ACORN director Bertha Lewis penned a defense of the rationale behind the deal her group cut with Forest City Ratner in yesterday’s City Limits paper. Here are some outtakes:
Let’s not beat around the bush. Forest City Ratner is not the United Way. They are looking to make a profit. You can make money building affordable housing only two ways: through direct subsidy to reduce the extraordinary cost of this project, to any developer who chose to undertake it, or cross-subsidy from the market-rate rentals and condominiums.
Any developer who built on this site would need both subsidy and cross-subsidy to make the amount of affordable housing units included in the project financially viable. None of the so-called alternative plans advanced for the site adequately address this fundamental economic reality.
That also leads to the other bogeyman of the Atlantic Yards debate: density. In order to make the cross-subsidy between market rate and affordable units work in this project, you either need to allow the developer to build more, which means taller buildings, or to replace the cross-subsidy from market-rate units with more direct subsidy from government. Currently there is no other existing model for building affordable housing in New York City.
Let’s get real. All around Atlantic Yards developers are building luxury condominiums without a lick of affordable housing. In March, ACORN examined 87 new development projects in various stages of development in downtown Brooklyn, containing 5,934 housing units. Our report found that only 201 units, or 3 percent of the total, are affordable to moderate-income people. Only 266 units, or 4 percent of the total, are affordable to low-income families. In almost all of those projects, city tax dollars are being used to subsidize luxury development in the form of 421a and J-51 tax abatements for purchasers of luxury housing. The result: between 1990 and 2000, the African-American population of Community Board 2 (including downtown, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill) decreased by 17.2 percent.
Advocates and activists who oppose the project will point to its flaws, but present only false solutions. They have the luxury to demand the impossible, to oppose something because, in an ideal world, it’s not how things should be.
Supporting Atlantic Yards [City Limits]