CB6 to Toll Brothers: Put housing promise in writing

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Community Board 6 has rescinded its approval of a controversial residential development on the Carroll Gardens side of the fetid Gowanus Canal unless the developer promises — in writing — to include below-market-rate housing in the 447-unit project.

In November, Community Board 6 supported Toll Brothers’ request to rezone two blocks to allow the first large, mixed-income housing project on the banks of the polluted waterway.

But the board voted last week to make that approval contingent on a legally binding agreement to construct affordable housing on the site.

Toll Brothers says the plan sets aside 30 percent of the proposed units as “affordable housing” — but until the developer puts the offer in writing, some residents fear that the builder will take advantage of the lucrative zoning change yet then claim that the poor economy makes it impossible to the company to follow through on the affordable housing promise.

Changing the zoning from manufacturing to resident would allow Toll Brothers to build 12-story towers on the site, which is bounded by Carroll, Second, and Bond streets and the canal.

“[Toll Brothers] certainly represented the project as having affordable housing at its core — and that made people willing to accept something that is uncharacte­ristically larger than would otherwise be allowed,” CB6 District Manager and City Council hopeful Craig Hammerman said after the nearly unanimous Feb. 11 vote. “So if they are unable to provide that affordable housing, there is no reason they should be allowed to build something of that size and bulk.”

But the builders say they won’t put their promise of affordable housing in writing, mostly because federal subsidies that typically subsidize the construction of low-income housing have begun drying up.

“We’ve always envisioned affordable as part of this project, and we continue to envision it — but affordable housing is not built without subsidies, and if for some reason, subsidies were not available, then we would not be able to build the affordable [units],” said Toll Brothers Vice President David Von Spreckelsen.

“The suggestion that we put something in the deed restriction — something that has never been done in New York City — is not something we would ever entertain as rational business people,” he added.

It’s unclear whether such an agreement has actually “never been done,” according to Department of Housing Preservation and Development spokesman Seth Donlin — but it certainly isn’t common.

“While [developers] are strongly incentivized to provide affordable housing, making them write it into the deed is not something that the city would typically do,” he said. “We act through incentives, not mandates.”

Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Pat from Bay Ridge says:
I'm so sick of this "affordable housing" nonsense. All it does is increase the price of the other units and leave a huge gap in the middle that excludes the middle class. You want "affordable housing"? The only way to truly achieve that (without pitting class against class) is to convince developers to stop tearing down old housing.
Feb. 19, 2009, 9:44 am
CB6 vs. CB2 from Bklyn USA says:
Apparently CB6 had the good sense to ask Toll Brothers development company to put their promises for “affordable housing” in legally binding writing before they would vote to give the developer a requested zoning change. The upshot? The developer refused to put the promise in writing. Says a lot.

I wish CB2 had the same good sense before they gave Two Trees Managment its requested zoning change for the Dock Street DUMBO project.
Feb. 19, 2009, 12:45 pm
canal lap swimmer from Gowanus says:
That's nice. And six days later the Toll Brothers applications were approved by the City Planning Commission. Next!
Feb. 20, 2009, 12:27 pm
911NewYorker from BedStuy says:
Affordable housing= low-income housing projects peeps & big time trouble to all the market rate residents. to me personally; this will be a big no-go!!!
Feb. 25, 2009, 12:10 pm
hsb202 from PA says:
Nov. 23, 2010, 8:30 pm

Comments closed.

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