Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Downtown Brooklyn rezoning produced housing (& the DBP is happy), but shouldn't landowners who got a gift have been required to share the wealth?

In a 2/27/11 article headlined Downtown Brooklyn's residential growth: Downtown, slated for office space, got a residential boom, Crain's reports how the downtown Brooklyn rezoning approved in 2004 has produced far less than the "forecast 4.5 million square feet of new office space and accompanying 18,500 jobs."

Rather, 1.3 million square feet of office space has been produced--no job total announced--and a lot of new housing: 23 residential buildings, and 4300 units.

The designated cheerleader is happy:
“One of the components of a healthy downtown is having a 24/7 community with a vibrant residential sector,” said Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “We're delighted.”
What about the change?

Yes, that's a component, but then again there's the record:
“We were supposed to get the third-largest business district in the city [behind midtown and lower Manhattan],” said Robert Perris, manager for Brooklyn's Community Board 2, which includes downtown. “What we've gotten is a high-rise residential neighborhood.”
Affordable housing

The article notes:
City Councilwoman Letitia James, who represents large sections of the downtown area, argued that the boom has excluded low- and middle-income families. She also noted that the neighborhood lacks schools, food stores and other necessary services and amenities.

“We were sold a bill of goods,” Ms. James said. The residential component should have more affordable housing, she added, but what she most wants to see is the thriving commercial center that the city initially proposed.
Some commenters have pointed out that there are indeed food stores, but what James means, I'd bet, is that a longstanding supermarket on Myrtle Avenue, serving nearby public housing tenants, was demolished for a yet-to-be built luxury housing complex.

And James is right about affordable housing. Property owners in the rezoning were given a huge increase in development rights, aimed to encourage office space. The city failed to recognize that if property owners instead chose housing, they should have been required to share the wealth.

So too did advocates like ACORN, which has criticized the fruits of the rezoning (and contrasted it with the promised subsidized housing in the Atlantic Yards project), but sat out the debate.

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