The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Forcing the Issue

Just sharing a note I sent to members of the ULURP committee. I wonder if we can jumpstart the idea of affordability AND call the question of whether we are really talking about affordable housing, or pure selfish NIMBYism. Curious what Q readers think...

Dear All:

At the next Committee meeting I would like to place a motion on the floor for consideration.
Since to a number we have all questioned the affordability of units that would be built on Empire Blvd, and since the Mayor and Council have placed affordable housing at the top of the agenda, what if we asked for something TRULY radical and progressive.
With support from our elected officials at state, city and federal levels, we could ask that Empire Blvd be a bold new case study for building ALL affordable units. The governments could pool resources to buy up all the commercial land (by eminent domain if necessary) and build low-income housing, real low-income housing. ALL affordable. With height limits, of course.
With a non-profit developer, like CAMBA, we create a model for low income housing in a desirable neighborhood for the first time in decades. Priority could be given for people who are currently living, or have recently been displaced, from CB9.
At the same time, the City should consider the best places to downzone, to address the distress and pressure faced by residents of inner blocks.


Anonymous said...

Stupid idea Tim. That would be terrible for all of our property values, yours included. Redeveloping Empire is a great idea but we should stick to an 80/20 mix. With all of the affordable development going up in ENY those priced out of PLG can likely find a unit there. I also know that Brownsville and Cypress Hills are great for low income needs. Lots of services out there.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Force the issue. All along I've felt this "protect the people" line was b.s.

However, if they could do 50/50 - with deep affordability on the affordable side. what you think then? Or are we so scared of public housing now we can't even imagine it?

Look at the Projects in Boerum Hill or Clinton Hill. Barely made a dent in home prices. Maybe it's not so bad living near the PJ's after all.

I got a lot of "you just want to move all the black people out of here" lines the other night. What if we actually actively tried to draw low income people of color INTO the neighborhood? Would MTOPP still claim to be the protector of the people?

I sincerely doubt it, not if it were near their homes. Their rhetoric is shallow. At the very least, it might make some of acolytes realize how unreliable she is as a partner.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Radical Idea but too much like right.

As we have learned...Affordable is a catch phrase...We need low income housing. It is needed for the very same tenants who are living where "Affordable" Housing is being built.

It is sad that when one group is protected (tenants) and cared for another group (homeowners) is punished. Clearly unfair and causes division.

Adrian said...

You always seem to stress Empire Boulevard as a place to develop low income housing. Clarkson's quite a way from Empire, which makes me suspect you have some disguised NIMBYism of your own.

Alex said...

We already know that she's a phony. Seems like there are only a handful of people left who don't remember her "throwing trash into my yard" comments.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Adrian: Nope! Wrong guy. I'm very much in favor of new buildings, but I want them to have affordable units. Smart Development. Emphasis on smart.

There IS an annoying teardown happening on my block that I wish I could save, if you're looking for a (not) hidden agenda. It's a rowhouse (19 Clarkson) right between two other rowhouses. These are the sorts of projects in mid-blocks that would have and are having a tremendous impact on the character of the neighborhood. The Historic District has intense protections that the rest of the neighborhood doesn't have.

I'm on Empire Blvd ALL the time my friend. I consider it an integral part of my neighborhood. I'm probably there more often than Ms. Boyd. It's potential to be a wonderful, family friendly area of housing and shops, joining the neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Lefferts, is enormous. We should all welcome smart civic planning here that takes into account the needs of ALL residents.

Do I secretly hope that a developer comes and buys up property next to Boyd and builds a six-story luxury building? In all honesty, yes, I harbor such fantasies. But I'd still rather see her protected and all the other cute blocks protected from outsize finger buildings, than have the satisfaction of hearing construction noise while biking down Sterling.

I'm about to welcome, easily, another 500-600 new units on my block, and I'm not the one complaining about density. I'm offended that in an affordable housing crisis, we're not taking up the mantle of forcing developers to build for the working poor and middle-class.

There is a new anti-NIMBY movement growing in places like San Francisco, because renters have finally realized the degree to which homeowners are shafting them. Everyone is FOR affordable housing, until it's to be built anywhere near them, too tall, or with even a hint of "luxury."

What I find particularly distasteful is the idea that some OTHER neighborhood must endure the new buildings. Please. It's New York Friggin' City. Get over yourself.

Build 8 to 10 story buildings on Flatbush, if you can within the law. But not 23 stories. And please, please, include 50/30/20 schemes. Is that so much to ask? No. Actually, the City is demanding it, but our neighborhood is stuck in NIMBYism.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

One hilarious sidenote, At last week's meeting, when I was talking about how the Empire area was most definitely NOT overbuilt, she said "it's not MY fault that you moved to the ugliest block in Brooklyn!"

Wow. I'm serious now. Do you know ANYone who would say such a thing? She is just plain NASty.

Thankfully there is at least one block uglier. And it's just one street north of her!

Jacob said...

60 Clarkson is a notorious homeless shelter, flea and rat-trap, etc. Yet houses on that block are going for $1.5m+.
Tell me again how affordable housing is bad for property values in PLG?

Anonymous said...

I believe your intentions are noble with this idea, but I think it may just create a segregated "poor" area on and around Empire, with prices increasing as you move away from Empire. I think mixed income housing with various tiers of low, middle, and market rate would be ideal and should make the most people happy (some people will never be happy). Sometimes the gap between the categories is ridiculous, like either you make 20k and pay $500 or 120k and pay $2700, with not much in between, so the multiple tiers is something I would like to see more of. It will also create a vibrant area with all walks of life and less of a clear divide between two classes.

