What Ever Happened to the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement?
By Mary Alice Miller
The Atlantic Yards project was sold to Brooklyn as a “Net” win for everybody. Residents and local businesses displaced by eminent domain and job seekers in surrounding communities were told the project would provide 10,000 jobs and affordable housing. A community benefits agreement – NYC’s first – guaranteed public benefits for the largest development project in living memory.
The 2005 Atlantic Yards CBA crafted by eight select organizations made numerous promises to sweeten FCRC’s promised office, residential and retail buildings anchored by the Barclay sports arena. The CBA outlined housing, workforce development, small business development, community facilities and amenities, environmental initiatives, public housing initiatives, faith-based referral services, and educational and related services.
Let’s see how well the CBA has worked so far.
When the CBA was established, an independent compliance monitor was to be hired to ensure all community benefits were met. To this date, no compliance monitor has been named.
The initial scope of the project in 2006 included an office tower – called Miss Brooklyn – which was to provide commercial office space for businesses and employment. By the 2009 closing of the project, Miss Brooklyn was scraped.
BUILD (a signatory to the CBA) was to oversee 35% minority and 10% women construction worker employment on the project. NYC did get a high school for construction management and trades. BUILD is no longer part of the CBA board.
ACORN (another signatory to the CBA) was supposed to oversee the affordable housing component. ACORN no longer exists, although several organizations staffed by previous ACORN employees are said to have taken ACORN’s role. The 2005 CBA called for 50% of the residential units affordable to low and moderate income families. By 2009 closing, 2,250 of 4,500 rental units will be for low and middle-income residents with 10% of these set aside for seniors. An additional 2,000 units will be market rate condos.
The first building (in Phase l) consisting of 363 rental apartments is scheduled to be completed in 2015. But, the original 10 year timeframe for completion of the entire project has been pushed back to 25 years or more. Construction of Phase ll residential buildings, 8 acres of open space accessible to the public and neighborhood retail space will commence only after a new rail yard and station platform is completed for the MTA LIRR. But the actual construction of the MTA platform upon which 6 of the buildings will be constructed in MTA airspace may commence as late at 2025.
With a currently scheduled completion date of 2035 or later, the CBA promises all tenants displaced by the project access to reasonably comparable living space within the project. If no reasonable living space is available within the project, the developer shall pay the difference in rent for a reasonably comparable living space outside the project area.… if they live that long.
Fifty upper bowl tickets, four lower bowl tickets and one suite are aside for community use via a lottery system. A $15 price for promised 2,000 low-priced seats for all regular and post-season games lasted just one year. According to a published report last year, Barclay Center and Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark said the referred to $15 ticket price was a “sampling opportunity.”
Season 2 has seen low price tickets rise to $25.
The CBA called for an on-site health care center and inter-generational facility consisting of child care, youth and senior centers in one building with common corridors and an atrium. The arena was to be made available to community groups for at least 10 events a year at a reasonable rent.
It was well-known that Rev. Herbert Daughtry advocated for the CBA because the intergenerational component which would include daycare … But last year the Bloomberg administration changed child care RFP guidelines so that Daughtry’s nationally-acclaimed day care service would no longer be eligible to contract with the city. Daughtry’s day care centers are now managed by other service providers. No one knows who will manage Atlantic Yard’s intergenerational program, if it ever materializes.
Based upon the 2013 ranking of top 100 arena venues, the Barclays Center ranks #3 in the world based on concert ticket sales.
Yet, 1,900 of Barclay arena’s 2,000 jobs are part time with no benefits. That’s right: only 100 Barclay arena jobs are fulltime. According to a 2009 NYC Independent Budget Office report, the arena has received $750 million in direct and indirect taxpayer funded subsidies.
Perhaps when the Atlantic Yards project is finally complete someone will be alive to remember what was originally promised as community benefits.