City Sees Growth; Residents Call It Out of Control - NYT — Brooklynian

City Sees Growth; Residents Call It Out of Control - NYT

This is exactly what I have been saying, for what, 2 years...lack of planning and an ignorance in dealing with what was the inevitable...developers at the helm of a sinking ship. But, not women and children first...men with the fat wallets on board first!

I cannot believe that the Mayor's office is attempting to spin the over development boom into some sort of calculated move...
“We tried to do something absolutely new here,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “Now what you’re starting to see is it all happening.”

You mean, falling apart? Spin, spin, spin...

I could not believe this stat:
Last year, the department issued 24,610 permits in Brooklyn, including 1,924 for demolition and 1,740 permits for new buildings. That was roughly double the demolition and new construction of five years earlier, and it was all handled by 25 inspectors.

That's right, 24K+ permits, 25 inspectors...

And the most repugnant:
one hulking complex with Brazilian teak floors. Sales posters for the building — which received a permit before the area’s height limits were put in place — brag, “It is now illegal to get this high.”

Argh!

I hope the Mayor is proud that his "affordable" housing track record is overwhelming "not affordable" to the average person!

Here's the article:

****************

NY Times
November 6, 2006
City Sees Growth; Residents Call It Out of Control

By DAMIEN CAVE
“Buildings are popping up like mushrooms,” said Christopher Olechowski, 59, a member of the community board for Greenpoint and Williamsburg and a longtime resident of the area. “Down Manhattan Avenue, all you hear are jackhammers. If you go down Kent, the road is being repaved.

“It’s everywhere,” he said. “I have to sweep the dust off my car almost every day now.”

If Mr. Olechowski sounds a bit frantic, he is far from alone. Even in an area of Brooklyn familiar with growth and gentrification, the sweeping changes wrought by the city’s rezoning 18 months ago have left many residents here feeling dizzied.

The city’s goals were ambitious. Greenpoint-Williamsburg was meant to be a model of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s vision for former industrial zones, an example of empathetic urban planning. In exchange for letting developers build residential towers on the waterfront, where factories had stood for decades, the city created a plan that it said would add residential growth and preserve the character of the neighborhood inland. At the same time, the plan was to provide thousands of apartments for low- and middle-income families, acres of green space, and protection for residents and businesses being displaced by the growth.

City officials say that their plan is right on schedule, especially by the waterfront, where construction has started on projects that will produce 460 below-market apartments, plus an initial few acres of parkland.

But among many residents and community leaders, there is a nagging sense that the government has not moved fast enough to keep pace with developers.

In September, the city’s Department of Buildings received 337 complaints about construction in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, more than twice the filings from the community board of another fast-growing area nearby. In the heart of the rezoned area, near McCarren Park, luxury towers climb skyward, yet only nine new apartments of low- and middle-income housing are being built, far below the city’s original estimates.

Meanwhile, money for a legal fund to help tenants fight displacement has yet to be distributed because of snags in the city’s complex scheme to finance it.

“This has been going on for a year and a half already,” said Jack Bikowski, a housing advocate with the North Brooklyn Development Corporation, a social service organization that works with tenants. The city does not have residents’ concerns on the front burner, he said. “The front burner is occupied by the developers.”

Mr. Bikowski said that before the rezoning, he dealt with dozens of tenants being forced out by landlords or by construction next door that made their buildings uninhabitable. Over the past 18 months, he said, the problem has increased.

His current clients include a 90-year-old woman on North Ninth Street being threatened with eviction, three tenants in a building on Eagle Street being told by a new landlord that their rent is about to more than double, and a 61-year-old disabled woman who is being evicted on a claim that the landlord needs the apartment for a relative.

Other residents have become victims of backhoes. Elizabeth Jankowski said she fled her Diamond Street home in Greenpoint last November, with her 8-year-old daughter and 83-year-old grandmother, because the Fire Department ruled that the construction of condominiums next door had cracked walls in her home and made it unsafe.

“It looked like an earthquake,” said Ms. Jankowski, 45, who sued the developer in February and has yet to return home. “The wall just — there was nothing. I could see into their property next door from my basement, and my basement floor cracked and moved a couple of inches.”

Other empty shells dot the neighborhood. More than 20 construction projects in the area have damaged adjoining structures, according to the Williamsburg/Greenpoint Development Watchdog, a community group that has documented the impact with pictures.

