Hurry up with the housing, developer told in Brooklyn

20 November 2013

A group of New York politicians and activists have criticised a developer over the long-delayed affordable housing component of its $5bn Atlantic Yards project on the edge of downtown Brooklyn.

They have also demanded that the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), act on its housing commitments before selling a 70% stake in the delayed development to Chinese developer Greenland Holding.

The lawmakers and Brooklyn Speaks, a group formed to address concerns with the massive, part-publicly-funded, mixed-use project, joined forces to call on New York State governor and Forest City to rework construction plans to speed up housing construction.

The coalition wants the public agency, Empire State Development Corporation, to withhold its approval of the sale to Greenland until a study is conducted to explore other ways of expediting construction.

The group also wants FCRC and Greenland adhere to the original timeline for completing 2,250 affordable units by 2016.

That timeline was extended to 2035 in a controversial decision by the state in 2009 that followed the market crash. To date, FCRC has only begun work on one of the 15 apartment towers slated for the site.

"In the seven years since the approval of the Atlantic Yards project, an arena has been built, but commitments of affordable housing for Brooklynites remain unmet," the group said in a statement. "During the same time the market for luxury apartments in Brooklyn has exploded, while the borough’s crisis in affordable housing spirals further out of control."

Brooklyn has over 2.5 million inhabitants and is the most populated district of New York (Credit: Tequask/Wikimedia)

"The Atlantic Yards project is a public-private partnership made possible by the investment of hundreds of millions of precious taxpayer dollars," said New York congressman Hakeem Jeffries. "Yet, the public has still not experienced the benefit of thousands of affordable housing units that were promised a decade ago."

In local media Forest City accused Brooklyn Speaks of causing some of the housing delays through court actions.

"We are very focused on accelerating the housing," an FCRC spokesman said. "While groups like Brooklyn Speaks were suing to delay this project, we were working aggressively to start the housing, which we did last year, and to identify financial partners to move the other buildings forward."

Brooklyn Speaks refuted this, saying its lawsuit of 2009 aimed to force FCRC to build the affordable housing sooner.

"Now is the time to review the current construction schedule and get a written commitment from FCRC that the residential buildings and affordable housing units will be constructed in less than 10 years," said Jim Brennan, a Brooklyn representative in the New York State Assembly.

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