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

April 26, 2008

De Blasio claims AY would have 3000 low-income units


Atlantic Yards Report

In an interview in the Spring issue of the Park Slope Reader, City Council Member Bill de Blasio, who's running for Borough President, shows he hasn't improved his due diligence regarding Atlantic Yards.

Notably--unless he was misquoted--he claimed that the project would include 3000 low-income housing units, a significant overstatement.

Actually, the plan is to include 900 low-income rental units--at 30-50% of AMI (Area Median Income)--among 2250 affordable rentals, and 600 to 1000 for-sale affordable units, of which a "majority... will be sold to families in the upper affordable income tiers," according to the Housing Memorandum of Understanding Forest City Ratner signed with ACORN. That means households with six-figure incomes, perhaps needing a boost in New York, but hardly low-income.


Posted by amy at 11:03 AM

April 23, 2008

Behind 80 DeKalb, FCR's test run for AY marketing (and, probably, housing bonds)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes an in-depth look at Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb project for clues about the company's chances of securing scarce tax-exempt bonds for Atlantic Yards.

Forest City Ratner's plan for a 365-unit rental apartment building at 80 DeKalb Avenue, a new tower at the edge of Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn, offers some obvious and not so obvious parallels regarding the housing planned for the Atlantic Yards project.

The marketing of residential real estate--a first for FCR in Brooklyn and one of only three such company projects in the city--presents the obvious parallel.

The less obvious parallel: the developer's success in gaining scarce tax-exempt bonds from the state housing finance agency--in an application that earned praise from the agency's head--shows that FCR may be well-positioned to compete for similar bonds from the city housing finance agency to build AY.


Posted by eric at 9:12 AM

April 18, 2008

Pols: Stop Bruce now

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Any construction at the Atlantic Yards site must be blocked until developer Bruce Ratner commits — in writing — to building the full state-approved project, three councilmembers said this week.

Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) made the demand in a letter to state officials this week, just two weeks after Ratner announced that the 16-skyscraper project has been significantly downsized and that most of the promised below-market-rate housing is no longer scheduled to be built.

According to Ratner, the project now only consists of a publicly financed basketball arena and two or three smaller residential buildings around it.

“We need something in writing from Forest City Ratner [that] confirms what will be built when,” DeBlasio told The Brooklyn Paper. “We need to stop until there is a clear plan. The plans have changed, at least according to Ratner himself, so why should demolitions continue?”


Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

April 16, 2008

Councilman wants Atlantic Yards demolition halted - for now

NY Daily News
by Jotham Sederstrom

The News follows up on comments made to bloggers Monday evening by Brooklyn Beep candidate Bill de Blasio.


A Brooklyn councilman who has been supportive of the controversial Atlantic Yards project has called for a moratorium on the struggling basketball arena plan.

Councilman Bill de Blasio bashed developer Forest City Ratner for keeping government subsidies hidden and not telling residents about construction delays.

"I've been frustrated in general by the lack of communication by Forest City Ratner for years, and it seems to me it's only gotten worse, not better," said de Blasio, who is running for borough president.


Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Bruce Bender argued in a statement that the project has been transparent but did not address the developer's refusal to publicly reveal aspects of public funding and security concerns involving the plan.

"Atlantic Yards has been reviewed and debated extensively for over five years, including two public hearings before the City Council, multiple other state public hearings and hundreds of public meetings," Bender said in the statement.

"As the Council member knows, all of Atlantic Yards, including all of the affordable housing, will be built, and any delays in the construction phase will result in delays in delivering the thousands of units of affordable housing and thousands of jobs that Atlantic Yards will create."


NoLandGrab: Bruce, you ignorant.... But we digress. Why is Bill de Blasio the last to know that Forest City Ratner couldn't be trusted? If politicians of his ilk had been more skeptical about Atlantic Yards from the outset, we wouldn't be in this mess now. Still, we're glad that de Blasio is speaking up.

As for Bruce Bender: "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Is it possible that he's been faxing out the same statement for the past three years?

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

April 15, 2008

De Blasio blasts Ratner, Calls for Moratorium on Demolitions

Bill de Blasio is mad as hell, and he wants to know why the rug has been pulled out from under Atlantic Yards' promised affordable housing. The Gowanus Lounge and Brownstoner share the scoop from last night's blogger meet-up with the Council Member.

The Gowanus Lounge, De Blasio Calls for Moratorium on Atlantic Yards Demolition

City Council Member and Brooklyn Borough President candidate Bill de Blasio is calling for a moratorium on demolition in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Mr. de Blasio made comments deeply critical of possible changes in the huge project as part of a wideranging discussion last night that covered everything from construction safety as developers race to beat changes in the 421a tax break program to zoning issues in Gowanus and Carroll Gardens.

On Atlantic Yards, Mr. de Blasio said, "I am livid at the New York Times interview with Ratner" in which the developer announced that the project would be scaled back and that massive amounts of affordable housing would be seriously delayed or eliminated. "There was no discussion with the community before he went on record," Mr. de Blasio said, adding that the changes put "the entire community benefits agreement up for question."

Brownstoner, De Blasio Blasts Ratner on AY Obfuscation

The Councilman also said that he thinks the entire development should be reviewed again by the state if Forest City Ratner is now conceiving of a vastly different project, particularly one that reneges on its promised affordable housing. "I held out hope for the project because of the amount of affordable housing it would create, as well as the number of jobs it would bring," he said. "But I have been constantly disappointed in the lack of community involvement...I've never seen anything that's been mismanaged so fundamentally in terms of community involvement."

NoLandGrab: What Council Member de Blasio is overlooking is that there really hasn't been any discussion with the community ever, and that early support for the toothless and barely enforceable Community Benefits Agreement by him and other politicians has now come home to roost.

Additional coverage:

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Stall: Another Call for a Demolition Moratorium

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

April 14, 2008

Nicole P. Marwell: Sociology of Brooklyn 11237 + 11206 + 11221

Who Walk In Brooklyn

Here's an interview with Nicole P. Marwell, author of "Bargaining For Brooklyn," about community-based organizations (CBOs). The introduction to the interview notes one well-known CBO, ACORN, and its Executive Director, Bertha Lewis. Lewis signed a memorandum of understanding with Forest City to include affordable housing in the proposed Atlantic Yards development. Given the problems plaguing Atlantic Yards, the affordable housing may not be built until far into the future, if ever.

Enter into this affray Nicole P. Marwell, a Wisconsin-raised, Chicago and New York educated, Bronx-residing sociologist who currently teaches at Columbia University. While the history of Latino Kings County has yet to be written— despite the fact that “Spanish” BK is just as old as, say, the Italian one—Nicole’s book, Bargaining For Brooklyn, will be a substantial resource for whoever does. How so? Because Nicole gets deep into one of the most important & least glamorous aspects of understanding a city of the haves & the ain’t-got-shit, the mysterious—to outsiders— world of “community based orgnanizations” (CBOs). In Brooklyn, the best known of these groups is probably ACORN, & even their notoriety is due more to Bertha Lewis’ failed devil’s bargain with Bruce Ratner on the so-called “Atlantic Yards” project than their any of their other, less disputable initiatives.


Posted by steve at 5:01 AM

April 12, 2008

In need of correction: the AY housing page


Atlantic Yards Report

From the official Atlantic Yards web site, a page in need of significant correction, given the news of the Atlantic Yards stall.


Posted by amy at 9:28 AM

April 4, 2008

Public Hearing Scheduled for 80 Dekalb Financing


Today the Eagle reports that funding for the affordable housing units in one of Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn projects is looking more promising than it is for Atlantic Yards. The 34-story rental tower, as rendered above, will probably receive tax-exempt and/or taxable multifamily housing revenue bonds for 80 Dekalb's construction “not to exceed $109,500,000” from the Housing Finance Agency, which is having a public hearing about the matter on April 15th. The entire project is supposed to cost around $204 million, and at least 35 20 percent of its 365 apartments are going to be set aside as affordable rentals. As the photo on the jump shows, after a slow period last fall, work on the foundation is in full swing.


Posted by steve at 5:55 AM

March 28, 2008

Why Atlantic Yards depends on a Democratic administration in DC

Atlantic Yards Report

While Bruce Ratner is busy trying to convince reporters that Atlantic Yards is stalled because of the economy, Norman Oder keeps pointing out that it's the supply of affordable housing funding, stupid:

Besides the credit crunch and the lack of a market for office space, both acknowledged by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, the project depends crucially on a sufficient supply of tax-exempt bonds, a "crisis"--in the words of city housing head Shaun Donovan--evident well before the downturn in the economy.

And, despite efforts in Washington by top legislators representing New York, the problem likely won't be alleviated until a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress revamp the rules and allow hard-pressed states like New York additional "volume cap," or the capacity to issue bonds free of federal taxes.


Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

March 27, 2008

And what about those for-sale affordable units? The fine print is vague

Atlantic Yards Report

Some details surface regarding one of the big outstanding questions about the deal cut by developer Bruce Ratner to gain support for his controversial Atlantic Yards project:

A major question raised about the 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units, on and off-site, announced by developer Forest City Ratner as part of the Atlantic Yards Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is why they were absent from the General Project Plan approved by the Empire State Development Corporation. That wasn't cause for confidence.

The recently-unveiled State Funding Agreement does, however, mention the pledge that's contained in the agreement FCR signed with the advocacy group ACORN.

However, as far as I can tell, the document has no teeth, since it asserts no deadlines and no penalties, though it does assign deadlines for other phases of the project and penalties for failure to meet those deadlines.

For one thing, if FCR doesn't build as many market-rate condos--and all housing is now on hold--the MOU appears to give the developer an out. Also, the construction of for-sale affordable units depends on unspecified subsidies.


NoLandGrab: In other words, affordable condos for "families in the upper affordable income tiers" are delayed until further notice.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

March 23, 2008

Bad news for Atlantic Yards...

Community Benefits Agreements

Amy Levine explains how the delays and setbacks in the controversial Atlantic Yards project will affect developer Bruce Ratner's commitments to signatories of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA):

All of this news suggests that the affordable housing promised in the CBA may not be built until years after the stadium, if ever. Unfortunately, the CBA doesn't give the community any real redress. Consider the following provisions (text of the CBA is available here):

  • The term of the CBA lasts until 30 years after construction begins on the first residential building. If Ratner only builds the arena, it might be difficult to show any breach for not building affordable housing since he can claim that the housing is still in the works (pgs. 5-6).
  • The CBA also provides that "[t]he Developers may change the Development Phases in their sole discretion prior to commencement of the first Development Phase; provided that they shall provide advance soon as reasonably practicable" (pg. 11). Again, Ratner has free reign here to change the plans, and significantly postpone construction of the residential units, since construction has yet to begin.
  • The affordable housing agreement specifies the percentage of units that will be affordable. It does not set any minimum amount of affordable housing that must be completed, even though the creation of new affordable housing has been one of the key reasons for public support of the project.
  • Ratner is required to submit quarterly status reports to the CBA Coalition and the independent compliance monitor, but those status reports focus mainly on jobs--there is no requirement that Ratner report the amount of affordable housing that has been constructed (pgs. 41-43).
  • If a new developer takes over the project, it will have no real obligation to continue the CBA. Ratner will still be responsible for the jobs development and local employment provisions (pgs. 49-50).

The problem goes beyond affordable housing though. The CBA also includes provisions that the project will include open space (pgs. 30-31), a community health center (pgs. 26-28), and child care, youth and senior centers (pgs. 28-30). If Ratner postpones construction of most of the project due to financial problems, there's a good chance that these will be postponed too. And that means that the community may end up with a stand alone stadium that causes traffic, noise and crime problems without adding many of the benefits that the developer promised.


Posted by lumi at 4:52 PM

As vows fade in Atlantic Yards, so do housing hopes

NY Daily News
Michael Daly

The Daily News made a comeback from their "Atlantic Yards-free" editions with two articles today. You can read the Errol Louis column here: "Blight at the end of the tunnel," or just skip ahead to Atlantic Yards Report's analysis of the dynamic duo: Daily News columnists Louis, Daly lament AY setbacks, blame NIMBYs, avoid facts.

Some locals fret that without the surrounding towers, the arena will be like other such venues, which are second only to bus terminals in imparting a seediness to the immediate vicinity.

The bigger fear is that Ratner will end up selling off property that he acquired via eminent domain with the promise of affordable housing. The new developers would be free to erect more of the obscenely overpriced condos springing up everywhere in Brooklyn.

Unless, that is, the city finds a legal way to make all of Ratner's promises apply to anybody who buys property he acquired on the strength of those pledges.


Posted by amy at 1:19 PM

March 21, 2008

A statement from ACORN: "every confidence" in Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, at least somebody's still bullish on Atlantic Yards:

Bertha Lewis, Executive Director of NY ACORN, issued a statement regarding the Atlantic Yards stall:
"Forest City Ratner made a commitment to ACORN and to the people of Brooklyn to deliver on a historic plan for affordable housing. While the credit crunch and the downturn in the economy may lead to some delay, we continue to have every confidence they will live up to their commitment. This commitment was the basis for our support and the support of elected officials at the local, state and federal level.”


NoLandGrab: Given the existence of the "historic" Community Benefits Agreement, we're left to wonder if ACORN is contractually obligated to maintain confidence in Ratner. If not, then one could read this as "we took a lot of heat for supporting this project — don't make us have to take to the streets against you, Bruce."

Posted by eric at 3:33 PM

Favorable Atlantic Yards News For Ratner [a Dreamer]; Will Get Bonds

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Up there with "Dewey Defeats Truman," Dennis Holt's report that Bruce Ratner has secured scarce affordable-housing bonds has been greatly exaggerated:

If all this wasn’t bad news enough for the Yards opponents, the state housing authorities announced late last week that four developers will receive the state’s allocation for tax exempt bond housing funds. One of those was Forest City for Atlantic Yards.

(This is critical, since it makes it easier for Forest City to honor its housing commitments up front, and those, along with the sports arena, are the project’s strongest political pluses.)


NoLandGrab: The Eagle scooped all other publications with this incredible bit of news, which no one we know has been able to confirm. This makes one wonder if Holt's source wasn't actually the state housing authority — or if maybe he received this exclusive in a dream.

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

March 4, 2008


Photographer Harry J. Bizzarro added some photos to the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


This one is a good reminder to take your umbrella before leaving the house today.

From the National Weather Service:

Rain likely, mainly after 3pm. Patchy fog after noon. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 59. South wind between 14 and 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

March 3, 2008

Atlantic Yards Report shorts

From Norman Oder's weekend reading list:

Before AY, the necessity of congestion relief

A posting on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn about gridlock at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues led to some serious debate on Streetsblog on the causes, solutions, and the role of DDDB.

Suffice it to say that even Atlantic Yards proponents like Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership of New York City believe the project could work only with congestion pricing.

And even a significantly dense but smaller project like that contemplated under the UNITY plan would require, as its planners suggest, “extensive traffic calming, parking reduction, and bicycle lanes to discourage vehicle use for both local and inter-borough travel.”

Play (NYT)
Why NBA team ownership can be very lucrative

Joe Nocera's article in yesterday's Play, The New York Times Sports Magazine, headlined Big time Losers describes the "Bad Owner" who runs lousy teams:

Why does the Bad Owner seem so impervious to it all?

Actually, there is a reason, a very good one. To own a franchise in any of the three major sports — football, baseball or basketball — is to enter a club in which it is nearly impossible to come away a financial loser.

His case in point is NBA's Los Angeles Clippers; owner Donald Sterling has seen his investment skyrocket from $13.5 million to $300 million.

Nocera points out that the value of the badly-managed New York Knicks has continued to rise, given its stronghold in the nation's major media market.

He doesn't mention the New Jersey Nets, but Bruce Ratner's strategy is consonant with his observation. The Nets are losing money in the Meadowlands and team managers are trying to improve the mix of players. But the key comes in the future: the new arena at Atlantic Yards would prove quite lucrative, thanks to naming rights from Barclays, 130 luxury suites, other sponsorships, and television revenue.

NoLandGrab: In three seasons Bruce Ratner has joined the pantheon of big-time losers. Nothing could feed Brooklyn's historical chip on the shoulder more than his ruining a winning franchise and moving it to "the fourth largest city in the US."

NY Times Real Estate Section
The lottery-like chances for subsidized middle-class housing

A New York Times Real Estate section article yesterday on the chances of the middle-class getting subsidized housing in New York City was headlined Winning That One in a Million.

Atlantic Yards, with 1350 subsidized middle- and moderate-income units and 900 subsidized low-income units, would seem to improve the odds slightly. Then again, if the project takes 20 years, or 30 years--or doesn't get off the ground at all--then the odds improve less and less.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

February 29, 2008

Atlantic Yards Report shorts

Norman Oder posted four short articles on Atlantic Yards Report this morning:

Driving Miss Brooklyn, a troubled Brooklyn condo market?

Apparently Forest City Ratner's decision to shift flagship Atlantic Yards tower Miss Brooklyn from condos to office space was based on discernible trends in the industry. (Then again, things can change, given that Miss Brooklyn was supposed to be office space when announced in December 2003.)

In yesterday's New York Sun, real estate columnist Michael Stoler suggested that many in the real estate community see a growing divide between the luxury market in Manhattan and some of the more speculative projects in fringe areas.

AY affordable housing a myth? Better to call it delayed
It seems that each time the press reports the story about the scarcity of funds for affordable housing and the impact on Atlantic Yards, the stakes get raised:

Like a game of "telephone," in which a message gets mangled as it gets passed from one party to another, the Atlantic Yards affordable housing story grows ever murkier.

The New York Observer's summary yesterday:

Federal funding crunch means Forest City Ratner won't be able to build 3,000 affordable-housing units at Atlantic Yards, fulfilling the prophesies of its opponents. [Brooklyn Paper]

But the Brooklyn Paper article reported only that a federal cash crunch threatens the promised 2250 units of affordable housing, adding some more voices to a story I reported a week ago.

That doesn't mean the promised affordable housing is dead. After all, a Democratic administration in Washington just might allow a state like New York much more capacity to authorize tax-exempt bonds.

The change in the Senate and the stakes for housing
When the balance of power shifts in the State Senate, rent laws in New York may get a second look:

The special election Tuesday to elect a State Senator in the 48th Senatorial district reduced the Republicans margin to 32-30, with several vulnerable Republicans expected to face tough competition in November. Portrayed in the press as a victory for Gov. Eliot Spitzer--and it is--the ramifications for New York City may be felt most sharply in the area of housing.

"The election today may change how we look at the rent laws," Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said at a housing panel at the New-York Historic Society on Tuesday, when the results of the election had not yet surfaced.

Since 1971, the legislature, not the City Council, has held the most power over rent regulation, thanks to the Urstadt Law. A Democratic legislature, with a Democratic governor, will be far more receptive to maintaining and strengthening rent protections, and restoring "home rule."

The city's pension funds finally take on "predatory equity"
This article covers an existing affordable-housing concern, rather than Atlantic Yards affordable housing:

When in November, I reported on a conference where participants discussed the practice of "predatory equity"--investment funds making speculative investments in rental housing, intending to raise rents significantly--I was astonished that only the grassroots policy publication City Limits had previously covered the story.

After all, housing advocates had discovered that city pension funds had a stake in such investment funds. Politicians like City Council Member Letitia James weren't making a huge case about it, either, apparently waiting to get New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson and the city pension funds on board.

Yesterday, the above parties, as well as other elected officials and housing advocates held a press conference in which they announced a new residential real estate investment principles.

Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

February 28, 2008

The Brooklyn Paper examines Atlantic Yards affordable housing house of cards

Fed cash crunch threatens ‘affordable’ A’Yards homes
By Dana Rubinstein

Thousands of affordable housing units — including some of the 2,250 rentals that Bruce Ratner promised to included in his Atlantic Yards mega-development — will not be built due to a huge shortfall in federal subsidies available for low-cost housing creation, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

It would take between $6 and $7 billion in federal grants to build all the proposed affordable units in all of the pending projects in the state — roughly five times more money than is available, according to Mike Slattery, the senior vice president at the Real Estate Board of New York.

Indeed, in 2007, the feds only granted $1.6 billion in such bonds — and those numbers won’t change significantly in 2008.

“There’s a lot more demand for affordable housing projects these days and there’s not enough money available,” said Joe Chan, the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the quasi-governmental group that oversees the redevelopment of the long-languishing area bounded by Tillary, Fulton and Jay streets and Flatbush Avenue Extension.

“We’re at risk of seeing less affordable housing than” originally planned, he continued.

Bonds bombshell killing projects

"The Explainer" rehashes the issue in Q&A form, but gets one thing wrong:

Didn’t Ratner promise 2,250 affordable units at Atlantic Yards?

What will happen to the units if the bonds aren’t there?
Some of them won’t get built.

Can Bruce Ratner really back away from that promise? Yes, if he writes a $500,000 check — a small amount for his $3.6 billion company — to the housing group, ACORN, which signed Ratner’s Community Benefits Agreement in 2005.

In the "discussion" section Norman Oder points readers to one of his Atlantic Yards Report articles which explains that the $500,000 penalty would be for unfulfilled jobs promises, not for breaking affordable-housing targets.

Ratner’s shell game

In the weekly editorial, The Brooklyn Paper states:

It is becoming increasingly clear that developer Bruce Ratner will not be able to build much of the below-market-rate housing that he’s promised to include in Atlantic Yards.
The affordable housing units at Atlantic Yards remain the project’s principal carrot in the face of widespread community opposition and egregious misuse of public subsidies to a multi-billion-dollar company.

But there’s a problem with Ratner’s promised units: If he can’t get the tax subsidies from the state, he can walk away from the deal simply by cutting a check for $500,000 — which represents a tiny .014 percent of the company’s $3.6-billion total value — to one of the signatories of his “Community Benefits Agreement.”

Then again, he could also call his enablers in state government and complain of the shortfall in subsidies. Perhaps they will do what they’ve always done — repeatedly at Metrotech and at Atlantic Terminal Mall — and lavish more taxpayer money on another of Ratner’s white elephants.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

February 26, 2008

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing Would Get Four Times the Subsidy of the City’s Average Per Unit

New York, NY—The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Sarah Ryley is reporting today that the cost of subsidizing Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards “affordable” housing with tax-free bonds would require more than four times the funding per unit as the city’s average for all of 2007.

The Eagle article says: Spokesmen for Ratner and project sponsor Empire State Development Corporation declined to comment on why Atlantic Yards’ affordable units require roughly four times the funding as the city’s 2007 average.

The article continues, quoting Ron Shiffman, who did have comment:

Ron Shiffman, professor at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the Pratt Institute and a former planning commissioner, did say that it would be “political suicide” for HDC to approve such costly apartments while rejecting others who could build more bang for the buck. “It becomes a real untenable argument for [HDC] to give [Ratner] priority over any other project,” said Shiffman, who opposes Atlantic Yards.

“Forest City Ratner is getting an unaccountable, sweetheart deal from our government, at the expense of taxpayers, to build a cost-ineffective project,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Our elected officials and Mr. Ratner need to explain why his ‘affordable’ housing units require quadruple the subsidy of an average ‘affordable’ unit. We believe there is no explanation for an indefensible sweetheart deal.”

The Eagle article goes into accounting detail to describe the quadrupled subsidy per unit:

[NYC's Housing Development Corporation spokesperson Neill] Coleman said last year HDC issued $659 million in bonds to finance the construction or preservation of 4,786 apartments for low, middle and moderate-income city residents, an average of $137,000 per unit.

According to Ratner’s financial projections, in 2008 the company plans to request $177 million in bonds for 359 below market-rate apartments in two towers, and the following year $344 million in bonds for 680 below market-rate apartments in three towers, an average of $501,000 per unit. Overall, $1.4 billion in bonds for 2,250 units averages $622,000 per unit. (Emphasis added)

Posted by lumi at 5:51 PM

Ratner Will Be Treated Like Other Developers, Says City

Atlantic Yards Hasn’t Applied For Bonds, Units Would Cost Four Times As Much

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner Companies has not applied for affordable housing bonds, and when the company does, it will not be prioritized over other developers, said a city official. As earlier reported in the Eagle, the state has more than $6 billion for affordable housing projects in its 2008 pipeline, with $960 million for projects located within the city, but only $1.6 billion in bonds to dole out.

According to Ratner’s financial projections, the company will be requesting $1.4 billion in housing bonds over a five-year period for 2,250 apartments.

IMPORTANT comparison of the cost of subsidizing Atlantic Yards affordable housing with affordable housing elsewhere in the city (emphasis added):

[NYC's Housing Development Corporation spokesperson Neill] Coleman said last year HDC issued $659 million in bonds to finance the construction or preservation of 4,786 apartments for low, middle and moderate-income city residents, an average of $137,000 per unit.

According to Ratner’s financial projections, in 2008 the company plans to request $177 million in bonds for 359 below market-rate apartments in two towers, and the following year $344 million in bonds for 680 below market-rate apartments in three towers, an average of $501,000 per unit. Overall, $1.4 billion in bonds for 2,250 units averages $622,000 per unit.
Ron Shiffman, professor at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the Pratt Institute and a former planning commissioner, said it would be “political suicide” for HDC to approve such costly apartments while rejecting others who could build more bang for the buck. “It becomes a real untenable argument for [HDC] to give [Ratner] priority over any other project,” said Shiffman, who opposes Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Contrary to the headline, Bruce Ratner has NEVER been treated like other developers.

It will be interesting to see how Ratner and his political supporters manage to justify paying more for less and, despite protestations to the contrary, jumping over the backlog of other projects that have already requested financing.

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

February 25, 2008

Where’s the Dough for AY Affordable Housing?

Brownstoner asks some tough questions about subsidies for the affordable housing component of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

...does the project’s “scale” mean the city is giving a free pass for construction on the affordable housing parts of Atlantic Yards to take much longer than other aspects of the development? And what if there’s even less funding available for affordable housing in the future? Finally, is it fair for Forest City Ratner’s mega-development to eat into the creation of affordable units in other parts of the city and state?


NoLandGrab: These questions have been on the mind of affordable housing advocates for some time.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 PM

Ratner to Jump the Pipeline?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn compares two quotes from Marc Jahr, president of the city's Housing Development Corporation.

One in response to the affordable-housing-funding crisis:

"It's a pity to have good affordable housing projects in a city that desperately needs affordable housing for virtually all income levels, to have them sitting at the starting line with their engines idling."

The second in which Jahr claims that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards affordable-housing subsidies are NOT in jeopardy despite the backlog of projects that have already applied:

"Given the scale of the project . . . we're not concerned that the money won't be there."

So, either there's a crisis and Bruce Ratner is going to have to wait his turn, or lawmakers in Albany (i.e. the very ones who benefited from a $58,000 soft-money contribution from Ratner) are trying to work out a special deal for their favorite developer (they've done it before).

Develop Don't Destroy posits:

Should we be preparing to watch Mr. Jahr, the city and state put Bruce Ratner's yet to be requested housing bonds at the mouth of the pipe? Is that what's being considered?


NoLandGrab: Given that lawmakers have already fiddled with the "allocation criteria" of the available subsidies, the possibility of another "Ratner Clause" is getting stronger.

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

February 24, 2008

Could the Bond Market Hurt Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing?


Village Voice
Michael Clancy

Could the limited pool of affordable housing bonds jeopardize the 2,250 units of subsidized housing that developer Bruce Ratner pledged as part of his Atlantic Yards mixed-use stadium project?

Norman Oder, of the Atlantic Yards Report, seems to think so. Ratner seeks $1.4 billion in such bonds, which would allow him to borrow money at discounted rate over the course of the 10-year project. But it's not clear whether Forest City Ratner has applied for those bonds, and there is a lot of evidence indicating that there might not be any money available if Forest City did, Oder wrote. The city's Housing Development Corporation wouldn't say whether the agency received the bond application from Ratner or not.

Either way, sounds like it's gonna be tough to build the affordable housing.


Posted by amy at 1:39 PM

Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing in Jeopardy Due to Housing Bond Cap "Crisis"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The proposed "affordable" housing for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project is in jeopardy.

According to information from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) housing would require subsidization worth $1.4 billion in federally tax-free housing bonds from the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYCHDC). With the aid of these bonds, FCR proposes that 2,250 rental units out of a total 6,430 units would be deemed "affordable."

The problem is that there is no money now for Forest City Ratner.

New York State has a housing bond cap of about $1.6 billion per year for the entire state, New York City has only a portion of that cap, and there is a long pipeline of applications for this limited amount of financing in front of FCR. It is believed that FCR has not even applied for their housing bonds. According to Norman Oder in a story today on his Atlantic Yards Report, NYCHDC did not respond to a request for confirmation of this.


Posted by amy at 1:25 PM

HDC head curiously unconcerned about AY funding availability

Atlantic Yards Report responds to today's two-sentence NY Post article stating that federal funding shortfalls won't affect Atlantic Yards, because it's bigger than other projects.

Less than two weeks ago, Jahr wrote in City Hall News, as I reported Friday:
It is only February, but over $960 million in private activity bonds are required for affordable housing deals in HDC’s 2008 pipeline alone, while New York State overall has a pipeline of more than $6 billion. Unfortunately, however, New York State’s yearly allocation of cap is only around $1.6 billion.

And, as I reported, he earlier this month told the Bond Buyer, "It's a pity to have good affordable housing projects in a city that desperately needs affordable housing for virtually all income levels, to have them sitting at the starting line with their engines idling.”

Simple physics suggests that the scale of Atlantic Yards, which would require $1.4 billion in bonds, should make it harder, not easier to find the funds--even if the scale makes AY "too big to fail."

Until and unless additional volume cap is found, thus allowing the city and state to issue more bonds, a lot of projects are going to be at the starting line.


Posted by amy at 1:19 PM


NY Post

A federal-funding shortfall that could hamper affordable housing projects in the city likely won't affect the Atlantic Yards project, a top official said yesterday.

"Given the scale of the project . . . we're not concerned that the money won't be there," said Marc Jahr, president of the city's Housing Development Corporation.

link (NoLandGrab: but really, don't bother clicking. That's the entire article. Read Atlantic Yards Report instead...)

Posted by amy at 1:15 PM

February 22, 2008

AY affordable housing jeopardized not by lawsuits but by funding "crisis"

Atlantic Yards Report

For years, affordable-housing experts have been warning that the availability of housing subsidies for Atlantic Yards is questionable.

Norman Oder explains:

Forest City Ratner has heavily promoted the 2250 units of subsidized housing in the Atlantic Yards project, and that's been cited as a public use by two courts. However, there's no money available for it right now, more than a half year after a city official cited a "crisis" in the provision of affordable housing bonds. ...
Wrote Marc Jahr, president of the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) earlier this month in City Hall News:

It is only February, but over $960 million in private activity bonds are required for affordable housing deals in HDC’s 2008 pipeline alone, while New York State overall has a pipeline of more than $6 billion. Unfortunately, however, New York State’s yearly allocation of cap is only around $1.6 billion.

Atlantic Yards would require $1.4 billion in housing bonds, according to information the Empire State Development Corporation disclosed to the Public Authorities Control Board and made public in the lawsuit challenging the AY environmental reviews.
So those bonds would be well behind requests made by many other developers seeking to make use of a very limited pool of affordable housing financing, a situation Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) told Congress last May was a “crisis” threatening 6700 units in the city’s pipeline.


For additional information on the affordable-housing subsidy supply-and-demand crisis check out Brownstoner's recently posted summary of the press coverage.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

February 14, 2008

Quinn calls for task force to address housing crisis

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder analyzes the affordable-housing segment of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's State of the City address through the Atlantic Yards filter.

Here are some excerpts from Quinn's speech:

Now, the single biggest complaint I hear from New Yorkers is the syrocketing cost of housing and the devastating impact it’s having on our middle class. The reality is, if you are a teacher and firefighter, raising your kids in Clinton Hill and together make $110,000 a year, it’s hard to find a decent place to live.

Note that, under the guideline that people spend 30% of their income for affordable housing, the annual rent for such a household would be $33,000 and the monthly rent $2750. Also note that $110,000 is within the top range of households eligible for Atlantic Yards affordable housing.

Quinn is right that affordable housing is a challenge to many people. (Still, there are apartments in Clinton Hill well under $2750.) But Atlantic Yards was endorsed by the low-income group ACORN because its members thought it would help them.


Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

January 21, 2008

On MLK Day, the question of jobs, housing, and infrastructure

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, where do we go from here (to quote the title of a King speech)? On Saturday, in a column headlined Good Jobs Are Where the Money Is, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, taking off from the observation that the gap between rich and poor is ever-growing, observed:

Forget all the CNBC chatter about Fed policy and bargain stocks. For ordinary Americans, jobs are the be-all and end-all. And an America awash in new jobs will require a political environment that respects and rewards work and aggressively pursues creative policies designed to radically expand employment.

I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The country that gave us the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe ought to be able, 60 years later, to reconstitute its own sagging infrastructure.

Herbert's point, extrapolated to Brooklyn, is that targeted government investment can turn the tide. The need for jobs and housing is far, far greater than the holy grail of the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

January 1, 2008

Where's housing (and other urban issues) in the presidential campaign?

Atlantic Yards Report

The citywide issue central to the debate on Atlantic Yards has been AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Does anybody know where the Democratic presidential candidates stand?

No, Norman Oder isn't stalking candidates in Iowa, instead he looks for clues in a City Limits article and the NY Times.


Posted by lumi at 3:08 PM

November 27, 2007

At the "Priced Out" conference, some Atlantic Yards subtext

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder goes all out on the "Priced Out" conference, where, as usual, Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan makes a few cameo appearances:

At the “Priced Out” conference on “addressing the pressures of living in NYC,” sponsored by by the New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus over the first weekend in November at Pace University, Atlantic Yards popped up several times, sometimes not so flatteringly. And it also led to some public diplomacy from both opponents and proponents.


Oder also posted a longer article on the conference in general.

Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

November 26, 2007

Vacant lots, empty buildings = new opportunity for affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder digs into a report by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and attends a Drum Major Institute panel on rehabbing vacant buildings to learn if there might be means of creating affordable housing that don't involve seizing private property and tossing big subsidies at mega-developers:

In the 1970s, New York City took over some 100,000 properties abandoned for nonpayment of taxes, and in subsequent decades helped community development groups fix them to create affordable housing. The numbers remaining are few, so the city now practices new tactics--tax incentives or increased development rights--to stimulate affordable housing.

But other solutions remain, notably the utilization of vacant or abandoned properties that are not in tax arrears. Unlike some other cities, notably Boston (as reported on the DMI blog), New York doesn't keep an inventory, nor has it changed any tax policies to incentivize owners.

(Regarding some seemingly stagnant properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint, the state got around the lack of incentives by declaring them blighted. A rezoning, however, might have done the trick.)


