Affordable housing bonds shouldn't subsidize luxury apartments
Following the groundbreaking for the first residential tower at its Atlantic Yards project, community organizations expressed outrage over Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC) intention to use New York City Housing Development Corporation bonds to subsidize apartments too small for working families, and too expensive for the majority of Brooklynites. .
The plans for B2, as the first residential building is known, include 363 apartments, approximately half of which are described as “affordable.” However, of the “affordable” apartments, only 35 are two-bedroom units suitable for families, and only 9 of those are intended to be affordable to families earning the median income for Brooklyn which is just over $43,000 for a family of four. More than half of the two-bedroom “affordable” apartments are intended to be marketed to families earning more than $100,000 annually.
“Atlantic Yards was approved because FCRC promised Brooklyn 2,250 affordable apartments,” said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. “It’s outrageous that Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg would now allow this developer to use loopholes in regulations to build luxury apartments with help of affordable housing subsidies.”
“It’s not just that Brooklyn isn’t getting the affordable housing it was promised and is woefully needed,” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. “By using up the available subsidies to finance smaller apartments for tenants in higher income brackets, FCRC is making it harder to build truly affordable units elsewhere in the City.”
In 2009, FCRC and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) renegotiated the Atlantic Yards plan, pushing out construction of the project from ten to twenty-five years. In July of 2011, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the change was approved illegally, and ordered ESDC to revisit the plan after additional environmental analysis. Although all of its appeals were exhausted in June of 2012, ESDC and FCRC have yet to comply with the order.
“Although any affordable units of housing are welcomed in Brooklyn, there is data that suggest that state and federal subsidies could go further in providing more housing for low and middle income working families. Many of the studio and one-bedroom apartments will not accommodate families,” said Reverend Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church. “Many of the studio and one-bedroom apartments will not accommodate families. New York State must be more efficient at getting more affordable housing for people who need it most. In the meantime, valuable government resources will be wasted on helping developers build luxury apartments.”
“The B2 plans are yet another sign that the commitments made to win approval of the Atlantic Yards project simply aren’t going to be kept under the current plan,” said Gib Veconi of BrooklynSpeaks. “The State needs to follow the court’s order, and create a new plan for Atlantic Yards that includes additional developers and transparent project governance to ensure Brooklyn gets the housing it was promised when it was promised.”
Added FUREE’s Maisha Morales, “At Atlantic Yards, as with many other luxury-dominated development sites in downtown Brooklyn, the public is being robbed by developers with inside tracks to government. Their publicly-subsidized projects promise economic development, then displace working people, hurt small business owners, and further divide our neighborhoods. Our communities need real affordable housing, good jobs and a seat at the table in shaping the area's future. The failure of the Governor, the Mayor and our elected officials to hold developers accountable has been a disaster for the people of Brooklyn and New York State, and the plans presented for B2 are the latest example of why policies must change.”
About BrooklynSpeaks: BrooklynSpeaks is an initiative, launched in September 2006, consisting of civic associations, community-based organizations and advocacy groups concerned about the future of development at the Atlantic Yards site. For more info: www.brooklynspeaks.net
About Brown Community Development Corporation: Brown Community Development Corporation is an organization based in Central Brooklyn of congregants and local leaders committed to Social and Economic Justice. Through community organizing and service delivery we work towards a community that has the ability to eliminate inequities in education, housing, wellness and economic opportunities. In faith, with action and through service.
About Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a 501c3 non-profit, leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them. DDDB has led the opposition to Atlantic Yards and advocated for a community based development plan at the Atlantic Yards site since its founding in 2004. More info at: dddb.net.
About FUREE: Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) is a Brooklyn-based multiracial organization made up and led mostly by women of color. We organize low-income families to build power to change the system so that all people's work is valued and all of us have the right and economic means to decide and live out our own destinies. More info at furee.org.
About Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc.(FAC): Fifth Avenue Committee is a 34 year old award winning community organization in South Brooklyn that advances economic and social justice by building vibrant, diverse communities where residents have genuine opportunities to achieve their goals, as well as the power to shape the community’s future. To achieve our mission, FAC develops and manages affordable housing and community facilities, creates economic opportunities and ensures access to economic stability, organizes residents and workers, offers student-centered adult education, and combats displacement cause by gentrification. More info at www.fifthave.org