It’s Tough All Around

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.

“If a two-bedroom is over $2,000, I don’t see why this is even better than what we have now?” one audience member asked. “My second point is, Why is all of this in Brooklyn? What about the rest of the boroughs? I’m from Staten Island. I’m not a police officer. I don’t see myself getting on the list.”

She got a lot of applause, and the moderators, Bertha Lewis of ACORN and Jim Stuckey of Forest City Ratner, the developer, were a little hard pressed to respond. After all, what do you say when someone complains that housing in New York, even subsidized housing, is expensive? If you don’t like it, there are plenty of people in line behind you.

Rents for the 2,250 units are set at approximately 30 percent of tenants’ gross income, which means a two-bedroom will range from $620 to $2,658 a month. Of course, these units won’t be ready for another four to 10 years, which means the rents will likely be higher by that time–and the demand for housing even greater.

Also, it turns out that city-mandated preferences will steer up to 66 percent of the affordable apartments to people in the surrounding neighborhoods, police officers, other city employees and the disabled.

Felicia Staton, a 32-year-old public school teacher living with her parents in East Flatbush, said she was happy she came to the event even though the apartments were more expensive, and required a longer wait, than she expected.

“As a young person, I wanted to find out what my options were,” she told The Real Estate following the meeting.

If many people walked away unimpressed, it was just as well. More than 2,000 people showed up for the first meeting early in the evening, and another several hundred so were expected at the second one. And this is just the first of a series of meetings that will be held throughout the next year–in no small part, we imagine, to build support for the project, which faces a tricky public review process in the next few months.

For more on the opposition to Atlantic Yards, check out this week’s issue online.

-Matthew Schuerman