Deal finally fast-tracks Atlantic Yards housing plan
A chronically delayed plan for affordable housing on the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn has finally been put on the fast track -- thanks to a welcome deal hammered out by City Hall, Albany, an amalgamation of community groups and developer Forest City Ratner.
But "deal" doesn't do justice to an agreement that -- we hope -- ends more than 11 years of hostilities over how downtown Brooklyn will change. Armistice might be a better word in the neighborhoods including Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.
Here are the terms of the cease-fire: Forest City Ratner has agreed to complete 2,250 units of affordable housing on the site by 2025. In return, the coalition of community groups has vowed not to sue Ratner over delays.
To ensure everyone delivers as promised, the state's Economic Development Corp. has set up a 14-member board -- appointed by the governor, the mayor, and other elected officials, including Brooklyn's borough president -- to monitor the proceedings.
They have plenty of bad blood to smooth over.
The short version from the activist perspective is that Forest City Ratner pulled a bait-and-switch. The company promised affordable housing and a new basketball arena but delivered only the arena, they believe.
The other version is that Forest City Ratner -- rather than pulling a bait-and-switch -- was slowed by a major lawsuit over eminent domain and then ran smack into the Great Recession, which hurt its financing. Result: While the arena was a go, affordable housing plans were shelved.
But the developer has now agreed to start construction in 2015 of two apartment buildings in the area that would offer 600 units to families that earn salaries ranging from 37 percent of the area median income to 165 percent. The area's median income is $85,900 for a family of four.
The deal can work for everyone. Brooklyn residents who might otherwise be priced out get a chance to stay. And downtown Brooklyn gains from a more diverse residential base.
As for the great war? Fugheddaboudit!