Posted by lumi at 10:28 AM

October 29, 2007

Are city housing projects really for sale? Nah, but it's time to "unlock value"

Atlantic Yards Report

In the wake of a Daily News article that spawned rumors that the City was thinking of selling off public housing assests, Norman Oder reports on the panel discussion about the future of public housing at a New School forum, moderated by Oder's most ardent reader, Errol Louis.

The discussion at the forum, A ROOF OVER OUR HEADS: How Will New York Save Its Public Housing?, which involved a variety of experts and opinions, was a lot more nuanced.

It began with moderator Errol Louis of the Daily News suggesting that, “if things worked perfectly, this would be a public hearing organized by government.” (Louis is out front among the city's press in covering public housing--here's a 7/29/07 column headlined A crisis hits home--in contrast with his frothing Atlantic Yards coverage.)

The structural gap in funding the city’s public housing is about $200 million, a little under ten percent of the operating budget, and has accumulated since the late 1990s, according to Douglas Apple, General Manager, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The budget has suffered because of lowered federal funding levels and the strains to provide for units that are not part of the federal system. He acknowledged that “conditions are not as good as they were a decade ago.” (The agency just cut 73 management jobs, the Daily News reported.)


Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

October 25, 2007

Real Estate Round-Up: October 24, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle rounds up coverage on the affordable-housing project in the shadow of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, and follows up on the 421-a reform bill:

Atlantic Terrace, Brooklyn’s largest green affordable housing development (as reported by Linda Collins on the Eagle’s Brooklyn Space page Sept. 27) will have to go without solar panels on the roof because they would be worthless once cast in the shadows of the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise development across the street. Yesterday, Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the non-profit Fifth Avenue Committee, which is developing Atlantic Terrace, told the New York Post that solar panels would have led to significant savings for residents, but now they’ll have to pay for a combination of traditional and renewable energy.

In the Eagle’s Sept. 27 article, architect Magnus Magnusson of Magnusson Architecture & Planning, said the solar roof would have been possible if Ratner’s towers had been reduced in height to 20 or 25 stories. “It’s just not an option for a building that will be in substantial shade all year round.”

On 421-a:

The state passed the 421-a legislation yesterday, which expands the areas where developers are required to include affordable housing in their projects to receive property tax abatements. But the legislation includes a controversial provision for Atlantic Yards that allows developer Forest City Ratner Companies to provide fewer units for low-income families.

While the modified version of the bill still gives Ratner tax abatements for the towers without affordable units, the abatement is for a shorter period of time, and are contingent upon the project meeting affordability requirements during each phase of construction. The affordability requirement for Atlantic Yards is the same as other heavily subsidized projects — 20 percent of the units would have to be affordable to those earning, on average, 90 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), versus the earlier version of the bill that required Atlantic Yards to make 20 percent of the units affordable to those earning, on average, 70 percent.

Read the rest to learn about the comparison with other developers.

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

October 14, 2007

What's a Brooklyn real estate bargain? If you ask the Times..


Atlantic Yards Report

The cover story in today's New York Times Real Estate section is headlined Brooklyn: A Bargain Hunter’s Guide and the Times explains that, in between the strong market in brownstone neighborhoods and the foreclosures in struggling neighborhoods, there are bargains--but keyed to the Times's more affluent demographic.
And what exactly are the contours of such bargains? Here are the prices of all the apartments mentioned in the article:
--Green Hill Condos, 324 22nd Street, Greenwood Heights; $999,000 (from $1.09 million) and $559,000 (from $599,000).
--Thornton Park, 721 Flushing Avenue, East Williamsburg. Developer pays closing costs, a 5 percent discount on units from $270,000 to $509,000. The article identifies the location as East Williamsburg
--55 Berry Street, Williamsburg. Developer offered $10,000 discount on unit of unspecified price; agreed to build a $3000 walk-in closet on an $815,000 one-bedroom with a home office. --Le Conselyea in Williamsburg, $425,000 (from contemplated $599,000) and $799,000 (from contemplated $995,000).
--Owners of larger free-standing homes in the $2.8-million-to-$3.5-million range may offer a 5 percent discount.
--855 Jefferson Avenue, Bed-Stuy, $950,000, down from $1.1 million.

"Affordable to who?"--as City Council Member Charles Barron asked scornfully, in another context, at the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn rally in July 2006. Or, as State Assembly Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez once said regarding affordable housing, "It's a relative thing."


Posted by amy at 10:54 AM

October 6, 2007

Some on appellate court skeptical of ESDC in AY relocation case

Atlantic Yards Report

While on September 26, a state appellate court appeared unsympathetic to a challenge to the state’s demolition plans posed by rent-regulated tenants of two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, this morning some on another appellate court seemed more sympathetic to the same 13 plaintiffs as they challenged the state’s plan to find them new housing.

The state has promised to provide, at minimum, the services of a real estate broker, moving assistance, and a $5000 payment—but that, attorney George Locker argued, will hardly guarantee similarly affordable housing. (Of the 13 plaintiffs at 624 Pacific Street and 473 Dean Street, 12 have rent-stabilized leases, and many pay rents that are $500-$600. The case is known as Matter of Anderson v. New York State Urban Development Corp.)

“Isn’t it reasonable to assume there is some comparable housing” in Brooklyn, asked Justice Robert Spolzino, who was the most skeptical among the four-judge panel of the Appellate Division, Second Department, during the oral argument, which lasted less than 20 minutes.

Locker said it wasn’t. He said state law directs the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to offer those displaced accommodation into the project, but has not made any offer to his clients. (Actually, state law says the ESDC should do so if "feasible.")


NoLandGrab: A quick search on Craigslist for an apartment between $500-$600 in Brooklyn turns up 5 results. Two of them are not for apartments, but for renting a room in an apartment. One of them includes the caveat that you must work as the superintendent. Another has an income requirement of $16,800 - $24,800. That leaves one remaining real apartment, a $600 studio in Canarsie. I would suggest that the 13 plaintiffs hurry to apply, as it seems there will be stiff competition.

A commenter on Atlantic Yards Report asks, "Can someone explain to me this. If Bertha Lewis and Acorn is so interested in "affordable' housing, why then didn't they come publicly to the defense of these tenants. Yes, this is a rhetorical question. But I would like to hear from others."

Posted by amy at 11:32 AM

September 24, 2007

The departing "middle-class" and AY affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines a new demographic report and compares it to the income bands of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards housing program.

New York City Comptroller William Thompson on Sept. 12 issued a report on New York's 2005 outmigration patterns involving various income groups, and it was quickly used by columnist Errol Louis to argue for projects like Atlantic Yards that would include subsidized housing for the middle-class.

Not so fast. It turns out that moderate-income residents departing the city would not be helped much by Atlantic Yards, given that those in their (approximate) income bracket would be eligible for only 450 of the 2250 affordable units. In fact, when the affordable housing deal was first announced, 900 units were aimed at this demographic; developer Forest City Ratner instead shifted more of the affordable units to higher income brackets.

Thompson's press release, headlined THOMPSON: MODERATE-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS MOST LIKELY TO LEAVE NYC, made some somewhat subtle points: Moderate-income ($40,000 to $59,999 annual income) and higher-income households ($140,000 to $249,999 annual income) were most likely to leave the city, while middle-income ($60,000 to $139,999) and wealthy households ($250,000 and above) were least likely to leave.


Posted by lumi at 9:15 AM

September 16, 2007

Call an ambulance - our middle class is bleeding

NY Daily News
Errol Louis

That means we have to end the zero-sum politics that pits the needs of the poor against those of the middle class. Look at any of the big development projects around the city that include affordable housing - Atlantic Yards, Queens West, conversion of the Domino sugar factory on the Brooklyn waterfront - and there's a fight about whether subsidizing middle-class families amounts to a wasteful "giveaway" of resources best reserved for the very poor.

That is outmoded thinking. Communities, and the city as a whole, thrive when we have many different income groups living side-by-side - civil servants near retirees, welfare moms next door to teachers and carpenters.


NoLandGrab: So...if the best communities are a mix of everyone, including welfare moms, why support a project where there will be no welfare moms? Atlantic Yards would produce exactly zero homes for people making less than $21,270/year. Currently 24% of residents within a 3/4 mile radius of the proposed project make less than $21,270/year. So call an ambulance, Errol, affordable housing is bleeding.

Posted by amy at 10:32 AM

September 6, 2007

The paradox of unaffordable ($7313!) "rent-stabilized" Atlantic Yards housing

Atlantic Yards Report

By what stretch of the imagination should an apartment leasing for $7313/mo. be "rent stabilized?" You can thank Bruce Ratner and his affordable-housing partner Bertha Lewis of ACORN for that absurdity.

Initially, Norman Oder was skeptical about Ratner's and Lewis's claim that even units priced above the $2000 "vacancy decontrol" threshold would still be "rent stabilized," but (the reader may want to sit down for this) Oder stands corrected by none other than the "Mad Overkiller" himself:

Would Atlantic Yards rental housing--the 2250 affordable units and the 2250 market-rate units--all be rent-stabilized, as has been promoted?

The answer: sort of, but in a confounding way that somehow would classify a market-rate apartment renting for $7313 as rent-stabilized.

And it would classify middle-income affordable units, some costing well more than $2000 a month, as rent-stabilized, even though such sums generated skepticism about affordability from potential renters last year and, indeed, $2000 is the trigger for decontrol of current rent-stabilized units.

According to the developer's chart of estimated rents, 450 of the 2250 affordable units would rent from $1861 to $3084 a month and another 450 would rent from $1488 to $2467.

Bertha Lewis of ACORN, in a 7/31/06 article in City Limits, described all 4500 Atlantic Yards rentals as rent-stabilized:

Beyond building new affordable units, all 4,500 rental units at Atlantic Yards will be rent-stabilized -- no small victory in an era where thousands of rent-stabilized units return to the free market every year.

The rules would be different for Atlantic Yards rental housing, which would be funded via the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC). The term sheet for the agency's mixed-income program--50% market, 30% middle-income, 20% low-income units--states:

Upon project stabilization, New HOP and Market rate rent increases will be governed by allowable rent stabilization increases with no vacancy decontrol.

So, indeed, there would be rent stabilization, but with a twist. For the 2250 market-rate rental units, it would come after the fact, after the developer works out the rent.

I asked Aaron Donovan, spokesman for the NYC HDC, who confirmed, "The market sets the initial rents and subsequent to that, rent increases are governed by rent stabilization. If Forest City Ratner were to apply for financing under our Mixed-Income Program, these terms would apply."


NoLandGrab: As for the "no small victory" declared by Bertha Lewis, most of the aparments would be well out of the reach of those whom ACORN represents, which may be the first time in history that ACORN has advocated for upper-class housing reform.

Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

“Affordable” studio would cost more (per square foot) than market-rate studio

Atlantic Yards Report

This is another Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder must-read.

In a nutshell, in the top tier of Bruce Ratner's "affordable" housing plan, a studio apartment is more expensive per-square-foot than a market-rate studio:

The fine print--and it is fine--in the Atlantic Yards Financial Projections document unearthed in the lawsuit by Assemblyman Jim Brennan and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery suggests something quite curious: affordable middle-income studio apartments in the Atlantic Yards project would cost more per square foot ($55.83) than market-rate studios ($51.62) in the same building.

The document projects that phenomenon in every rental building. The market-rate units would still cost a bit more on a monthly basis, $2151 vs. $1861, but that’s because they’d be 500 square feet, as opposed to 400 square feet.
Not all this is new. The projected monthly rents were revealed last year in the developer's housing chart and the size of the affordable apartments, governed by a New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) program, was also publicized last year.

But the cost per square foot was not discussed until this document surfaced. Most crucially, the developer had not announced the projected costs and sizes of the market-rate apartments.

The laddering among the affordable units is apparently not triggered by the developer but by the NYC HDC , which would authorize bonds for the market and affordable rental housing.


NoLandGrab: Is the fact that NYC's Housing Development Corporation will be issuing bonds for financing "affordable" units that are predicted to cost more per square foot than market-rate units offensive to anyone other than Atlantic Yards freaks and geeks?

Posted by lumi at 9:22 AM

August 30, 2007

In Case of 421-a Reform, Good Governance Is In Eye of Beholder

State Bill Overhauls Affordable Housing Requirements for Tax Breaks

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

This article does a pretty good job of explaining the bill, and is worth a read. NoLandGrab is only going to focus on the Ratner Clause today:

Adding to the confusion over the controversial bill — which determines how much affordable housing, if any, developers have to include to receive property tax breaks — few people close to the issue were clear on exactly what the bill says, particularly in regards to the controversial Atlantic Yards “carve out.”

Here's Ryley's explanation of the Atlantic Yards "carve out" (footnotes, ours)

Atlantic Yards would be the only project within the exclusion zone that receives tax breaks for buildings that have only market-rate condominiums, but the tax exemption was changed from 25 years to 15 years, according to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s office.

[This concession, touted by the Governor's office, appears to have made the carve-out more politically palatable.]

The original bill allowed only Atlantic Yards to average the income level of tenants in the “affordable units” so it would equal 70 percent of the area median income (versus requiring that tenants earn no more than 60 percent of the area median income). After recent revisions, the developer can make 20 percent of its units affordable to those earning up to 120 percent of the area median income, as long as they all average out to 90 percent. The new requirement is the same that other heavily government subsidized projects must adhere to, mainly because those projects were originally conceived to create more middle income housing in the city.

[This is where the benefits to Ratner get really fuzzy. This suggests that Ratner's affordable housing is more of a middle-income than a low-income housing plan. Also, It's not clear what "other heavily government-subsidized projects" refers to, though it's likely that the reference pertains primarily to Queens West, the CIty's favorite project du jour.]

It should be noted that Atlantic Yards was planned under the old legislation, when developer Bruce Ratner promised to include low- and middle-income housing in the project even though he could have built no affordable housing in any of the buildings and still received a 25-year tax abatement.

[This is a reminder that Ratner was planning on reaping even more benefits.]

Although no one will come out publicly in support of the special provisions within the legislation, including developer Forest City Ratner’s own people, privately some are calling it a grandfather clause. Also, Ratner is expecting other subsidies and financing that dictate what percentage of the housing in the project must be made affordable — but none would have given the company tax abatements for the market rate buildings.

[We repeat: the actual benefit is murky because, as we mentioned above, it looks like it's more of a middle-income housing plan, but "Ratner is expecting other subsidies and financing" which will ultimately help "dictate" how many units must be provided to applicants in different income bands (determined by percentage of the area's median income).]

“It’s unfortunate that again, public benefits are again being utilized to subsidize middle-income housing in Atlantic Yards,” says [NYC Councilmember Letitia] James. “So many community-based organizations came out in support of Atlantic Yards primarily because of the alleged affordable housing.”

[James makes the same observation — that it appears that Ratner's "affordable" housing will be directed more towards the middle-income applicants, thus making his "affordable" housing plan more expensive for those who need it most.]


NoLandGrab: There are not a lot of developers who can get personal legislative consideration, especially in a "reform" bill, but there's only one "Bruce."

Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

August 28, 2007

It's official, Atlantic Yards to get special subsidies under "reform" bill (or something like that)

Either Atlantic Yards is getting special subsidies or is being treated the same as other developers, depending on what you're reading, and Ratner is getting hundreds of millions of dollars or saving the City hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on who's spinning:


The state legislature's language also means special provisions for Atlantic Yards, the enormous residential and commercial development under way in Brooklyn.
Under the legislature’s bills, Atlantic Yards will be allowed to have tenants with higher incomes in its affordable housing units than generally is allowed under 421-a. The language in the bills also says Atlantic Yards would be allowed to meet the requirements for affordable housing across all of its units, a number that developer Forest City Ratner projects at 6,400. The legislation means – and will mean until the fourth bill passes with amended wording – that the Brooklyn development could receive tax abatements for affordable housing before any such housing is built. Under the proposed fourth bill, A. 9373/ S. 6446, the development will be required to meet the 421-a affordability requirement every 1,500 units, however.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tax Bill Reduces Low-Income Requirement for Atlantic Yards
Sarah Ryley is reporting:

Under the revised bill, Atlantic Yards would have to follow the same requirements as other projects that are heavily subsidized by the city, state or federal government.

Those developers, including Ratner, would now be required to provide 20 percent of their rental units to those earning, on average, 90 percent of AMI, and no more than 120 percent AMI. For-sale units would be capped at 125 percent AMI.

According to a spokesperson for Gov. Spitzer's office, Matt Anderson:

Anderson said Spitzer “shared the city’s concerns over the level of subsidies for the Atlantic Yards project. We believe, however, we’ve reached a fair compromise here.

“At every phase of the [Atlantic Yards] project, 20 percent of housing units for Atlantic Yards must be affordable to receive these abatements. Moreover, the length of the tax breaks was reduced from 25 years to 15 years for the market-rate buildings, which will save the city roughly $100-150 million.”

Anderson was referring to the portion of the revised bill that measures the “affordable” units in the Atlantic Yards project in increments of 1,500 units, versus over the course of the entire 6,400-unit project, as the earlier version had done.

NoLandGrab: If you're confused, then join the rest of us. Hopefully, soon, we'll get this explained to us in plain English so that we can translate it to you in more plain English.

Posted by lumi at 11:09 AM

August 26, 2007

This is Reform?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Reform-minded Governor Eliot Spitzer had that reform slip his mind this week when he signed the 421-a property tax "reform" bill with a special provision giving a $200 million tax break exclusively for politically-connected, billionaire developer Bruce Ratner. That's right, under the new bill Bruce Ratner is the only developer who can get a 15-year tax break for constructing buildings comprised entirely of unaffordable units; that's right, a tax break not to build affordable housing. This means that if "Atlantic Yards" is ever built there would likely be 4 entire buildings of luxury condos paying no taxes for 15 years. That is a loss of $200 million as estimated by New York City.

Who gains? Bruce Ratner can sell those units at a higher price by passing on those tax savings to the new luxury condo owners. The Ratner Clause also allows Bruce Ratner to segregate residents of the "affordable" units from residents of his unaffordable units. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of the 57th District has called this "economic segregation."


Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

August 25, 2007

421-a compromise sent to gov’s desk - Democratic boss says deal will help minimize the impact of gentrification

Stephen Witt gets points this week for mentioning the Atlantic Yards carve-out in his coverage of 421-A. Then, he quickly loses those points by saying that the carve-out has been completely reformed. In fact, the value of the carve-out to Forest City Ratner was only reduced from $300 million to $200 million.

Also under the compromise, the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which was originally excluded from the new 421-a bill, which critics of the project called a “carve-out,” was renegotiated.

After talks between the city and the Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner (FCRC), the original Atlantic Yards component was reformed to ensure that all promised affordable units are completed and integrated throughout the project.

Under the new legislation, FCRC buildings in the project must meet the new affordability requirements in order to qualify for a 25-year tax abatement.

Also FCRC agreed to ensure that their affordable units will be built simultaneously throughout the development of the project.


Posted by amy at 12:18 PM

Who's paying for the affordable housing? New Domino-watchers want to know

Atlantic Yards Report

If one of the lessons of the Atlantic Yards project for developers--like those of the New Domino project proposed in Williamsburg--is that they should hook up with affordable housing advocates to override zoning (or achieve a rezoning), a lesson for critics is that they should follow the money.

After all, Atlantic Yards has been touted as "providing" affordable housing without any reference to the public funds behind the units or any analysis of whether they represent a good bang for the buck.
There's no guarantee those questions will be answered. Last year, the MAS, in comments filed after the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued, asked:
In order to accurately assess whether the Atlantic Yards proposal will result in a net gain of affordable housing units, there needs to be an accounting of the public expenditures on this project versus the total amount of public subsidies available in the same fiscal year so that decision makers can accurately assess the public costs versus the public benefits. What percentage of the city’s total funds for housing will be required to build the project’s 2250 units?

In response, the Empire State Development Corporation offered only generalities. (Only after the project was approved did details emerge.) Will DCP be more forthcoming? The EIS will be written by the same environmental consulting firm, the ubiquitous AKRF.


Posted by amy at 11:19 AM

Governor signs 421-a revision; Times, others ignore "Atlantic Yards carve-out"

Atlantic Yards Report

So Governor Eliot Spitzer has signed the reform of the 421-a tax break, which includes an "Atlantic Yards carve-out" worth up to $200 million for developer Forest City Ratner. When the "carve-out" was worth $300 million, it was criticized by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, ACORN's Bertha Lewis, Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, affordable housing advocate Brad Lander, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the Brooklyn Paper, and others.

When it was reduced but not eliminated, the only official to offer measured criticism was Jeffries. (He issued it after I queried him, but he may have been prepared to issue a statement anyway.) DDDB seemingly stood alone in its forceful criticism.

Affordable housing advocates, city officials, state officials, and the public at large all had something to gain in the revised legislation, beyond the "carve-out." So perhaps some critics felt they could only go so far.

But what about those seemingly independent? Good government advocates were silent, as were editorial pages beyond that initial Brooklyn Paper comment. The New York Times, in its reporting, managed to mangle the historical record. No one beyond a few Brooklynites questioned whether signing the bill comports with Spitzer's claim of being a reformer.


Posted by amy at 11:08 AM

New Laws for Housing Tax Break

The New York Times

The Times is very excited that Spitzer signed the 421-a revision. So excited, in fact, that they forgot to add the part about the Ratner Clause, a special little carve-out that makes the "more stringent affordability standards" LESS STRINGENT FOR RATNER.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer signed into law yesterday three bills to revamp a popular tax break for developers and encourage the construction of thousands of apartments for low-income New York City residents.

The laws are expected to expand the number of neighborhoods where developers are required to include apartments for residents of limited means in order to receive tax breaks. Advocates for lower-cost housing have long said the laws would mean more housing for low-income residents and fewer incentives for developers to build luxury high-rises.

“This legislation will allow New York City to target its limited tax abatement resources to more effectively promote the construction of affordable housing in the neighborhoods that need it most,” the governor said. The tax program that is being revamped, known as 421-a, was started in the 1970s to spur housing development of any kind. Under it, developers received a 10-to-25-year exemption from increases in property taxes resulting from their work. But government officials and advocates for affordable housing say that given the change in New York’s real estate market since the program’s inception, the tax breaks are no longer needed in Midtown and other thriving parts of the city.

Under the new laws, developers will be required to meet more stringent affordability standards, give priority to neighborhood residents for lower-cost units, and ensure that units remain affordable for at least 35 years.


Meanwhile, the existing affordable housing stock in the neighborhood is quickly disappearing. This in from our neighbors on Bergen:

Block party to support the tenants in 533 Bergen Street (Carleton & 6th Avenue) this Sunday, Aug 26 12pm-6pm. There will also be a press conference at 12:30pm.

The residents of this building are rent stabilized tenants who have lived in the community for decades. Their new landlords, Dan Bailey and Felicity Loughrey, are trying to evict four families from the building so that they can create one huge apartment and live in luxury. Join us in supporting the Bergen Street tenants' fight for survival and in telling Bailey and Loughrey that good neighbors don't evict neighbors.

DJs! Art! Food! Games! Balloons! Sprinklers! Support Your Neighbors!! Save Your Hood!!

Posted by amy at 10:57 AM

August 22, 2007

Break Out of the Box

How community input is driving new affordable housing designs



More serious consultation among developers, architects, and the community is becoming the norm. Affordable housing developers across the country are increasingly following [Seattle Housing Authority's] model of inviting the surrounding communities to get involved in their projects’ designs. They’re finding that such involvement can be a recipe for improving their developments as well as for winning local political support.

They're even doing it in NYC:

In New York, the five teams of architects and developers that competed for a 1.4-acre wedge of abandoned rail yard in the South Bronx got an earful from the community at a public meeting before they submitted even the most basic sketches.

“When we were preparing our design, we really used this [feedback from the neighborhood] as a checklist,” said William Stein, principal for Dattner Architects, an architecture firm in Manhattan that collaborated with Grimshaw Architects to create the winning design.

“Getting community feedback is extraordinarily valuable,” said Adam Weinstein, president of nonprofit Phipps Houses. Phipps is developing that rail yard site in the Bronx, which will be known as Via Verde, in partnership with Jonathan Rose Cos.

And guess the name of the posterproject for lack of community input. [Hint: it's the project that's currently being dragged through the courts while other projects have broken ground]:

Developers that attempt to shorten the lengthy process of building consensus have been punished. Forest City Ratner Cos. reached out to local officials and community groups to win support for its plans to build more than 5,000 mixed-income apartments at Atlantic Yards. But it missed an important set of local stakeholders who have filed several highly publicized lawsuits against the developers. The result: The project is more than a year behind schedule and reportedly tens of millions of dollars over budget.


Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

August 19, 2007

Day 421-a, everything changes? Spitzer slammed for closed-door negotiation

Atlantic Yards Report

Gov. Eliot Spitzer gets slammed in the August 20 issue of the conservative Weekly Standard, in an article headlined Troopergate, New York-Style: Eliot Spitzer's character problem, by New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin and historian Fred Siegel.

Beyond the current scandal regarding the administration's attempt to discredit Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, the authors detail a disturbing pattern of Spitzer using family money to fund his campaigns and his lifestyle, without disclosing it.

And, they point out, Spitzer's ethical record as governor is hardly sterling:
The result was gridlock, familiar ground in Albany, but one of the things Spitzer had promised to fix. His campaign motto was "Day One, Everything Changes," and he had cited secret negotiations, higher taxes, and unchecked spending as targets for his new administration. Yet it was already clear that Spitzer no longer saw those practices as problems. His first budget, despite repeated promises not to raise taxes, did just that. He increased spending by close to 8 percent--nearly triple the rate of inflation.

Perhaps most troubling, he continued the discredited practice of meeting with legislative leaders in private to make secret deals on laws and spending. When Michael Goodwin confronted Spitzer by noting that not a single public hearing had been held on any major issue before the deals were cut, Spitzer responded icily. "I'm the governor of the state," he said. "I'll be Lyndon Johnson. I'll craft the deals and I'll get the job done. You will write and I will do. That's why you're there and I'm here."

Spitzer has made some progress, but the "compromise" on the revision of the 421-a tax break, which left a significant "Atlantic Yards carve-out" for Forest City Ratner, certainly didn't happen in public.


Posted by amy at 9:48 AM

August 14, 2007


Promises of affordable housing are leading to unexpected alliances in Brooklyn.

City Limits
By Curtis Stephen

Oy, who knew that three years into the Atlantic Yards controversy, we'd still be fact-checking lead sentences?:

As controversial and lawsuit-ridden as it may be, the proposed Atlantic Yards redevelopment program in downtown Brooklyn has one reliable reply to anyone who criticizes the project on the basis that it creates more rather than less inequality in the world – or at least in Brooklyn.

For the record: Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan isn't in "Downtown Brooklyn" despite what Ratner's web site says. Whatever Ratner spends on is totally worth it just for perpetuating this myth alone.

The lead paragraph continues:

And that is: the solid backing of poor-people’s advocate ACORN. Now, at least two new development proposals in the borough are mirroring that developer-advocacy group relationship, some say, prompting debate over whether other private developers are taking a page from Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards playbook to win helpful grassroots support for their upscale residential ventures – or whether actively seeking that support may lead to genuine discussions that create greater community benefits than would have been generated otherwise.

Read about how developers are seeking to divide and conquer the community in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.


Atlantic Yards Report follows up ("City Limits sees AY housing echoes in New Domino plan; Yassky, DePaolo differ") on the City Limits article, reporting on City Councilmember David Yassky's defense of the New Domino plan.

Citing the provision of affordable housing, Yassky Friday submitted comments to the Department of City Planning (DCP) fully supporting the New Domino, which would bring some 2200 apartments, including two 30-story and 40-story towers each, to an 11.2-acre site on and near the Williamsburg waterfront.

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

August 11, 2007

Cut Out the Ratner Carve-Out

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Tell Governor Spitzer that the 421-a "Carve-out" for "Atlantic Yards" is Wrong!

Controversy has surrounded the New York State Legislature's 421-a "reform" bill since Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez inserted a special "carve out" bestowing exclusive tax benefits on Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" project.

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez lambasted the backroom deal in a column entitled "A deal so sweet it's sick." State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries called the special clause "economic segregation." Staunch "Atlantic Yards" supporter Bertha Lewis called the carve-out "bad public policy." And Mayor Bloomberg threatened to withhold more than $100 million in city subsidies for the project if the tax giveaway was not removed from the bill.

All that criticism, however, seems to have had little effect. The special treatment for "Atlantic Yards" persists in what several news organizations are calling the final version of the bill. If Governor Spitzer signs the bill into law, Forest City Ratner would receive an exclusive tax break worth some $200 million. Ratner would receive 421-a affordable-housing tax breaks for condo buildings that would contain no affordable units -- the only developer in New York to receive such a break under the tax law.

We call upon Governor Spitzer, who was elected overwhelmingly to office on the promise of reforming Albany, to veto the 421-a "reform" bill as long as it contains special, exclusive and indefensible anti-reform tax breaks for "Atlantic Yards."

Please contact Governor Spitzer today to urge him to reject the Legislature's 421-a bill until the Ratner carve-out is eliminated.

Honorable Governor Eliot Spitzer
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Call: 518-474-8390



Posted by amy at 10:45 AM

A closer look at the 421-a revision; can you figure it out?

421a1.JPG Atlantic Yards Report gets out the highlighter and attacks the 421-a tax exemption.

The New York Times on Wednesday reported, the city's party line:
As for Atlantic Yards, city officials said the new agreement represents a fair compromise. To receive the maximum tax break, 20 percent of the units in any building will have to meet the new affordability guidelines, which are more stringent than those that originally applied. And the lower-priced units will have to be built at the same time as the market-rate units, to insure that they are not put off until the end of construction or never completed.

This fails to explain that Forest City Ratner would still be eligible for a special tax break. It sets up a false comparison. Yes, the new law is more stringent than that "originally applied," but it would be more stringent for everyone, so that's not the point. The point is that the affordability guidelines would be different for Atlantic Yards. That's why it's still a "carve-out."


Posted by amy at 10:32 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: August 9, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mary Frost

New York City officials and state legislators have reached an agreement to overhaul a popular tax break for apartment building developers, the New York Times reports. The aim is to encourage the construction of tens of thousands of apartments for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. If Governor Spitzer agrees to the revised 421-a program, it will significantly expand the number of neighborhoods where developers will include apartments for low- and moderate-income tenants in exchange for tax breaks.

According to the Times, the version of the plan passed by the Legislature in late June expanded the number of neighborhoods where developers would be required to build lower-priced units to get the tax break. In addition, the Legislature’s bill gave an additional $300 million break to the Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by amy at 10:11 AM

August 10, 2007

Mayor delivers for Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

Mayor Bloomberg agreed this week to give Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner a $200 million bonus.

The tax break is part of a package that purportedly seeks to cut back tax incentives to real estate developers in upscale areas and to encourage the construction of moderate income housing.

This week’s deal, involving Bloomberg and leaders of the state Assembly and Senate — promises to modify legislation passed in June that includes a $300 million bonus to Ratner, now reduced by one-third. The bonus is in the form of a Ratner-only “carve-out” in 421-a tax abatements.
The father of the bill, Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Bushwick), declined to comment on the Atlantic Yards provision, hailing the larger bill as a long-awaited victory for low and moderate- income city residents.

“This is a compromise and a very good bill that will create affordable housing all across the city,” Lopez said.

Affordable housing advocates praised the bill. “It will create more affordable housing around the city,” said Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council. As for Ratner, she said, “he got lucky.”


NoLandGrab: Uh, we're not experts, but we're pretty sure it took more than luck for Ratner to get special treatment under the 421-a reform bill — we can't imagine Bloomie and Bruce settling the Atlantic Yards carveout with Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM

August 9, 2007

Jeffries offers measured criticism of "carve-out" compromise

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who two weeks ago called the original iteration of the “Atlantic Yards carve-out” “offensive,” yesterday offered measured criticism of the compromise that would give Forest City Ratner $150 million, or $200 million, of the $300 million bonus it had sought.
The original “carve-out” would’ve given four or five Atlantic Yards condo buildings the 25-year tax break with nothing in return—in effect, grandfathering in Atlantic Yards while treating other developments in Jeffries' Prospect Heights district (and beyond) differently. The “compromise” shortens the tax break to 15 years.

"While the modification of the Atlantic Yards carve-out provision is a step in the right direction, I remain concerned that this project is treated differently than any other in the city,” Jeffries said in a statement. “Given the need for increased affordable home ownership opportunities in our community, I will continue to push the developer to build at least twenty percent of the apartments in each on-site condominium building in a manner that is affordable to working families and moderate income households.” Two weeks ago, he had called it “economic segregation.”


Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

Meet Shaun Donovan, Affordable Housing’s Man of the Hour

The city’s commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development talks about the Bloomberg administration’s plans for 165,000 new affordable homes, its support of raising the threshold for rent-stabilized apartments—and its pull in Albany on housing issues

The NY Observer

Criticism of the "Atlantic Yards carveout," in Matthew Schuerman's Q&A interview with NYC Housing Preservation and Development head Shaun Donovan, which presumably was conducted before Tuesday's announcement of a deal:


I understand you were unhappy with the state’s 421a tax abatement bill, which changed the popular development incentive. What are your concerns?

We are in continuing discussions over that. The concern, one of the concerns that we have about the bill that was passed, is that it removes all of our flexibility to do moderate-income projects. It would require that every single project that gets 421a benefits, within the exclusion zones, to have a low-income component; and while our focus has been on low-income, we also have a significantly expanded middle-class housing initiative. Queens West is one example.

We’re also concerned about the exclusion zones. The South Bronx, for example, is clearly not an area where we think it’s appropriate to expand the exclusion zone. And then, third, we’re concerned about the level of benefits that the bill would provide to a hand-picked group of developers—the Atlantic Yards provision, which, by our count, gives $300 million in tax benefits to Atlantic Yards.

Now, if we could solve the broader issue around middle-income housing, we could get to a solution that would reduce their benefits but also allow the project to proceed.


Norman Oder comments on his Atlantic Yards Report blog:

That’s a bit of a non sequitur. Yes, some 900 of the 2250 subsidized Atlantic Yards units would be middle-income housing, for families of four earning from $70,900 (100% of Area Median Income, or AMI) to $113,440 (160% of AMI).

But Donovan sounds like he’s saying Atlantic Yards would’ve been stalled without the tax break. If that’s the argument, then: show us the numbers. He still hasn’t justified why Atlantic Yards would get special treatment.

Posted by lumi at 9:35 AM

August 8, 2007

Ratner Clause is coming to town...

Yesterday afternoon's big news was delivered by Crain's NY Business reporter Erik Engquist:

The new agreement also does away with a controversial carve-out that would have allowed developer Forest City Ratner’s planned $4 billion Atlantic Yards project to qualify for 421-a abatements without integrating affordable and market-rate units. The abatements were estimated to be worth about $200 million.

