City to give away public Bed-Stuy properties in ‘affordable housing’ deal

Developers plan to erect a seven-story condo building on city land at 335 Ralph Ave., along with six other below-market-rate developments in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Fulcrum Properties

The city wants to transfer a slate of vacant, publicly-owned lots to three development firms seeking to erect seven so-called “affordable housing” condominiums in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development plans to sell the sites adjacent to Herkimer Street between Kingston and Ralph avenues, where builders plan to raise four- to seven-story condos with a total of 78 units, spokesman Felipe Cortes told Community Board 3’s Land Use Committee Wednesday.

The agency filed a land use review application to sell the properties for $1 to Manhattan firm Fulcrum Properties along with Queens developers Jobe Development Corporation and the Briarwood Organization who will jointly construct the buildings at the following addresses:

  • Two five-story buildings with 10 units each at 423-421 and 440-444 Herkimer St.
  • A four-story building with eight units at 35-37 Rochester Ave.
  • A four-story building with 15 units at 18-22 Suydam Pl.
  • A four-story building with 12 units at 816 Herkimer St.
  • A five-story building with 10 units at 329-331 Ralph Ave.
  • A seven-story building with 13 units at 335 Ralph Ave.

The entire portfolio features 34 one-bedroom and 44 two-bedroom units priced in line with the federally-designated Area Median Income (AMI) index of the Five Boroughs, which this year is set at $96,100 for a three-person family.

However, Bedford-Stuyvesant’s median household income in 2017 was significantly lower at $52,900, according to a report by New York University’s Furman Center, and condos constructed under the proposed deals would be priced  for residents with annual salaries between $64,020 to $105,633 per year — $11,120 to $52,733 above the area’s average income.

Another development includes a four-story building with eight units at 35-37 Rochester Ave.
David Cunningham Architecture Planning

But the development would bring Mayor Bill de Blasio closer to his stated goal of creating 300,000 below-market-rate housing units by 2026. As of July, more than 135,000 “affordable housing” units have been constructed since hizzoner declared his target back in 2014, with 25,299 created in fiscal year 2019, according to the city.

Not all of the city’s affordable housing schemes have been well received, especially those involving the sale of public land.

In 2017, the Legal Aid Society sued the city to prevent the Economic Development Corporation from leasing out the publicly-owned Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights to developer BFC Partners, which agreed to construct a mix of market-rate and affordable units, along with a state-of-the-art recreation center.

Opponents of that scheme blasted the deal — the early incarnations of which featured a host of luxury condos — as a giveaway to developers, which they feared would supercharge gentrification in the neighborhood. 

But the developer agreed to ax the luxe condos and enhance the project’s affordable housing components, and a judge later dismissed the Legal Aid suit in July last year. 

Before the city can sell off its property to developers, City Council will have to approve the land transfer following a lengthy public review process, through which the builders will also seek an Urban Development Action Area Project designation, which carries a 20-year exemption from real estate taxes on the assessed value of the building.

The city and developers will present the proposal at the civic panel’s next full board meeting which will then give its purely advisory vote on Dec. 2.

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