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Ratner’s shell game

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It is becoming increasingly clear that developer Bruce Ratner will not be able to build much of the below-market-rate housing that he’s promised to include in Atlantic Yards.

As we report on our front page this week, Ratner’s vow to include 2,250 units of so-called “affordable” housing in his $4-billion mega-project is contingent upon $1.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies — but, there are only $1.6 billion in such federal funds available in the entire state of New York this year.

And experts, including the pro-development president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Joe Chan, are already sounding the alarm that something’s got to give.

If history is a guide, taxpayers will be doing the giving — but now they won’t be getting affordable housing in return.

The affordable housing units at Atlantic Yards remain the project’s principal carrot in the face of widespread community opposition and egregious misuse of public subsidies to a multi-billion-dollar company.

But there’s a problem with Ratner’s promised units: If he can’t get the tax subsidies from the state, he can walk away from the deal simply by cutting a check for $500,000 — which represents a tiny .014 percent of the company’s $3.6-billion total value — to one of the signatories of his “Community Benefits Agreement.”

Then again, he could also call his enablers in state government and complain of the shortfall in subsidies. Perhaps they will do what they’ve always done — repeatedly at Metrotech and at Atlantic Terminal Mall — and lavish more taxpayer money on another of Ratner’s white elephants.

The shortfall in affordable housing subsidies is no surprise to critics of the project. At the time the city and state were steamrolling Atlantic Yards past reasonable opposition, housing industry analysts were already saying that there simply would not be enough federal subsidies to underwrite the promises that Ratner was making.

But the fox — in this case, an Empire State Development Corporation filled with Ratner cronies — was guarding that chicken coop.

Now, those chickens have come home to roost. An easily foreseen downturn in the financial markets has had the predicted result of raising demand for these federal subsidies as the supply remains flat.

It’s affecting projects as far away as Buffalo and as near as Flatbush Avenue. It will affect Atlantic Yards, too.

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Reader Feedback

Norman Oder says:
The claim about cutting a $500,000 check is untrue. See:
http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2006/09/affordable-housing-timing.html
Feb. 27, 2008, 9:02 pm
TJ and MP from Carroll Gardens says:
It's an easy fix...

Let Ratner Build the housing 1st! Let him buld all sorts of housing for all levels of incomes

10% for people on Public Relief
10% for those who earn $40k p/yr of less
50% for those who earn $41K to 85K
30% for Millon Dollar Luxury Apartments that would help to make-up the difference for those noted above.

Once he builds the housing, then he builds the retail space (under & around those buildings) and he makes certain that 50% are Chain Stores with 20 year leases and 50% Mom & Pop Shops with 99 year leases that can be passed onto the direct desendents of the shop owners.

Once ALL the tenants are in and once all the shops are growing and the newly created neighborhood is SELF Sufficient, then allow him to build his arena over the Atlantic Yards ONLY.

NO - he can NOT ask for Emiminent Domain, again.

1st build the neighborhood then build the entertainment/sports complex.In that order only!
March 26, 2008, 4:01 pm

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