RatGifts.jpgAU CONTRAIRE, MON FRÈRE! Before boasting of the death of the Ratner Clause, other media outlets are reporting differently:

Atlantic Yards Report, AY carve-out shrinks, value halved (?), in city-brokered 421-a reform

Forest City Ratner still gets a deal. Ten days ago, an FCR spokesman had declared a modified carve-out a done deal.
First, Forest City Ratner would still get its tax savings in most buildings without having to change the income mix, thanks to an upward tweak in the bill's definition of affordable housing.

And the developer would still get a tax break for the condo buildings without having to provide affordable housing. That's the premise of the current law, as applied to Prospect Heights, and certainly part of the developer's economic projections when Atlantic Yards was hatched. But no other similarly-situated developer, who planned a project but then saw the law come up for renewal and revision, would get the same deal.

Four or five AY buildings would contain only condos; the "carve-out," as with the current law, would have allowed them to qualify for a 25-year tax break even without including affordable housing. The compromise allows a 15-year tax break but would allow the 25-year tax break if those buildings included 20% affordable for-sale units--a provision that likely would be applied to at least one of those condo buildings.


[The compromise] cuts from $300 million to $200 million the exclusive property-tax breaks for developer Bruce Ratner. And the 1,930 condo units would get tax exemptions for 15 years rather than 25.

NY Sun, Housing Options Added to Development Tax Bill

The exception for Atlantic Yards was reduced in its scope, but not removed, with the added benefit to the development estimated at $150 million, according to a city official. The entire complex, regardless of whether the buildings have affordable units, would qualify for the tax break, though the market-rate buildings would receive the incentive for 10 years less, the city official said. The developer, Forest City Ratner, would be required to build its low- and middle-income units simultaneously with other units in order to receive the tax break.

Opponents of the project said Forest City Ratner should have to abide by the same rules as every other developer in the city.

The NY Times, Bill Aims to Spur Housing for New York’s Poor
The Times highlights the party line, without mentioning that the Atlantic Yards carveout still provides subsidies for Bruce Ratner's controversial project that are not available to other developers:

As for Atlantic Yards, city officials said the new agreement represents a fair compromise. To receive the maximum tax break, 20 percent of the units in any building will have to meet the new affordability guidelines, which are more stringent than those that originally applied. And the lower-priced units will have to be built at the same time as the market-rate units, to insure that they are not put off until the end of construction or never completed.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Ratner Clause Lives

How bad is the Ratner Clause? It is bad enough that those working on pushing it through did not report it accurately to the press . Rather than reporting that this was a new version of the clause still exempting Ratner from providing affordable housing, the press was told that the Ratner provsion had been eleiminated as called for by many elected officials. (see below Crain's article below).

Special catering to Ratner's project has now held the City's housing agenda hostage by resulting in a bill with less positive reform than the the City orginally intended. (see Atlantic Yards Report below).

Either the Ratner provision needs to be eliminated entirely, or the bill must be vetoed by Governor Spitzer

Posted by lumi at 9:52 AM

August 1, 2007

Affordable housing the focus at the New Domino hearing

Atlantic Yards Report compares the concern about affordable housing between the recently announced New Domino plan and Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan.

In the post-Atlantic Yards world, will every megaproject be justified because it provides affordable housing? That’s one conclusion after yesterday’s hearing at the Department of City Planning (DCP) regarding the New Domino development proposed for the former Domino sugar factory site in Williamsburg, five blocks along the waterfront north of the Williamsburg Bridge, plus one square block across Kent Avenue.

For starters, the affordable housing for New Domino "is aimed at a lower-income cohort than the AY plan."


NoLandGrab: In the film "Brooklyn Matters," Julia Vitullo-Martin from the Manhattan Institute observed:

"The truth is today, if you’re a developer with a bad project, a large bad project that shouldn’t be built... the smart thing to do is say, ‘Y’know what, I’m going to provide you with some really good affordable housing.’ So affordable housing is the Trojan Horse these days on big bad projects that shouldn’t get done. And neighborhood activists and many of our elected officials become very reluctant to oppose a project, any project, that has a large affordable housing component."

Without casting judgment on the New Domino project, and based on Vitullo-Martin's observation, the answer to the question, "In the post-Atlantic Yards world, will every megaproject be justified because it provides affordable housing?" is yes, at least in the foreseeable future.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

July 31, 2007

The not-so-natural process of Williamsburg gentrification

Atlantic Yards Report

Local ACORN Dir. Bertha Lewis has tried to sell Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan as a hedge against the rising tide of gentrification, explaining "If I could stop one iota of gentrification, I’ll do it."

Norman Oder looks at an analysis of gentrification and affordable housing in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, where inclusionary zoning and market forces may give Atlantic Yards watchdogs some clues to whether or not Bertha Lewis has a clue.

So, how well did the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning work in terms of providing affordable housing? How far along is gentrification? Some sobering observations, if not a full statistical analysis, emerge from an analysis by graduate students at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. The report, Gentrification and Rezoning, Williamsburg-Greenpoint, was produced in conjunction with The New York City Community Council.

For example, the study concludes that inclusionary zoning—which provides increased development rights in exchange for including affordable housing—has worked well on waterfront parcels, where there is both public land to be used and sufficient space to build back.

However, on smaller upland parcels where there’s less room to build bigger overall, “the inclusionary program does not appear to be enough of an incentive to encourage the development of affordable housing.” Instead, developers have taken advantage of the existing 421-a tax exemption, which, until reforms go into effect next year, does not require affordable units in exchange.


Posted by lumi at 9:03 AM

July 30, 2007

Real Estate Round-Up

Brooklyn Daily Eagle rehashes last week's coverage in the Daily News that the Bloomberg administration has reached a deal with Bruce Ratner on the special carveout clause in the 421-a reform legislation. The Eagle included the claim that the new deal "could save the city $100 million."

The News reports that officials agreed yesterday to reduce the length of time Forest City Ratner is exempt from paying property taxes by 10 years, to 15 years, on the 1,900 market rate condos in the arena and high rise development.

“The tweak” could save the city $100 million.

Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt tells the News, “As far as we’re concerned, the issue has been resolved.”


NoLandGrab: While Ratner may still stand to gain $200 million from the special treatment awarded by the tweak to the legislation, it is billed as a $100 million savings for New Yorkers — brilliant!.

Posted by lumi at 10:33 AM

July 27, 2007

Bloomy slightly sours Bruce’s sweet deal from the state

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman with additional reporting by Ariella Cohen

According to the Daily News, city officials reduced the length of the tax break from 25 years to 15 years, saving an estimated $100 million.

The remaining tax break would still save Ratner $200 million, the Bloomberg administration has estimated.

Bloomberg spokesman John Gallagher declined to comment on the Daily News story, saying only that negotiations were “continuing” between Forest City Ratner executives, city officials and state leaders.

But a source in the administration told the New York Post earlier this week that the Bloomberg administration objects to the “Ratner carve-out” because “pure and simple, it’s a giveaway.”

It’s the first time city officials have publicly objected to any of the billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed subsidies Ratner will receive on the Atlantic Yards project.

Forest City Ratner officials did not return repeated calls and e-mails from The Brooklyn Paper.


Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

RatnerCorporateWelfare.jpg The Albany Project, Ratner Gets $200 Million Tax Break, City "Saves" $100 Million

Remember that really sweet deal that Ratnerville was able to slip into the 421-A reform bill? The one that was exclusive the Atlantic Yards Project?
Now we have a "compromise" that would shave this sweet deal by a third and those who worked it out are telling folks that now the city is "saving" $100 million bucks. It's disgusting.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. Everything wrong with New York state politics is represented in the Ratnerville project. Corruption writ large.

And yes, Vito Lopez (D-Sleazeville), I'm looking right at you.

Brit in Brooklyn, Ratner Keeps His Tax Break

We like the Daily News' definition of "slash tax break" in their Atlantic Yards story today: Bruce Ratner gets out of paying property taxes for a mere 15 years, rather than 25 years as originally planned.

Brownstoner, Ratner Compromise Still Special Treatment

After the Mayor threatened on Monday to pull $100 million of city financing for the Atlantic Yards project if the sweetheart deal that Vito Lopez inserted into the 421-a legislation was not revised, a compromise is reportedly in the works. According to The Daily News, the city will get its $100 million back by reducing the tax-free period on 1,900 market-rate condos from 25 years to 15 years. Of course, that comes at the expense of the condo owners not Ratner himself. As the Atlantic Yards Report points out, though, the compromise doesn't change the fact that Ratner is getting special treatment by not having to play by the same affordable housing rules as every other developer.

Gothamist, Extra, Extra

Developer Bruce Ratner is closer to getting his tax-break subsidies, after negotiating with Mayor Bloomberg and the state legislature.

Nets Daily, Nets Hopeful on Luxury Box Sales
News that really bores the average Nets fan from the blog that's not an official Nets site:

In an article about a possible glut of luxury boxes at new sports facilities around New York, Crains New York Business quotes Nets president Brett Yormark as saying the team hopes to sell out all the Barclays Center’s 118 luxury suites. The team will begin selling the suites in earnest this fall with the opening of a model box at the New York Times building, which is part owned by Bruce Ratner.

The luxury suites will be part of a larger group of suites that include party suites capable of entertaining up to 60 people. All told, Barclays Center will have 170 suites, compared to 29 at the Continental Airlines Arena.
[Forest City Ratner] assumes that approximately 162 of 170 suites will be sold annually through a combination of first ring suites, second ring suites, courtside suites, and loge boxes. The suite price includes the price of tickets to NBA games and approximately 25 percent of other events held at the arena. In addition, it is assumed that three of the four party suites, each with sixty suites, will be sold for all NBA games on an annual basis.”

However, the same analysis warned: “Given the competitiveness of the market, both the total number of suites and the average price per suite assumed by FCRC appear to be on the high end relative to other similar arenas. NBA arenas average approximately ninety suites. Facilities in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Dallas, Toronto, and Philadelphia are the only ones that offer more than 125 suites. Other than the Palace at Auburn Hills in Detroit, all of these facilities host both NBA and NHL teams.”

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

July 26, 2007

PRESS RELEASE, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:
Behind Closed Doors, a Ratner Conpromise

After "Negotiations," Developer Bruce Ratner Still Set to Reap $200 Million Tax Break from 421-a "Reform" Bill's Exclusive "Atlantic Yards" Clause

NEW YORK, NY -- If a report in today's Daily News is accurate, developer Bruce Ratner and city officials are trying to spin a 33% reduction in a special tax break legislated exclusively for the Atlantic Yards developer as a meaningful "scale back." But it's a "scale back" to a special property tax break for Ratner that should never have existed in the first place. As of three days ago, the Bloomberg administration wanted the exclusive tax provision removed entirely.

The News reports that the city and Forest City Ratner held "negotiations" over the 421-a reform bill's original special provision, reducing the exclusive tax break from $300 million to $200 million. The project's 1,930 condominium units would receive tax exemptions for 15 years rather than the 25 years originally outlined.

"Negotiated behind closed doors, this so-called 'compromise' of the 421-a special tax break exclusively for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards—a tax break unavailable to any other developer in the city, and one that should never have existed in the first place—is an offensive sham. Unless this indefensible, blatant giveaway to Bruce Ratner, which will cost taxpayers at least $200 million, is removed from the bill, reform-minded Governor Eliot Spitzer must veto it," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein. "Earlier this week, the Bloomberg Administration was all snarl and bluster, threatening to pull $105 million in promised Atlantic Yards cash subsidies, but today, it's apparent that the city was all bark and no bite. There is no fundamental difference between the original sweetheart deal and this negotiated sweetheart deal; the negotiated agreement is a toothless joke."

It is unclear how legislators critical of the special Ratner clause will react to reports of a non-compromise compromise, which does not fundamentally change the original special provision at all or respond to widespread criticism of the Atlantic Yards carve-out.

At a town hall meeting just two days ago, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (57th District, which encompasses the Atlantic Yards project site) called the special tax break for Ratner "offensive," and said that the developer must "comply with the [421-a] law." He added that "the government should review completely the entire merits of this project" if the special clause is not eliminated. Mr. Jeffries also called the special Atlantic Yards carve-out "economic segregation" because "[Forest City Ratner] negotiated a provision that would allow them to have all luxury condominiums and still get the tax break."

It is also unclear how ACORN's Bertha Lewis, a staunch Atlantic Yards supporter, will react to reports of this "negotiation." She has called the special Ratner provision "bad public policy."

Much like the mythical scale-back of the Atlantic Yards project--announce project, increase size of project, return project to original size, claim reduction--this so-called "scale back" of the special 421-a Atlantic Yards "carve-out" plays the same game: propose and pass legislation allowing a large, indefensible tax break that should not exist at all, reduce the size of the large, indefensible tax break that shouldn't exist, and claim it "could save the city $100 million."

Former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman said, "Ratner always asks for more than he needs, but the politicians and bureaucrats always give him more than he expects. In this case of the 421-a special provision, the so-called 'compromise' far exceeds what he deserves."


DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.

Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM


The NY Daily News got the big scoop today:

ratbox.JPG Pols slash tax-break on Atlantic Yards

Under pressure from the city, developer Forest City Ratner's sweetheart tax break is getting scaled back by state lawmakers, the Daily News has learned.

Officials yesterday agreed to reduce to 15 years the length of time Bruce Ratner is exempt from paying property taxes on 1,900 market-rate condos slated for the Atlantic Yards project, a tweak that could save the city $100 million.
A Bloomberg spokesman declined to discuss details of the negotiations but said Forest City Ratner and city officials had hammered out an agreement this week.

NoLandGrab: Ha, ha — this is a joke, right? After holding "negotiations" with Forest City, the Bloomberg administration has come up with a "scale back" "that could save the city $100 million."

Do they mean saving the city $100 million of the $300 million the previous deal gave away? What's wrong with Ratner getting the same deal as every other developer in NYC?


In 2005, the MTA "negotiated" with Forest City Ratner to spice up the embarrassingly low $50M offer for the development rights for the railyards. The $100M deal they hammered out was still lower than the $150M competing offer from the Extel development company and much lower than the MTA's original $214M appraisal.

"Negotiations" always seem to end in Ratner's favor, which makes you wonder what kind of superpowers he possesses.

Since Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003, the project continued to grow on the drawing board. In 2006, The New York Times had an exclusive that announced that Ratner decided to "scale back" the project. The Times didn't comprehend that Atlantic Yards was "scaled back" to roughly its original size.

Today's News story had the step on the NY Post's "exclusive."


After threatening to pull $100 million in subsidies from the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the Bloomberg administration appears close to a compromise over middle-income housing, sources said yesterday.

The administration, developer Bruce Ratner and state legislators have made significant progress in recent days negotiating changes to an affordable-housing reform bill passed by the Legislature.

NoLandGrab: Though the Post missed the story, it's interesting how the word "negotiating" was used again, as if Forest City is another branch of government or something.

Atlantic Yards Report confirms our suspicions that $100M savings is really just a one-third decrease in the big special gift to Ratner and explains that the special carveout still stands.

Behind closed doors, a "compromise" on the Ratner clause

Because the gist of the exclusive, published unaccountably in the newspaper's Brooklyn section--is this not of citywide interest?--is that the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" would be reduced from $300 million to $200 million because the 1930 condos would get tax exemptions for 15 years rather than 25 years.
Missing is the voice of any neutral analyst, but surely such person could point out that, while Forest City Ratner did expect to get tax breaks for all-condo buildings before the law changed, the justification for treating this development differently is hard to get past the average citizen, as noted Tuesday by Jeffries' constituency.

The NY Times is bringing up the rear today with their City Room blog post citing the NY Post article.

Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

July 25, 2007

Jeffries calls AY carve-out "offensive"--and his base agrees

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder checked out what Hakeem Jeffries had to say at the freshman NY State Assemblyman's first Town Hall meeting and noted:

As a candidate last year, Hakeem Jeffries was a qualified supporter of Atlantic Yards. And as a freshman member of the State Assembly, he still welcomes the project’s affordable housing.

But Jeffries' posture has gotten tougher lately, and last night he delivered an eloquent criticism of the project, declaring that promised affordable housing was easily matched by government support for developer Forest City Ratner and that the “Atlantic Yards carve-out,” a tax break available only to the developer, was “offensive” because it promoted “economic segregation.” And his audience, responding to the notion of special treatment, seemed to agree.


Posted by lumi at 10:30 AM

July 23, 2007

Compromising on Congestion and Campaign Cash

RoundTable.jpgGotham Gazette
By Courtney Gross and Gail Robinson

An article about the compromises and agreements reached in overtime between the City and State lists a few items that didn't get done, including the 421-a reform bill that contains the "Ratner Clause:"

Tax Credits for Housing: The legislature has approved a version of 421a, a city program that provides tax breaks to housing developers in an effort to encourage construction of affordable housing. The mayor and City Council had proposed their own version late last year. But the version approved by the legislature - and apparently authored by Assemblymember Vito Lopez of Brooklyn -- included a huge tax break for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project. And according to the city housing agency, the legislature's bill places additional conditions on developers that would hamper the city's effort to promote building of middle class housing. Bloomberg and Quinn have both urged Spitzer to veto it.


Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

July 20, 2007

He smells a Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters to the Editor

A Park Sloper lays the blame at Ratner's feet, but calls on voters to take it out on their elected representatives:

Those newly released Atlantic Yards documents (“Yassky: Stop Ratner gravy train,” July 14) make it very clear that the 2,250 low-cost housing units that are proposed as part of Bruce Ratner’s development may, in fact, never be built.

But if not, blame Ratner. Their future is in doubt due to cost under-estimates, and this should concern every taxpaying citizen. Ratner’s project will ultimately be funded with taxpayer money solely for private use, and in the end will not benefit the community in any way shape or form, but will only further deplete already overtaxed utilities in the area and in nearby neighborhoods.

Moving forward with this project, with the assistance of city officials and planners, violates the terms of Eminent Domain laws, and is unethical. The developer, with government assistance, is knowingly seizing private property for private use under the guise of public benefit.

To add insult to injury, a recent state Assembly vote awarded Ratner a tax break estimated as being worth between $175 and $300 million.

It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to all that’s going on in our own backyards — we need to act.

If the officials we elect to protect our interests are unwilling to do so, they must be voted out of office. We’ve been complacent long enough, Brooklynites — “Wake up! Speak up! Use your vote!”

Robert Segarra, Park Slope

Posted by lumi at 9:56 AM

Amendment of 421-a Bill Could Save City Millions

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

A carve-out for the Atlantic Yards project in a housing tax break bill could be removed during a special legislative session, as legislators are pushing to block what has been called a giant taxpayer giveaway.

Last month, the Legislature approved a renewed residential tax break bill, known as 421-a, which contained expanded provisions for “affordable” housing. However the deal-making involved in crafting the bill, which has yet to be sent to Governor Spitzer for his signature, resulted in facets that angered advocates of both housing and development. The mayor has called for a veto of the bill should it not be amended, as has the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn.

The chief focus of criticisms of the bill is an exemption crafted for Brooklyn’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which Mayor Bloomberg has said could cost the city upwards of $300 million. The lead architect of the bill, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, said all parties are talking, including developer Forest City Ratner, and that there seems to be support for at least scaling back the Atlantic Yards provision.


NoLandGrab: Is it possible that Vito Lopez is testing the waters for "at least scaling back the Atlantic Yards provision" to claim a win-win for the developer, politicians and community? "Scaling back" a handout, that's brilliant!

The history of "scalebacks" for Atlantic Yards is deceptive and murky:

In September 2006, Ratner announced a "scaleback" of the project, in a NY Times exclusive that returned the project to roughly the square footage originally announced in 2003.

In December 2006, the height of the project's signature tower, "Miss Brooklyn," was "scaled back" to one foot less than the height of the landmark Williamsburg Savings Bank clock tower. Ratner has yet to release details about the bulk and square footage of the "new Miss Brooklyn," though project critics note that the building will likely be much more massive than the clock tower.

We can hardly wait for details of the next "scaleback."

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

July 18, 2007

421a Deal Breaks Down

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Here's one we missed from Monday.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg was hoping to add some last-minute amendments to NY State's 421-a reform bill "that would permit the 421a housing tax break to apply to subsidized middle-class housing planned for Queens West."

NoLandGrab: The Mayor has spoken out against the "Atlantic Yards carveout" on grounds that a sole developer shouldn't get special subsidies, which according to the Mayor's office could cost the city $300M. Presumably, the amendments sought by the Mayor included removal of this big gift for Bruce Ratner.

Schuerman cites an un-named real estate exec who reports that negotiations with State Assemblyman Vito Lopez have broken down:

As a result, the executive said, any changes that would undo the problems that the Bloomberg administration sees with the state legislation that passed last month will have to wait until the fall.

Schuerman updated the post with news that the Senate was passing amendments that reflected changes previously passed by the Assembly, which, "do not reflect the alterations the Mayor was seeking."


Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

July 14, 2007

Hakeem and Velmanette stand up

The Daily Gotham

In the ongoing battle over Atlantic Yards, one central critique of good government advocates has been the abject failure of the legislature to do its due diligence and examine whether this project is indeed in the public interest, and therefore worthy of public dollars.

One of the myriad lollipops being thrown at Bruce Ratner is this: a 421-a tax reform bill just passed by the Assembly reformed the 421-a tax break given to developers; now, one must actually build affordable housing to receive tax breaks for it.
Mayor Bloomberg has called for a veto of the bill, and now, the two legislators who represent Atlantic Yards in the legislature, Velmanette Montgomery and Hakeem Jeffries, have made their displeasure known in no uncertain terms.
It's unacceptable on good government grounds alone to give preferential treatment to any one party. It's even more galling when a developer receives massive tax breaks and subsidies and then doesn't even have to fulfill the same requirements expected of other developers. This is crony capitalism of the Halliburton variety. Governor Spitzer should veto the bill.


Posted by amy at 11:16 AM

On 421-a, Brennan revises stance, FCR’s Bender distorts history

Atlantic Yards Report

As Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery this week called for developer Forest City Ratner to abandon the “Atlantic Yards carve-out” in the reform of the city’s 421-a tax exemption, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who’s been a critic of aspects of the project, seemed like the odd man out--until now.

The State Legislature has passed the revised bill but it has yet to be signed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Various forces, including the city administration, are calling for a revision or a veto. Brennan had told the New York Observer’s blog The Real Estate Observer that “It’s not a carve-out… The only thing that happened was that Atlantic Yards got grandfathered in.”

That seemed inaccurate, given that there’s a special provision that could only apply to Atlantic Yards, allowing the requirement of 20 percent affordable housing to be spread over the project as a whole rather than applied to each building, as the law otherwise would require, and also nudging up the income limit for Atlantic Yards affordable units. (Instead of requiring affordable housing at 60% of Area Median Income, at Atlantic Yards the limit would be 70%.)

Revised stance

Brennan told me yesterday he’s revised his stance: “I’ve been thinking through that a lot. The main bill I actually support. I’d still like to see the 421-a renegotiated, because I’d like to see Atlantic Yards back on the table. I had a factual misunderstanding... I would be happy if Spitzer vetoed the bill, because I’d like to see some rethinking of Atlantic Yards and the program. If he didn’t veto the bill, I still think there’s a lot of people who want to see a renegotiation.”


Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

July 13, 2007

Pols speak out (and about) 421-a reform gift for Atlantic Yards

politicos.gifThere's general backlash in the political establishment in response to the special "Ratner clause" in the State legislature's 421-a reform bill.

THE REAL ESTATE OBSERVER, Mayor Seeks to Reform 421a Reform

Mayor Bloomberg

The city wants the Legislature to make three changes: extend the abatement to government-supported middle-income housing, such as that planned for Queens West; shrink the so-called exclusion zone; and retract the $300 million additional tax break that Atlantic Yards, alone among new developments in Brownstone Brooklyn, would qualify for.

This article, by Matthew Schuerman, explains the technicalities of how the bill could be changed before the Governor has to decide whether to sign or veto.

NY State Assemblywoman Joan Millman explains that she would have signed on to State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries's letter if she wasn't on vacation:

“This is a developer who has gotten many, many tax benefits from the city and state,” she told The Observer. “This is just another piece.”

State Assemblyman Jim Brennan has an interesting take on the special exception that amounts to an estimated $300M gift to developer Bruce Ratner:

“It’s not a carve-out,” Mr. Brennan told The Observer last week. “The only thing that happened was that Atlantic Yards got grandfathered in.”

NoLandGrab: Hmm... selectively grandfathered in maybe.

THE BROOKLYN PAPER, Yassky: Stop Ratner gravy train

NYC Councilman David Yassky has spent years charting the narrow channel between supporting and criticizing Atlantic Yards. This week, Yassky finds political cover in the financial documents recently obtained and released by Assemblyman Brennan.

Also this on Bloomberg*:

Yassky’s call for an end to Ratner subsidies comes just two weeks after Mayor Bloomberg — himself a strong supporter of Atlantic Yards — finally broke with Ratner, declaring that the developer “doesn’t need” an additional special tax break handed to him by the state Assembly.

As previously reported:

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Prospect Heights) and Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Park Slope) sent a letter to Ratner asking him to “abandon … the special treatment set forth in the Atlantic Yards carve-out provision.”

BROWNSTONER, Pols Call for Ratner to Abandon 421-a Carve-Out

Local real estate blog, Brownstoner, delivers news of the Jeffries-Montgomery letter to its readers:

the two are teaming up to call out Forest City Ratner in a public letter that states:

"FCRC should publicly comply with the 421-a law, as applicable to everyone else, and build at least 20% of the condominium units in each luxury condominium building in a manner that is affordable to low and moderate income families. Anything short of publicly abandoning the special treatment set forth in the Atlantic Yards carve-out provision would justify a complete re-examination of the project by all appropriate government entities."

Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

July 12, 2007

Schumer on Starrett City: profit shouldn't depend on government support

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, Senator Charles Schumer took a strong stance against the use of eminent domain to build an upstate power line, despite his support for increased use of eminent domain for projects in NYC, such as Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan (link to coverage).

This week, Norman Oder notes that Schumer is at it again:

The New York Times reported that, while a potential sale of the Starrett City complex in Brooklyn to one investor seems stymied by federal housing authorities, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is pressuring the seller, a group headed by Disque Deane, to ask for less money than $1.3 billion so the new owner of the 46-building complex won't significantly raise rents and change the character of the development.
Without opining on the fate of Starrett City, I think it's worth noting that Schumer has not extended his concern about the appropriate balance between private profit and public subsidy to the Atlantic Yards project that he supports.


NoLandGrab: We know we ran this photo last week, but who knew it would come in handy again?

Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

July 11, 2007

Jeffries, Montgomery call for Ratner to abandon 421-a "carve-out"

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, whose districts include the Atlantic Yards footprint, have publicly called on developer Forest City Ratner to abandon the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" in the 421-a law passed by the Legislature (but not yet signed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who has not indicated whether he'd veto it) and adhere to the law as it will apply to every other development in the city.

The two legislators have not typically allied on Atlantic Yards issues. Jeffries has been a cautious supporter of the project, more or less, while Montgomery has stood in staunch opposition. The legislators, in their July 6 letter, note that more than $300 million has been committed by the city and state to the project and criticize the "eleventh-hour, highly secretive deal" that led to the carve-out.

article (official press statement and full text of letter after the jump)



Brooklyn, NY -- Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, joined by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, today released a letter sent to Bruce Ratner that calls on Forest City Ratner Companies to publicly abandon the 421-a Atlantic Yards carve-out provision and adhere to the law as it will apply to every other development in New York City.

July 6, 2007

Bruce Ratner President and Chief Executive Officer Forest City Ratner Companies 1 MetroTech Center North Brooklyn, New York 11201

Dear Mr. Ratner:

As representatives of Prospect Heights in the New York State Legislature, we write with respect to the Atlantic Yards Project that you plan to build in our community, and recent events connected to the 421-a property tax exemption law.

The City and State have presently committed in excess of $300 million in government subsidies to make the Atlantic Yards development possible, notwithstanding significant public discomfort and outright opposition to the project. In order to justify the substantial government subsidies, Forest City Ratner Companies ("FCRC") has consistently touted the "innovative Atlantic Yards housing program," as you have called it.

Pursuant to this housing program, FCRC will build 4,500 rental units, with 2,250 apartments set aside for low and moderate income families. FCRC also plans to build 1,930 condominium units as part of the Atlantic Yards development. On the eve of the Public Authorities Control Board vote in December 2006, FCRC committed to build 200 of these units on-site, as condominiums that are affordable to working and moderate income families. Please confirm in writing by Friday, July 13, 2007 if this is not your understanding.

The 421-a program, as recently pass by the Legislature, if signed by Governor Spitzer, requires 20% affordability at 60% AMI, in any apartment building that receives a tax exemption. However, because of an eleventh-hour, highly -secretive deal negotiated by the Real Estate Board of New York on behalf of FCRC, an Atlantic Yards carve-out provision will permit you to evade these requirements, unlike any other development in the entire City of New York. This preferential, lobbyist-negotiated treatment is completely unacceptable and undermines the integrity of the entire project.

Accordingly, FCRC should publicly commit to comply with the 421-a law, as applicable to everyone else, and build at least 20% of the condominium units in each luxury condominium building in a manner that is affordable to low and moderate income families. Anything short of publicly abandoning the special treatment set forth in the Atlantic Yards carve-out provision would justify a complete re-examination of the project by all appropriate government entities.



Posted by lumi at 10:15 AM

"Projects change, markets change"? Actually, Ratner planned condos from the start

LiarFlyer2-AH.gifWe know it's hard to believe, but Norman Oder has discovered that Ratner lied to us (image from "Liar Flyer 2").

Here's the gist of it from another Atlantic Yards Report must-read.


MAY, 2005

FCR scored a public relations coup, signing a 50/50 affordable housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the community group ACORN. The fine print, however, designated the agreement as applying only to rental units.


Forest City announced that the project could add 1500 to 2800 condos, because of a tradeoff with office space and the addition of another building, at Site V.

Then Ratner and ACORN told everyone that it was still 50-50, because the deal only applied to the rentals. It took critics months, if not a year, to convince reporters and the public that the highly touted 50-50 plan really only included something between 31-37.50% "affordable" units, depending upon the version of the plan (there are two).



According to p. 17 of a presentation (3.2 MB PDF) to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on 9/29/03, six weeks before the project was unveiled, the developer planned nearly 1 million square feet of condos, or about 1000 units at 1000 square feet per apartment.


That condo plan persisted, as shown in the excerpt of a 2/18/04 business plan.

MAY, 2004 a 6/28/04 document presented to the ESDC, Forest City Ratner privately repeated its intention to add condos, again citing the recommendation from the Department of City Planning that apparently about 128,000 square feet of condo space would be cut.

APRIL, 2005

However, the condo plan was not just alive, but growing. A 4/28/05 presentation (below) to the ESDC, in which Forest City sketched its version of the General Project Plan that the state agency itself would issue.

It contemplated that four of 16 towers would include condos, encompassing some 1.5 million square feet. (An alternate plan would have had condos in six buildings.) Interestingly, none of the buildings in the project's first phase would have included affordable housing.

BAIT... (MAY, 2005)

Some three weeks later, Forest City and ACORN signed the 50/50 plan to great fanfare, with no public inkling that the project would include any residential component other than rentals.


A week after that Housing MOU press conference, with ACORN on board, Stuckey told City Council that the project plan had changed, and could contain an additional 2800 condos.

Read the full article for more details and supporting documents.

NoLandGrab: Holy prevaricators, no wonder the State and Ratner really tried to keep these documents under wraps!

Though Jim Stuckey wanted people to believe that "projects change, markets change," things between Forest City Ratner and the government remain the same.

One secret that ACORN Director Bertha Lewis will likely take to her grave is whether or not she was blindsided by or complicit in the deception. Either she was aware of the additional condos in advance of signing the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or learned about them after the fact when it was too late to protest because, according to the MOU, she was contractually obliged to "publicly support the Project."

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

First Atlantic Yards Towers Would Contain Few Affordable Apts.

Most Would Be Built in Project’s Second Phase

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Here's the latest news, from the documents recently obtained and released by NY State Assemblyman Jim Brennan, for those looking forward to affordable housing units at Atlantic Yards:

Developer Forest City Ratner’s business plan for the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project reveals that of the 1,580 residential units in the first phase of construction, 143 would be affordable for low-income tenants and 216 for middle-income tenants. The rest would be market-rate condos and rentals, with a 500-square-foot studio starting at $2,000 a month.

143 low-income + 216 middle-income = 359 "affordable" units built in Phase 1.

What about the remaining 1,891 (84%) "affordable" units?

The rest... would come during the project’s second phase of construction, which Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who filed a lawsuit to obtain the documents, warns could be delayed or even abandoned if the real estate market slows down.

“[The project’s financials] shows that the project is so expensive that it might fail before we ever get to the bulk of the affordable housing, and it shows that the condos are too expensive, too costly to build, and that the developer has tried to do too much,” he said.

“Many people in the community sort of intuitively saw the problems in advance — that the project was very expensive and that the affordable housing wasn’t locked in appropriately — so that all this information that came out basically just confirms the criticisms of the project,” said Brennan. “A stronger case could have been made about [reducing] the scale of the project had this information been available.”


NoLandGrab: Note that Brennan feels that information in these documents make the case for downsizing the project, not scrapping it all together.

Theoretically, Ratner could make the case that these documents show that the project requires even MORE public subsidy, such as the generous exception given to him in the 421-a reform bill, though that might be politically untenable, even in Brooklyn... right?

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

Brennan doubts affordable housing at Yards - Rental, affordable units will show little profit, state assemblyman warns

Courier-Life Publications

NY State Assemblyman Jim Brennan concluded that the Atlantic Yards affordable housing is at risk, based upon analysis of documents obtained by his office.

Courier reporter Stephen Witt says that Forest City Ratner and Bertha Lewis say it isn't so:

But both developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which forged the affordable housing component, maintained their deal remains on track for completion.


Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

July 8, 2007

Tax break debate flares over affordable housing

AP via USA Today

Other critics objected to an exemption in the plan that would preserve a multimillion dollar tax benefit for the developers of Atlantic Yards, a massive project in Brooklyn that will include thousands of new apartments and a new basketball arena for the NBA's Nets.

Legislative leaders delayed sending the measure to Spitzer's desk, and talks are now ongoing about possible adjustments.


