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NEW YORK CITY-The New York State Housing Finance Agency’s decision to award $340 million in Liberty Bond funding to three Downtown rental apartment projects over the strenuous objections of housing advocates was thrown into limbo yesterday when a state agency voted to table aid for two of the buildings.

The Public Authorities Control Board, which oversees and reviews projects financed for public authorities, including HFA, turned down $100 million in federal funding for a 287-unit building to be located at 10 Liberty St. and another $115 million for the 264-unit Battery Park City Site 19B. The 293-unit 20 River Terrace property, currently under construction, was the only Liberty Bond project on the PACB’s agenda to pass. That building will receive will receive $125 million in federal funding through the $8-billion Liberty Bond Program.

State Comptroller Carl McCall, a non-voting member of the PACB, yesterday urged the agency to reject the three buildings’ funding applications. “This plan is bad housing policy and bad economic policy,” said the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. “We desperately need affordable housing in New York. Instead of using these scarce resources to meet this huge need, the [HFA} rushed through this plan to finance luxury housing.”

HFA spokeswoman Sally Crockett lambasted McCall’s remarks as political grandstanding. “You would think that Carl McCall would know that Congress voted in a bipartisan way to establish the Liberty Bond Program as an economic stimulus program,” she told GlobeSt.com yesterday. “This initiative will not impede or replace the other traditional programs that are targeted toward lower-income citizens and that have helped created more than 125,000 new housing opportunities for New Yorkers.”

Of the three projects, only 20 River Terrace was conceived as a 100% market-rate apartment building. The other two properties were originally slated to include 80% market-rate units and 20% lower-income housing. Under HFA’s Liberty Bond issuance guidelines, multifamily projects are required to have only 5% of their units reserved for moderate-income residents, which prompted objections to two of the projects from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, a PACB voting member. Silver has endorsed McCall’s bid for Governor.

According to Bryan Franke, a spokesman for Silver, the speaker “needed additional time to review” why the 80-20 formula is not workable for the two tabled projects. The River Terrace building “wasn’t going to be able to continue” without the Liberty Bond cash infusion, he said. “After Sept. 11, private investment funds became scarce,” Franke tells GlobeSt.com. “The HFA and PACB decided to fund 20 River Terrace with Liberty Bonds in order to keep that project viable.”

The HFA incurred the wrath of watchdog groups when it approved Liberty Bond funding for the three projects on Aug. 6. In an interview with GlobeSt.com last week, Good Jobs New York project director Bettina Damiani blasted the agency, asking, “If these funds are inappropriate to build affordable housing with then why is the HFA pushing these projects?” See earlier story: Tempers Flare Over $340M ‘Liberty’ Funding.

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