Prospect Heights

Pacific Park-Atlantic Yards affordable housing is too expensive, advocates say

October 4, 2019 Lore Croghan
An advocacy coalition wants the developers of Pacific Park to change the income tiers for the mega-project’s affordable housing. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

As Pacific Park’s 2025 deadline for affordable housing construction looms, local leaders are pushing for changes to the 22-acre mega-project’s development plans.

The deadline, which requires developers to complete construction of 2,250 affordable units in the next six years, is the result of a settlement advocacy coalition BrooklynSpeaks negotiated with the state of New York and developer Forest City Ratner in 2014.

“We’re running out of time,” State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon told the Brooklyn Eagle at a Thursday night public forum to get local residents’ input about changing the project plan for the development, formerly known as Atlantic Yards. The forum was convened by BrooklynSpeaks.

First up on the list of changes: affordability.

Of the projected total 2,250 affordable units, 781 have been constructed. More than half of those units are designated to renters making 145 to 165 percent of New York City Area Median Income — which, for a family of three, means an income of $139,345 (called “middle-income”) to $158,565 (“high-income”) annually.

Community members aren’t happy with those numbers. “The affordable housing at Atlantic Yards isn’t affordable enough,” said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a BrooklynSpeaks member.

IMPACCT Brooklyn Executive Director Bernell Grier (at right) is part of a discussion group at a public forum about Pacific Park. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
IMPACCT Brooklyn Executive Director Bernell Grier (at right) is part of a discussion group at a public forum about Pacific Park. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Participants at the forum said that the remaining 1,469 units that have yet to be constructed should be leased to low-income tenants who make an average of 60 percent of AMI (called “low-income,” at which level a family of three makes $57,660 annually) — and at least 40 percent of those should go to renters making an average of 40 percent of AMI (“very low-income,” or $38,440 a year for a family of three).

Of the existing 781 apartments, just 5 percent were made available to families at the very low-income level.

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Among the other recommendations made at the forum: more units set aside for elderly tenants, and a housing lottery priority for people who have been displaced from homes in the neighborhoods bordering the development.

Jack Sterne, Empire State Development Corp.’s downstate press secretary, told the Eagle the agency expects construction to start next year on additional affordable units at Pacific Park.

“There is universal agreement that Brooklyn critically needs affordable housing,” Sterne said. “The project developer made a legally-binding commitment to deliver 2,250 units of affordable housing by 2025 — and we will hold them and all of their partners to that deadline.” 

According to ESD, the project plan doesn’t specify the income levels for affordable housing at Pacific Park-Atlantic Yards and ESD isn’t responsible for setting those levels. Two city agencies, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Housing Development Corp., determine those income levels.

ESD expects that more than half the affordable units that Pacific Park is required to construct will be completed by 2022.  

Greenland Forest City Partners plans to start constructing a platform over the Long Island Rail Road train yards in 2020. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Greenland Forest City Partners plans to start constructing a platform over the Long Island Rail Road train yards in 2020. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Advocates and elected officials are growing increasingly frustrated with the development after Empire State Development Corp. approved the addition of a 105,000-square-foot field house and gym to the plan without a full-scale environmental review.

Other changes at Pacific Park that were recommended at Thursday evening’s meeting focus on traffic, transportation and the neighbors’ quality of life.

For instance, forum participants recommend that when the construction of an 800-seat middle school is completed at Pacific Park in 2023, FDNY’s nearby Engine 219/Ladder 105 firehouse should be moved. Otherwise, fire trucks could get caught in traffic jams at the start and end of the school day.

The school will be located on the bottom floors of an apartment building that’s being constructed at 664 Pacific St.

They also recommend that traffic-calming measures such as speed bumps and lowered speed limits should be deployed on streets in the Pacific Park area.

The Atlantic Yards-Pacific Park project has been underway for 16 years — but the project will likely take until 2035 to complete.

“This is going to be a long haul,” City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo said at the forum.

Pacific Park is now owned by a unit of Shanghai-based Greenland Group that’s called Greenland Forest City Partners. The Chinese company has sold development rights for various Pacific Park sites to TF Cornerstone and the Brodsky Organization.

One of the many things that makes the project complicated is the need for Greenland Forest City Partners to construct a platform over Long Island Rail Road train yards that run alongside Atlantic Avenue. The platform will serve as a base for several residential towers.

The developer recently announced it will start to build the platform in 2020.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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