Posted by amy at 11:11 AM

July 7, 2007


NY Press

Official data confirms it—New Yorkers really are paying increasingly obscene prices for apartments. Last week, Reuters reported that in sharp contrast to the majority of U.S. housing markets, Manhattan housing prices rose yet again during the second financial quarter. Unsurprisingly, rent prices continue to climb as well: The NYC Rent Guidelines Board voted recently to increase rents by 3 percent on one-year leases and 5.75 percent on two-year leases. It’s an improvement over last year’s 4.25 percent and 7.25 percent respective hikes, but for the two-thirds of New Yorkers who rent, it’s still a squeeze. In a double-edged reform bill passed last week, the state legislature is both hindering and helping the affordable housing cause. The bill provides tax exemptions for developers who provide lower-cost apartments, though it applies only in certain neighborhoods. A second appendix in that legislation, however, allots $175 million in tax breaks for the controversial Atlantic Yards project. Critics decry the pork barreling, calling it a handout for the construction of apartments that won’t be truly “affordable.” Statistics confirm their outrage: The threshold for affordable housing elsewhere in the city is a $42,600 income, but is $49,700 at Atlantic Yards. Unaffordable affordable housing? Priceless.


Posted by amy at 9:22 AM

July 6, 2007

City Creates More Than 18,000 Affordable Housing Units


Atlantic Yards gets a boost from a report touting Bloomberg's affordable housing initiative:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ten-year plan to boost affordable housing may be paying off.

According to this year's figures, the city has constructed or preserved 18,472 units throughout the five boroughs.
Officials hope the numbers will continue to increase with the help of developments, like the Atlantic Yards project.

article/video (dialup/broadband)

NoLandGrab: With the exodus of units leaving NYC affordable-housing programs, there's no word in the article about the NET effect of the mayor's plan, nor a breakdown of how many units have been created versus those retained.

Also, to understand the effectiveness of the Mayor's program, it would help to know how many of these units target low-income households.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

July 5, 2007

At the start, it was 80/20 affordable housing, not 50/30/20

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is still sifting through the documents obtained by State Assemblyman Jim Brennan, looking for more details to clarify or correct the on-going historical narrative of Atlantic Yards.

Today he looks at affordable housing:

I've previously criticized Bertha Lewis of ACORN for saying that she got developer Forest City Ratner to include affordable housing in the Atlantic Yards development. I noted that that was the plan all along, at least since Atlantic Yards was announced publicly on 12/10/03.

Well, not exactly. Recently released documents offer clues that ACORN indeed had an impact, though not quite the one Lewis has described.


Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

July 4, 2007

Is a 421-a revision possible?

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's New York Business reports that "Albany insiders" say city officials have a chance of persuading legislators to change the 421-a program that offers tax breaks for housing construction but requires affordable housing in certain neighborhoods.

Presumably that would mean a veto first by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.


Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

July 2, 2007

Second thoughts on Downtown Brooklyn rezoning; James, Yassky, Markowitz call for affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Growing dissatisfaction with the direction of the Downtown Brooklyn plan brings together unlikely allies:

The Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was supposed to spur office space and thus office jobs, but instead the increased density has proved lucrative to developers who are building luxury housing.

That wasn't the plan, which has left the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership hoping for "creative industries" and boosters like Errol Louis with blinders.

Now City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky are calling for the Bloomberg Administration to amend the plan to require affordable housing, reports the Brooklyn Paper. And Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has clashed with Atlantic Yards opponent James regarding the borough's most controversial project, also suggests it's time to revisit the plan.

There's a logic to that; the city increased the value of the land and has an argument that it should get something back in return; if not new tax revenues from jobs, then subsidized housing.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership touts 3,000 affordble housing units in the pipeline, only guess where they are... seriously, guess.

Read the rest of the article for the answer. [WARNING: Milk may come out of your nose.]

Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM

July 1, 2007

On the future of Atlantic Yards, the issue is: who decides on profit v. affordability?

Atlantic Yards Report

So what's the bottom line regarding Atlantic Yards, based on today's New York Times article? The issue, to David A. Smith, an affordable housing analyst in Boston who's previously reviewed Atlantic Yards documents (but not the new ones), is the future balance between developer profit and affordable housing, and who gets to decide.

As of now, we don't know, since the Empire State Development Corporation has yet to release contract documents apparently still under negotiation. The city's housing program, which provides loans for 50/30/20 mixed-income rental buildings, would seem to require that each rental building have the promised mix. On the other hand, we don't know whether the city and state will require those buildings to be constructed by a certain date.

Lots of volatility

Smith emailed me: Even a cursory review of the financing plan materials released so far reveals that this is an extraordinarily complex undertaking, with many moving parts. The moving parts -- the financing plan, with multiple phases, multiple property uses, and multiple potential sources including subsidy and concessionary government capital -- mean volatility.

It could be a great financial and economic result, or a terrible one. With this much volatility, sequencing is key: what happens in what order, and who decides what changes are made to the development plan? If the developer has all the optionality -- that is, control over the responsive actions taken after unexpected favorable or unfavorable outside events -- and the city has none of the optionality, then it's very likely that the developer can navigate through all the complexity to a successful deal, and achieve this result by adjusting the affordable housing to be fewer apartments, to happen later in the development sequence, and to be redefined upwards. (Anyone who does business with any government agency as a counterparty knows that managing expectations over time is a critical developer skill.)


Posted by amy at 12:27 PM

Official Sees Possible Risk in Big Project in Brooklyn

NY Times

The Times publishes a lengthy article about the recently released (due to a lawsuit) internal documents from the Empire State Development Corporation. Brooklyn assemblyman James F. Brennan was one of the lawsuit participants and he is quoted in the article, calling the Atlantic Yards proposal "risky," and the weak affordable housing aspect "disturbing."

Interviews with real estate developers and brokers not connected to the project indicate that estimates of the construction costs for the project’s 6,430 apartments are low compared with some other developments in Brooklyn, where a residential building boom is pushing up construction prices. And Forest City’s projections for the future sale of the project’s roughly 2,000 condominium apartments seem optimistic, forecasting high volume at prices that have barely been tested in Brooklyn.

Mr. Brennan said he worried that Forest City could be forced to scale back or even abandon later phases of the project if the real estate market sours, putting at risk some of the 2,250 units of subsidized rental housing planned. Most of those units are scheduled to be built during the project’s later years of construction, as are most of the market-rate units.
The documents also provide a window into the considerable resources Forest City poured into early plans for the project, promoting it to the public, and getting it approved in a city that has proven inhospitable to some recent attempts at large-scale development. Those costs amounted to $19.5 million, according to one document, including money for litigation, public relations and Mr. Gehry’s initial designs.


Posted by amy at 11:53 AM

Extra Extra


Mayor Bloomberg lashed out against special tax breaks that could hand developer Bruce Ratner an extra $300 million for developing Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. Mayor Mike hopes Gov. Spitzer will quash the "carve-out" benefit.


Posted by amy at 11:26 AM

Yassky and James ask Spitzer and Bloomberg to withhold aid

Atlantic Yards Report

Council Members David Yassky and Letitia James, in a letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, have asked the state and city to withhold previously pledged direct subsidies for the Atlantic Yards project, citing the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" in the state's revision of the 421-a tax break.

They write:
The most egregious aspect of the carve-out is the amount it will cost taxpayers. New York City has already approved $205 million for the project, and the State has pledged $100 million. The rewrite of the 421a legislation will cost taxpayers at least an additional $100 million and could reach $170 million in forfeited tax revenue.

Because of the size of the 421a tax break for Atlantic Yards, we ask that the money previously set aside for land acquisition aid--$100 million from the City and $100 million from the State—be withheld. This $200 million should not have been allocated in the first place—there is no justification for the government to subsidize a developer’s bottom line—and now, with this latest development, any distribution of this money is inexcusable.

Note that city officials told the Times that the tax break could be worth $300 million.


Posted by amy at 11:15 AM

June 30, 2007

WBAI Radio on 421-A


State Senator Liz Kreuger talks about the 421-A bill and its problems, including the Atlantic Yards exception. It comes about 15 minutes into the 6:00 news right after they have Michael Ratner talking about the new Gitmo decision. Which some might find ironical.


Posted by amy at 11:46 AM

GL Analysis: Fun with the 421-a Developer Tax Break

421a%2Bbrooklyn.jpg Gowanus Lounge

Not all the changes made in Albany by the special interests and others that attacked the 421-a developer tax break legislation are bad ones. We have always believed that the huge tax abatements that developers receive are a holdover from a 1970s/80s mentality of desperation that fail to reflect in any way, shape or form the reality of New York City--and, especially, Brooklyn, in the 2000s. The tax break both provides an unnecessary giveaway of taxpayer money to developers and affluent buyers, it can serve as a taxpayer-financed tool to promote displacement. Residents in some neighborhoods are, in effect, contributing their taxes to the buildings that will force them out and the affluent buyers who won't have to pay property taxes for years to come.

One way to turn some of these lemons into lemonade, however, is to extend the exclusion zones that require developers to produce affordable housing in return for getting the tax breaks as widely as possible. For the Bloomberg Administration to object to the expansion of the exclusion zones pushes the limits of credulity. There are things in the bill to object to (keep reading), but the bigger exclusion zones are to be applauded. If you're not going to kill the developer welfare turkey known as 421-a, affordable housing should be a minimum requirement in every building anywhere in the city that gets one of these generous tax breaks. Failing that, the exclusion zones should be as big as possible. If anything, the bill in Albany still doesn't go far enough in adding gentrifying neighborhoods to the exclusion list. If the Bloomberg Administration succeeds in killing the added exclusion zones, it will be just as scandalous as the special tax breaks that Atlantic Yards supporters got written into the law.


Posted by amy at 11:37 AM

Bloomy slams “Ratner carve-out”

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

Bruce Ratner “doesn’t need” the massive public subsidy handed to him by the state Assembly last week, Mayor Bloomberg said on Friday — and called for Gov. Spitzer to block the legislation.

In slamming the Assembly handout — which the mayor estimated would cost taxpayers $300 million, not the $175 million originally estimated by government watchdogs — Bloomberg has joined the chorus of advocates, legislators and Atlantic Yards opponents condemning the amendment that would give special treatment to the mega-developer.

“[The bill is] going to hurt the very people that everybody talks about helping and gives some tax breaks to a developer that doesn’t need them and which we didn’t have to do,” Bloomberg said on his weekly WABC radio show on Friday morning.
Bloomberg has been an outspoken supporter of the $4-billion residential, arena, office and retail complex. His criticism of the subsidy handout is the first time he has publicly opposed a proposed tax break for the powerful developer, a former city bureaucrat and a college buddy of former Gov. George Pataki.


More coverage from Atlantic Yards Report: Bloomberg calls for 421-a veto, says Ratner "doesn't need" tax break

Posted by amy at 11:31 AM

358 Grove, Bushwick gentrification battles, and the 421-a map


Atlantic Yards Report

If you want an example of a development that probably pushed Assemblyman Vito Lopez to add all of Bushwick to the "exclusion zone" where affordable housing would be required in exchange for the 421-a tax break, look no farther than 358 Grove, a much-hyped 14-story condo tower. The building also serves as the jumping off point for a Village Voice investigation this week into landlords unscrupulously pushing gentrification in Bushwick.

In promoting 358 Grove, the developer generally plays down its location. The image at right, for example, comes from the Halstead web listing, which states "358 Grove is located in one of Brooklyn's fastest growing neighborhoods; just one block from the L train and 15 minutes into Union Square Station."
The Prospect Heights/Crown Heights area, as Brooklyn College sociologist Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida pointed out, is ripe for displacement. Maybe that's why Lopez's bill, however flawed, extended the 421-a exclusion zone to Crown Heights. His argument was the public should not, as with 358 Grove, subsidize luxury development without getting something in return.

The new 421-a map certainly does not, as the Observer suggests, represent the best balance to nudge the housing market along. Then again, the City Council reform, with a more modest "exclusion zone," isn't necessarily the solution.


Posted by amy at 11:21 AM

June 29, 2007

Former Congressman Calls For Resignation of Brooklyn Democratic Party Leader

"The unholy alliance of money and political power can no longer be supported."

VetoVitoDemo.jpgBrooklyn, NY – Former Congressman Major R. Owens today called for New York State Assemblymember Vito Lopez to resign as Chairman of the Kings County Democratic Committee, Brooklyn's Democratic Party organization, or resign from the Assembly – where Lopez has seniority and a significant chairmanship.

Owens, in conjunction with his, son, Chris Owens, President of New Brooklyn Leadership, issued a statement, entitled "Veto Vito," attacking recent actions by Lopez regarding state housing legislation and a judicial campaign in Brooklyn. The younger Owens joined with approximately 30 people in a demonstration outside of the Kings County Democratic Party's annual dinner on Thursday, June 28 to call attention to Assemblymember Lopez's actions and their implications.

In addition to demanding Lopez' resignation, the Owens statement specifically calls upon Governor Spitzer to veto the housing legislation, for Civil Court Judge Shawndya Simpson to voluntarily terminate her candidacy for the Surrogate Court position, and for legislation that bars public elected officials from holding significant party positions.

Last week, Lopez, who chairs the State Assembly's Housing Committee, orchestrated last-minute passage of a modified version of an affordable housing bill that included a windfall provision for developer Forest City Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Lopez is also suddenly supporting a candidate for Surrogate Court judge who has little experience on the bench and has little support from local leaders, but has a large campaign warchest. Judge Simpson is now challenging Judge Diana Johnson, who has eight times as much experience as Simpson – but less money -- for the Surrogate Court seat left vacant by the resignation of the ethically-challenged Frank Seddio earlier this year.

Judge Johnson, who narrowly lost a Surrogate Court primary election in 2005, has the support of Major Owens, Chris Owens, approximately 90 percent of Brooklyn's Black elected officials, and the "reform" Democratic organizations -- Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND), and the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn (LID), amongst others. In addition, endorsements of Johnson have been received from many other Brooklyn political organizations.

The Owens statement links Lopez's actions as "cynical," "oppressive" and examples of the "unholy alliance of money and political power" that can no longer be supported. "If we change the institutional dynamics, we can change the politics of our county and City – and it needs to happen."

The full Owens statement is available at

Posted by lumi at 2:17 PM

Yassky and James protest "egregious" Atlantic Yards carve-out

From City Councilman David Yassky latest e-newsletter:

Last December I was delighted when the City Council passed a version of my bill to limit unjustified subsidies for developers (the 421a program). This week, unfortunately, Albany passed their own version of this legislation which included an earmark provision with special tax breaks for the Atlantic Yards project. This is estimated to cost taxpayers $100-$170 million. In response to this egregious exception, Council Member James and I sent a letter to the Mayor and Governor asking them to withhold $200 million in land-acquisition aid that was promised by the City and State. Click here to view that letter.

Posted by lumi at 1:11 PM

Who dunnit?

chalkoutline.gifThere are three theories about who is responsible for the Ratner clause, which created a special loophole for the sole benefit of Forest City and its Atlantic Yards development plan in the State's 421-a reform bill.

The prevailing wisdom during the past week was that it was State Assemblyman Vito Lopez's fault. Lopez is the Chairman of the Assembly's Housing Committee, which drafted the bill, is a project supporter, and has received campaign contributions from Bruce Ratner's brother and sister-in-law.

The NY Observer reports:

What the apparent contradictions in the bill represent are a series of horse trades that Mr. Lopez, a loping giant of a man who carries power like a running back headed to the end zone, brokered with fellow legislators.

Todays' NY Times advances a separate theory, which fingers the State Senate and the head of the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY):

But many advocates, city officials and even some Senate Republicans are saying that Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, betrayed the city’s effort. By all accounts, Mr. Spinola, the leading industry lobbyist, played a major role in negotiating the compromises and the tax deals for Atlantic Yards and other developments that led to Senate approval.

There's a third theory that starts with Lopez and leads to Sheldon Silver's office. This week's Brooklyn Paper explains:

Lopez’s motivations for slipping in the Ratner-favoring clause are unclear. One source said that the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss might have done it as a favor to Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. “Silver and [Forest City Ratner lobbyist] Bruce Bender are old friends,” said the source.

The exception is so outrageous that no one seems to have the guts to stand up and take credit.

Taxpayers are sadly used to Albany backroom dealing, only the difference here is that no one seems to know in which backroom the deal was struck.

Posted by lumi at 12:43 PM

Bruce boost: Assemblyman gives Ratner a clause for celebration

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ariella Cohen

Bruce Ratner’s sweetheart deal got a cherry on top last week after a state lawmaker slipped in a last-minute amendment to a housing reform bill that will shave $175 million off the developer’s costs.

The so-called “Ratner carve-out” was slipped into a tax-break bill passed by the Assembly last Friday, in the rush to close the legislative session. The amendment didn’t mention Ratner’s development by name, but referred to it as a “multi-phase project that includes at least 2,500 dwelling units and is being implemented pursuant to a General Project Plan” — a description that fits only one development in the state: Atlantic Yards.

The full article has quotes from politicians who are stunned, and affordable housing advocates who are speaking out. As for Marty, Vito, and Bruce, they had no comment.

City Councilman David Yassky wants NY City to rescind its direct cash contribution. State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is asking the Governor to veto the bill.

You can guess what Ratner thinks about the bill:

Ratner has been lobbying the legislature for several years, state records show, and has, in fact, been banking on the exemption.

A consultant report commissioned by the developer last year showed that Ratner’s cash flow projections assumed the state would grant him the 25-year tax break on all 16 Yards towers.

The “carve out” will also allow Ratner’s project to charge more for his “affordable” units than other developers who receive the tax credit.

Posted by lumi at 12:24 PM

The Ratner Clause

The Brooklyn Paper, publishes the first editorial that dares to mention the Atlantic Yards exception to the 421-a reform bill:

So how bad is the latest handout to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner?

The punch line to this joke is as long as your arm:

It is a handout to only one developer.

It allows Ratner to charge more for units that he designates as affordable.... So now Ratner is not only picking taxpayers’ pockets, he’s making the lower middle class pay more — while the most needy are locked out altogether.

It reveals the worst excesses of our insider-run, morally corrupt legislature in Albany.

It comes on the heels of hundreds of millions of dollars in handouts that line Ratner’s pocket.

Brooklyn Papers asks:

Will the government’s bailout of Ratner ever end?

That might be a joke too, only it's not funny.


Posted by lumi at 12:18 PM

Grinding Sausage Late at Night: Albany Reforms 421a Program

The NY Observer

Real estate reporter Matthew Schuerman tries to sort through the mess that resulted in a 421-a reform bill that managed to piss off nearly everyone, except Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner:

Finally, four days before the Assembly adjourned on June 22, [Vito Lopez, the head of the State Assembly’s Housing Committee] submitted a compromise bill. It had grown from two pages to 19, and outlined a dizzying array of mind-twisters.

Real-estate developers of the future will find it cheaper to build market-rate housing in Riverdale, for example, than in East New York. A middle-class village that the Mayor envisioned for Queens West will get no help from the taxman, while full-amenity condominiums in Tribeca will, as long as they get into the ground in the next 12 months.


One provision permits Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre development in central Brooklyn, to receive tax abatements on all of its residential buildings so long as the overall percentage of low-income apartments in the proposed 6,400-unit complex reaches 20 percent. Steve Spinola, the president of REBNY, said that he advocated in favor of the clause because it was similar to a recent rezoning in Greenpoint-Williamsburg which allowed developers to put the low-income units in a separate but adjacent building and still receive the tax break.

Vito Lopez, who has been ducking the press for days, finally speaks:

Mr. Lopez defended the carve-out because the Atlantic Yards complex devotes an unusually large proportion of its units—about 35 percent—to low- and middle-income apartments. But the City Council legislation would have forced the developer, Forest City Ratner, to pay full taxes on the condominium buildings that were entirely market-rate.

Brad Lander, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, calculates, based on conservative estimates, that Forest City will save more than $100 million as a result of the State Legislature’s actions.


Posted by lumi at 11:34 AM

City’s Plans for Housing Flop in Albany

The NY Times
By Charles Bagli

The real estate reporter for The Times explains how the Ratner clause contributed to sidetracking a carefully negotiated reform bill:

The bill looked like a shoo-in to pass.

After nearly a year of painstaking analysis and tough negotiations, the Bloomberg administration, the City Council, housing advocates, lenders and real estate developers had hashed out a measure intended to revamp a popular tax-break program so it would generate more relatively affordable housing while restricting subsidies to luxury high-rises like Trump World Tower. It was all done with a minimum of grousing.

Then the bill governing what is known as the 421-a program went to Albany. And suddenly, on the Legislature’s last day in session last week, an amended version passed both houses, extending special tax breaks to the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and scuttling the city’s efforts to build middle-class housing at Queens West on the East River and other areas. Critics say it could also undermine efforts to build apartments for residents of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

Most are blaming things on State Assemblyman Vito Lopez, but now some fingers are pointing at the Senate version:

But many advocates, city officials and even some Senate Republicans are saying that Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, betrayed the city’s effort. By all accounts, Mr. Spinola, the leading industry lobbyist, played a major role in negotiating the compromises and the tax deals for Atlantic Yards and other developments that led to Senate approval.


But the bill would also provide what the city estimates are an additional $300 million in tax breaks for the vast Atlantic Yards complex being developed by Forest City Ratner Companies, the development partner with The New York Times Company in the Times’ new Midtown headquarters, without getting any additional affordable units in return. Mr. Lopez said it was a concession sought during negotiations with Mr. Spinola and the Senate over his bill.


Atlantic Yards Report, City says "Atlantic Yards carve-out" worth $300 million; will Spitzer veto?
Norman Oder highlights Bagli's reporting that the city claims that the special Atlantic Yards exception will cost the city around $300 million, a figure that's higher than the estimated $100-to-$170 million-dollar figure provided by Brad Lander of the Pratt Center and quoted in last week's Daily News column by Juan Gonzalez.

Posted by lumi at 11:19 AM


City Limits breaks down the 421-a reform legislation just passed by the State Assembly, and offers this brief explanation of the Ratner clause:

One attention-getting feature of the legislation gives the already controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn additional tax breaks. It also allows potential tenants who earn up to 70 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) of $70,900 to apply for "affordable" units there (up from a proposed 60 percent); setting that rate also raises the rent amount that qualifies as “affordable." But Lopez said Monday that the Senate has yet to vote on this aspect.


Posted by lumi at 10:56 AM

Two Trees tries tower — again — on Water St.

The Brooklyn Paper
By Harry Cheadle

WaterSt-BP.jpgDave Walentas is learning from Bruce.

For his second at-bat on Water St., he's added affordable housing, room for a school and a four-color glossy brochure with a pre-paid postcard for supporters!

Anticipating controversy, Two Trees has already begun a mass-mailing campaign in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, sending out a glossy, full-color pamphlet asking for support — much in the style of developer Bruce Ratner, who courted support for Atlantic Yards by sending out hundreds of thousands of such pamphlets.

The Two Trees mailer includes a pre-paid postcard petition in support of the project.

The petition is addressed to Councilman David Yassky. The Brooklyn Heights Democrat, who was criticized by some groups for not opposing the 2004 project fast enough, said this week that DUMBO does need a middle school, but not another gigantic development.

He called the mailings “a page from the Forest City Ratner playbook.”


NoLandGrab: It's amazing how developers think they are using the "Ratner playbook," when they are in fact only cribbing from a couple of pages. Unlike Walentas, Bruce Ratner would never overtly target a politician in a four-color brochure. Thor Equities chief Joseph Sitt similarly went after the NYC Planning Commish in the press, only to have to come up with another plan.

WWBD? Bruce would gets his political ducks in a row FIRST, send out brochures showing he has support (never "asking for support"), create a few astroturf groups to support the plan, sign up a powerful housing group, lop off one floor and "say he's been merciful."

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

June 27, 2007

421-a reform map

421aPRATT.jpgThough we generally focus on Atlantic Yards-related stuff, readers who have been closely following the 421-a reform bill, which contains the "Atlantic Yards exception" (aka Ratner clause), may want to follow up on today's news of Pratt Center's map, which illustrates the areas affected by the legislation passed by the State Assembly.

The Real Estate Observer, Introducing the Full-Color, Five-Borough Tax Break

The areas in maroon, rust and mustard (what a palette, lads!) will force residential developers to incorporate low-income housing into new buildings if they want to qualify for the popular tax-abatement program. (It can cut up to $200,000 off your tax bill.) The gray areas are places where developers can get 15 years or more of property-tax discounts even if they put up market-rate condos.

Atlantic Yards Report, The 421-a map emerges--shocker?

Several members of City Council wanted the so-called "exclusion zone" expanded citywide, and Assembly Housing Chairman Vito Lopez, who also chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party, also wanted the zone expanded.

It's notable that Lopez did not expand the zone to middle-class neighborhoods in central Queens, southern Brooklyn, and Riverdale, where 421-a probably distorts the market. Clearly he was particularly concerned about the areas around his Bushwick/Williamsburg base.

As I wrote, I think it's a victory to have continued to expand the zone. Still, critics who point to the absence of transparency--on both the boundaries and the "Atlantic Yards carve-out"--deserve attention from Gov. Eliot Spitzer before he signs the bill. It's not too late to order a revamp.

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

June 26, 2007

Dear Governor Spitzer

Spitzer-Signing.jpgJo Anne Simon, 52nd Assembly District leader, penned a letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer, explaining why a reform-minded leader would hesitate to support Atlantic Yards, especially in light of the amendment to the 421-a reform bill.

From her letter (full text after the jump):

The last minute amendment to this bill (A. 9293) providing yet more sweetener for Atlantic Yards is totally beyond reason. You may recall meeting with me and my co-leader Alan Fleishman following a campaign appearance with former Governor Carey last summer. You were very gracious and listened closely to our concerns about the Atlantic Yards, many of which were rooted in what we viewed as bad public policy and the desperate need for public authority reform. Even ACORN, one of the biggest supporters of the Atlantic Yards project, has called this recent amendment bad public policy.

What’s wrong with the above amendment? It:

  • reduces the affordable housing by raising the percentage of the poverty line amount to be used in considering low income beyond that provided for in any other development in New York City;

  • all but ensures, as the developer has indicated, that as much as 10% of the affordable housing would be built off-site, further reducing the promised affordable housing benefits;

  • provides hundreds of millions of tax dollars for luxury housing beyond the $205 million that New York City Council recently approved ($100 million of which the developer testified would go to unspecified land acquisition costs, in addition to its anticipated costs if it successfully utilizes eminent domain to acquire other properties), and the hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers;

  • will use $1.4 billion of low interest tax free bonds–sapping the market and foreclosing other, arguably more worthy, projects to create a density twice that of Battery Park City; and

  • it is the only project to which ESDC did not require changes when your administration took office.

Enough is enough. The legacy of Atlantic Yards will be one of fiscal and social irresponsibility.

Governor Spitzer can be reached by:
PHONE: 518-474-8390
SNAIL MAIL: Governor Eliot Spitzer, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224

June 25, 2007

Governor Eliot Spitzer
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Spitzer:

I support the expansion of the 421- a exclusionary zone beyond that agreed to by the New York City Council earlier this legislative year. Indeed, I testified to that effect at a hearing held by Assemblyman Vito Lopez in March of this year. I enclose a copy of my written statement for your review.

Nevertheless, the last minute amendment to this bill (A. 9293) providing yet more sweetener for Atlantic Yards is totally beyond reason. You may recall meeting with me and my co-leader Alan Fleishman following a campaign appearance with former Governor Carey last summer. You were very gracious and listened closely to our concerns about the Atlantic Yards, many of which were rooted in what we viewed as bad public policy and the desperate need for public authority reform. Even ACORN, one of the biggest supporters of the Atlantic Yards project, has called this recent amendment bad public policy.

What’s wrong with the above amendment? It:

Enough is enough. The legacy of Atlantic Yards will be one of fiscal and social irresponsibility. The current public financing picture is so extreme that the State and City could pay for an arena, give it to the developer, and still save untold millions of dollars.

I strongly urge you to veto this bill. When the legislature returns, it can and should pass it the expansion of the 421-a program’s exclusionary zone without this boondoggle. The time for change in Albany is now. We need transparency and accountability, not back door deals at the public’s expense.

Very truly yours,

Jo Anne Simon

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

City Limits explains the 421-a changes

Atlantic Yards Report considers City Limit's examination of the 421-a reform bill that contained the exception for Atlantic Yards, dubbed "the Atlantic Yards carve-out."

There's no map (yet) of the exclusionary zones added to the 421-a reform legislation passed by the State Legislature last Thursday (but not yet signed by Governor Eliot Spitzer), but City Limits has a good article, headlined REDRAWING THE 421-A FORMULA FOR TAX BREAKS AND HOUSING, summarizing the law's multiple factors.

Along with the expansion of the zones where developers would be required to build affordable housing in exchange for a tax break, the bill features the notorious "Atlantic Yards carve-out" and, crucially for the real estate industry, an extension of the current law for six months--which should spark a frenzy of building, especially in Manhattan north of 96th Street and south of 14th Street, boundaries of the current exclusionary zone.


Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

Downtown Change Continues, From 16 Court St. to Albee Square

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In an editorial about real estate activity in Downtown Brooklyn, Dennis Holt contends:

The Atlantic Yards development is really several different projects, will be built like several projects, and should be known as several projects.


NoLandGrab: Holt's assertion is creative, but runs counter to the justification for the extraordinary exception for Atlantic Yards in the 421-a reform bill, passed by the State Assembly late last week.

This controversial exception, added to the bill by State Assemblyman and Chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party Vito Lopez in the last few days of the legislative session, allows for affordable housing to be calculated for the ENTIRE Atlantic Yards project in order to satisfy the 20% eligibility requirements for tax exemptions.

For any other development project in the State of NY, the percentage of affordable housing must be met for EACH building in order to qualify. Buildings such as those to be built in the first phase of Atlantic Yards, which will have little in the way of "affordable" units, would not qualify were it not for the special exception.

If, as Holt argues, the separate phases of Atlantic Yards should be considered as different projects, then shouldn't, at least, each phase be required to qualify individually for subsidies, instead of in aggregate, as the developer Forest City Ratner would prefer?

Holt is an ardent champion of Atlantic Yards, but on this point, developer Bruce Ratner probably would prefer that the chatty editorialist keep quiet.

Posted by lumi at 6:29 AM

June 25, 2007

Development Tax Break Bill Faces Calls for Veto

NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

Atlantic Yards critics are not the only ones who are calling for Governor Spitzer to veto the 421-a reform bill, which included the Ratner clause, a unique exception to many of the reform proposals intended to benefit Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development plan by carving out the project area from the exclusion zone, providing tax exemptions for buildings that do not include affordable housing, and hitting low-income tenants with higher rents.

Much of the flurry of criticism has been directed at the bill’s primary architect, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a Williamsburg Democrat who chairs the Assembly’s housing committee.
But in ceding ground to the real estate industry, Mr. Lopez said he created an exception for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a move that has infuriated a base of affordable housing advocates who would likely have come out supporting the bill.

Instead, they have attacked the exception, which extends the tax break to the entire 6,000-unit complex — only part of it would have qualified under the council’s bill — though the overall income requirements for the complex were reduced.

Others who are criticizing the bill include supporters of New York City's version of 421-a reform.


NoLandGrab: Caveat.

Overall, income requirements were "reduced" in the bill at large, but the reduction does not apply to Atlantic Yards.

According to the Ratner clause, the income requirements are capped above those in the overall bill, and match the requirements the developer and ACORN already proposed. Ratner gets to average 70% AMI while all other developers are capped at 60% AMI.

It wouldn't be a surprise if, behind the scenes, other developers were quietly working to encourage Spitzer to eliminate the special exception for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 11:23 AM

June 24, 2007

Critics Say Affordable Housing Bill Amounts To Sweetheart Deal For Ratner


The 421-a Ratner clause passed by the New York Legislature turns potentially good reform into something bad.


On paper, it seems like it has good intentions: a measure to greatly expand a law giving tax breaks to developers who build housing for low income and working class New Yorker City residents, but critics say beware the fine print.

"In addition to broadly creating more affordable housing around the city, the bill contains sub paragraph 13, which says for the Atlantic Yards project that Forest City Ratner is developing, even the market rate buildings can get a tax break, and our estimates are that could be a tax giveaway of as much as $100 million,” says Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development.

That’s $100 million dollars on top of $300 million in direct city and state subsidies, plus another $1.4 billion in tax exempt bonds Ratner is expected to seek to finance his mega project, which calls for 16 high-rise residential and office towers, plus a new arena for the Nets Basketball team in Prospect Heights.

link/audio (dialup/broadband)

NoLandGrab: You don't really need to be a critic of Atlantic Yards to see what's wrong here. The Sweetheart Deal (can't you just smell the pork?) is simply a matter of fact.

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

Jeffries Turns on Atlantic Yards

The New York Observer

Matthew Schuerman gives his take on Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' position on the 421-a Ratner clause.

Hakeem Jeffries, the freshman Assembly Member, was once accused of being a toady for the developer of Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner. But he had gradually become more critical, and the last minute carve-out in the 421a housing incentive bill that The Observer reported on Wednesday made him fairly seethe at the project's cost to taxpayers.


Posted by steve at 7:21 AM

Hakeem Jeffries explains his 421-a vote

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's some clarification on Hakeem Jeffries' position on the 421-a Ratner clause. He was in favor of the 421-a reform, but voted against a chapter amendment in order to reject the exemptions for Atlantic Yards.

Assemblyman Jeffries did not get the opportunity to vote on 4408-A since he was in the district that morning attending graduations for P.S. 11 and P.S. 20, and serving as the keynote graduation speaker for P.S. 9 and M.S. 353. He returned to Albany that afternoon, but the vote had already taken place. Assemblyman Jeffries supports the bill since it dramatically expands the 421-A affordability requirements to low and middle-income neighborhoods throughout New York City.

On Friday, June 22, a chapter amendment, A.9293, that clarifies the Atlantic Yards 421-A carve-out provisions, came to the floor. Assemblyman Jeffries voted against this bill, and was joined by at least two colleagues from Brooklyn, Joan Millman and Rhoda Jacobs. He could not support a bill that related solely to treating the Atlantic Yards project in a more favorable way than any other development in New York City, without justification.


Posted by steve at 7:07 AM

Spitzer and Legislature Sprint to Finish Line

The New York Times

The Times includes Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez's 421-a Ratner clause in its coverage of the end of the legislative session.

Under current plans, the 16 Atlantic Yards buildings are to include 2,250 subsidized rental apartments among more than 6,000 condominium and rental units. Several of the buildings contain no subsidized housing at all, but Mr. Lopez’s bill would allow those buildings to qualify for the tax break so long as the overall complex contains 20 percent subsidized housing. It also would allow Forest City to offer some subsidized apartments to families with higher incomes than would otherwise qualify under the new law. Together, the changes have drawn concern from some housing advocates and city officials. But the Senate approved the measure on Thursday night.

