Affordable apartments for high earners on LIU’s Downtown Brooklyn campus

September 26, 2019 Lore Croghan
RXR Realty is constructing an apartment building and a university athletic and academic facility on LIU’s Downtown Brooklyn campus. Rendering courtesy of RXR Realty
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Affordable housing inside a soon-to-come sleek high-rise on LIU’s Downtown Brooklyn campus will go to families with annual incomes as high as $183,170.

Developers RXR Realty this summer started constructing a 34-story, 476-unit apartment building at 196 Willoughby St., where 70 percent of the units inside will be market-rate rentals. Thirty percent will be affordable units with below-market rents — for tenants with annual incomes equal to 130 percent of New York City’s AMI (area median income), RXR Executive Vice President Seth Pinsky told the Brooklyn Eagle after a groundbreaking at the site on Wednesday.

In recent years, Brooklyn housing advocates have been urging builders to price the affordable units in their developments for low-income tenants.

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Pinsky defended RXR’s decision not to do so. He said the affordable units at the Willoughby Street site are “workforce housing, which we think is important for the borough,” meant for doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals who want to live in Downtown Brooklyn. Also, the relatively high-rent affordable units will allow RXR to compensate the university more generously, Pinsky said.

Excavation work is underway on the LIU campus site that RXR Realty is developing. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Excavation work is underway on the LIU campus site that RXR Realty is developing. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The compensation is part cash and part the construction work RXR is doing on a building for the campus, Pinsky said. Next to the high-rise, the developers are building an adjacent low-rise building that will belong to the university, with athletic fields on its roof and academic space and a parking garage inside.

RXR wanted to make sure LIU “can do things that they need to do on their campus, like provide scholarships and invest in the deferred maintenance on the campus,” Pinsky said.

“LIU educates a lot of first-generation New Yorkers, a lot of Brooklynites, a lot of people who come from working-class backgrounds. As important as the affordable housing is — which we think is very important— it was also important to us that we made sure this yielded the maximum resources possible for LIU to carry forward its mission.”

RXR bought the lot on which it’s constructing the apartment tower from LIU for $76.4 million, city Finance Department records indicate. LIU owns the land on which the academic, athletic and parking facility will stand.

RXR received air rights from university buildings near the lot it purchased that enable it to construct a taller tower than zoning would otherwise allow.

“We are creating new housing and new jobs for the Downtown Brooklyn community and we’re also bringing significant resources to an important New York institution,” Pinsky said.

The affordability level RXR chose for the project is “middle-income” according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development definitions, which are used by New York City affordable housing programs.

Middle-income is the highest-earning category, above extremely low-income, very low-income, low-income and moderate-income.

Here’s a glimpse of LIU’s Downtown Brooklyn campus near RXR’s construction site. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Here’s a glimpse of LIU’s Downtown Brooklyn campus near RXR’s construction site. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Annual earnings for New Yorkers at 130 percent AMI are $97,110 for a single person, $110,020 for a two-person household, $124,930 for a family of three and $138,710 for a family of four. They top out at $183,170 for a family of eight.

The development project should take two and a half years to build, Pinsky said. The architecture firm of record is Perkins Eastman, city Buildings Department records indicate.

“This partnership with RXR Realty will enhance the campus and our surrounding community, resulting in an unprecedented investment in scholarship, facilities, athletics, teaching and research,” LIU President Kimberly Cline said at Wednesday’s groundbreaking.

“LIU students will benefit from new athletic fields to support a university-wide Division 1 athletics program, health and wellness facilities for our community and updated and improved academic spaces to support innovative, in-demand programs,” Cline said.

The Buildings Department slapped the site with a Stop Work Order in mid-August after workers hit a live electric line with excavation equipment and caused an explosion. The Buildings Department rescinded the Stop Work Order on Sept. 4.

RXR’s project is the largest expansion the university has undertaken of its Brooklyn campus since it was built in 1926, Newsday reported last year.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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  1. Downtown BK desperately needs more housing. Hope this is just the beginning for LIU and other institutions. They need to monetize their land, so they can add academic space, while the city gets more housing.