According to developers and architects, part of the problem is structural. Many of the neighborhood’s original homes were built decades ago on weak rubble and stone foundations that crumble if not carefully secured. But residents also question whether the Department of Buildings has the resources to police the construction.

Last year, the department issued 24,610 permits in Brooklyn, including 1,924 for demolition and 1,740 permits for new buildings. That was roughly double the demolition and new construction of five years earlier, and it was all handled by 25 inspectors.

William Harvey, 50, an architect who lives on North Eighth Street between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street, said the city simply seemed outmanned. Standing outside his front door, he pointed to five projects in the works on the block. Two doors down, the message “FDNY DO NOT ENTER” was painted on a red town house to the right of a poured foundation that made the building unsafe. Mr. Harvey said the tenants were forced out last summer.

“We’re in such a huge boom,” he said. “D.O.B. doesn’t have the people power to watch over it.”

City officials tell a different story. In interviews, Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor in charge of development, and officials from the Departments of City Planning, Buildings and Housing Preservation and Development, all said their offices had managed the rezoning as well as possible.

“We tried to do something absolutely new here,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “Now what you’re starting to see is it all happening.”

In addition to the waterfront projects, which they see as their main achievement, city officials highlighted several policy adjustments made to address residents’ concerns. Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for the Buildings Department, said a dozen new inspectors were being hired this year in the Brooklyn office. Officials are also considering making it easier for the city to revoke self-certification privileges, in which architects and engineers approve their own building plans, she said.

And a new rule went into effect on Oct. 25 that requires contractors to notify the department 24 to 48 hours before starting excavation work. “It gives us the power to issue minimum three-day work stop orders,” she said.

City Planning has been active, too. In response to growing concern about developers’ building 10- and 12-story towers within a couple of blocks of streets where the rezoning limits new buildings to roughly half that height, the department is proposing to add several blocks to the zone with height restrictions.

“Things are happening imminently,” said Amanda M. Burden, the director of the Department of City Planning. “Of course they want to see them instantly.”

Housing advocates and preservationists emphasize that “imminently” may not be fast enough. The cherished Old Dutch Mustard factory on Metropolitan Avenue came down last month. Glass towers already shadow McCarren Park, including one hulking complex with Brazilian teak floors. Sales posters for the building — which received a permit before the area’s height limits were put in place — brag, “It is now illegal to get this high.”

The gap between the sprint of the market and the amble of government may also have doomed the expected growth of affordable housing inland, where most people live. The city promised in its plan that 640 new apartments for low- and middle-income families would be created in these areas over roughly a decade.

While developers on the waterfront have taken advantage of a provision that let them construct taller buildings if they set aside at least 20 percent of the apartments for such families, most developers inland have not bothered with a similar program.

With only nine units scheduled so far to be built inland, according to Housing Preservation and Development, Mr. Doctoroff conceded that the city’s incentives for providing less expensive housing inland may have arrived late, after developers formed their plans.

“There might be a slight timing mismatch,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s significant, and I don’t think it will, over all, undermine the program we put in place.”

David Yassky, the city councilman representing the area, offered a harsher assessment, calling the housing program inland “a failure.”

Peter Gillespie, a member of the community advisory board created to work with the city after the rezoning, said several hot-button issues still needed attention.

The city has met only twice with the advisory board, “and it took us a lot of effort” to get those meetings, he said. At the second one on Thursday, community residents asked the city to establish a part-time community liaison to handle all the construction complaints. Members of the board also wanted to know why two properties set aside for waterfront parkland — by the Bushwick inlet and on Commercial Street — had not yet been acquired.

The delay in acquiring the second property, owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has held up the $2 million for a “tenant legal fund” to fight harassment and displacement. Under the provisions of the rezoning, the money was set to come from the sale of air rights to the site.

City officials said they had struggled to find an appropriate new location for the transportation authority and that they would find another way to finance the tenant program. But it might take several months, advocates said.

And for some people, they said, that may be too long. “We needed that money two years ago, three years ago and now,” said Mr. Bikowski, the tenant advocate. “There’s no reason to wait until the thing is over.”
:evil:

Comments

  • You can't have it both ways: if you want housing prices to fall you must increase the supply of housing. If you want to reduce construction and restrain development, then prepare for astronomical housing prices. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
  • escap wrote: You can't have it both ways: if you want housing prices to fall you must increase the supply of housing. If you want to reduce construction and restrain development, then prepare for astronomical housing prices. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
    Actually wasn't looking to have it both ways.