“The city contemplated whether it needed to do this and concluded that it did not, that Atlantic Yards should get a tax break for a building that has 20 percent affordable, but that the condo buildings should pay property taxes,” said Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. “It achieves no additional affordability at Atlantic Yards but costs the taxpayers $100 million.”


Posted by steve at 6:48 AM

June 23, 2007

Tell the Governor - Veto 421a

Tell Governor Spitzer that the 421-a property tax exemption reform bill is unacceptable in its present form:

A special provision would grant Forest City Ratner a property tax exemption for all of the market rate condominiums in Atlantic Yards—a break that could total up to $170 million in lost tax revenue for the city. No other developer or project is allowed to receive this lucrative tax break unless they include 20% affordable housing in each building constructed. Furthermore, the special provision allows Forest City Ratner to charge higher rents for its “affordable” units. This exclusive benefit is in addition to the developer’s request for an extraordinary $1.4 billion in tax-free housing subsidies.

Contact Governor Spitzer.

Call: 518-474-8390



Posted by steve at 10:23 AM

"Horrendous" Pork in Albany!


The Gothamist includes reaction to the 421-a Ratner clause as part of a post-legistlative session round-up:

One bill that did pass was a revision of the 421-a tax break. The bill expanded the areas where builders must offer 20% of its apartments as affordable housing in order to get a tax break, but it turns out that the Atlantic Yards project is getting a deal and we think it goes something like this: The entire complex's housing stock will be taken into consideration, versus looking at it on a building by building basis, so some buildings won't have affordable housing in them, and the average affordable income number will be raised, offering the units to "higher-income" families who need affordable housing. The Daily News' Juan Gonzalez has a withering column about it.


Posted by steve at 10:05 AM

Assemblyman Jeffries Votes “No” Against Atlantic Yards

Press Statement from Assemblyman Jeffries

Assemblyman Jeffries Votes “No” Against Atlantic Yards 421-a Carve-out Provisions

Assemblyman Jeffries today voted “No” on A.9293, legislation introduced by Vito Lopez that would treat the controversial Atlantic Yards project more favorably than other developments as it relates to the 421-a tax abatement program.

“The Atlantic Yards project has feasted on government funds for far too long. Enough is enough. There is absolutely no justification for treating Atlantic Yards better than any other development project in New York, when Forest City Ratner has already received $300 million in government subsidies.”

Joining Assemblyman Jeffries in voting against the bill is Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who represents the neighboring assembly district. The legislation passed 105-6 on the floor of the Assembly. It will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Assemblyman Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) represents Prospect Heights (the site of the Atlantic Yards project), Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Contact: Daisy James
(917) 640-0280

Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

June 22, 2007

Ratner sticks low-income renters with bill for Atlantic Yards

One detail about the Atlantic Yards exception that most bloggers and reporters are overlooking will likely eventually generate considerable outrage.

Atlantic Yards "affordable" housing isn't just going to cost taxpayers more money than other developments that qualify under the 421-a program. It will hit lower-income tenants in the pocketbook as well!

The very people who are supposed to benefit from 421-a reform will get to kick in a higher percentage of their income toward rent, just for the privilege of living at Atlantic Yards. In the most simple terms, Ratner will get to make more off the poor than all other developers receiving the same tax breaks.

The only voices in the media that have even tried to tackle this issue are Norman Oder, in his first post on Atlantic Yards Report, and Brad Lander, in Juan Gonzalez's Daily News column.

Oder does a great job of overexplaining it (we've already complained):

But how could Atlantic Yards have 20 percent of its units affordable to families earning 70 percent of AMI [Area Media Income]? As currently configured, Atlantic Yards would have 4500 rentals, with 20 percent of them low-income, up to 50 percent of AMI, and perhaps another 5 percent up to 70 percent of AMI. But the 1730 market-rate condos, and 200 affordable for-sale units, would skew the balance upward.

So the project, and the bill, may undergo some adjustment, but one way of meeting the new goal would be to rent apartments to tenants whose incomes are 70 percent of AMI but to charge them more. The bill states that “the rent for such units does not exceed thirty percent of eighty percent of the area median incomes adjusted for family size.”

Translation. If you earn 70 percent of AMI, you might get an apartment, but you'd have to pay rent as if you earned 80 percent of AMI.

Lander, a veteran affordable housing advocate, explains it more clearly in Gonzalez's column:

The special provision, says Brad Lander, director for the Pratt Center for Community Development, will let Ratner charge an average of more than $350 per month in additional rent for the "affordable units" in Atlantic Yards.

A cynical public has grown used to shrinking or non-existing benefits years after a project's completion, but to watch public benefits unravel even before a project has broken ground is surreal, and is an indictment of the total absence of effective political leadership where Atlantic Yards is concerned.

Without knowing the complete financial picture — financial projections have never been released, despite nearly $2 billion of public subsidy — one can only come to two conclusions:

1) Bruce Ratner is a greedy devil who would shake down his own mother for her bottom dollar, or

2) the financial viability of Atlantic Yards is so precarious that Ratner has to extract income in every conceivable manner, including jacking up the rent for the low-income housing even before a single unit is built.

Posted by lumi at 10:51 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere73.jpgHere's the PM roundup of today's blog coverage of the Ratner exception in the State's 421-a reform bill. We're still looking for someone who has something nice to say about it — you'll be the first to know.

The Real Deal, Economic segregation at Atlantic Yards?
The local real-estate industry blog calls it "economic segregation:"

Forest City will be able to put its 20 percent affordable housing anywhere in the 16-building complex and still receive tax abatements for market-rate condominiums. The exemption, therefore, opens the door for economic segregation at Atlantic Yards, since it will allow Forest City to build most of its buildings with market-rate units while designating some of them specifically for affordable housing.

Brownstoner, Outrage Mounting over Ratner's 421-a Carve-Out

The provision of the bill (which was approved yesterday) is so shocking that both Bertha Lewis of ACORN, which is contractually obligated to say nice things about the project, called it "bad public policy" and The Daily News, whose usual coverage of the project is limited to the shilling of Errol Lewis, ran an editorial this morning calling it "sick." The person to thank for the Ratner provision is Vito Lopez, who is the top dog on the State Assembly's Housing Committee. He slipped the wording in over the weekend, according to The Daily News. Hakeem Jeffries, who voted for the bill anyway, says he found out about the Ratner provision only the night before the vote. The Daily News editorial cites one estimate of the hand-out being worth as much as $270 million.

NoLandGrab: The Daily News piece was written by a columnist and wasn't, technically, an editorial.

Gotham Gazette, Doing Ratner’s Bidding
Gail Robinson sums up the Atlantic Yards exception in the State's 421-a reform bill:

People in government cannot seem to help themselves when it comes to doing favors for Bruce Ratner, developer of Atlantic Yards — whether it’s ousting members of community boards who don’t endorse the megaproject or upping the government subsidy for it.

Gumby Fresh, Tax And Rend

Have we now reached the tipping point where we see the entire ugly Atlantic Yards mess not as an intricately poised balance of various economic, social and political interests and more as a lumpy grab-bag of foul-smelling pork?

Posted by lumi at 9:41 PM

Atlantic Yards gets a deal so sweet it's sick

NY Daily News

Columnist Juan Gonzales spells out Ratner's latest "special" "secret" "sweetheart deal":

How special is it?

Over the weekend, Vito Lopez, the powerful Brooklyn Democrat who heads the state Assembly's Housing Committee, quietly inserted wording tailored for the Ratner project into a new state property tax exemption bill.

How sweet is the deal?

It's worth at least $100 million in real estate tax exemptions and possibly as much as $170 million for the market-rate condos Ratner plans to build on the site, one housing expert estimates. It also allows Atlantic Yards to charge hundreds of dollars more in rent per month for "affordable" units than any other other developer of similar housing.

How secret was the deal?

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) says he did not learn of the provision until the eve of the vote, even though Atlantic Yards is located in his district. Bertha Lewis, the head of NY ACORN, says the same thing. ACORN has been a huge backer and partner of Ratner because of his promise to build 2,200 affordable units out of the proposed total of 6,400. But yesterday even Lewis branded this "special carve-out" for Atlantic Yards "bad public policy."

And that's on top of the enormous amount of subsidy already going Ratner's way:

The new tax exemptions are on top of the $300 million in direct subsidies that city and state officials have already showered on Atlantic Yards.

There's more coming. Ratner has applied for $1.4 billion in stateauthorized tax-exempt bonds to finance his 16 high-rise towers.

Yesterday, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report explained that the special Atlantic Yards legislation would end up costing low-income tenants even more. Brad Lander elaborates in Gonzalez's column:

The special provision, says Brad Lander, director for the Pratt Center for Community Development, will let Ratner charge an average of more than $350 per month in additional rent for the "affordable units" in Atlantic Yards.

Lander also explains that taxpayers also lose, thus shrinking the public benefit:

Depending on the number of units, it could mean from $100 million to $170 million in lost real estate taxes to the city, Lander says.

Gonzalez concludes by pointing out that only Governor Spitzer can intervene.


Atlantic Yards Report, On 421-a: FCR won't comment, ACORN calls it "bad public policy," & Lopez gets cover
Norman Oder posts that Brad Lander's estimates beg some real official number crunching and notes that ACORN director Bertha Lewis's quote in Gonzalez's column marks "ACORN's first public criticism of the developer's machinations."

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

$100 million (?) for Ratner as Assembly passes 421-a bill

StackofBills01.jpgAtlantic Yards Report reports that the Times blog reports that the legislation passed:


To the Times, Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development estimates that the tax break, which could exempt four buildings with condos from including onsite affordable housing. would cost taxpayers $100 million. (The other 12 Atlantic Yards towers would have mixed-income housing.)

That's just an estimate, however, and a closer accounting would be worthwhile. Developer Forest City Ratner saves by not having to provide another 380-plus units of very affordable housing. (The 1930 condos would have to be matched by 20 percent affordable housing.)


There's another benefit for the developer. Condo owners won't have to share their buildings with their poorer brethren. The condo buildings at Atlantic Yards, like other ones under construction (or recently opened) in the Brooklyn "renaissance," are for one-class only. (That should help with pricing, right?)


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

How the 421-a reform is being tailored for Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report explains how:

The special clause for developer Forest City Ratner benefits the Atlantic Yards project in two ways (updated): 1) the obligation to provide 20 percent affordable units in the same building will be lifted and instead can be met in the aggregate 2) the obligation to provide 20 percent of the units at 60 percent of AMI will be changed so that the developer must provide 20 percent of the units at an average AMI of 70 percent, so as not to disturb the current plans for Atlantic Yards.

Norman Oder also proofreads the legislation (no idea if the mistakes made it into the final bill).


Atlantic Yards Special Legislation for Dummies:

1. Bruce Ratner will receive tax-exemption for the entire project, not just the buildings with "affordable" units.

2. Units to be rented to households whose income is 70%, instead of 60%, of the Area Median Income would be included in order to qualify the project for the tax exemption, so that Bruce's current plans to reap larger profits than other developers at the taxpayers' expense would not change.

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

blogosphere72.jpgWere's still looking for a blogger who thinks that it's a good idea to give a special bonus to Bruce Ratner, in a reform bill, that will not only reduce the benefit to the public, but also cost more to the low-income tenants.

We'll keep looking. Meanwhile, here's what they're saying:

The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards to Get Custom-Made Developer Tax Break?

We believe the 421-a program is a tax giveaway to the wealthy that should have been killed off and that the reforms, while worthwhile, are the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That being said, it's fascinating to see an Atlantic Yards Exception actually being written into law.

City Room, A Special Break for Atlantic Yards
Extraordinary special reward bonus-exceptions for Ratner in a major housing subsidy-reform bill isn't newsy enough to make the Times, but reporter Nicholas Confessore posted an item on the paper's latest blog:

That allows the developer to get the tax abatement even on the four buildings that include no subsidized housing. The provision would also allow set the Atlantic Yards’ area median income level at 70 percent instead of 60, again averaged out over all the buildings. That allows the developer to maintain the existing distribution of subsidized housing in Atlantic Yards, which is skewed to a somewhat higher income range than buildings that traditionally qualify for the city’s program.

Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, who runs the Housing Committee, said the developer, Forest City Ratner, had asked the Assembly to set the income requirement at 100 percent of area median income, and that the compromise they arrived at was 70.

NoLandGrab: Are we supposed to believe that Lopez, though spineless, isn't gutless?

The Politicker, Elsewhere: Bloomberg, Edwards, Spano
Yesterday, the Atlantic Yards Project special exemption made it into Politicker's daily political news roundup.

NoLandGrab: The joke in Ratnerville is "WWSD?" (What will Spitzer do?).

The Albany Project, Ratnerville Gets Sweet Tax Break in Bill To Eliminate Sweet Tax Breaks

here is a perfect illustration of... how we give sweet deals to those with enough money to buy a couple legislators to slip this stuff in. In an ironic twist, we are giving tax breaks to a billionaire real estate developer, and him alone, in a bill to eliminate tax breaks to billionaire real estate developers.

Nice work if you can get it...
As I and many others have been saying for quite some time now, everything wrong with New York City and New York State politics is represented in the Ratnerville project. Influence peddling, crony capitalism, back room deals, shady legislation, lack of any meaningful public participation, overt favoritism to monied interests - it's all there.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 AM

Give Us a Break!

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

What will reform-minded Governor Spitzer do with this bill? We say he should veto it until the inexcusable exclusive gift clause to Bruce Ratner is excised, or he should negotiate it out of the bill.

The 1,700 to 1,900 market rate condos Bruce Ratner intends to build in his Atlantic Yards project will pay no property taxes. This could lead to a loss of somewhere between $100 million to $190 million in tax revenue for New York City, while enabling the developer to sell his units at higher prices because buyers won't have to pay taxes. Bruce Ratner is the only developer in the newly described 421-a zones in the City to receive this huge benefit. Why? There is no answer--not from us, not from the developer and not from the Assemblymembers who wrote a special clause for Bruce Ratner into their reform bill.
We ask, why? All we know is that Forest City Ratner spent more on lobbying this past year than any other developer in the state.


NoLandGrab: Even more simply, the Ratner market-rate condo exception means less public benefit and more money for Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 7:40 AM

Would You Like Fries With That, Mr. Ratner?

When Dope on the Slope gets pissed, he turns to verse. Here's his homage to the latest Atlantic Yards revelation that Bruce Ratner is the exception to the rule when it comes to 421-a housing-subsidy reform:

All you 70s kids will remember this jingle well:

Two Albany patsies.
Special clause
lets us
want no taxes. Accede. Bunk!

Mmmmmm, mmmmm. That's 100% Grade-A privilege.

Over 1 Billion given away.


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

June 21, 2007

Albany 421-a Reform Bill Hands One-of-a-Kind, Special Favors to Forest City Ratner

Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project Would Be The Only Project to Receive Tax Breaks for Luxury Condos Under Bill
Where Does the Favoritism and Backroom Dealing End?

BROOKLYN, NY— Bruce Ratner is about to join his own exclusive developer’s club, once again at taxpayer expense.

Forest City Ratner has often claimed that it’s not getting anything that any other developer can’t get. That was never the case, but now the development firm has positioned itself to get something that no other developer is getting.

Albany is creating a special loophole exclusively for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project as part of its bill “reforming” the 421-a tax breaks for development originally enacted in 1971. With this special legislation Forest City Ratner’s market-rate luxury condominiums will be the only such units in the entire reform zone receiving the 421-a tax break, saving the developer untold millions.

“This is the cherry on top of all of the special treatment and sweetheart deals Forest City Ratner has been gifted for its Atlantic Yards project. This exclusive clause in the 421-a reform bill, benefiting Bruce Ratner alone, is an astounding example of absolute governmental favoritism, at odds with the very principles for which the reform bill is supposed to stand,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman, Daniel Goldstein. “There is no valid justification for this favoritism, and clearly there has been an utter lack of transparency in the decision to award one developer a special corporate-welfare package. Is there any end to the favoritism and backroom dealing that consistently benefits Bruce Ratner? Will Governor Spitzer choose to allow passage of such backroom special dealing?

The special clause within the reform bill does not specifically name the Atlantic Yards project but rather describes “a multi-phase project that includes at least 2,500 dwelling units and (i) being implemented pursuant to a General Project Plan adopted by the New York State Urban Development Corporation and approved by Public Authorities Control Board.” There is only one such project in the state fitting that description, and that’s Atlantic Yards. Forest City Ratner is also seeking an extraordinary $1.4 billion in government backed, tax-exempt housing bonds.

"There should be an immediate Independent Budget Office (IBO) evaluation of all of the financial and tax benefits flowing to Forest City Ratner for affordable housing to determine the cost per unit, how many units are being deferred from other areas of the city, and how many units this level of funding could provide if it were dispersed without favoritism," said former City Planning Commissioner and DDDB Advisory Board member Ron Shiffman.

On his Atlantic Yards Report, watchdog journalist Norman Oder wrote, The final version of the bill apparently came down to two men in a room, Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez (and surrogates) and Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) executive Steve Spinola (ditto). And in those backroom negotiations emerged a nice plum for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. (The lack of an obligation to build affordable housing in [Atlantic Yards] condo buildings adds to the developer's bottom line in multiple ways.)”

To make matters worse, this special legislation granting exclusive and extraordinary tax breaks to Forest City Ratner would force lower-income residents of the proposed Atlantic Yards subsidized “affordable” housing to shell out at least 35% of their incomes for rent. This runs completely counter to accepted standards for “affordable housing,” which typically involves a resident paying 30% of income towards rent – the very principle behind the “Atlantic Yards” housing deal negotiated privately between Forest City Ratner and ACORN.

“With all due respect to ACORN, it’s confounding that they are supporting this special benefit to Ratner, making a mockery of the very reform bill they fought so hard to push forward,” Goldstein said. “It makes no sense for ACORN to support tax breaks for luxury condos when that is precisely what the reform bill was supposed to eliminate. Also, ACORN and Forest City Ratner had promised that each Atlantic Yards building would be mixed affordable and market-rate, but that is another broken promise by Ratner that ACORN appears willing to overlook.”

On the Atlantic Yards Report Brad Lander, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development and an appointee on the mayoral task force that recommended reforms last year, said, “There shouldn't be special side deals for particular developers. Buildings that include 20 percent affordable housing should get a tax break and all market-rate buildings should pay their taxes.”

On December 20, 2006, the City Council’s 421-a reform bill increased the Geographic Exclusion Area (GEA), in which developers would be required to build 20% affordable housing in exchange for the subsidy, extending it to Brownstone Brooklyn and including the proposed “Atlantic Yards” project site, among other locations. This bill, along with the forthcoming Albany bill, requires that each building include a percentage of affordable units in order to qualify for the lucrative tax breaks called “corporate welfare” by State Senator Liz Krueger in May. Only Bruce Ratner would receive the tax breaks for his mixed income buildings and his market rate buildings.

“It takes a special developer, with special lobbyists, to get special legislation. This exclusive ‘Ratner clause” benefits only Forest City Ratner’s bottom line, while keeping intact the exact breaks the bill was meant to eliminate,” DDDB’s Goldstein concluded.

Posted by lumi at 10:39 AM

Atlantic Yards is the exception in NY State's 421-a reform


This is the big news — late yesterday Atlantic Yards Report and The Real Estate Observer broke the story that NY State's 421-a reform bill had a gigantic exception for Bruce Ratner's controversial 22-acre, arena-and-16-high-rise Atlantic Yards plan.

MoneyTree.jpgWHAT'S IN A NAME?
Only the bill didn't call it "Bruce Ratner's controversial... Atlantic Yards plan." The official designation is:

"a multi-phase project that includes at least 2,500 dwelling units and (i) being implemented pursuant to a General Project Plan adopted by the New York State Urban Development Corporation and approved by Public Authorities Control Board.”

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report concludes, "There’s only one such project that would qualify," and Matthew Schuerman of The Real Estate Observer notes, "to people who have been following the project in central Brooklyn, [that] can mean only one thing: Atlantic Yards."

For a while now, behind the scenes, affordable housing advocates have voiced concerns that Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" would cost more to build than affordable housing created by other groups and developers. In addition, the housing subsidy pool has a volume cap set by the Federal Government. This cap has already been reached for 2007 by projects already in the pipeline. The concern is that Atlantic Yards will suck up the available financing in the future, precluding projects elsewhere in the city.

As if affordable-housing advocates didn't have enough to worry about, Norman Oder uncovers a dirty little secret buried in the 421-a reform bill: "affordable housing" at Atlantic Yards would cost more to the poor.

The bill states that “the rent for such units does not exceed thirty percent of eighty percent of the area median incomes adjusted for family size.”

Translation. If you earn 70 percent of AMI, you might get an apartment, but you'd have to pay rent as if you earned 80 percent of AMI.

One caveat:

Some of those numbers may change before the bill passes Thursday.

The State's reform bill has a loophole that would benefit Ratner. According to Matthew Schuerman's post:

In such “multi-phase projects,” according to the state bill, the whole development can qualify for the tax abatement so long as one-fifth of the apartments in the entire complex are affordable to people who make 80 percent of the area median income. (The AMI is roughly $70,000 for a family of four.) Under the City Council version, only those buildings that had affordable units in them would qualify, while developer Forest City Ratner would have had to pay full taxes on their condominium towers.

Therefore, Forest City may be able to qualify some of its market-rate buildings for the tax break and save itself millions of dollars.

Atlantic Yards Report, The Atlantic Yards gift slipped into the 421-a reform
The Real Estate Observer, 421a Bill Gives Special Treatment to Atlantic Yards

WHO'S RESPONSIBLE (OR NOT RESPONSIBLE, DEPENDING)? And if you're wondering how this happens and how you can get your own special exception to legislation, check out this morning's article on the political process, which include choice quotes from ACORN Director Bertha Lewis and Former Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey: Atlantic Yards Report, Two men in a room, no transparency, and a bonus for Forest City

The final version of the bill apparently came down to two men in a room, Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez (and surrogates) and Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) executive Steven Spinola (ditto), each deputized by the two men who control their respective legislative bodies, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

And in those backroom negotiations emerged a nice plum for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. (The lack of an obligation to build affordable housing in AY condo buildings adds to the developer's bottom line in multiple ways.)

You had to know something was brewing when Jim Stuckey protested to much:

And, in a May 2005 City Council hearing, FCR executive Jim Stuckey stated: qualifies for 421A tax abatements for residential projects. So, if anyone else, anybody, not us, any developer, developed on this site as of right, they would be entitled to 25 year tax abatements...

Puhleeze, since when does Forest City get treated as "any developer?"

It remains to be seen if any of the daily newspapers pick up this story as the benefits of Atlantic Yards continue to unravel.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

Six-month check: FCR's "initiatives" still murky, but parks funding's a fudge

Atlantic Yards Report

On the six-month anniversary of the Public Authorities Control Board's approval of Atlantic Yards, Norman Oder tries to check up on the status of the "additional community initiatives and enhanced housing program" which were wrested from developer Bruce Ratner during "last-minute negotiations."


When FCR pledged to "invest $3 million to improve existing parks in and around the project," the developer was overstating the case by calling it an "additional" initiative.

After I queried the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the agency confrimed that the sum includes the $1.25 million-plus announced in November to add a comfort station to the Dean Street playground, a partial mitigation for increased noise.

However, a mitigation neither constitutes an enhancement nor an initiative, especially since it surfaced more than a month earlier.


FCR announced a reduction to the height of the proposed Miss Brooklyn building, ensuring that no building at the site will be taller than the 512-foot Williamsburg Savings Bank.

What will be that building's revised height and square footage? That has yet to be finalized, according to the ESDC.


FCR announced it will seek to build at least 200 affordable home-owner units on site rather than offsite, making them part of the proposed 6430 units of housing already approved.

When would they be built, and for what income brackets? How is that memorialized? Such details, the ESDC said, will be part of a funding agreement due within the next few weeks and later formalized in project documents before site acquisition.


And what about the "new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School"? Would Forest City have any option to acquire the existing Brooklyn Tech building? (Remember, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, any plan to convert the current Brooklyn Tech is off the table.) The ESDC said only that the issue is under discussion.


Posted by lumi at 8:23 AM

State revision of 421-a "corporate welfare" subsidy repudiates Doctoroff’s “nothing gets built” warning

More catching up with Atlantic Yards Report: yesterday, Norman Oder posted a thorough (read: lengthy) article about State reform of the 421-a housing-subsidy program:

The New York State Legislature had to approve its own reform and legislators, as Crain’s New York Business reported yesterday, have apparently agreed on a bill demanding more from developers. The state revision, to be finalized on Thursday when the legislative session ends, apparently adds a dozen more outer-borough neighborhoods to the GEA.
Note that the affordable housing provided by the 421-a revision would go to families with household incomes up to 60% of Area Median Income, or $42,540. Most of the Atlantic Yards affordable units—1350, or 60%—would go to families above this level, as the affordability scenario has already been tweaked upward.

Read the full article to follow the progress of reform of the 421-a program.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

June 16, 2007

HDC Provides $320 Million For Affordable Housing, $76 Million for Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Linda Collins

$320 million in financing would be used to build or preserve 2,285 affordable apartments in 36 buildings in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

Fun with math! $320 million for 2,285 apartments = approx. $140,043 per apartment. Ratner is asking $1.4 billion for 2,250 units. This is approx. $622,222 per apartment. They must all have subzero refrigerators or something...


Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

June 12, 2007

The battle over Queens West: the developer, the process, and the income mix

Atlantic Yards Report

Are you struggling to follow the affordable housing debate over Atlantic Yards and how it relates to or infoms development of affordable housing across the city?

Norman Oder has been giving readers an ongoing crash course on the issue. Here's his latest installment:

The process behind a huge affordable housing development planned for Queens West, a 24-acre site the city plans to buy from the Port Authority, presents some interesting contrasts to Atlantic Yards, as well as some potential portents.

First, the city announced plans for the project without anointing a developer, though it has had "secret talks" (in the Times's phrase) about a sole-source process regarding a nonprofit arm of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).

Secondly, the city's initial plan for an all-subsidized project geared to moderate- and middle-income families was criticized for bypassing low-income families. Now the city is considering making 40 percent of the project market-rate.

It's another sign that the numbers behind an affordable housing project are constantly shifting; if costs (or pressures for profit) go up, something has to give, and it can be the amenities in the project or, most easily, the income mix, as has already occurred with Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

June 11, 2007

The income mix for AY affordable units already changed; could it change again?

Atlantic Yards Report

The inaugural issue of City Limits Investigates, which focuses on affordable housing, points out that, with some construction costs rising 1% a month, a lack of cheap land, and limits on governmental contributions, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan may "never get to 165,000 units--or if it does, that the housing produced will not meet the most pressing needs."

Indeed, to get there, city housing officials acknowledge, the cost pressure "could change the complexion of the affordable housing they are delivering." (Or, perhaps, more funds must be sought from other sources, including borough presidents.)

Does that mean that the complexion of Atlantic Yards--the profile of the affordable units--might change? Maybe, but the important thing to realize is that it has changed already.

Norman Oder analyzes the Atlantic Yards affordable housing proposal, how it has already changed, and where there might still be wiggle-room:

The most stringent requirement is that 20% of the rentals go to low-income households earning under 50% of the AMI. Perhaps the upper income bound will be adjusted to 175% of AMI, which is permitted under city subsidy programs. Even though that would seem to violate the Housing MOU, it's hard to imagine that ACORN, which hasn't criticized delays in the project and other impediments to affordable housing, would raise a stink.

Still, if we don't have an inkling for Forest City Ratner's development fees, costs, and profits, it's hard to tell whether a tweaking of the income mix is needed to get the project built or just to drive the return FCR's parent company wants for its shareholders.


Posted by lumi at 10:19 AM

June 10, 2007

The moving target of affordable housing, and a borough president's boost

Atlantic Yards Report

Note that, despite Markowitz's fervor for the Atlantic Yards project, his budget is way too small to boost the project, more than one-third of which would be financed by scarce--at this point, too scarce--tax-exempt bonds.

It might seem that nonprofit developers have the edge over for-profit developers because they don't have to deliver a return to shareholders. Indeed, for-profit developers are hardly clamoring to build projects that contain only affordable units.

Then again, for-profit developers often build mixed-income housing--as planned for Atlantic Yards--rather than 100% affordable housing. And for-profit developers might argue that nonprofit organizations would have trouble building at a site as complicated as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard; indeed, the only competing bidder after Forest City Ratner had been anointed was another for-profit developer, Extell.

On the other hand, were Atlantic Yards footprint, or simply the Vanderbilt Yard, divided into several parcels, and different goals were set, for-profit and nonprofit developers might compete for different projects.


Posted by amy at 11:11 AM

June 6, 2007

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Press Release:

Project Seeks At Least $1.4 Billion in Tax-Exempt Housing Bonds Gobbling Up Available Housing Funds From All Over New York City

BROOKLYN, NY— Atlantic Yards has always been sold as basically a privately funded project by its developer Forest City Ratner and government officials from Mayor Bloomberg to former Governor Pataki. The reality is that more than half of the project will be government backed.

Documents from lawsuits and elsewhere, uncovered and analyzed today by journalist Norman Oder on his Atlantic Yards Report, reveal that including a Ratner request for at least $1.4 billion in tax-exempt housing bonds, at least $637 million in tax-exempt arena bonds, at least $205 million direct cash subsidy from New York City and $100 million direct cash subsidy from New York State, at least $2.34 billion of the $4 billion project has government backing.

"Despite the developer's and government's claims to the contrary, we've always known that the taxpayer would shoulder the lion's share of the cost of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project; now it has been confirmed in government documents," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

The trouble with Forest City Ratner’s extraordinary $1.4 billion housing bond request to New York City’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC), is that New York City is facing an enormous deficit in the tax-exempt bonding the developer is seeking. The impact this deficit will have on “affordable” housing development in New York City and in the Atlantic Yards project could be devastating. The delay in constructing affordable housing in Atlantic Yards that the deficit is likely to cause was also broken in a story on the Atlantic Yards Report today. On his blog, Mr. Oder wrote that on May 24, city Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan drew a stark picture in his testimony in front of the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee. Mr. Donovan said: “New York City is facing an immediate crisis in private activity bond volume cap, which we expect to deplete before the end of June. Without additional volume cap, 6,700 units of housing in our pipeline will not be built.”

Those 6,700 units precede the 2,250 “affordable” units promised for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, involving $1.4 billion in scarce tax-exempt bonds. As Oder points out, neither the developer nor government officials revealed this total until after the project that was approved.

Former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman said, “Forest City Ratner’s project, with already inflated construction costs, would suck up and take away so much funding from other affordable housing projects in New York City. It’s time for Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer to rethink the Atlantic Yards project, or the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 and the City’s housing goals will be seriously jeopardized for years to come even if the bonding volume cap is raised."

“Forest City Ratner would be getting at least $2.34 billion in taxpayer backed government assistance, which is more than half the price tag for Atlantic Yards. At the same time it is now starkly clear that Ratner’s project, with its overly expensive per unit construction costs, would hoard scarce housing subsidy resources from all over New York City,” Goldstein said. “If the project is not rethought, something will have to give, and it seems likely that something will either be massive delays in construction of affordable housing for Atlantic Yards or withdrawn funding for more streamlined affordable housing projects throughout the City.

Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

Huge deficit in tax-exempt bonds suggests Atlantic Yards delay

Atlantic Yards Report

What are the implications of Bruce Ratner's attempt to finance over half of the Atlantic Yards project through tax-exempt bonds (see AYR, "Privately financed? Court documents finally specify the housing bonds behind Atlantic Yards funding") and why are government officials and affordable housing advocates concerned?

Atlantic Yards may have been approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) last December, but the project faces a significant hurdle over which the agencies had no control. Nor did they apparently consider it in their deliberations.
The city and state agencies that fund affordable housing are drastically oversubscribed with developers seeking to draw on a limited pool of tax-exempt bonds. Testifying on May 24, city Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan drew a stark picture before the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee:

New York City is facing an immediate crisis in private activity bond volume cap, which we expect to deplete before the end of June. Without additional volume cap, 6,700 units of housing in our pipeline will not be built.

And those units precede the 2250 units promised for Atlantic Yards, involving $1.4 billion in bonds, a figure developer Forest City Ratner and government officials didn't reveal until after the project was approved.

Congress is considering proposals that would increase the “volume cap,” which limits the amount of bonds that can be authorized by state and city agencies around the country.

For now, a warning from Forest City Enterprises, parent of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, grows in importance. In its latest annual report, the developer acknowledged several factors contributing to potential “increased costs and delays to the project,” including “our inability to obtain tax exempt financing or the availability of financing generally.”
In the city’s pipeline alone, there’s $1.8 billion in projects, which precede the yet-unrequested $1.4 billion for Atlantic Yards. Given the scarcity of city funding for such developments, some affordable housing supporters have begun to express dismay that Atlantic Yards would suck up a significant portion of the pool.


Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

June 5, 2007

The (non-inclusionary) Fourth Avenue rezoning, affordable housing, & CB 6

Arglye.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder analyzes the shifting political and public awareness for the need for affordable housing in NYC. Disappointment felt by politicians and affordable housing advocates in the wake of Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue rezoning may have affected the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning, Forest City Ratner's deal with ACORN for Atlantic Yards and cleaning house at Community Board 6.


Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

June 4, 2007

Would rising costs delay affordable housing? Ratner won't say

Atlantic Yards Report

From City Limits Investigates:

The development by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) is supposed to make 50 percent of its rental units affordable, but the first phase of project--scheduled for completion in 2010--is only required to designate 30 percent of the units that way. Members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and City Councilmember Letitia James claim rising costs could postpone or derail the second phase of the project, which is due to end in 2016, thus endangering the unusually high affordable housing benefits that the construction promised to provide. Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for FCRC, wrote in an email that he would not comment on "ridiculous speculation by opponents whose only goal is to stop the project."

CLI could have gone beyond the "opponents" and pointed out that much milder critics have questioned the promise, and representatives of the developer have given fuel to doubts.


Posted by lumi at 8:53 AM

May 30, 2007

Developmentalism in the Big Apple

Cost of living has skyrocketed in New York, but under fatcats Giuliani and Bloomberg, the working man’s wage has not

In These Times
By Steven Wishnia

NYC Mayor touts his program to build affordable housing, meanwhile more affordable units are leaving the system than are being built and real wages lag far behind.

Thirty years ago, you could easily find a one-bedroom apartment in a middle-class neighborhood in New York City for $150 a month. Today, it would cost more than $1,500—more than what Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson, then baseball’s highest-paid player, paid in 1977. His Fifth Avenue apartment with a balcony overlooking Central Park cost $1,466 a month. And the minimum wage hasn’t gone up to $27.82 an hour.

