Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ratner Meeting Draws a Crowd, Opponents Rally Sunday

Chalk up an early PR victory (moderated as the day goes on by skepticism) in the latest skirmish for the hearts and minds of Brooklynites over Atlantic Yards for Forest City Ratner. The developer can claim that it drew a crowd estimated at 2,500 people to the meeting it held on affordable housing at the Brooklyn Marriott. However, many of the attendees were frustrated at the long odds of snagging an apartment and surprised that "affordable" housing will cost so much.

The high turnout was likely a reflection of the awful housing situation in Brooklyn for low- and moderate-income families. And, probably also the result of a mistaken belief that showing up would somehow give them a leg up on snagging an apartment that won't even exist for 4-10 years, assuming the project is built.

As for the 2,250 rentals proposed for the Atlantic Yards site: 20 percent would be for households that earn $21,270 to $35,450 while 30 percent would be for families making $42,540 to $113,440. The remainder of the 6,860 units--ie. 4,610 of them--would be luxury/market rate. Distribution of apartments--if the project is built--would be lottery.Next up: The Atlantic Yards opponents are holding a rally at Grand Army Plaza, this Sunday, July 16 at 2:00. Will more people turn out to jeer Atlantic Yards than apparently showed at the Marriott last night to hear about affordable housing?

Stay tuned.

Update: This morning, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) announced it was adding eight new members to its Advisory Board. Included are former New York City Planning Commissioner and Pratt Institute Professor of Planning Ron Shiffman, author Rick Moody, playwright Lynn Nottage, Brooklyn singer Toshi Reagon, author Myla Goldberg, author and editor Philip Gourevitch, artist and architect Chris Doyle, and comedian and actor Michael Showalter.

Update, V.2.0: Check out Norman Oder's thoughtful and comprehensive dissection of the media coverage of the event and his thorough reporting of the session itself. Forest City Ratner let Mr. Oder into this event as opposed to banning him. (He got an automated phone call confirming he was on the list, but then, the crush of people at the door was so great that they gave up on checking names.)
As in Presidential debates, the press coverage determines whether you win or lose. And, there seems to be a great deal of spin away from Forest City Ratner, after an initial focus on the big turnout for the company's affordable housing session. A number of articles pointed out that many people that showed up left disappointed, both at the long odds of getting an apartment if they're ever built and at the high cost of what is considered "affordable" in Brooklyn these days. The New York Observer, for instance, wrote "a striking number of individuals in the largely black crowd who showed up at the Brooklyn Marriott were disappointed to find that 'affordable housing' was not that affordable, or accessible." As for Mr. Oder's perceptive take, he writes that "if project planners were looking to generate significant new support, as opponents plan a protest and the state environmental review hits its stride, they might try another tactic. The applause for the project was tepid; the strongest reaction came when people questioned the housing's cost and timetable. A large portion of the crowd walked out after 40 minutes, before the 20-minute Q & A. Why? Perhaps because they had already learned some key facts: applications wouldn’t be available for at least three years, with occupancy a year later, and a lottery will assign two-thirds of the places."

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