NEW YORK CITY—Under pressure from both the city and state governments, Forest City Ratner Cos. has agreed to dramatically expedite the timetable for the affordable housing portion of its Atlantic Yards project.
As part of a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, the new plan will shorten the completion timeframe to build 2,250 affordable apartments by ten years, from 2035 to 2025. Additionally, the agreement calls for the creation of a board—the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp.—to provide input on development, housing, and community impact throughout the completion of the project.
The city, through its Housing Development Corp., will provide financial support to ensure the delivery of two 100% affordable housing buildings, totaling at least 590 units, and construction will begin by December of this year.
Says MaryAnne Gilmartin, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner, “FCRC is very pleased to commit to an accelerated schedule for building out Atlantic Yards. We have worked tirelessly to move the project forward. With our new development partner Greenland USA on board we anticipate starting an all-affordable residential building by the end of this year and another in June of 2015. We recognize the critical need to bring affordable housing to market and are proud to deliver on this public good with our state, city and community partners. Today is very much a new day for the Atlantic Yards project. We are excited to move forward with a great partner, an aggressive building schedule and stronger community alignment.”
Asserts Cuomo, “New York State is delivering a plan that will ensure this vital housing is built quickly and efficiently and that the community is engaged in every step of the project. This agreement is a win for the state and, most importantly, for Brooklyn residents who will finally begin to see affordable buildings being constructed in their neighborhoods.”
Adds Mayor Bill de Blasio, “We are determined to jumpstart affordable housing at Atlantic Yards. And we are proud to have worked with Governor Cuomo and the coalition that’s joined together in this community to get this project moving in real time. And what’s remarkable is that compared to the project’s first building, we’ve secured nearly twice as many affordable units for our City investment.”
The deal impacts the transportation infrastructure—for the better, notes Thomas Prendergast, chairman and CEO of the Metrpolitan Transportation Authority, which is why the agency was involved in pushing this deal forward. “This new agreement between the MTA and Forest City is better for the Long Island Rail Road, better for the community, and better for everyone who will benefit from the new development coming to what was long an open sore in the heart of Brooklyn. The MTA is glad to be able to help make this improvement happen in a way that benefits everyone involved.”
In a related move, the MTA this week approved a new plan to speed up construction of building foundations in the MTA Long Island Rail Road rail yard on the site, which is an important step to allow Forest City to begin building a platform above the yard and to allow future phases of the Atlantic Yards development to rise.
According to the New York Times, the FCR deal stemmed from Cuomo’s desire to impose a timeline on a long-sputtering project sponsored by New York State, Mayor de Blasio’s eagerness to make significant progress on his vow to create 200,000 units of affordable housing and a deep-pocketed Chinese company eager to jump into New York’s booming real estate market.
Forest City Ratner is completing a partnership agreement this week with the company, Greenland Holding Group, that represents the group’s first investment in New York and one that will inject tens of millions in fresh capital into the project, the Times states.
This year, Greenland executives—who are buying a 70% stake in the project—said publicly that they wanted to complete Atlantic Yards in eight years. The company will pay about $200 million for its stake in the project and cover 70% of future costs.
On Friday, the state’s economic development authority is expected to approve the new timetable and hefty financial penalties if the developer fails to meet the agreed-upon goals.
Forest City already has committed to building a new permanent rail yard on the site, which will be able to service and store additional trains when the LIRR begins expanded service for its East Side Access project. The permanent yard construction completion deadline will be extended from June 2016 to December 2017 in recognition of the expanded scope of work, as well as the substantial excavation and other preparatory work already performed on the site.
The MTA Board’s action Wednesday allows Forest City to build the platform foundations at the same time as the rail yard, which will make construction more efficient, reduce disruptions in the surrounding area, and eliminate conflicts between railroad operations and platform foundation construction.
Atlantic Yards is a 22-acre, $4.9 billion project, that consists of the 18,000-seat Barclays Arena, the development of a reconfigured and improved LIRR train yard and subway facility improvements; the development of 16 buildings for residential, office and retail uses and potentially a hotel, including up to 6,430 apartments—which will include 4,500 rental units of which 2,250 units (50%) will be affordable to low, moderate and middle income households—and the creation of eight acres of publicly accessible open space.