How we got to this point is the subject of Kim Moody’s From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present (The New Press). Moody analyzes how New York’s business elite exploited the ’70s fiscal crisis to destroy the city’s “social-democratic polity” and impose the neoliberal agenda that has dictated “restraint on social spending, privatization, deregulation, and most importantly, the reassertion of class power by the nation’s capitalist class.”

The result is a city where inequality has grown to extremes far beyond those in the rest of the country, where a small but growing cabal of the spectacularly rich uses government as a vending machine and lords it over a hollowed-out middle class and millions of low-paid, increasingly immigrant service workers.

Unlike many politicians, Moody hasn't fallen for the myth of "affordable" housing at Atlantic Yards:

Bloomberg has made some grand-sounding promises about building affordable housing, but Moody dissects the formulas used to determine what’s deemed “affordable.” Based on the median income for the metropolitan area, apartments that go for as much as $1,800 a month are classified as “middle income,” such as those in the planned Atlantic Yards sports arena/housing complex in Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 7:41 AM

May 28, 2007

St. Mary's Hospital is off the AY affordable housing block

Atlantic Yards Report

It was never a given, and the news is late, but it's worth noting that St. Mary's Hospital in Crown Heights no longer seems the likely home of affordable for-sale apartments connected to the Atlantic Yards project.

The 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units are promised in the Memorandum of Understanding regarding housing signed in May 2005 by Forest City Ratner and the housing advocacy group ACORN. Unlike with the 2250 affordable rentals planned at the Atlantic Yards site, the plan has not been memorialized in any Empire State Development Corporation documents.
Forest City has not made any public statements recently about plans for the for-sale affordable units, which would be dependent on currently scarce public subsidies. Perhaps the developer has other sites in mind, or in hand. Perhaps it's prudent to wait.

However, given FCR's deep pockets, and the relatively small cost for the acquisition (though not the renovation) of the hospital building, it would be interesting to learn why the developer passed on the opportunity.


Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

May 25, 2007

Fighting the ravages of luxury towers

People's World Weekly
By Daniel Rubin

An article cautioning New Yorkers about the current luxury housing boom includes Atlantic Yards with a curious wrinkle in the narrative (emphasis added):

Billionaire developer Bruce Ratner plans to build the Atlantic Yards Project at the busiest intersection in Brooklyn. It would bring 17 towers, some up to 60 stories high, for housing, offices, a hotel and a basketball arena for 19,000. It would be the most densely populated complex in the United States.

A large community movement against it, supported by several African American progressive public officials, has fought for the last three years. As a result, 30 percent “affordable housing” (but possibly offsite) was promised. There would be 225 units available for those with incomes below the area median income of $28,800 for a family of four. But 3,000 families are expected to be displaced from the community as a result of the project, driving up rents and real estate taxes. The rest of the “affordable housing” goes up to $113, 400.


NoLandGrab: It would be more correct to say, "ACORN sided with the developer and announced a 50/50 affordable housing plan. Ratner soon added more luxury condos to the project, diluting the overall percentages to 30-percent 'affordable,' a majority of which would not be available to those making less than the Brooklyn median household income."

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

May 24, 2007

OK, B63 Reroute Plan Won't Happen as Announced

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Yup, you heard it right, public agencies are taking their orders from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, that is, until people started asking questions. Norman Oder first broke this story on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report.

Last month, the Star reported plans by New York City Transit (NYCT) to revise service on the northbound B63 bus route in response to the demapping of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues for the Atlantic Yards project. The change would happen "in the near future," according to NYCT's Lois Tendler. Because the street would be closed, Tendler said in a letter to Brooklyn Community Board 6, the bus would not continue to Atlantic and make a left to go downtown, but instead make a left on Flatbush. It was supposed to be implemented this Sunday, May 27.

Well, it's not happening this week, and from what officials have said so far, it seems that the transit agency was paying more attention to Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner than to other involved agencies.


Posted by lumi at 9:33 PM

May 22, 2007


In its inaugural issue, CLI examines how fiscal realities are shaping the city's affordable-housing buildout. This synopsis points to some of the ways new units' size, quality and genuine affordability could be affected.

By Jarret Murphy

This article was summarized in yesterday's edition of amNY (link and our comments here).

In December of 2002, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his first affordable housing plan, the new Yankees and Mets stadiums existed only in the dreams of owners George Steinbrenner and Fred Wilpon. A walk along the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront would show plenty of development potential – but no new high rise apartment buildings. The phrase "Atlantic Yards" had yet to enter the city's popular lexicon. And it wasn't until eight days after the mayor unveiled his five-year, $3 billion, 65,000-unit housing plan that the first designs for the Freedom Tower were released.

...affordable housing developers, designers, and analysts say that, coupled with swelling land prices, the rising cost of construction threatens the Bloomberg plan. "Construction costs are killing us," says Paul Freitag, an architect with Jonathan Rose Companies, a builder developing several affordable housing projects in Harlem and the Bronx. "I think it's particularly tough in the case of affordable housing where you're looking for public subsidies to fill the gap."


NoLandGrab: "Atlantic Yards" is not only entering the popular lexicon, it has become the prime example for nearly everything bad and bloated in the current wave of development in NYC.

Forest City is known in the industry as one of the few development companies that can wait out unfavorable market conditions. A large majority of Atlantic Yards's affordable housing component remains in Phase II of the development, making it vulnerable to substantial delays.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

May 21, 2007

Can NYC afford affordable housing?

By Jarret Murphy

Paragraph 2:

Steep prices for materials, like steel, and fierce demand for building contractors, are pushing up construction costs by as much as 1 percent a month. Global forces like the growth of China and labor unrest in Chile have caused costs to climb, but New York's own development craze — from Ground Zero to Atlantic Yards to the new Mets and Yankees ballparks — is pushing up prices.

NoLandGrab: What are the implications for the projected cost of Atlantic Yards and its affordable housing component?

Posted by lumi at 8:08 AM

May 7, 2007

Columbia's Exceptionalism

Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Richard Lipsky borrows one of the many arguments against the controversial Atlantic Yards plan, for his attack on Columbia University's expansion plans.

What is clear, however, is that Columbia's aim to upscale the West Harlem neighborhood that it is looking to build in, will create an unstoppable gentrification wave that will sweep through the surrounding working class neighborhoods. That is, unless the mayor and his planning minions intervene to alter the university's monolithic, Columbia-centric vision.


NoLandGrab: Richard Lipsky is a consultant for Forest City Ratner and the development company's bid to build Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Tenants Fight McMansions, Challenging Landlords to Keep Their Homes

Brooklyn Rail
By Eleanor Bader

AffordHouseProtest-BR.jpgAn article about tenants' fight to save their rent-stabilized aparment a block from Ratnerville notes that Atlantic Yards isn't making things easier for those living in rent-stabilized aparments:

Dave Powell, a tenant organizer at the Fifth Avenue Committee, already sees this happening and blames the increase in owner use cases on the city’s seemingly-endless real estate boom. “We’ve seen the rapid gentrification of Ft. Greene and Park Slope in the last 10 to 15 years and certainly Atlantic Yards is serving to exacerbate that. Rent Stabilization laws are supposed to act as a regulatory force against displacement and eviction,” he says. “The owner use provision was not meant for landlords to create mansions in tenements. I have no empathy for people who are trying to circumvent these laws and remove desperately needed apartments from the affordable housing stock.”

William Whalen of Municipal Employee Legal Services, a group that provides free legal representation to city workers unionized by District Counsel 37... says. “I’ve recently noticed a tremendous change in the nature of our practice. A few years back, landlords wanted their money. It was, ‘how much can you pay and when are you going to pay it?’ Now landlords no longer want the rent money. They want the tenant to move because at this point an empty apartment is worth more than an occupied one.”

Attorney Scott Miller agrees. “Atlantic Yards has been in the forefront of the news for three or four years. Since the development plan was announced, the number of owner use cases has skyrocketed. The area is hot and trendy and will only get more so. I have nothing against the owners of 533 Bergen but they don’t have to displace five families for the pleasure of one. It’s greed. It may be legal, but what’s legal and what’s fair are sometimes different.”


NoLandGrab: In addition to Atlantic Yards's indirect effect on affordable housing in the area, don't forget that developer Bruce Ratner's is trying to use eminent domain to remove tenants from the rent-stabilized apartments that he owns, a tidy way to circumvent all laws and regulations meant to protect these tenants.

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

April 20, 2007

Ratner Scrambles for Funding for Gehry-Designed Tower

The NY Observer
"Deeds and Deals"
By Matthew Schuerman

The outstanding issues of financing for another Ratner/Gehry project provides some insight into Atlantic Yards:

Forest City Ratner is looking to compete for some of New York’s scarce tax-exempt bonds to finance a Frank Gehry–designed tower in lower Manhattan.

Here's a breakdown and explanation of the state/city-subsidized financing of Bruce Ratner's Beekman St. tower:

One portion—presumably the top—would be entirely market-rate rentals and could be financed with Liberty Bonds, which continue to be reserved for the project. The middle portion would consist of mixed-income rentals, 20 percent of which would be priced for low-income households. The school would occupy the lowest five floors, along with retail and possibly a medical facility.

In a request filed last year with the H.D.C., Forest City said it was planning to apply for up to $450 million in tax-free bonds that would cover up to 750 of the units in the middle portion of the building. But the developer will have to wait in line for these bonds because the city largely depends on the state for tax-exempt bonding authority. The state has received billions of dollars in requests that it cannot accommodate this year.

“By the end of June this year, the H.D.C. is completely out of volume cap,” said Emily Youssouf, the president of the H.D.C. “[The developers] are trying to figure out their financing.”

Taken together, the $190 million in Liberty Bond financing, which was supposed to underwrite 720 apartments, and the $450 million in 80-20 financing, to cover 750 units, accounts for more than the 920 apartments that Forest City is planning. That means the developer has room to tip the balance toward more or fewer market-rate units depending on the various tax advantages.

Ratner and Gehry have yet to reveal models or renderings of the project. So far this is all that is publicly known:

Rough designs filed with the housing agency show that the tower would have a large five-story base, on top of which a narrow column would rise to 950 feet—the second-tallest building downtown—with small setbacks on the 37th and 49th stories. Public plazas would border the tower on two sides.


Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

FCR's Beekman tower, AY face same problem: scarce tax-exempt financing

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's annual report acknowledged "the potential for increased costs and delays" to Atlantic Yards as a result of, among other things, "our inability to obtain tax exempt financing or the availability of financing generally."

That looks to be an increasing concern. Take the example of the developer's other Frank Gehry-designed tower, on Beekman Street in Lower Manhattan.

Norman Oder references this week's article by Matthew Schuerman from The NY Observer and adds:

The amount of bonding required for Atlantic Yards would be considerably more (than the Beekman St. tower). Perhaps pressure from developers seeking this scarce resource will prompt the relevant government agencies, with the assistance of the federal government, to expand the availability of bonding authority. (Here's Schuerman's exposition of this complicated issue.)

For now, however, there are too many subsidized housing projects competing for limited funds.


Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

April 13, 2007

Battle over Fifth Ave housing

The Brooklyn Paper

Supporters of a plan to build low-income studio apartments in the South Slope fought back against Borough President Markowitz’s surprise rejection of the proposal, storming a hearing this week to urge the city to move forward with the plan.

Markowitz had rejected the Fifth Avenue Committee proposal for a 49-unit building to house mentally ill and formerly homeless adults, plus low-income seniors, on the grounds that families should also be part of the plan.

Fifth Avenue Committee Executive Director Michelle de la Uz agreed that there is a need for affordable housing for families in Park Slope, but told the City Planning Commission on Wednesday that “unfortunately, this is not the right site for that.”
De la Uz said her existing facility at 551 Warren St. in Boerum Hill is an example of what the South Slope can expect. That facility is now home to 94-year-old Dominick Diomede — the Carroll Gardens resident whose eviction became international news last year before he landed his Fifth Avenue Commitee apartment.

But there are countless of Dominick Diomedes losing their apartments every day thanks to gentrifrication and soaring real-estate prices, experts said.


NoLandGrab: South Slope residents could allay their concerns by checking out the Warren St. facility.

OK, but what does this have to do with Atlantic Yards?

In light of the Fifth Avenue Committee's (FAC) stellar track record of effectively serving the community, could Markowitz's inexplicable rejection of FAC's proposal have more to do with realiation against Michelle de la Uz's stance against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards and her public role in the Brooklyn Speaks coalition?

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

April 9, 2007

NY state housing chief rejects new Starrett City bid

AP, via amNY

Bertha Lewis makes the case against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" plan in this quote about the proposal to sell Starrett City:

The rejection of the latest "irresponsible proposal" sends "a clear message that developers intent on exploiting government subsidies for windfall profits need not apply," said Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.


Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

March 5, 2007

Breaking Ground

Gotham Gazette

New York City is in the midst of a construction boom, say city officials and representatives from the building industry. The city is issuing residential building permits at near record numbers and a recent wave of mega projects, such as Atlantic Yards (see related story), approved by city, state and federal agencies marks the city's most ambitious economic development agenda in decades.


Related story, Atlantic Yards: A “Done Deal?”, by Tom Angotti

The article lists all of the reasons that New Yorkers think Atlantic Yards is regarded as "just a harmless piece of Manhattan-like development" and is probably "a done deal" and then embarks on a more fact-based review of where the project really stands:

But a new film, Brooklyn Matters, uncovers a deepening vein of displeasure with the project that spans a wide political spectrum, in Manhattan as well as Brooklyn, among community leaders and urban planners. In addition to the “resignation and bitter apathy” referred to by Brooklyn resident Jennifer Egan in her recent New York Times op-ed essay, there seems to be a warehouse of active resistance and also a minefield of new obstacles. Three new lawsuits against the project will tie the project up for a while. The Spitzer administration is looking closely at this and a host of other Pataki deals that left mushrooming public costs. Critics are attempting to expose the affordable housing package as something of a front for what they say is really a massive luxury project. And now community groups are working on expanding their own plan for the area that sets aside Ratner’s vision.


Posted by lumi at 10:43 AM

March 3, 2007


Citing a lack of sufficient information that demonstrates their commitment to affordable housing, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson today denied Clipper Equity, L.P.'s request to purchase the Starrett City housing development in Brooklyn, New York.

"Today, I'm announcing that I will deny HUD approval of the sale of Starrett City. This department will not stand idly by while a community and its people are unnecessarily placed at risk of losing their homes and way of life. By exercising my authority, I act to protect the people served by this department," Jackson said at a press conference with officials from New York.

"We must remember the purpose of affordable housing. It is where people live together, grow up together, and grow old together. Starrett City is a community of people...a way of life...a good life that has been the product of thousands of people working and living together in harmony every single day," added Jackson.


Propect Heights needs a HUD...

Posted by amy at 9:04 AM

February 22, 2007

Beyond "Brooklyn Matters": compounding and complicating the indictment

Atlantic Yards Report

The documentary film Brooklyn Matters (click for future showings) doesn't claim to be comprehensive; rather, it's a powerful indictment . Still, upon another viewing of the film at Bishop Loughlin High School last night, I was reminded of two missing strands; one would have compounded the indictment, while the other would have complicated it.

Had Isabel Hill's camera captured the affordable housing information session held by Forest City Ratner and ACORN on 7/11/06, viewers might have seen a large crowd of working-class New Yorkers, mainly minorities, eager to gain access to subsidized housing, but dismayed that most would be either unaffordable to them and/or not available until the second phase, officially scheduled from 2010 through 2016.

Also, had a camera captured ACORN New York Executive Director Bertha Lewis at the housing debate held nearly a year ago, or in an interview longer than that in the film, Lewis might have made the point that Atlantic Yards promises more affordable housing than other developments in and around Downtown Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

February 15, 2007

Spin City Roundup

Atlantic Yards Report

Nothing gets to Norman Oder like public officials and community leaders who are into spin:

Spin city #1: Burden calls AY “a gaping hole in the heart of Brooklyn”

AmandaBurden-NYC.gifCity Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden, speaking yesterday before a development-friendly audience at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast, declared that “Atlantic Yards was a gaping hole in the heart of Brooklyn,” a statement either deceptive or naïve.

The "hole" is a working railyard, the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard, while Atlantic Yards is the name of a 22-acre project. In casual discussion and press accounts, the two are often conflated, but a public official like Burden should know better, right?

I caught up with Burden (right) after her presentation and said, “You’re calling the project, the whole thing, a gaping hole.”

“The yards are a gaping hole,” she responded, unwilling to acknowledge that she had bought into the developer’s branding.

Spin city #2: Lewis says AY would be "totally luxury" without ACORN

Norman Oder analyzes and fact checks Bertha Lewis's interview yesterday on WBAI.

BerthaLewis-NH.jpgLewis's version of events seems to contradict the record:

Lewis continued:

And when Atlantic Yards came up, we stepped in and we said, “Whoa, wait a minute, if this tide is going to wash over us, we’ve got to be able to affect it.” There was no plan to do anything affordable in that project, whatsoever.

While it's possible that when the developer began conceiving of Atlantic Yards there was no plan for affordable housing, affordable housing was a component of the project plan when first unveiled on 12/10/03.

The developer and ACORN did not sign the affordable housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for 17 months, until 5/17/05.

Spin city #3: Doctoroff says AY had "enormous level of community input"

DanDoctoroff-MSNBCsm.jpgIn this week's New York Observer, in a Q&A headlined Modern-Day Robert Moses, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff first seems to acknowledge that the Atlantic Yards project received too little community input, then reverses himself, claiming--against strong evidence--"an enormous level of community input."

Posted by lumi at 8:20 AM

January 30, 2007

Section 8 boost means 22,000 families housed affordably

Atlantic Yards Report explains how the infusion of federal dollars for Section 8 housing relates to Atlantic Yards:

Those eligible for Section 8 can earn up to half the median income--$35,450 for a four-person household. Among the 2250 affordable rental units planned for the Atlantic Yards project, 900 would be within the Section 8 income limits.


Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

January 27, 2007

Brooklyn's basketball city evokes fear, hope amid gentrification



The project's size has dismayed thousands of Brooklyn residents who love the village-like feel of the adjoining neighborhoods, and worry about the deadening effect skyscrapers have on residential street life.

But Atlantic Yards has its champions too — especially those left behind by the borough's gentrification.
Another hopeful, Jacqueline Carthen, a retired corrections officer getting by on a disability pension, said she's also hoping to be among the lucky few — despite having her own concerns about the development.

"A lot of people are saying that this is gentrification. I don't really know how to break that down," she said. The project, she noted, is just one of dozens under way nearby — mostly for the wealthy.

For those still confused regarding Atlantic Yards vs. the other on-going gentrification in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards gentrification would be instant and complete. And it's not just us who understand - take a look at the poll on the Newsday site...

Posted by amy at 7:02 PM

January 22, 2007

DDDB round-up

Here's a round-up of recent items from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

A Net Loss?
We hadn't had a chance earlier to put up this item about figures DDDB uncovered in developer Bruce Ratner's own socio-economic study.

Let's do the math: "Atlantic Yards" proposes 900 low income units. The FEIS says that there could be 2,920 households at risk of indirect residential displacement. Even if we include all of the "affordable" units, 2,920 outpaces 2,250.

Even in the best case scenario the ESDC says that the "at-risk* population will be much smaller than 2,000." What's "much smaller": 1,000? 1,500? 800? Regardless, we are looking at a wash at best, with a net loss more likely.

DDDBarclays.gifBarclays Bank: Not Concerned
DDDB wonders what Barclays could possibly be "concerned" about:

Whether or not the arena construction can go forward? or
About the community's concerns? or
About abusing the Constitution? or
About their image of corporate responsibility and ethical decision-making?

Giving It to Brooklyn

All of this nostalgic drama was to announce that Barclays, not the World, was indeed giving something–$300 to 400 million. But Barclays is giving it to Bruce Ratner's Forest City Enterprises, not Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 10:50 AM

Ratner Sued Again, This Time Over Relocation

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

Tenant attorney George Locker is charging that Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey is using strong-arm tactics and wielding the power of the Empire State Development Corporation to circumvent rent stabilization protections:

Locker noted that Stuckey had confirmed that Forest City's offer does not apply to tenants suing over Atlantic Yards - a category that includes not only Locker's clients, but several tenants involved in a federal lawsuit challenging eminent domain.

Locker says such a strong-arm tactic violates the law. "The relocation requirements under the UDC [Urban Development Corporation] Act does not provide for relocation based on whether the displaced tenant passively accepts his/her fate, or chooses to seek relief from the courts," he said. "While Ratner may not like being sued, relocation is a right, not a gift."

The controversy, according to Locker, raises questions about whether the private developer or the public state agency is in charge.

The cases brought by Locker break new legal ground, but they bring up serious questions about rent stabilization in a very unstable real-estate market and the ability for a developer to cut deals using the coercive powers of state eminent domain law while circumventing other state laws and regulations.


Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

January 5, 2007

Affordable housing, Trojan Horse?

Atlantic Yards Report

The truth is today, if you’re a developer with a bad project, a large bad project that shouldn’t be built... the smart thing to do is say, ‘Y’know what, I’m going to provide you with some really good affordable housing.’ So affordable housing is the Trojan Horse these days on big bad projects that shouldn’t get done. And neighborhood activists and many of our elected officials become very reluctant to oppose a project, any project, that has a large affordable housing component.

So says Julia Vitullo-Martin of the Manhattan Institute, in Isabel Hill's documentary Brooklyn Matters...


Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

December 29, 2006

Affordable housing, AY, & 421-a: the solution that came too late


Atlantic Yards Report

A telling pairing of lead articles appeared on the front page of the 12/21/06 New York Times. The passage of the Atlantic Yards project was deemed the day's second most important story. The lead was the City Council's reform of 421-a legislation, which is expected to lead to some 20,000 affordable apartments over the next decade.

Seen together, it's clear how much backers of the Atlantic Yards project benefited from the city's failure to reform 421-a any sooner, much less rezone the 22-acre site designated for the project.

Each action could have guaranteed a significant number of affordable low-income apartments, rather than leaving it to a private deal between developer Forest City Ratner and the advocacy group ACORN, which gave crucial cover to a development of unprecedented residential density.

In other words, in part because of the inclusion of affordable housing--which, it was infrequently mentioned, would be funded by taxpayers--the developer got the state to override zoning and build at a scale that otherwise would not be permitted.


Posted by amy at 9:27 AM

December 15, 2006

Could lost AY revenues have tripled affordable housing?

Atlantic Yards Report

Oy! Norman Oder is playing with numbers again, this time to try to answer a question posed by attorney George Locker: how much affordable housing could the incredible disappearing tax revenues pay for?

The lost city revenue is pegged at $193.2 million, in net present value.

How much does affordable housing cost? Well, the city is spending $83,200 per unit of affordable housing in its Queens West project.

Divide $193.2 million by $83,200 and you get 2322 units.
Of course things are more complicated; the amount spent on housing depends on the costs and constraints of the site, and the range of incomes of the population the housing would include.

And there's no assurance that new revenues would go into housing. (Heck, there's no assurance about the accuracy of the projected new revenues, because the ESDC's calculations ignore all sorts of subsidies and public costs.)

But those calculations are at least as plausible as the $5.6 billion lie--and certainly food for thought.


NoLandGrab: Food for thought? Let's chew on this for a moment.

Bruce Ratner contends that the historical density and enormous size of the project is necessary to offset the cost of building the so-called affordable housing.

Yet, a mere 8% shavedown of the project, between the version promoted in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the Final EIS, could subsidize another 2000+ units?

Heck, why not keep the commercial space to restore the tax revenue and shavedown the luxury condos (which don't generate as much in taxes)? Theoretically, we could build more affordable housing, right?

That works for taxpayers. How about for Bruce Ratner?

Damn, we don't know the answer because the financial projections for the project have NEVER BEEN RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC, despite the liberal use of taxpayer money and eminent domain.

What's for dessert?

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

December 13, 2006

Fair Market Rent, 2006

This is from an email that is making the rounds on the anti-Atlantic Yards party line (we have several copies so please stop sending it to us). Since it makes a good point about the affordability of "low-cost" housing here in Brooklyn, we thought that we'd put it up to give others a chance at reading it. The author is Brooklyn activist Philip DePaolo.

williamsburg-2edge.jpgA 1,300-unit apartment complex "The Edge," In Williamsburg Brooklyn which will span over one million square feet and feature huge out of scale towers. Rents for the low-budget units have been set at $1,100 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. This is not affordable housing, but basically fair market rent apartments. Brooklyn FMR is $1,189mo. "Brooklyn Community Board1 has an average AMI of $30,000 in what was a traditionally working class neighborhood. Who are these apartments aimed at? A family with a $30,000 a year budget can't touch these apartments, or a huge chunk of their income would go towards paying the rent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 the average yearly salary in Brooklyn hovered just above $35,000 per year. And according to this report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition , the average rent in Brooklyn was $1,189 for a two-bedroom apartment. The 2006 Average Renter Income in Brooklyn was $31,135Yr . The Annual Income Needed to Afford Fair Market Rent is 47,560 for a two Bedroom Apt or $22.87hr Housing wage. The average renter wage per hour in Brooklyn is $13.56.

Look at the numbers and then look at what the city is pitching as “Affordable Housing”

The link [to the National Low Income Housing Coalition] will allow you to look up any county in NYC.

NoLandGrab: Critics of Atlantic Yards make a similar point. Project proponents have since retreated from calling the housing plan "affordable" and have repackaged it as "low- and middle-income housing," though it is still weighted towards the upper-income tiers.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

December 1, 2006

Ratner agrees to do more for footprint renters, but lawyers remain wary

Atlantic Yards Report

Rent-regulated tenants remaining in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint have recently learned of a somewhat better offer from Forest City Ratner (FCR), but lawyers for some tenants say the deal still isn't good enough.
In some contracts, FCR agreed to pay the differential in rent for only three years, which would leave the tenants vulnerable, since the contract expire before the first Atlantic Yards residential building was finished. In August, FCR's Jim Stuckey said, "We will take care of them" but was unwilling to provide any proof.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) indicates that FCR has improved its offer. It states (p. 8):

The sponsors have also agreed to pay the difference, if any, in rent between the tenant's current rent and the rent for the comparable interim unit until such time as the tenant is relocated into a new unit in the proposed development. This agreement would terminate only if the project were abandoned or the tenant breached its obligations.

Does a breach include a gag order regarding opposition to the project? No longer, but the contents of such a breach remain under negotiation, according to Jennifer Levy of South Brooklyn Legal Services, who represents several tenants in the project footprint.
Attorney George Locker, who also represents several rent-regulated tenants living in Ratner-owned properties in the project footprint, and has stated he will file a lawsuit in state court, said that he had not been told beforehand of the change: "The first inkling was when I read the FEIS." (Maybe that's because he's announced plans to sue.)

He's not deterred from his plans. "The new relocation language does not comply with the relocation requirements of the Urban Development Corporation Act," he charged. "Moreover, without seeing the new relocation agreement (if indeed there is one), I note that under the new language, the project could be abandoned, for any number of reasons, leaving my clients with nothing."

He added, "Further, relocation back into the project should not be contingent on whether there has been a breach of obligation... Each of these two conditions places all of the risk on my clients, when they should be asked to assume no risks."


Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

November 29, 2006

HPD foils FOIL (after four months), won't reveal affordable housing subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

FOIL-HPD-sm.gifNorman Oder is "FOIL'd" again. This time the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) isn't going to give up info about the housing subsidies that will be applied to Atlantic Yards because the law says that you don't have to if the release of that information would cause "interference with contracts." Contracts with whom, do you suppose?

So it looks like HPD stymied Norman Oder long enough (the original Freedom of Information Law request was sent back in July, 2006) to put off any decision on Oder's appeal of the denial until possibly AFTER the sponsoring agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, and developer Bruce Ratner have secured the final approval.

Yes, you are reading this correctly, it looks like the ESDC and Forest City Ratner are seeking final approval BEFORE all public costs have been revealed.


NoLandGrab: Though it took several months for HPD to take action on Norman Oder's FOIL request, ESDC employees worked through the Thanksgiving holiday to revise the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

November 28, 2006

Brennan, Millman, Robinson ask Silver to delay, modify AY project

BrennanMillmanRobinson.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

While Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano has been busy getting roasted for bobbling the Environmental Impact Statement, important news has been brewing in the State Assembly.

Three Assemblymembers representing districts near the proposed Atlantic Yards project have asked Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for “substantial modifications to the Project and a delay in approval until those modifications are achieved." Silver is one of three controlling votes on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), which should get the project later this month, after approval by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Assemblyman Jim Brennan and Assemblymembers Joan Millman and Annette Robinson sent the three-page letter on November 22 to [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver, a fellow Democrat. The speaker, who has expressed support for Atlantic Yards, has said he would consider the opinions of representatives in Brooklyn.
The Assemblymembers' concerns include the project’s “extreme density,” the override of land use laws, the opacity of project finances, and the lack of an effective transportation plan. Also, echoing criticism raised by some housing groups and the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, they call for broadening the affordable housing to those earning less than $21,000 a year. They suggested a revival of an Assembly bill that would trade additional subsidy for a project downsizing.

Also covered in Norman Oder's new analysis of the letter to Sheldon Silver is Assemblymember-elect Hakeem Jeffries' conspicuous absence, and a brief run down of the concerns expressed by the trio of legislators.


NoLandGrab: It's not clear what leverage the group will have at this time, but it is a consolation to know that there are a handful of elected representatives who actually listen to their constituents.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

November 15, 2006

FOIL follies IV: how much would the affordable housing cost?

FOILFollies01.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Will Norman Oder be FOILed again? He promised readers a four-part series on his Freedom of Information request adventures.

The first concerned the Department of City Planning and the second concerned Assemblyman Jim Brennan's request to the Empire State Development Corporation, both regarding Atlantic Yards. The third concerned the mysterious tower planned at City Tech.

After weeks of waiting for the final installment, Atlantic Yards Report-er Norman Oder kinda shoots a blank:

On July 26, I filed a FOIL request with the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation & Development, seeking documents regarding the Atlantic Yards project, particularly those regarding the funding and provision of affordable housing.
Last week I spoke to HPD Records Access Officer Donald Appel. His letter following up our conversation indicated that HPD "expects to issue a final response" to my request on or before November 22.

A response does not actually mean they'll deliver any documents, so we'll see.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder is going through a lot of trouble to try to figure out the true costs of this project, including how much the City and State will be spending on the affordable housing portion. Relax, says Empire State Development Corporation chief Charles Gargano, the public will get the answers to their questions "when the deal is done."

Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

Queens West less dense than AY--and overall more affordable

We already knew that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan was denser than... well, just about any development project in the western world. How does it stack up to the most recently unveiled affordable housing project proposal in New York City?

Atlantic Yards Report compares Atlantic Yards and Queens West.

QueesWestActual.jpgQueens West, to be built on Port Authority land in in Long Island City once designated for an Olympics Village, would encompass 5000 apartments over 24 acres. That's 208 apartments per acre--significantly more dense than other projects in the city like Battery Park City (152/acre at full buildout) or Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village (141/acre).

Atlantic Yards would include 6430 apartments over 22 acres. That's 292 apartments per acre. AY would also include a significant chunk of office/hotel space. Both AY and Queens West would include retail space.)

If two acres were subtracted for the arena, AY would be 6430 apartments over 20 acres, or 321 apartments per acre. To reduce AY to the density of the quite dense Queens West, or 208 apartments/acre, Atlantic Yards would have to be cut by a third, to 4160 residential units over 20 acres.

(And maybe there's a major scaleback in Forest City Ratner's blueprint.)*


* Atlantic Yards Report uses the density comaprison to remind readers of Forest City Ratner's "Back Pocket Plan", reported by Norman Oder in early September, 2006.

NoLandGrab: We're totally amused by how the above rendering of Queens West is stretched horizontally by about 50% on the ESDC's web site , making the project look quite a bit shorter than currently proposed. Does this sales tactic ever really work?

Posted by lumi at 8:29 AM

Instant Gentrification

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

[Developer Bruce] Ratner sells "Atlantic Yards" as an "affordable" housing project. It is not. It is instant gentrification. See below:


Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

November 6, 2006

City Sees Growth; Residents Call It Out of Control

The NY Times
By Damien Cave

Stories from the Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning high-rise-housing rush will not give comfort to Atlantic Yards critics.

The City says that plans are pretty much on target and that they are managing the rezoning as well as possible, but existing residents, who theoretically count for something, tell a different story:

“Buildings are popping up like mushrooms,” said Christopher Olechowski, 59, a member of the community board for Greenpoint and Williamsburg and a longtime resident of the area. “Down Manhattan Avenue, all you hear are jackhammers. If you go down Kent, the road is being repaved.
In September, the city’s Department of Buildings received 337 complaints about construction in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, more than twice the filings from the community board of another fast-growing area nearby. In the heart of the rezoned area, near McCarren Park, luxury towers climb skyward, yet only nine new apartments of low- and middle-income housing are being built, far below the city’s original estimates.
Mr. Bikowski said that before the rezoning, he dealt with dozens of tenants being forced out by landlords or by construction next door that made their buildings uninhabitable. Over the past 18 months, he said, the problem has increased.

His current clients include a 90-year-old woman on North Ninth Street being threatened with eviction, three tenants in a building on Eagle Street being told by a new landlord that their rent is about to more than double, and a 61-year-old disabled woman who is being evicted on a claim that the landlord needs the apartment for a relative.

Other residents have become victims of backhoes. Elizabeth Jankowski said she fled her Diamond Street home in Greenpoint last November, with her 8-year-old daughter and 83-year-old grandmother, because the Fire Department ruled that the construction of condominiums next door had cracked walls in her home and made it unsafe.

William Harvey, 50, an architect who lives on North Eighth Street between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street, said the city simply seemed outmanned. Standing outside his front door, he pointed to five projects in the works on the block. Two doors down, the message “FDNY DO NOT ENTER” was painted on a red town house to the right of a poured foundation that made the building unsafe. Mr. Harvey said the tenants were forced out last summer.

“We’re in such a huge boom,” he said. “D.O.B. doesn’t have the people power to watch over it.”


Posted by lumi at 10:07 AM

Stuyvesant Town, Queens West And The Debate Over Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses

Jacobs-Moses.jpgGotham Gazette
By Brad Lander

The Jacobs-Moses debate continues.

Many community stakeholders around the Atlantic Yards plan have already chosen sides:

Neighborhood residents look at such projects as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and see the kind of imperial efforts used by Robert Moses to roll over communities (as detailed in the biography of him by Robert Caro, The Power Broker). They cite Jacobs for her love of the “ballet of neighborhood life” and her opposition to planning from the top down, memorialized in her classic book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

However, Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development looks forward to a hybrid between the two development models, as he seeks to include more affordable housing in city-sponsored plans.


