Doing a Number on Atlantic Yards

Last night’s panel on Atlantic Yards, sponsored by Women in Housing and Finance, was painful and frankly not terribly informative. (You can check out blogger Norman Oder’s play-by-play here.) But following up, we received a statement today from developer Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, who said: “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.”

That’s news—assuming that “first-time homeowners” would be low- or middle-income families. In the agreement signed last May, Ratner and ACORN said only that they would “work on a program to develop affordable for-sale units, which are intended to be in the range of 600 to 1,000 units.”

Sounds like things are firming up. ACORN spokesman Jonathan Rosen told us today: “We feel good that we have locked in 50-50 affordable in rentals and that we are on track to do 600 to 1,000 affordable ownership units on or off site and more likely a combination of the two.”

Let’s say ACORN gets 600 affordable condos on the site itself, on top of the 2,250 affordable rental units that are clearly promised in the agreement. In the grand scheme of things, we don’t think that 2,850 affordable apartments have been built in one spot in this city since 1976. That was Starrett City—which is so far out it can hardly be considered New York.

Out of the 7,300 condos and rentals now anticipated for the site itself, that means almost 40 percent will be affordable, which is what Schaefer Landing is doing on the Williamsburg waterfront (40 percent low-income rentals, 60 percent luxury condos). Rosen for one said that the 7,300 number will likely fall during the state review process, while the affordable number will stay relatively level. Still, if this development works out to any wee bit less than 50 percent affordable, we will never hear the end of it, because proponents have often used that number to tout the project. Even as recently as last night, ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis told reporters, “If this project happens in whatever way the state and the city decide it’s going to happen, it’s 50-50 baby. That’s all we know. I don’t care what configuration it’s in. It’s 50-50. That’s the story.”

Ratner is getting a lot of financial help on this one, but just today we ran a story about developers who get no or reduced taxes for building 100 percent luxury condos. (We always come around to talking about ourselves in the end.)

-Matthew Schuerman