Anonymous said...

Curious how much would it cost to subsidize building attractive quality, affordable housing on Empire? How much is it per unit at a range of building heights?

I really have no idea. If it is a 9 story building, is it a subsidy of 100k per unit or 200k or more? Would be nice to quantify the subsidy on a per household basis so we get a sense of cost/benefit.

At what point does it just make sense to write a check out to the household so that they can invest in improving their livelihood (perhaps education) vs giving them subsidized housing?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

For African-Americans, what you're describing sounds more like reparations, an idea gaining support among intellectuals.

But permanent low-income housing is not targeted at individuals. It's for whomever qualifies at the time of application. It doesn't follow a person or family, like Section 8.

Solid question though.

MikeF said...

If this were as simple as wanting to improve the recipients lives, that might work. ...however, this is about neighborhood aesthetics and appearances of equality. it won't.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Just curious Mike. What would you say about the great experiment in Low Income Housing known familiarly as "The Projects?" I'd basically be proposing some sort of similar vibe.

That's why I named the post "Forcing the Issue." Because I actually don't think most people give a rat's ass about deeply affordable housing. And that shit is WAY expensive, forget about the miniscule subsidies of 421a. To build thousands upon thousands of truly affordable housing for the poor is NOT what generally what people outside that demographic want.

MikeF said...

shhhh, they want to believe that they do. It makes them feel superior to those who don't.

Anonymous said...

We don't need more low income housing. We have that at the Ebbet field towers. The middle class are getting priced out and they don't qualify for city housing. Ask an economist, no middle class in a place is bad. Empire should be a mix of middle class and working class housing. By which I mean people with jobs but whose jobs aren't hedge fund managers. What's so wrong about helping civil servants with housing? People whose jobs are teachers, police, sanitation workers. We want police to live local? Know what a rookie gets paid? They can't afford it here.

Clarkson F-bed said...

Anon 9:03: I think you might be underinformed about Ebbets. It's Mitchell Lama housing. It's not low income housing. Preferential rents are now disappearing and ABBA can charge whatever they like up to the rent stablized max. Now that they can charge, and are getting, near $2,000 for the bigger units, you can be certain that they too are pushing out older less affluent tenants. In fact, they're in a state of emergency, according to the tenant association.

In other words, far from being decrepit public housing, Ebbets is a GOLDmine. Location, location, location. I wouldn't even be surprised to see a serious facelift in the offing. It's been under-financed for way too long, and now's the time, right?

I'm beginning to think that I haven't done a very good job describing the enormity of the situation. But ah well. We can count on the Community Board to do the right thing and cut through the bull!

It's quite interesting that we have so much stock of apartments and so little public housing. We have group homes and assisted living and supportive housing, but that's all contracts, and those contracts can disappear. Very quickly. Moses Fried, for instance, owns the "uninhabited" building at 205 Parkside at the corner of Parkside Court. He also owns two apartment buildings on Woodruff that currently house supportive housing. As soon as his dementia becomes death, I trust his heirs will realize their good fortune and suddenly find themselves able to cancel the contracts and become regular old market rate landlords.

So while the yarn may go that Lefferts has LOTS of affordable housing, it's simply not true. The market has crept up to bite that housing in the ass, and it's making off with a fair amount of rump flesh.

MikeF said...

Here's a crude primer on the flipping of Ebbetts:

Anonymous said...

Sadly, $2,000 for a large unit, I'm assuming you mean 3br, actually is cheap for a large city. Not just in NYC but in Chicago. Seattle. Los Angeles. But it's disappointing to hear Ebbets got turned into a different kind of housing. In that case, build a huge low income building and a huge middle class building across the street or next door on Empire all belonging to the same complex. Minneapolis developers have done that.

babs said...

Ebbets Field Apartments are NOT Mitchell Lama. They were when built in 1962, but opted out of the program 25 years later, as allowed by law, as their owners thought they would be able to get higher rents. Unfortunately, in 1987 most long-term middle class tenants wants to get out of Brooklyn, not pay more to stay. Unable to attract conventional tenants, the owners accepted many social program tenants (Section 8, etc.). Most of the apartments are still stabilized, but otherwise it's the same renovate and re-rent every year or two as in other rental buildings around here. Tivoli Towers is still Mitchell-Lama.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse meeeeeeeee! Yes, built ML but no longer. And while they've seen their down days, they have never been "low income housing." In fact, some folks I've met from there are decidedly middle class. With views like that, you could put up with shenanigans.

Bob Marvin said...

"Tivoli Towers is still Mitchell-Lama". Yes, but the owners have not rented apartments as they become vacant; it's largely vacant.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Are they trying to go to condo? That's smart, but if they're warehousing, illegal, no?

MikeF said...

It seems the owner of Tivoli is going to let it become more and more vacant until it finally ages out of Mitchell Lama in 2024.

The politicians and city agencies gave the developer money to remain in Mitchell Lama until then, but were too foolish to include a stipulation that the apartments must be OCCUPIED to get the funding.

Here's more than you want to know about Tivoli:

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Sounds like a scandal to me. Something you think the neighborhood should actually try to stop? I'm serious now. I feel like Laurie and Diana and Jessie need something constructive to do.

MikeF said...

Too late. The developer has a valid contract.

As a result, the developer now perceives the apartments are worth more vacant than they are occupied. ...if you and I were him, we'd likely do the same thing.