Posted by lumi at 8:56 AM

Art, the "contested city," and the challenge of affordability

Atlantic Yards Report

What roles do artists and the arts play in revitalizing neighborhoods: are they the creative spark, or vanguard for the developers? Maybe both, and more, as indicated by ART IN THE CONTESTED CITY: A Conference Exploring the Role of the Arts in Contemporary Struggles over Urban Space, held Friday at the Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall in Clinton Hill. A diverse selection of artists, arts professionals, and civic activists from New York and beyond spoke on four separate panels.

It was an interesting mix, even for Pratt, since the Institute's advocacy planners historically have little relationship with colleagues in art and design, as noted by Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development.

While the discussions were wide-ranging, one fundamental theme emerged: artists, like many in New York, struggle to find affordable places to live and work.


Posted by lumi at 8:49 AM

November 1, 2006

Housing displacement? The map points to Prospect Heights/Crown Heights

Atlantic Yards Report

HousingTractMap.jpg Local maps of housing tracts show that some of the low-income neighborhoods most vulnerable to gentrification can be found adjacent to the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project proposal.

Maybe Christopher Morris, the real estate investor quoted in the 10/21/06 New York Times as anticipating a rise in property values because of the Atlantic Yards project, was right. Or maybe he was riding on trends that already existed, trends that suggest that blight and stagnation are trumped by development.

Indeed, as Brooklyn College sociologist Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida recently reported at a panel in June, "Housing Displacement in Brooklyn: A Discussion," there’s some stark evidence about gentrification trends, and they point directly to areas in the orbit of the Atlantic Yards proposal. It's not common for areas of poverty to nudge up against areas of wealth, but when they do, the poorer areas are vulnerable to displacement.


Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

October 24, 2006

Endless Apartments

NY Sun, Op-Ed
By Edward Glaeser

This has got to be a first: in today's NY Sun a Harvard prof cites opposition to Atlantic Yards as one of the stumbling blocks to affordable housing being built by the free-market.

There are a host of regulatory barriers to construction. The brawl in Brooklyn over shortening the Atlantic Yards tower shows how effective community groups can be in limiting height and the supply of homes. As these community groups have grown since the 1970s, the heights of new residential buildings in Manhattan have plummeted.


NoLandGrab: The joke is that Glaeser is being simplistic by looking at one aspect of the Atlantic Yards fight.

Atlantic Yards will require massive public subsidies (many of which have not been publicly identified and released), which, according to Glaeser's own opinion, are "an emblem of the perversities of residential planning in New York."

Atlantic Yards Report also takes Glaeser to task for ignoring a couple key facts (link):

First, the main tower--Frank Gehry's 620-foot "Miss Brooklyn"--has not been shortened, though even Borough President Marty Markowitz, a project supporter, wants it reduced. Second, it's 16 towers, not just one. Third, and most importantly, the main reason community groups are arguing about height and density is because this project is not subject to city zoning, as it's proceeding under the auspices of the Empire State Development Corporation.

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

October 20, 2006

Atlantic Yards housing subsidies: how much?

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times connects the dots between a new Queens waterfront affordable-housing proposal and the controversy surrounding the sale of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village.

Under the proposal, the city would bring as many 5,000 new rental units to a largely industrial area of Long Island City, where chic restaurants are just beginning to appear amid low-slung factories and three-family homes.
Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff had said it was a matter of efficient use of public dollars: preserving the historic units [at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village] would have cost about $107,000 per unit. In contrast, he said yesterday, the units in the new Queens development would be built for about $54,000 each in city funds.

Norman Oder connects the dots back to Atlantic Yards:

[The Queens waterfront] would be a lot more than the 2250 affordable rental units promised for the Atlantic Yards project, which would have more than 6000 total units.
So, would the affordable units at the Atlantic Yards project cost $54,000 per unit? $107,000? Somewhere in between? Of course the numbers would have to be adjusted because of the range of incomes promised for Atlantic Yards. Still, it's time to look more closely.


Posted by lumi at 8:17 AM

October 13, 2006

Bizarro moment from DEIS Public Hearing

Atlantic Yards Report wasn't kidding when he said that there was some interesting stuff in the transcript of the Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Headlining Forest City Ratner supporter Reverend Herbert R. Daughtry's sermon on the benefits of Atlantic Yards was the clergyman's defense against criticism that he doesn't even live in Brooklyn (page 130).

Said Daughtry:

It's a wonderful place that I live. It's not far from the project. I also happen to live in New Jersey and I happen to live in Augusta, Georgia, in case anyone is interested.

Frankly, who cares about Rev. Daughtry's three homes, but to make the point in front of hundreds of attendees clamoring for more affordable housing is surrealistic.

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

October 4, 2006

Atlantic Yards "Affordable Housing" Report

Atlantic Yards Report examines the Forest City Ratner "Affordable Housing" brochure mailed out last week, and the latest news on NY City's 421-a tax break for new housing constrution.

LiarFlyer05a.jpgAY flier touts 137.5 affordable units a year (and 15-story buildings)

First, let's note that Forest City Ratner finally did show the public some towers, unlike in the brochure distributed in May. However, the towers here only go about 15 stories tall. However, only one of the 16 buildings planned would be under 200 feet, at 184 feet.

Second, the flier requires footnotes. The statement that "50% of the rental units will be set aside for middle- and low-income families" papers over the actual affordability of the units.

Actually, only 900 (40%) of 2250 affordable rentals would go to families with an annual household income of $35,450 or lower. And 900 of the affordable rentals would rent for more than $2000 a month.

Looming: 421-a reform and thousands of affordable units

reform of the 421-a program is looming. Yesterday elected officials and advocates held a press conference arguing that 421-a subsidizes gentrification.

The New York Observer quoted East Harlem council member Melissa Mark Viverito: "We are taking tax dollars from working families in East Harlem and using that money to subsidize the construction of luxury condominiums across the street from them selling for over $1 million. Essentially, we are asking people from El Barrio to pay to price themselves out of their own community."

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

September 29, 2006

How Low-Income Can You Go?

Brooklyn Record scoops the other Brooklyn bloggers by getting their hands on the latest Forest City Ratner direct mail piece. This time the subject is the Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing solution.


The flyer features Lacoste polo shirt-clad brownstone stoop-sitting Brooklynites.

Lauding the benefits of the Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing solution, the flyer touts "over 6,800 new units of badly needed mixed-income housing."

Here's what the flyer left out: * 4610 of those units are badly needed "delux-ury" housing units. * Only about 900 units will be available to those earning Brooklyn's median income, or less. * Of the units in the "affordable" housing plan, 40% would rent for more than $2000/mo.

For details, check out this Atlantic Yards Report article from July, 2006.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 AM

September 27, 2006

2016 Is Whenever

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Schuerman highlights one important issue plaguing the Atlantic Yards affordable housing debate:

Rafael Cestero, deputy commissioner at the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, is the first insider to say what some outsiders had already suspected: Forest City Ratner has made no commitment to complete the second phase of Atlantic Yards by any particular date, according to Norman Oder's account of yesterday's City Planning Commission meeting.


Posted by lumi at 10:46 AM

September 17, 2006

Instant gentrification at AY? The numbers are stark


Atlantic Yards Report:

84% of the 6860 proposed units would go to households that earn more than the neighborhood's median income. Now the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has prepared a handy chart, as part of a slideshow about the project's environmental impacts. The chart compares the household income distribution in the AY plan with that in the 3/4-mile area around it, and the contrasts are striking.


Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

September 7, 2006

A wait for Atlantic Yards affordable housing

Local real estate trade publication The Real Deal posted a link to yesterday's NY Observer article with the following blurb on its web site:

It may be years before developer Forest City Ratner gets to the affordable housing component of its planned Atlantic Yards project. The more lucrative parts of the 22-acre project, including the New Jersey Nets arena, are scheduled to start construction well before most of the affordable housing planned. In fact, it may be as much as a decade before that part gets under way.


Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

September 6, 2006

In Big Slow Brooklyn Build, Is Affordable Housing Last?

TNYO.gifThe New York Observer

This is a must-read article by Matthew Schuerman, the one mainstream reporter who has done original analytical reporting on the Atlantic Yards project.

Schuerman looks at Atlantic Yards documents released by the state and recent history to try to answer these important questions:

What if Bruce Ratner never finished his gargantuan arena-and-housing development in central Brooklyn? Or, quite similarly but more likely, what if he put off fulfilling his commitment to affordable housing for years and years?

Here's the link to the article for those of you who want to get started and don't care to waste time reading the following highlights (emphasis added):

Bruce Ratner plans to build the arena and five towers at the western portion of the site first.

More than four-fifths of the subsidized housing, as well as seven acres of open space, will begin construction only in the second phase, between 2011 and 2016.

The article quotes different opinions on the matter:

“The point is that if the venture is not successful or not as successful as planned, much of the affordable housing will be at risk or not happen,” [State Assemblyman Jim Brennan] said. “The real-estate market is softening across the nation, interest rates have gone up, and three million square feet is a lot of feet to sell.”
A spokesman for Forest City, Joe DePlasco, said that “FCRC is committed to building affordable housing as part of the Phase 1 plan.” Forest City would not comment further. ...
“The question of whether people will buy these [luxury] apartments is an almost impossible question to answer,” said Julia Vitullo-Martin, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “This project is going to have a lot of trouble covering its expenses.”

“When you add a projected 50 percent affordable housing—whatever that means—and when you include a money-hemorrhaging sports franchise, the economics of it are illusory to me,” an experienced developer who has done work in Brooklyn said. “But I hope it will happen.”
“Right now we are absolutely comfortable with the phasing assumptions that are being used by the ESDC,” spokesman Jonathan Rosen said. ACORN is widely seen as the bulldog that will keep Mr. Ratner true to his promise, in part because it stands to make money by marketing the affordable units.

Here's one myth-busting point...

Mr. Ratner must make a large upfront investment that may make him less willing to postpone the second phase, but it is not as large as it seems. Last summer’s bid to the M.T.A. said that it would cost $182 million to create a new train yard. Those relocation costs, though, will be offset by $200 million or more in cash grants from the city and the state.

...and another interesting point that hasn't been brought up by the media, as far as we can remember:

And while his bid book dressed up the moving expense as part of Forest City’s lucrative offer to the M.T.A.—a way to construct a more spacious atmosphere for extracting sewage from commuter cars, which is apparently a primary function of the facility—it turns out that Mr. Ratner needed to get the yard out of the way for his plans. He is sinking the Frank Gehry–designed arena below ground, where the train yard currently is, and will construct a bi-level parking garage right next door, according to construction plans included in the state study.

Posted by lumi at 9:59 AM

September 3, 2006

Atlantic Yards Report Roundup

While we were caught sleeping on the job, Norman Oder wasn't — we forgot to post yesterday's links to Atlantic Yards Report so here's the weekend roundup from the "mad overblogger":

AY displacement? Rev. Daughtry is incredulous (and uninformed)

Residential displacement around Atlantic Yards will be countered by the affordable housing component of Bruce Ratner's plan, according to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, ACORN head Bertha Lewis, Ratner spokesperson Lupe Todd, and Rev. Herbert R. Daughtry. Can we take their claims at face value?

Norman Oder provides some additional analysis.

New community forum coming; backlash against hearing "circus" continues

The Courier-Life article on the August 23 "Public Hearing" and the additional "Community Forum" needs some explaining. Norman Oder also highlights the coverage on some criticism of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The innocence of our Borough President

Atlantic Yards Report straightens out Marty Markowitz on differences between Bruce Ratner's affordable housing plan and inclusionary zoning initiatives.

The more things change...
Oder offers a couple paragraphs about public hearings from Jane Jacobs. It's deja vu all over again:

A public hearing in a big city is apt to be a curious affair, simultaneously discouraging and heartening.

Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

September 2, 2006

Atlantic Yards Shockwaves: Rent Hikes For Neighbors

By Gary Buiso

Fig4-6-CL.jpgThe massive Atlantic Yards development could threaten to displace the very people who last week heartily cheered the project’s arrival, according to the language of the plan’s voluminous environmental impact study.

Renters in unregulated buildings in Bedford Stuyvesant, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and Gowanus may be forced to search for new digs if the controversial project comes to pass, the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for Forest City Ratner’s plan reveals.

But in the future—and even already, there might be little to fear, the document notes. Real estate pressures have already forced out many lower- to moderate-income residents. It is assumed, then, that those left behind will have enough money to absorb the project’s impact. ...
“I don’t believe that at all,” [project supporter Reverend Herbert R.] Daughtry told this paper when asked about the displacement prediction. “Someone must be making that up.”

Daughtry said he has been arguing quite the contrary: “This project will ensure the presence of minorities…where everything around [the project] is in the luxury class.”


NoLandGrab: On another note, Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey counters the fact that, if built, Atlantic Yards would become the densest residential community in the nation, by arguing that critics should be looking at "census tracts."

That would be more convenient for the developer, since the 22-acre Atlantic Yards proposal is so large that it is divided by FOUR different census tracts (click on map to enlarge), which would statistically dillute the effect of the project's unprecedented density.

Posted by lumi at 9:26 AM

September 1, 2006

AY Phase I: 83% luxury housing and 40 low-income rentals a year

Atlantic Yards Report

Just how many "affordable" or "low-income" housing units are planned for the first phase of the Atlantic Yards project?

At last week's hearing, Assemblymember Jim Brennan cautioned that the affordable housing was not planned until the second phase of the project. Developer Forest City Ratner, and its affordable housing partner, ACORN, have refused to offer specifics.

Atlantic Yards Report digs up projections from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and learns that Phase I housing proposes:

That makes for nearly 83% luxury, market-rate units. If you add the 162 moderate- to high-income rentals, which would easily rent for more than $2000 a unit for a four-person family, that makes 2108 units, or nearly 90% of 2350 total units.

It provides strong evidence that, as Brennan and others have suggested, the financial success of the project as a whole--and the provision of most of the affordable housing--depends on the success of the market-rate units. Moreover, should the housing market change, Phase II--with most of the affordable units--could be delayed.

AYR compares the Atlantic Yards affordable housing plan with the Williamsburg/Greenpoint affordable housing incentives:

Atlantic Yards proponents say it's also important as a model. But the project build pattern would diverge from that established in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning last year. For the latter rezoning, negotiated by the City Council, Affordable units used to earn the [inclusionary zoning] bonus must be created no later than the development receiving the bonus.


Gowanus Lounge comments on AYR's post:

The entire picture is far, far bleaker overall for those who think Atlantic Yards will produce affordable housing for low-income Brooklynites. So, no problem if you are comfortable with affordable housing by 2016 in a phase of the project that is the most speculative. But, if you were thinking that there would be significant affordable housing as part of the mix by 2010, think again. Mr. Oder's full analysis is absolutely worth a read in its entirety.

Posted by lumi at 9:45 AM

August 30, 2006

Letters: Role model

Village Voice

Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey is the latest voice from the Atlantic Yards camp to address an article profiling residents who stand to be displaced by the project.

Click here and scroll down nearly to the bottom.

I want to clear up some inaccurate impressions left by Cynthia Carr's piece on the Atlantic Yards Development ["Life in the Footprint," August 2–8]. All renters in the footprint of AY have been offered comparable apartments in the new development at comparable rents, even current tenants of rent-controlled apartments. Forest City Ratner is willing to help find and finance the relocation of homeowners and renters alike. Working families living in AY's below-market-rate units won't be segregated into second-class buildings. Low- and middle-income renters will be in the same buildings, on the same floors as market-rate renters. The AY project is the first development in New York City to sign a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement stipulating that 50 percent of the rental units will be affordable, and insuring the creation of 15,000 construction jobs and thousands of permanent Brooklyn-based jobs. The Atlantic Yards project won't solve the housing crisis, but it will begin to create a new model that ensures affordable housing.

Jim Stuckey
FCRC executive vice president

NoLandGrab: Way back on the 5th of August, Atlantic Yards Report addressed the details from the renters' agreements that Stuckey fails to mention in this letter, but that doesn't stop Stuckey from talking.

From AYR:

So, has the developer agreed to subsidize differential rent for longer than three years for the renters who've already left the footprint? “I just won’t—even though it would be to my benefit to do so—violate confidentiality," Stuckey responded. "I just won’t do it.”

Posted by lumi at 1:39 PM

August 29, 2006

New hearing, more questions

Metro NY
By Amy Zimmer

ESDCHearing-MetroNY.jpgMetro's coverage of the addtional hearing also includes some pointed rhetoric from 52nd Assembly District Leader Jo Ann Simon, who wrote in a letter to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) head Charles Gargano:

“This hearing treated the environmental process as an inconsequential hoop to sail through and be done with,” Jo Anne Simon, state Democratic committeewoman for the 52nd district, wrote in a formal complaint to ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano last week.

She was upset most backers neglected to comment on the hearing’s stated purpose — the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that ESDC released last month — and that a hearing was scheduled for primary day, Sept. 12. “That’s very Robert Moses-like,” she told Metro.

“Under the law, the public has both a right and a duty to comment on the impacts disclosed,” she wrote. “Instead, [ESDC] permitted the developer’s associates (labor unions and ACORN) to admit scores, if not hundreds, of their members ahead of those who had been waiting for hours to enter the building.”

Metro also published this bulleted list of criticisms of the Ratner "affordable" housing plan:


Posted by lumi at 9:36 AM

August 24, 2006

Subsidized? Yes. "Affordable?" Hardly.


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, with a little help from Forest City Ratner, sets the record straight about affordable housing at Atlantic Yards.

According to Forest City Ratner: * If you or your family earn between $21,270 to $28,360/year 225 units would be set aside for you. * If you or your family earn between $28,361 to $35,450/year 675 units would be set aside for you.* * That's 900 units (or 13%) out of a total 6,860 proposed units. * If you or your family earn less than $21,270 there is no home for you in the proposed project. * 84% of the units will NOT be affordable to families making less than $56,000/year.

* The Brooklyn Area Median Income (AMI) is $35,000/year.

There is more, but too much to list here. If you want to learn more about Atlantic Yards "affordable" housing, click here.

Posted by lumi at 8:44 PM

August 22, 2006


The latest salvo in the City Limits debate over Atlantic Yards comes from Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report, who addresses (and redresses) John Atlas's commentary in support of Bruce Ratner's "affordable" housing plan.

Oder counters Atlas's claims on the 50/50 plan...

Atlas writes, “ACORN received the commitment from Forest City to include 50% non-market affordable housing,” but that no longer applies. Initially, the developer promised a 50-50 affordable/market split for all the Atlantic Yards housing. However, in the May 2005 Housing Memorandum of Understanding, the 50-50 agreement applied only to the rental units—at that point the only housing planned.

With ACORN on board, Forest City soon added 2,800 market-rate condos (since reduced to 2,360), to ensure profitability. That lowers the onsite affordability percentage to below one-third.

...the definition of "affordable housing,"

Only 900 (or 13 percent) of the 6,860 total units would be affordable to four-person families with incomes under $35,450.

...Atlas's characterization of the disagreement amongst Brooklynites as a class conflict,

Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential community in the country, by a factor of two. It's not a “middle-class” vision to question that, but a civic responsibility.

...and the importance of extracting concessions from private corporations now that the federal government is decreasing its commitment to support affordable housing.

Perhaps, but the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), signed by ACORN and seven other groups, differs greatly from the CBAs pioneered in Los Angeles. Groups in Los Angeles have agreed not to take money from developers, while several of the Atlantic Yards signatories have been funded by Forest City.


Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

August 18, 2006

Positive Imprint

Village Voice, Letters

ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis counters the portrayal of Atlantic Yards footprint residents who face displacement by claiming that the project promises 50% afforable housing.

Cynthia Carr's piece on the Atlantic Yards Development ["Life in the Footprint," August 2–8] completely ignored the larger context. This development is about finding solutions to New York's affordable-housing crisis. In 2005, Brooklyn's vacancy rate was 2.8 percent, and this city's population is expected to jump 16 percent over the next 25 years. Real median incomes fell 6.3 percent between 2002 and 2005, while rents jumped 8 percent. We need to build more housing and it must be affordable. ACORN has worked with Forest City Ratner to guarantee that 50 percent of the 4,500 new units planned for Atlantic Yards will be rent stabilized and affordable to low, moderate, and middle-income families. We need to get serious about building more housing and Atlantic Yards is a step in the right direction.

Bertha Lewis
Executive director, NY ACORN Brooklyn


NoLandGrab: Once again, Bertha Lewis ignores the inconvenient fact that after the 50/50 "affordable housing" plan was announced, Bruce Ratner announced an addition of thousands (currently 2360) of luxury condos to the plan. Now the percentage of "affordable housing" stands around 33%.

Also, Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report has noted, "some two-thirds of ACORN followers surveyed on the Atlantic Yards project have household income under $30,000; they'd be eligible for some 900 of the subsidized apartments.

Bertha continues to stand by her deal, but can she stand by the numbers?

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

August 16, 2006

A response to John Atlas on ACORN & Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder mad overkills ACORN Exec. John Atlas's City Limits editorial, published this week.

In the August 14 issue of City Limits Weekly, in a letter headlined YOU GOTTA GIVE IT TO ACORN, John Atlas, who's writing a book about ACORN, made some fundamental errors in his analysis of ACORN and its role in Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Oder describes how: * the 50/50 affordable housing plan quickly became unraveled just days after its announcement,
* the polling of the ACORN membership was extremely skewed (Oder has a copy of the poll questions), * ACORN's core constituency would only be eligible for approximately 13% of the available on-site units of the Ratner "affordable housing plan," and * families that qualify for Section 8 vouchers would be eligible for fewer than half of the "affordable" units.


In light of these facts, other omissions and misrepresentations, one may argue that John Atlas is overselling Bruce Ratner's private project to the people he serves.

Posted by lumi at 9:30 AM


DDDB-logo.gifDevelop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) takes the affordable housing debate to the airwaves on WBAI. From

On August 14th Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel Goldstein was interviewed by Scott Sommer on his WBAI weekly Housing Notebook show.

"Atlantic Yards" issues including housing, public financing, impacts of the proposed project and eminent domain, were discussed during the half-hour segment. (The interview starts 12 minutes into the program.)

Download the MP3 file of the interview here or here.


Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

August 15, 2006


City Limits
By John Atlas

ACORN continues to defend its position on Atlantic Yards with the latest City Limits editorial, written by John Atlas, the president and founder of the National Housing Institute.

Whether you oppose or support Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, you have to acknowledge the work of ACORN, the group that negotiated the affordable housing agreement (City Conversations - "Supporting Atlantic Yards: Simply Not Enough Housing in Brooklyn, July 31). ACORN's staff work for low salaries, their leaders are dues-paying poor and working-class volunteers, and they work long hours. More than almost any other group in NYC, ACORN has proved that it can mobilize low-income people of color, win concrete victories and build grassroots political power.

ACORN continues to contend that the Ratner affordable-housing plan allows for 50% affordable housing depite the addition of market-rate condos after the agreement was signed, and the fact that most of the affordable units would not be affordable for ACORN's constituents.

In this week's editorial, Atlas adds a new new term to Atlantic Yards Newspeak, "50% non-market affordable housing."

As Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report revealed, "the term 'affordable' was initially used to describe only the lower-income housing." The program from which Forest City would gain subsidies uses the term "Mixed-Income."

We can now assume that "Non-market" affordable housing means anything priced at 30% of the various income bands of Ratner's plan, even though some of those units would be offered at rates comprable to the marketplace. Oder points out, "Some 900 of the affordable units would rent for more than $2000 for a four-person family."


Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

August 10, 2006

Bruce Ratner must be stopped

Stellavision says Atlantic Yards critics pretty much have it wrong. Bruce Ratner must be stopped NOT because of lack of a democratic process or because he would ruin the neighborhood.

Conservatives are seeing red because Atlantic Yards would be a terrible use of taxpayer money and eminent domain.

It has to be stopped because it's using taxpayer money. (If Bruce Ratner can't make a profit on his own funds alone, why should I, or anybody else, be forced to help him?) It has to be stopped because people living on 13 acres of the proposed footprint are to be booted out via eminent domain. (Cavalier violation of property rights.)


NoLandGrab: While Ratner has tried to split the community, the project curiously manages to unite progressives and conservatives.

Nationally, the conservative-progressive split over property rights is slowly being bridged, as bleeding-heart liberals are beginning to realize that low-income/inner-city neighborhoods are most vulnerable to eminent domain abuse.

The affordable-housing debate is also an interesting one, and it's temporarily bringing together both sides over Atlantic Yards. Conservatives favor free markets and believe that the market can provide housing for all income levels; progressives are concerned that a majority of the available subsidies for affordable housing will be going to a single privately owned project that stands to make over a billion dollars in profit for a company in Cleveland.

There's more, but I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, isn't promoting one side over the other, but regardless of your worldview, the upside primarily goes to the developer, Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

August 7, 2006


The Ratner plan isn't the only way to redevelop Brooklyn.

City Limits
By Chandru Murthi

A letter to the editor in rebuttal of Bertha Lewis's sales pitch for Atlantic Yards makes some good points and has some suggestions:

Regarding Bertha Lewis's “Supporting Atlantic Yards: Simply Not Enough Housing In Brooklyn” (City Limits, 7/31/06): Yes, developers need to make a profit. However, the scale of the Ratner project is so over the top that it clearly goes way beyond that need. Is it reasonable to believe that only such a gigantic project makes a profit? If the entire project were designed as, say, six-story buildings, would he not make a profit? If that were so, there would be no small- or mid-scale development in this city.
Pointing, as Lewis does, to other developments that do not have an affordable component is presenting a false positive. It has nothing to do with the objections to Atlantic Yards. One could equally well point to projects that do have affordable housing to prove Atlantic Yards is not viable.


Posted by lumi at 5:52 PM

August 3, 2006

Would half of the affordable apartments be 2br & 3br? No way (read the fine print)

Atlantic Yards Report

You've heard it before, "the devil is in the details."

Today Norman Oder explains why Forest City Ratner's and Bertha Lewis's claim that "about half of the 2250 affordable units will be two- and three-bedroom units, thus accommodating families," depends on what you mean by "half."

It turns out that the 50% refers to total square footage, not the actual number of units. That language is in the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (p. 4) FCR signed with ACORN last year.

And it's also in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the Empire State Development Corporation. The Executive Summary states (p. 4): Affordable units would be reserved for households making between 30 percent and 160 percent of citywide AMI (area median income) and 50 percent of these units (on a square foot basis) would be two- and three-bedroom units.


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that Forest City Ratner claims that half of the rental units would be so-called "affordable." In this case, the developer uses the OTHER DEFINITION of half, meaning half of the UNITS, not SQUARE FOOTAGE.

To understand the developer's multiple claims, average community folk need to keep both definitions of "half" handy.

Posted by lumi at 9:28 AM

August 2, 2006

Bait and switch? Another look at the 50/50 affordable housing promise

Atlantic Yards Report looks at how the Ratnerites have rewritten the history of the 50/50 affordable housing promise and why Bertha Lewis still stands by her man.

AYBrochure-AH.gifHas Forest City Ratner broken its pledge to ensure that half the units of housing at the Atlantic Yards site would be affordable? The record says yes--unless you accept the most lawyerly of explanations.

At right, an excerpt from a 2004 flier sent to thousands of Brooklynites, which stated that half of the units in the project would be affordable. (Lawyerly alternative explanation: Half of the 4500 mentioned units would be affordable. You never know if more would be added.)


Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

August 1, 2006

Bertha Lewis Defends ACORN's Deal with FCR

A handful of Brownstoner readers are taking Bertha Lewis to task for her defense of ACORN's deal with Ratner published this week in City Limits.


Here are some excerpts from the commentary:

It's difficult for me to read Bertha Lewis' comments without remembering she signed an agreement with FCR about public statements also. — Bx2Bklyn

At the end of the day Ratner isn't stupid - he's playing the race card, and palming off his project as affordable housing, but at the end of the day its just a big fat boondoggle for him. — dreadnaught

It's ridiculous to imply that only at Ratner's scale is it possible to profit. If that were so, there'd be no small or mid-scale development in this city. — cmu

Let me just start out by saying I think Bertha Lewis and ACORN made a horrendous mistake when they allowed themselves to be bought out by FCR. Having said that, I really feel for her... Bertha Lewis is a canny, smart organizer and a highly intelligent woman, and I can only think that she thought siding with FCR would be to the best interest of the cause. — CrownHeightsProud

Posted by lumi at 3:05 PM

The Debate Over "Affordability"

The Real Estate Observer notes that the affordable housing portion of the Atlantic Yards proposal falls short of Mayor Bloomberg's goals, announced yesterday.

But the Mayor today indicated that the city had different priorities: the majority of that trust fund--$70 million--is going to "hard to reach populations," including the very poor (those earning less than 30 percent of the median, who will not be served at all by Atlantic Yards), and households with moderate income (earning 60 to 80 percent of the median, who will receive just about 10 percent of the 2,250 affordable units at Atlantic Yards).


Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

Fair fees for rich developers

A report to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors's Land Use committee may shed some light on some local issues associated with Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards: developers' profit margins and construction of affordable housing.

This report yielded an editorial in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (emphasis added):

According to a new city report, private developers will not even consider going forward with a big housing construction project unless the profit margin is at least 28 percent.

Think about it: Without a guaranteed profit about three or four times larger than what most normal businesses strive for, the developers won't pour an ounce of concrete. And they still complain that the city wants them to build more affordable housing.

As housing activist Calvin Welch pointed out at the hearing, it used to be illegal in most states to charge that much interest on loaned money. The word for it was usury.

NoLandGrab: Brooklynites have been trying to learn more about Bruce Ratner's margin for Atlantic Yards. If it is close to the 28% cited in the Bay Area study, that would undermine many of Ratner's justifications for the massive subsidies and extreme density that is planned for the project.

Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM


This week, City Limits publishes two viewpoints on Atlantic Yards.

The executive director of NY ACORN argues that the plan’s superior affordable housing provisions require citizens “to take yes for an answer.” — By Bertha Lewis, Executive Director, ACORN NY

The president of the Municipal Art Society challenges residents to hold out for the high standards of planning, design, housing -- and democratic public process -- the city deserves. — By Kent Barwick, President, Municipal Art Society (MAS)

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

ACORN's Lewis, MAS's Barwick debate AY plan in City Limits

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder's analysis of City Limits's Atlantic Yards op-ed:

City Limits Weekly, the urban affairs publication with a strong grassroots following, yesterday ran two long but still not comprehensive pro and con articles regarding the Atlantic Yards project, featuring Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York ACORN, and Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society (MAS).

Lewis mostly reiterates arguments for the importance of affordable housing and pragmatism toward the AY plan, and Barwick mostly repeats the MAS's critique of the project's design principles.

However, Lewis adds that the rental units would be randomly distributed on each floor, an unusual and forward-looking aspect of the development. Barwick adds some new advocacy regarding affordable housing, suggesting that all new high-density development in New York include some affordable housing. It may help nudge the debate a bit.


Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

July 25, 2006

Instant gentrification? DEIS says no, statistics say yes

Atlantic Yards Report

Would the Atlantic Yards project cause gentrification, also known as "indirect residential displacement"? The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued last week by the Empire State Development Corporation says no, in part because of ongoing gentrification, because new housing units could relieve market pressure, and because most of the at-risk households would be more than a half-mile away.

Those arguments, however debatable, can't be dismissed. The fourth reason, however, doesn't pass the laugh test. The DEIS suggests that the new residents would be similar economically to current residents in the area. But it fails to point out that the cost of the new housing would ensure that most new households would have to earn above-average incomes.
There's no evidence that the household income would be similar. By ignoring the actual income figures and relying improperly on affordability as a proxy for income, the DEIS avoids confronting "indirect residential displacement."


Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Real housing for the real Brooklyn? Half of the affordable units--or less

Now that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is out, Atlantic Yards Report looks back to the July 17 Daily News editorial, headlined Real housing for the real Brooklyn, to see if the claims still hold up.

The editorial states:

The estimated 2,250 units of low-cost housing that would be built as part of Atlantic Yards, benefitting families who languish for as long as eight years on waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 vouchers.

AYR author Norman Oder looked up the income levels for eligibility for public housing and Section 8 vouchers, compared them to Bruce Ratner's affordable housing plan and concluded that around 1125 of 6860 (around 16.4%) would fall into the group of families who are waiting for public housing or Section 8 vouchers.

There are a few other allowances and variables that slightly shift the conclusion and can be found in the complete article.

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

July 22, 2006

The housing switch: more affordable units would go to the middle-class

Atlantic Yards Report ponders the variety of affordable housing scenarios touted over the past couple of years, concluding with a plan where "affordable rents proposed for Atlantic Yards would range past $3000 for a family of six, and to $2658 for a family of four.":

There's been a small but significant switch within the allotment of affordable housing promised for the Atlantic Yards project. No longer would 900 of the 2250 affordable apartments be promised to moderate-income people earning 50%-100% of the Area Median Income, or AMI.

Rather, only 450 units would go to moderate-income people, and 900 would be aimed to the middle-class, earning above the AMI. Thus, some 40% of the units in the affordable allotment would have relatively high rent; a family of four would pay more than than $2000 a month.


Posted by amy at 11:28 AM

Clarification: AY affordable apartment sizes set by city program

Atlantic Yards Report finds another chunk of the claimed 50% affordable housing gone missing:

While the affordable housing would represent a little less than 33% of the units at the project, it would apparently represent only 22% of the square footage. (That's based on an even distribution of the four different sizes. Note that there would be 2250 market-rate rentals and 2360 market-rate condos.)

Is that correct? How much bigger would the market-rate apartments be, and what percentage of the total housing space allotment in the project would they occupy?

We know that the original pledge of 50/50 affordable housing has been put aside because of addition of the market-rate condos. Now project supporters emphasize that 50% of the rental units would be affordable. But would the affordable rentals occupy 50% of the space allotted for the rentals?


Posted by amy at 11:26 AM

July 18, 2006

Reality warp: Errol Louis, Daily News praise AY housing info session

Atlantic Yards Report reviews Errol Louis's latest efforts to promote the affordable housing segment of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

The "reality warp" between Louis's version of last week's affordable housing information session and the rest of the press leads Norman Oder to wonder if Louis was actually in attendance. [At this point Louis is no longer answering Oder's questions.]


Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

July 16, 2006

Bklyn Papers Editorial Rips Ratner's "Dog and Pony Show"


The Gowanus Lounge

We've always loved the expression "dog-and-pony show" and use it whenever possible to describe distasteful and orchestrated displays, so we are very taken with Brooklyn Papers editor Gersh Kuntzman's smack down of the Forest City Ratner affordable housing session held at the Brooklyn Marriott earlier this week in an editorial headlined "A dog-and-pony show."


