Project 80 Flatbush, in downtown Brooklyn on the edge of Boerum Hill, is finally set to begin construction of the first phase of the project, a 44-story, 480-foot tower. Thanks to the post-pandemic realities, it will be different from what was presented to City Council in September 2018.
Questions remain as to when the affordable housing component of the project, its main selling point, will be fully delivered, if there are any significant penalties associated with ensuring timely delivery, and what they can do. to be.
Alloy Development proposed the project as a mix of affordable and market-priced rents, office space as well as two new schools and cultural space on a trapezoidal site bounded by Flatbush and Third avenues, and streets Schermerhorn and State.
The project was to be developed in two phases. The first phase would contain a flat-iron-shaped tower at Flatbush Avenue and State Street, housing market-priced units and offices, as well as schools. Phase two would involve a taller tower extending from a more cubic base, spanning some 840 feet, which would contain affordable and market-priced housing units.
Originally, the first phase was to be completed in 2022 and the second phase in 2025, but the timeline has slipped. In December 2019, when Alloy announced plans for the First Tower, an all-electric (a premier) building designated 100 Flatbush, construction was scheduled to begin in spring 2020 and be completed by 2023.
The second taller tower, which was to contain some 640 of the approximately 900 apartments in the project, including the 200 permanently affordable apartments, was to be completed by 2026.
Below-market units will be aimed at low-income households at an average of 60% of the area’s median income (MAI). Income limits starting in 2021 are $ 50,160 for a single person and $ 71,580 for a family of four.
Pandemic change plans
Then came the pandemic, which not only delayed construction, but rocked the office market as well, altering Alloy’s plans.
The developer decided to swap some 100,000 square feet of office space for housing, increasing the total from 257 apartments to 441 apartments, as noted in Building Department records. Alloy says 45 of the apartments – around 10% – would be affordable, although no affordable units were required in the first tower.
“The market for financing speculative commercial office space has been very difficult,” Alloy spokesman James Yolles told Bklyner. “In this context, we decided to rebalance the program between the phases.
The approved zoning allows for flexibility regarding the amount of residential and office space, and the division between phases, he said, noting that Alloy is aiming for a construction start “in late spring / early spring. summer “.
“We believe this is all coming at a critical time as the city strives to recover from the pandemic,” Yolles said, citing 700 school places, affordable housing, schools built to low energy standards. the passive house and hundreds of jobs. The new primary school will have 350 places, while the capacity of Khalil Gibran will increase from 300 to 350 students in the new building.
The first phase is scheduled by the developer to be completed in the first half of 2024. The second phase will start at an unspecified time thereafter and is expected to take three years.
Implications of the delay in affordable housing
Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), Alloy’s affordable housing partner, told Bklyner that she is aware of the changes and that she is happy that some affordable housing has moved up to the first. phase.
The delivery of 45 affordable apartments by 2024, just under a quarter of what the project is expected to develop, can help offset the fact that the rest of the affordable units will now be delayed by at least 2 years – until ‘in 2027. If the area’s median income, based on regional statistics, continues to rise, the delay makes housing less affordable for city residents.
“Critically, this project responds to equitable housing needs by creating genuinely and sustainably affordable housing in one of Brooklyn’s wealthiest neighborhoods – something we sorely miss – and we’re excited to start soon,” de la Uz said, referring to the city’s emphasis on fair housing goals.
“We are fully convinced that affordable housing will be delivered in accordance with zoning and as approved by ULURP in 2018,” she added.
Zoning requires that 20% of the overall residential floor area be devoted to affordable units.
Schedule, delays and enforceability
Questions remain about the launch of phase 2 and what is in this tower.
“Market conditions at the time of phase 2 will determine the mix of uses for phase 2,” said Yolles. “No further approval will be required.”
Phase 2 cannot be started until the end of Phase 1, as it includes land currently occupied by the Khalil Gibran Academy, which will get a new school in the building developed during phase 1.
Part of the Phase 1 tower that will become the Schools will be owned by ECF, the New York City Department of Education’s Educational Building Fund, which is partnering with developers on mixed-use projects including new schools. The part owned by ECF will be leased to Alloy, and the revenue from that part will cover debt service on school construction bonds, Yolles explained.
After the completion of phase 1, ECF will transfer the public land to allow the development of phase 2.
ECF may charge penalties, which are designed to ensure the timely delivery of projects.
“They come into play if Alloy is delayed at the start of Phase 2 after ECF transfers the land to him from Phase 2, which happens at the end of Phase 1,” Yolles said.
The mystery of sentences
What exactly are these penalties for delays?
Alloy declined to comment. De la Uz said the issue is “not something AEC can comment on.” ECF and board member Steve Levin also did not respond to Bklyner’s questions.
De la Uz noted an important incentive – once the Phase 2 building has started, he cannot get his final occupancy certificate without the Compulsory Inclusion Housing Units (MIH) being fully rented, this which is an important incentive to finalize and lease the MIH units. It is a key element of the law enforcement that the City has put in place. “
But transparency regarding a delayed start is still lacking. In order to learn more about these sanctions, this journalist filed on October 16, 2018 a request for a law on freedom of information (FOIL) with the town hall and another with the Ministry of Education, which has been referred to the Educational Construction Fund. None provided responsive documents.
An equally important development nearby could serve as an indirect reference. A coalition of Brooklyn neighborhood groups negotiated the penalty for the Atlantic Yards project in 2014, after threats of fair housing lawsuits. The developer must pay the city $ 2,000 per month for each affordable unit of the project, renamed from Pacific Park, which does not deliver by May 31, 2025.