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But local activist, lawyer, former state housing official, and Noticing New York blogger
Michael D.D. White was at the hearing to give testimony ripping apart Ratner's request for more subsidies based on the history of the Atlantic Yards project to date:
Norman Oder was also there to report on how little we actually know from RAtner and NYCHDC, presumably just the way they like it:
There was something dismaying, but not so surprising, about the public hearing yesterday held by the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) regarding up to $92 million in tax-exempt bonds for the first Atlantic Yards tower, a 32-story, 363-unit building at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, adjoining the Barclays Center arena.
It wasn’t simply that no board members were present for the hearing in Lower Manhattan, just three agency lawyers, plus an intern, observed by fewer than three dozen people, some of whom warned the agency about going forward, while others said, however flawed, it was a good start.
It was that no official presentation went beyond the contents of a developer-created handout (bottom) provided a day earlier, describing 150 studios (41%), 165 1-BR (46%) and 48 2-BR (13%), 50% of them subsidized, over five income bands.
Then again, the project does not have a transparent history.
We know developer Forest City Ratner seeks nearly $92 million in tax-exempt bonds, which offers crucial savings over taxable financing. We don’t know the full cost of the building nor the full mix of financing. We don’t know whether the tower, known as B2, would be built using modular construction, which is Forest City Ratner’s goal.
We don’t know how the subsidies compare to other projects in the so-called 50/30/20 program, with 50% market, 20% low-income, and 30% moderate- and middle-income units. We don’t even know the rents, at least beyond my unofficial calculations, which suggest that the top subsidized rungs easily track the market.
We weren't told the size of the units, though NYC HDC's Mixed-Income Program term sheet indicates they could be small, with the subsidized studios at 400 square feet minimum, 1-BR units at 575 sf, and 2-BR apartments at 775 sf.
We didn't learn the NYC HDC’s criteria for decisionmaking, though the building's skew toward smaller units actually goes against agency preference, which went unmentioned.
(According to the Mixed-Income Program term sheet, "HDC will approve unit distribution; preference will be given to projects with 50% or more 2+ BR units OR 30% two-bedrooms and 10% three-bedrooms.")
Also, there was no mention of modular plans. Would construction of what would be the tallest modular apartment building in the world be welcomed as a cost-saving tactic, or does the agency, and those who might insure the bonds, have any wariness about an experiment?
“I would like to comment on the validity of this project, but unfortunately this agency has not released enough information to have a true, genuine open process about how we should be spending its precious resources,” commented Bettina Damiani of subsidy watchdog Good Jobs New York.
She called the announcement of the meeting a “bare minimum effort” and an it “insult to open government,” given that there was an advertisement in the June 30 New York Post, but no notice, or backing information, on the agency’s website...
Continue reading to find out why, despite some unhappiness about the housing plan, Ratner partners Bertha Lewis and Ismene Speliotis are still very much on board.