Posted by amy at 9:15 PM

Crap Shoot: Residents Vie For a Spot In Atlantic Yards


Stephen Witt

While FCRC Vice President James Stuckey and New York ACORN president Bertha Lewis explained the project, several in the audience clapped when it was announced the Nets and arena would be coming.

On the other hand, some were skeptical of getting an apartment and seemed disappointed to learn the timeline has the project several years away.

“Hopefully it [the project] can be beneficial for everybody,” Pennie observed. “The project could provide opportunity, but it’s a lottery and look how crowded it is here.”


Posted by amy at 9:11 PM

City on a Hill

New York Times opinion piece on Ridge Hill:

At another huge development in Brooklyn that Mr. Ratner proposes to build, an amazing 50 percent of housing units will be sold to low- and middle-income residents. It’s no coincidence that Brooklyn is home to one of the country’s noisiest and most energetic community organizations, Acorn, which Mr. Ratner took pains to make an early ally.

With enough effort, the little people can make themselves heard.

Apparently the Times did not hear the 'little people' who attended last week's affordable housing meeting only to be disappointed.

Atlantic Yards Report catalogs the cavalcade of errors:

To summarize:
1. Most affordable units wouldn't be sold.
2. The affordable percentage would not be 50/50.
3. Many attendees were dismayed by the affordable housing information session.
4. The affordable rental units would be rather small, and would occupy a small fraction--22 percent of the total square footage--of the project space devoted to housing.

Posted by amy at 5:10 AM

July 15, 2006

AY snug or stingy? 575 sf for 1BR, 775 sf for 2BR

Atlantic Yards Report covers the incredible shrinking affordable housing in the Atlantic Yards proposal. Both the apartment square footage and the percentage of apartments that will be 'affordable' have a case of shrinkage:

The Atlantic Yards web site now offers some details that might have further frustrated attendees at the affordable housing information session Tuesday. Half the affordable rentals would contain two and three bedrooms (unlike some other affordable housing programs), but the apartment sizes would be comparatively small. In fact, the minimum size projected for a two-bedroom rental would be nearly nine percent smaller than the standard size for a two-bedroom unit in city public housing.
Atlantic Yards was originally touted as an innovative plan in which half of the residential units--at that point all rentals--would be affordable. When the Housing Memorandum of Understanding was signed in May 2005, Forest City Ratner had accomplished a crucial switch: the 50 percent affordable goal would apply only to the rentals, thus leaving the developer free to soon add market-rate condos, initially 2800, now 2360.


Posted by amy at 6:34 AM

July 14, 2006

On the cheap

Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

More than 2,000 New Yorkers lined up this week hoping for a shot at a cheap rental within Bruce Ratner’s proposed $3.5-billion Atlantic Yards development — but many left the developer’s affordable housing presentation disappointed by the harsher reality.

“I’m not sure what kind of chance I have to get one of their nice apartments,” said Canarsie resident Jennifer Haynes, a retiree who left Tuesday night’s presentation at the Brooklyn Marriott before it ended.

Ratner billed the event as an “affordable housing information meeting,” promoting it with full-page newspaper ads and targeted postcard mailings in neighborhoods far removed from the site of the 22-acre, 6,860-apartment, basketball arena and office space development, which the developer says would include 2,250 units of low, moderate and middle-income rentals.

Attendees shared a common frustration over the lack of affordable options in the city. Those frustrations were not resolved on Tuesday.

Some complained, for example, that they received a survey rather than an application for an apartment. Others wondered if they would qualify for the housing if their earnings didn’t fit into any of the development’s income-dependent programs.


This week's editorial takes a skeptical view of the affordable housing meeting:

And, indeed, thousands of people, from all over the city, showed up, eager to put in an application for a cheap rental in a Frank Gehry-designed high-rise.

Oh, but wouldn’t you know it: No applications were available — and won’t be for at least three years — because this full-house event was not really about serving apartment hungry New Yorkers, but about using them as props in the Forest City Ratner media campaign.

Posted by lumi at 8:15 AM

The 3 pm lineup and more on the AY affordable housing session

More from Atlantic Yards Report on Ratner's affordable housing session on Tuesday:

I learned a telling fact about the 6:30 pm Atlantic Yards affordable housing information session Tuesday: the line started at 3 pm! That shows how desperate the need is for affordable housing, and also that Forest City Ratner and ACORN should have stressed that the information session would not give people a leg up on the future units.


Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

Norman Oder affordable housing info session digest OnNYTurf


Norman Oder over at Atlantic Yard Report has an amazingly detailed wrap up of a public session ACORN hosted last night. The session was designed to inform people about the housing provisions in the Ratner plan for Atlantic Yards.

Norman's report is incredibly detailed and long, so here are some highlights...
As noted before, many of the apartments in this plan are going to START at market rate in Brooklyn. Amazing to see Bertha Lewis personally admit this!


Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

July 12, 2006

The "Other" Affordable Housing Meeting

Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey hosts episode of "The Twilight Zone," starring ACORN head Bertha Lewis

TwilightZone01.jpgHaving been ‘disinvited’ from the 6:30 session of Forest City Ratner's affordable housing meeting, NoLandGrab attended the 8:30 dog-and-pony show. Having read others' accounts of the 6:30 showing, it seems Jim Stuckey and Bertha Lewis loosened up once the press left.

The following quotes are transcribed from audio tape.

JIM STUCKEY: In a 24-48 hour period we had almost 5,000 responses.

-Funny, where were all of these people? There were approximately 200 people in a room that could hold 2,200. That makes a total of 2,400 people attending the seminar, if the first one was full. Makes one wonder why so many people did not receive an RSVP confirmation.

BERTHA LEWIS on move-in dates: The project is 2 or 3 years from move-in.

-She should have turned to read the timeline behind her, which stated:

  1. Construction of the first residential building (s) begins in 2008
  2. Marketing begins and applications made available in early 2009 for the first rental building (s)
  3. Building(s) available for occupancy anticipated to be mid-2010
  4. Final building complete in 2016

LEWIS: Most units are going to families in the $21,000 – $35,000 income range.

-Interesting math, since she was standing in front of a slide stating that 900 units go to this range and 1,350 units go to $42,540 – $113,440 range. 900 units are going to $70,901 – $113,440 alone!

STUCKEY’S explanation of using Income Bands: By doing these bands and making everyone pay 30% it really turns out that the people who make more are helping to subsidize the people who are paying less.
Amazing! Subsidies from everywhere! Even from affordable housing!

In the Q&A – interest in what happens to people between $35,450 and $42,540 who are missing from the income bands. Stuckey explains that the federal government defines low income as “50% of the AMI,” or $35,450, as the NYC Area Median Income (AMI) is $70,900. It is clear that Ratner’s definition of who needs affordable housing income goes as high as $113,440, or a whopping 160% of the AMI! To add insult to injury, Bertha exclaimed that the AMI for Brooklyn is considerably lower.

AUDIENCE: What happens to the affordable housing if the project is scaled back?
STUCKEY: In between the draft scope and the final scope we made reductions to the project size. When we made it, we did not touch a single affordable housing unit.

AUDIENCE: What happens to the people that are currently living in these homes?
STUCKEY: There really aren’t many people living there. There are virtually no homeowners left.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Where can those of us who do think this is appropriate development go – because I haven’t seen any place.
STUCKEY: Come speak to me after this.

Well, sir, you haven’t seen pro-Ratner gatherings because there are none that are not Ratner-sponsored. The community is against this. You can see the community rallying against this on Sunday.

Posted by amy at 10:48 PM

It's Tough All Around

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Schuerman reports from Forest City Ratner's Affordable Housing info session:

Tuesday's night informational meeting brought some fresh faces to the Atlantic Yards debate: instead of the overwhelmingly white neighbors who have objected on any number of grounds to the 22-acre housing complex and basketball arena, a striking number of individuals in the largely black crowd who showed up at the Brooklyn Marriott were disappointed to find that "affordable housing" was not that affordable, or accessible.


Posted by lumi at 10:38 PM

Big Turnout For AY Housing Forum

Marriot.jpg Brownstoner hosted a little discussion in the comments section of today's post covering the local news of Ratner's affordable housing informational meeting.

Here's a smattering of the remarks:

You mean families making $99,261 - $113,440 a year need subsidies? So they can rent an apt for $2658 a month? I guess that makes me an unsubsidised pauper, in comparison. — CrownHeightsProud

So, I wonder, how will Acorn and the Rev. Daugherty spin their support of subsidized housing for people making 99,00 + (450 apts.) as opposed to low income people (21,000, 225 apts)? Seems to me me if you make that kind of money and you are willing to fork over 2658$ a month rent, you damn well don't need subsidies. — BX2Brooklyn


NoLandGrab: Critics of the project have been trying for more than a year to explain to anyone who will listen that the affordable housing program negotiated by ACORN with Bruce Ratner is in reality a housing subsidy plan for the middle and upper-middle classes, with a few crumbs for those who really need it.

Posted by lumi at 8:12 PM

AY affordable housing session coverage

Yesterday's Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing Informational Session drew headlines from all the local dailies. Here's the coverage:

NY Daily News, B'klyn Yards pitch finds few bargains
The News is the first paper to report an actual number for those bizarre 12-page brochures:

Ratner sent out flyers about Atlantic Yards to 600,000 Brooklyn residents in May and nearly 20,000 people responded.

NoLandGrab: That means Ratner has spent over a million dollars on the direct mail campaign strategy.

The article highlights the reaction to the fact that "the 2,250 subsidized units won't be available for years - and there's a lottery to see who gets a place."

Not much here — a mere two-paragraph brief on the session.

NY Sun, Queue Forms For Housing In Brooklyn
The session made the front page of the conservative NY Sun. The article notes, " The presentation is timed to coincide with the state’s pending release of the draft environmental impact statement, which would commence a public comment period."

This tag line for the Forest City Ratner affordable housing marketing campaign emerged last night:

“If an elevator works for the rich folks, it is going to work for the poor folks,” Mr. Stuckey of Forest City Ratner said. “Everyone has equal views.”

The NY Times, Promises of Atlantic Yards Draw Thousands to Meeting

All of the articles (including the Post's) provided details on the different tiers (or "bands") of the affordable housing. The Times went as far as to provide this bit of analysis based upon the reaction of the attendees:

In the lowest income tier, a family of four making $21,270 to $28,360 a year would pay $620 a month in rent; in the highest, a family making $99,261 to $113,440 would pay $2,658 a month. About 225 units are set aside for families of all sizes in the lowest income tier, and 450 for families of all sizes in the highest tier.

Vilia Salas, 44, a bookkeeper, said she supported the project. Her only concern, she said, is that not enough units will go to “people who are really entitled to them.”

Some attendees of last night’s event, while expressing enthusiasm for the project’s hope of new housing in a borough that needs it, wondered whether the moderately priced housing was priced quite moderately enough.

So far, the only report in the blogosphere comes from Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report: Stuckey, Lewis face restive, skeptical crowd at AY housing session
Again the affordable housing campaign tag line was repeated, this time by Bertha Lewis:

“If the elevator works for them, the elevator’s gotta work for you."

Oder deems the tag line "a worthy point," since "many other affordable housing programs are relegated to separate buildings or other neighborhoods."

Oder's report provides the charts with the different income "bands," and points out that the income levels have increased since the program was first announced.

Stuckey explained how this program actually is an improvement over many current affordable housing programs. About half of the affordable units will be two- and three-bedroom units, thus accommodating families. “We’re talking about teachers, bus drivers, cops, civil servants,” he said.

A sticking point for many in attendance was the need for affordable housing for middle-income, which opened the door for Oder to point out that the middle-income affordable housing program is pretty much the same as market-rate housing:

Lewis cited the importance of affordable housing for the middle-class. She had a point, but some in the crowd didn't welcome it. Then again, Lewis pushed the envelope, claiming of the middle-class, “These people they’re paying a minimum of $2500 up to $4000.” Not so. A quick web search shows a good number of two-bedroom apartments in neighborhoods reasonably close to the project site—admittedly, not new Frank Gehry buildings—for under $2500.

Posted by lumi at 7:45 AM

July 11, 2006

Stuckey hair and will Ratner show

An Atlantic Yards Get-Together (But Will Ratner Show?)
The Real Estate Observer

Stuckey-REO.jpgAccording to reporter Max Abelson, this is the big question about tonight's affordable housing informational meeting:

"Is this get-together not huge enough to demand the presence of Mr. Bruce Ratner himself?"

Ratner spokesperson, Lupe Todd assures us, "Oh no, it's huge."

How huge is huge? REO cites "a source" who says "5,100 have already expressed interest."

Not to be outsnarked by other real estate blogs, the caption to Jim Stuckey's photo is just about the nicest thing that anyone has said in print about the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President.


Posted by lumi at 3:43 PM

July 10, 2006

AY affordable housing session: why now? (It could take six years, for 280 units)

Atlantic Yards Report

AY-AffordHousing.gifNorman Oder hasn't received his RSVP confirmation yet for the Ratner/ACORN information session, but that doesn't keep him from analyzing the situation:

"Learn more about affordable housing at Atlantic Yards," reads the announcement for the Forest City Ratner/ACORN information session scheduled for Tuesday.

Given that the project hasn't been approved, and the first units wouldn't be built til 2009--and possibly much later--this session seems to be another Forest City Ratner public relations move, furthering the notion that Atlantic Yards is a done deal.

I have some questions, but, despite my swift RSVP, haven't gotten a confirmation that I'll be allowed in. I'm not optimistic. Given the prescreened nature of the meeting, Robert Guskind at the Gowanus Lounge calls it "the Norman Oder Verboten/Nicht No Land Grab/Nein Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Clause."


Posted by lumi at 8:27 AM

July 6, 2006

Forest City Ratner promoting affordable housing

Two months ago, Forest City Ratner sent out a brochure with a reply card to request information on affordable housing.

Yesterday, they took out this ad (click to enlarge) in the Daily News and distributed it via their Atlantic Yards email list.

The claims that the units will be "RENT STABILIZED" is news to us. Would that be under NY City's rent stabilization program, or Bruce Ratner's own plan?

UPDATE: The units in Bruce Ratner's affordable housing plan will be in the NYC's Housing Development Corporation's "rent stabilization" plan. But as Will from OnNYTurf pointed out a year ago in an article on Atlantic Yards affordable housing promises, the devil is in the details.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

May 20, 2006

Brennan’s bonehead bill

Brooklyn Papers editorial:

Lest we forget, Bruce Ratner did not have a gun to his head when he made the promise to set aside half his project for affordable housing (since downgraded to half the rental units, by the way). He was not obligated by the state or city.

He made the vow in a deal that he voluntarily entered into with eight community groups. His underlings have said repeatedly that Ratner made the deal out of love for the community and to meet the needs of Brooklyn. Ratner’s latest Atlantic Yards mailings even tout the 50-percent affordable housing promise as “legally binding.”

But Brennan would not only allow Ratner to reneg on that promise — but pay him to do so! Brennan, a man said to be considering a run for city comptroller, should be ashamed of this bill. The Atlantic Yards project still needs state approval, where it could still be changed or even killed — on its own merits and without a ridiculous “bailout.”


Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

Two Years Later

The Real Estate:

Suddenly, two years after downtown Brooklyn was rezoned, activists are waking up to a crop of luxury condos thriving in what used to be a low-income area. First, it was ACORN's report on how just 7 percent of the new units planned for the area are affordable to low- or middle-income families. Now, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality will hold a "boisterous march" and forum Saturday afternoon with Congressional candidates from the 10th and 11th districts at P.S. 261.

All fine and good, but if they are so against all the luxury housing, where were they two years ago, before the rezoning passed the City Council, when they would have had more leverage?
We imagine that on Saturday, the candidates will be asked where they were two years ago also. Three were and are still City Council Members: Yvette Clarke, David Yassky and Charles Barron. Only Barron expressed any dissent towards the downtown Brooklyn plan.


Posted by amy at 10:57 AM

April 11, 2006

Belated density in East New York, a belated revamp of subsidies, and the Atlantic Yards project

low-densityBrooklyn.jpg Atlantic Yards Report looks at the big picture of affordable housing in Brooklyn and how it may have cornered Brooklynites into the maximum-density zoning override called Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

April 4, 2006

Ratner's "Downsizing" Could Upsize Office Space

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Schuerman points out that according to the Final Scoping document for Atlantic Yards, Ratner is hedging his bets on the ratio of commercial to residential space...

A chart included in the document (page 5), which sets out the scale of the project to be studied in the next step of the approval process, shows that variation A would have 6,860 condos and rentals and 606,000 square feet of offices. Variation B would have 5,790 apartments and 1.8 million square feet of offices. And even though the Ratner press release acts as if there is only one proposal on the table and that proposal has the same specs as Variation A, the scoping document treats both variations as equals.

...wondering if "Variation B" will maintain the same amount of "affordable housing" units.

The press release states that Ratner will keep the same number of affordable apartments (2,250) even though the project shrank by 5 percent since the fall. How many affordable apartments will there be if he goes with Variation B and builds only 5,790 apartments total?


Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

March 31, 2006

Letter to the Editor: "The Battle in Brooklyn”

Shelterforce (Published by National Housing Institute)

In a letter to the editor, Steve Ettlinger takes on the National Housing Institute Board President John Atlas over Atlas's article touting ACORN's deal with Forest City Ratner, "The Battle in Brooklyn."


Indeed, the essential point, which Mr. Atlas does not make clear, is that ACORN stands to gain financially from this agreement, through its contract not only to market the Atlantic Yards project’s affordable housing units, but also to promote the entire mega-development, including the basketball arena and 16 skyscrapers of market-rate condos and office space.

Atlas get's the last word in a rebuttal:

Ettlinger’s characterization of ACORN as profiting from this deal implies that it is engaged in some kind of nefarious self-dealing. That is neither fair nor true. While Ratner, like many people, is in the business of making money, and countless people have ripped off the poor as poverty pimps or service providers, it’s certainly not true of ACORN.

You didn't think Atlas would get the last word on NoLandGrab, did you?

Atlas cites a telephone poll conducted by ACORN as proof that the group is representing its member's interests.

In this poll, though 68% of participants would "support" the project if it contained "2,500 units" of affordable housing, 65% of those who were polled had a household income of "Under $30,000." That means that most poll participants would only be eligible for 5% of the "affordable housing" units.

Members were NOT polled on their likelihood to support the project if there were only 113 units (5% of 2,250 units) available to ALL applicants whose household income fell below $30,000.

Our point: detractors aren't against affordable housing, they just get suspicious when the rhetoric lacks substance.

Posted by lumi at 11:35 AM

March 23, 2006

Sweetheart Transplants

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Nik Kovac

The Star reviews ACORN's most recent report on the state of affordable housing in Brooklyn, as critics point out inaccuracies in the report and problems with ACORN's pro-Atlantic Yards stance.


Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

March 11, 2006

Ratner-ACORN deal is finalized

Brooklyn Papers:

Bruce Ratner has finalized a long-standing promise that his $3.5-billion arena and residential project would be linked to 600-1,000 below-market-rate condo units.

But the question is where.

Under Ratner’s agreement with the housing group ACORN, the units can be built anywhere in Brooklyn — and that has opponents screaming that the project would do nothing to solve the ghettoization of Brooklyn.

“We shouldn’t be segregating homeowners by class,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights).


Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

March 10, 2006

The Price of Bertha Lewis' Silence

Brownstoner notes that if Bruce Ratner "ends up not keeping up his end of the bargain to make half the units "affordable", all he has to do is pay [Bertha] Lewis' organization, Acorn, $500,000. A drop in the bucket to buy the silence of a woman who could have been a real thorn in his side."

An anonymous commentator adds, "Yes, I'm really interested to see how this plays out. He will make back the $500k on the first unit he sells that would have been an affordable one."


Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

March 9, 2006

50% Becomes a Moving Target

The Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Rachel Monahan

"It's 50/50. That's the story." says Bertha Lewis, and she's stuck with it. Check out another account of last week's affordable housing forum, at which Lewis lost her cool over challeges by Develop Don't Destroy's Candace Carponter.


Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM

March 6, 2006

Atlantic Yards Report: Density Debate Contextualized & Equity-v-Livability

Atlantic Yards Report attempts to clarify two debates surrounding Bruce Ratner's proposed 22-acre mega-development.

New visuals of AY density; when does it become congestion?

The recent "citizen effort" to provide visual context concerning the density of the Atlantic Yards proposal attempts to address Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey's point that density should be situated near a transportation hub. Do the visually arresting images illustrate density or congestion?

Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder quotes Urbanist Roberta Brandes Gratz, in her book The Living City:

"Density comes when many people are in the same place doing things that gain strength from their interaction; congestion results when there are so many of them that interaction becomes difficult, access in and out unpleasant, and frustration high."

Equity vs. livability: the false choice

Pratt Center for Community Development Director Bran Lander framed the affordable housing debate as divided between "'equity advocates,' as represented by ACORN, and 'livability advocates,' as represented by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB)."

Are these convenient labels much too simplistic to further the debate over affordable housing and Atlantic Yards?

Posted by lumi at 11:07 AM

March 4, 2006


Brooklyn Papers:

Lewis said ACORN cast its lot with Ratner because of the affordable housing promised by the developer, but Carponter said Lewis was ignoring the larger consequences of the project, such as environmental impacts and secondary displacement that the Frank Gehry-designed apartments and arena would create.

“It’s not necessary to build an arena to create affordable housing,” Carponter said.


Posted by amy at 11:33 AM

March 2, 2006

Doing a Number on Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer's Matthew Schuerman was trying to get to the bottom of the affordable housing figures, when Joe DePlasco dropped this bomb in response to an inquiry: “We have also agreed to build on or off site 600 to 1,000 first-time homeowner condos and will continue to work with ACORN on this and related issues.”

NoLandGrab: Once again, DePlasco forgot to issue a press release.


Schuerman does some number crunching and figures that the final tally could reach 2,850 on-site affordable apartments. If that were so, then it would comprise the most affordable units "built in one spot in this city since 1976." Schuerman also compares the affordable housing percentages with another project in progress, Schaefer Landing, a Williamsburg waterfront development.

The Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder does a number on the Real Estate Observer's comparison to Schaefer Landing and reveals that Schaefer Landing's affordable housing was targeted to low-income households earning 60% of the Area Median Income, as opposed to the Ratner plan, where only 40% of the affordable housing units would target that same group. In other words, Schuerman is not exactly comparing apples to apples.

Posted by lumi at 11:26 AM

January 31, 2006

Will Ratner build offsite affordable housing? We don't know yet

At last week's Borough Board Meeting, Assemblywoman Joan Millman brought up the question of whether or not affordable housing promised by Ratner would be located in the Atlantic Yards footprint, or, as some rumors have suggested, be built off site.

Times Ratner Report discusses the latest info and the implications of such a move.


Posted by lumi at 11:03 AM

January 19, 2006

Blogo coverage of bizarro lawsuit

In the bizarro world of big time real estate development, there are no conflicts of interest and the developer always speaks the truth.

Meanwhile, in the Blogosphere:

OnNYTurf covers the suit in, "Brooklyn Community Groups File Suit to Block Ratner Destruction Plan " and "Brooklyn Groups Ask Court to Remove State Lawfirm from Atlantic Yards Process ".

TimesRatnerReport reviews the coverage, reflects on the delay in FCR's actions and is the only place you're going to find out what an independent engineer said about the properties under threat of demolition:

Based upon that review I cannot conclude that the buildings pose an imminent threat to public safety. Any defects to the buildings or threats to public safety appear to be consistent with conditions found at countless other buildings in New York City. Such defects can be safely stabilized with commonly-used repair measures.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

January 1, 2006

ACORN, Ratner and Bad Development Ideas in Brooklyn

The Daily Gotham rounds up community commentary on ACORN, from sources including the Drum Major Institute and Chris Owens:

But there is another disturbing aspect of the whole development issue under Bloomberg. This issue is dividing the left. Labor is too blindly in favor of any and all development plans, even if they are directly contrary to the vision the neighborhood has for its own development, as indicated by neighborhood 197-a plans which the city approves then ignores. Labor is slowly losing its credibility with progressives, the very people who originally supported the labor movement in the United States. By blindly trusting Bloomberg and his developer friends, the construction unions are making a pact with the devil that will alienate entire neighborhoods as well as the progressive movement in general.

But there are even a handful of traditionally progressive organizations that, partly due to links to labor and partly due to unenforceable promises of “affordable housing” from the developers, are also buying into the Bloomberg, grandiose development plans.


Posted by amy at 11:25 AM

December 1, 2005

Apartments at Ground Zero?

The NY Sun editorial board's case against building housing on the WTC site includes the conservative position against "affordable housing," including that planned for Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.


Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

November 27, 2005

Forest City Ratner day in the NY Times regional editorial sections

The NY Times

Two Ratner projects were covered in the corresponding regional editorial sections of the Sunday Times.

Atlantic Yards
The City
A Matter of Scale in Brooklyn
The NY Times editorial board still holds that the project should go forward, but not before laying out many of the problems: traffic congestion, expansion of the project, fewer jobs, less affordable housing, modest returns, and public subsidies.

Ridge Hill
The Shame of Palookaville

You could have cast a half-dozen Frank Capra movies from the roomful of regular folks - moms and pops, tweedy types, old ladies in wool coats, a lawyer or two - who stepped up to deplore an impending vote to rewrite city zoning law to help a rich developer. Their words were hot but their demeanors cool. They spoke civilly and played by the rules, something the Council majority assuredly did not do on that chilly, depressing, inspiring night.

The Times's Westchester editorial lauds the Yonkers citizens who showed up at a meeting of their City Council, intent on saving democracy. Brooklynites, however, can note that the same paper's Atlantic Yards editorial left out one key point from its litany of concerns with the project: the subversion of the local city planning process.

The NY Times loves democracy; maybe it can look into getting some more of it in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 PM

November 7, 2005

Ratner's big plans

Pol fumes over bid to build housing at hosp

Daily News
by Elizabeth Hays

Forest City Ratner is eyeing St. Mary's Hospital in Crown Heights for promised affordable homes - far from the proposed $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards Nets arena and residential and commercial towers.

Opponents are claiming that moving the affordable housing off of the Gehry site is tantamount to segregation.

Ratner Executive VP James Stuckey claims that FCR "honors our commitments" and says, "Shame on them."


NoLandGrab: True, Forest City never promised to build all of the housing on the Gehry site. However, they have two PR problems with this move:

1) CLASSISM & RACISM. If FCR is serious about scaling down the project, then something has got to give. The working class and minorities will once again feel like it is at their expense.

2) HISTORICAL TURNS TYPICAL. Though FCR will still tout the historical numbers of their "affordable" housing for upper-middle and middle-income folks, this development would make the Atlantic Yards project typical, as Ratner would join all of the other developers who build the affordable housing component of their projects off site.

Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

November 4, 2005

Brooklyn Faces Growing Pains

growingpains.jpgThe News Hour
by Ray Suarez

RAY SUAREZ: Forest City Ratner says it wants to break ground so that the Brooklyn Nets can tip off their 2008 season in the new arena. Critics say it will never happen, all they can agree on is this is one valuable piece of real estate; they just can't agree on what 21st century Brooklyn will look like.

transcript and video

Posted by lumi at 8:39 AM

November 2, 2005

Ratner May be Fudging Affordable Housing Already

StMarys.jpg The Brownstoner post, on the Brooklyn Papers article, about the possibility of moving the Atlantic Yards affordable housing to the site of the recently shuttered St. Mary's Hospital, has touched off a heated debate in the comments section.

David fired the first shot with the following:

Another ridiculous anti-Ratner article by BP - and some great NIMBY by Councilwomen James thrown in for good measure.

Other anti-anti-arena comments included:

If you place the affordable housing near Atlantic Avenue, they will say it's too large. If the affordable housing is moved off-site, they will cry racism, classism, etc.

NoLandGrab: ACORN head Bertha Lewis's stated argument for supporting Atlantic Yards is that the affordable housing component of the plan stems the tide of gentrification in the area.

City Councilmember Charles Barron warned that Atlantic Yards would bring instant gentrification.

The only thing they might agree upon is that the area is gentrifying. Moving the affordable housing that far away would mean that Barron was right and Lewis is focused on another corporate partnership for ACORN.

Any talk of naming a new housing project "St. Marty's?"

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM

October 30, 2005

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project ‘Affordable’ units may go to Crown Hts.

The Brooklyn Papers
by Ariella Cohen

Is Ratner planning on moving the poor folk out of the Yards?

Forest City Ratner is considering the acquision of the former St. Mary’s Hospital in Crown Heights, leading some to speculate that the 3-acre site could be used for the affordable housing component of the proposed Atlantic Yards mega-project.

In a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU), dated May 17, 2005, between Forest City and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Forest City promised, among other things, to construct 600-1,000 “affordable for-sale units” in return for ACORN’s support of the project.

The off-site option for affordable home building has drawn criticism from community advocates who claim that by separating the luxury housing from the non-luxury, Ratner will be forcing lower income residents into ghettos.


NoLandGrab: Assemblymember Roger Green, casually mentioned the possibility of moving the so-called affordable housing off site in his testimony at the ESDC hearing two weeks ago. Green has been an ardent Ratner supporter going back to when the project was first announced.

Posted by lumi at 4:22 PM

October 18, 2005

New Prospect Heights Condos to rise by Atlantic Yards project

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Construction on luxury condos a block away from Ratner's Atlantic Yards project footprint is scheduled to begin this fall. More evidence that this neighborhood is blighted and needs the state to take private property to give to Ratner.


The apartments have been designed with spacious open floor plans in one-and two-bedroom configurations, including several duplexes. The units will range in size from 850 to 1,000 square feet. Among the amenities are five-piece marble master baths, top-of-the-line kitchen appliances, exotic wood cabinetry and floors, oversized windows and balconies. Building-wide amenities will include a fitness spa with sauna and steam room, and three banks of elevators to coincide with the three separate entrances.


An alert reader sent in this link for the The Washington, another luxury condo adjacent to the eastern corner of Ratner's "blighted" footprint.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

September 23, 2005

What Will Ratner Reap?

The Jewish Week
by Adam Dickter

b&wskyline.gifIf he builds it, will Jews come?:

“It will very likely encourage more Jewish life in an area that has not been the main focus of Jewish life in the borough of Brooklyn,” [demographer Jack] Ukeles said.

On the other hand:

But because Orthodox Jews require more local infrastructure than other denominations or unaffiliated Jews, it is unlikely a large Orthodox community will spring up in the new neighborhood despite overcrowding in areas like Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park.


Letter to the editor from a Jewish Week subscriber.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

August 15, 2005

Ratner-Style Deal with Columbia University?

Real Estate Observer
by Matthew Schuerman

West Harlem residents have been watching events in Prospect Heights since both communities have been confronted by developers armed with the coercive powers of eminent domain.

Now, taking another cue from Ratner's Brooklyn deal, West Harlem residents are looking to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with Columbia University who is seeking to expand their campus. The only difference, they are seeking to involve more than eight groups to represent the community.


Posted by lumi at 6:25 PM

July 13, 2005

Eminent Domain: What The Supreme Court Ruling Means To NYC

Brad LanderGotham Gazette
by Brad Lander,
Dir. of Pratt Institute of Community & Environmental Devlopment (PICED)

Lander reviews the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court ruling as it relates to development in NYC.

Though it is Lander's view that current projects employing eminent domain in NYC "don’t have too much reason for concern," he points out that political backlash to the high court's decision is an opportunity to introduce more thought and accountability in NYC's urban planning process.

We need a better, more consistent process to insure that publicly-supported private development: * helps to reduce income inequality * creates jobs that enable people to support their families and move toward the middle class * creates affordable housing * lives better within its “environmental footprint” * addresses the challenges of traffic and transit * helps create better neighborhoods * and makes those neighborhoods places of opportunity.

This is a lot to ask, but it is a fair trade for hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in subsidy and the power to take people’s homes.


NoLandGrab: What's interesting about Lander's principles is that most of them are represented in the Extell bid for the Atlantic Railyards, which doesn't even require the use of eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 9:03 AM

June 29, 2005

Press Release, Employment Policies Institute:
John Edwards Should Separate Self From ACORN’s Baggage On Columbus Minimum Wage Tour

NoLandGrab: A watchful Brooklynite pointed out that the source of this press release is specious due to the fact that they are a think tank whose true mission is to keep minimum wage low to serve the interest of the business commuity. This explains the inflamatory tone of the study.

EPI Research Director warns John Edwards:

ACORN's history of voter registration fraud, hypocrisy, abuse of federal grant programs, and disregard for sound economics should raise a red flag for John Edwards or anyone lending their name to this group.

[UPDATE, 2/10/06: According to Brian Mellor, the claim of voter registration fraud led to a law suit filed by "lawsuit filed by Mac Stuart against ACORN (Stuart v ACORN Case No. 04-22764-CIv)," which "has been dismissed with prejudice."]

Read the and then read the summary to EPI's report, "The Real ACORN: Anti-Employee, Anti-Union, Big-Business."

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

June 28, 2005

The False Promise of Ratner's Affordable Housing - Redux demystifies the 50/30/20 affordable housing plan that is being touted by the pols as Bruce Ratner's big win-win for Brooklyn.

Upon closer examination the 50/30/20 is not truly a guaranteed affordable housing plan and turns out to be a big fat handout for developers.


NoLandGrab: In the technocratic world of publicly subsidized affordable housing plans, this is the first explanation written in plain English we’ve come across.

Posted by lumi at 9:49 PM

June 24, 2005

Atlantic Yards community deal due Monday

The Brooklyn Papers describes the difference in viewpoints between those drinking the kool-aid, and those who abstain:

Atlantic Yards opponents argue the CBA is merely a ploy by the developer to give the appearance of broad community support for his project. Supporters, meanwhile, say it is the best thing any new development in the city has promised its surrounding community.


Posted by amy at 9:44 PM

June 9, 2005

Letter to the Editor: Brooklyn Fairy Tale

Dan Goldstein's Letter to the Editor in response to "Brooklyn Fairy Tale" was published in today's NY Sun.

at a City Council hearing on the Atlantic Yards proposal, FCR announced that what was once 4,500 proposed housing units is now 7,300 housing units, with no commitment at all to make any of those 2,800 additional units “affordable.”So what was loudly called a “groundbreaking”50-50 agreement is now, in reality, a nonbinding agreement that would include a minuscule 6% of housing for truly low-income earners and 24% for “moderate” earners, leaving 70% luxury.

That’s called bait and switch. And guess what? Half of the rents of the so-called affordable units are market rate rents that you could find walking into any real estate office in the areas surrounding the proposed development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. We, the taxpayers of New York City and State, are subsidizing Mr. Ratner’s market and luxury rate housing — as well as the most expensive private sports arena ever built — to the tune of $1.6 billion,and rising,in public subsidies. Why?



Posted by lumi at 8:17 PM