When the city agreed to subsidized the Barclay’s Center and Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, it did so as part of an agreement that included a provision to build a certain amount of affordable housing. This agreement came after a 2005 “Memorandum of Understanding” with ACORN and the Atlantic Yards Development Company LLC, which proposed several scenarios in regards to affordable housing development. The MOU’s terms was that 50% of the rental units built need to be affordable, and also that 50% of those affordable units need to be 2 or 3 bedrooms (family-sized).
But at the end of last month, City Limits published an investigative report on Atlantic Yards and the shady negotiations that have been going on behind closed doors. 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.
In the long-run of community development, it is all too easy to forget the controversy that led to Atlantic Yards. (Just ask Robert Moses, whose controversial neighborhood-clearing urban renewal projects are now considered -by some- to be indispensible New York City gems.) There is real excitement in the air surrounding next week’s opening of the Barclay’s Center. Brooklyn has a basketball team now, Jay-Z is coming to play three straight nights of shows, and construction of affordable housing is significantly less glamorous than all that. All the wonky talk of what makes an apartment building appropriate and affordable for families is quickly being overshadowed by the Nets. Perhaps that is what Bruce Ratner and Forest City were counting on.
We have to prove them wrong! AY (Atlantic Yards) Crime Scene is working to highlight the injustices taking place around the development project. They, along with other Brooklyn community groups, have organized several events in the coming weeks to demand a new plan for Atlantic Yards that puts the community first. To check out a list of these events, click here.
For more information about Atlantic Yards development and the struggles over affordability, check out the City Limits article here.