    Currently there is ONLY ONE WAY, luxury condos and little to know affordable housing.

    When the City promoted a FAR bonus to developers to allow them to develop taller and wider, the trade off was they would have to set aside 20% of those units for median income (whatever that is, those #'s are so skewed).

    With the exception of the waterfront developments, like Shaffer's Landing, practically NONE of the other developers have taken the carrot as a trade off for affordable housing. That's the backfire.

    Something that programs like 421a, up-zoned areas along 4th Ave between Atlantic and 25th Sts w/ bonuses have not been utilized.

    Housing prices have artificially inflated due to the land grab and NO ONE can affording of the stock...old or new.

    So, there's the cake. Only folks having it and eating it too are the developers who have taken advantage, again, of these loop holes.
  • Do you think that if one million new units of luxury housing were added to the city, that prices would go up? If you do, then please think carefully about the factors that influence price, b/c you are making a very simple error. Are prices tied to the sign on a bldg that says "luxury", or to other factors? Are construction costs the key issue, or are developers able to sell/rent at rates above their costs? The answer is that they are selling well above cost, so again construction costs are not the key issue (although they are a factor in constraining overall supply).

    What would be the effect of an across the board freeze on housing prices, or a citywide mandate of mass rent control or other price ceilings? The answer is out there, as governments have tried price ceilings on lots of products and always with the same result. Look into the effects of Nixon's gasoline price caps. Check out the long lines for gas and ask yourself if you really want to replicate that in NY's housing market.
  • escap wrote: Are prices tied to the sign on a bldg that says "luxury", or to other factors? Are construction costs the key issue, or are developers able to sell/rent at rates above their costs? The answer is that they are selling well above cost, so again construction costs are not the key issue (although they are a factor in constraining overall supply).
    I think we are debating the same topic from different sides. All I am trying to state is the Mayor's programs have attempted to promote housing #1. affordable housing #2. In each of these scenarios, the majority of the housing has been condos (not rentals) and have been "luxury" (not defined by acquisition costs, building costs...marketing, plain and simple).

    A $650K one bedroom, 700 sq foot apt is not "affordable" to an average working family, two incomes, let alone with kids.

    We were supposed to "mix" the housing stock, which has always been the case in NYC, better or worse. Both high end and low-end housing stock was built. Brownstones vs. frame houses (I refurbed a frame...all that I could afford in the inflated market).

    But what's the true shame here in Brooklyn (and perhaps the other outer Boros) is that this used to be a launching pad for artists, immigrants, lower end working class folks to first rent, work hard as hell, save a few bucks, buy "something," work on it and if they are lucky, pay it off in enough time to enjoy the benefits (before they die and their kids in NJ, LI, PA...where ever) sell the place at a profit. but, that's the biz.

    I just want (selfishly) to have a mix of low, middle and upper income folks in the "mix" in my nabe and Boro. No matter your ethnic or social background.

    it's all in the mix. And I am seeing that mix (first hand) be flattened and inflated out of reach of the "average Brooklynite" from home ownership, whatever that home might be...if that's your want.

    So we agree on housing, just from different sides of the table. :)
  • Well, you're right in that we both agree on the same goal. I definitely also want a diverse mix of people in the city, and availability of housing that is affordable to that diverse group.

    However, I sense that we differ on the methods. You say that developers are greedy, but seem to discount the possibility that they might act greedily. In other words, unless I'm mistaken you are calling for price controls and other restrictions on developers; but out of their greed, the result will most likely be less construction, less development, less supply, and therefore higher prices. All I'm saying is that the best way to reduce prices is to focus primarily on increasing the supply of housing, plain and simple. Attempts to micromanage the market or put in place controls will inevitably have the opposite effect as desired. In fact, the very reason that so many condos have been built is precisely because there is so much rent regulation in this city, discouraging the construction of rental units. Get rid of that regulation and you will see rental prices plummet, making the city far more affordable.

    Look, I know it's very counterintuitive and doesn't feel noble, but unfortunately that's how housing works. If anything I think you should be criticizing Bloomberg for placing TOO much emphasis on "affordable" housing. He's done a good job overall of promoting development, but this pandering to political winds is only going to further entrench the problem.

    Oh, as an aside, it would also be helpful to make every effort to lower construction costs, thereby allowing for profitable development of lower-priced housing. If you really care about this issue, therefore, vote against any politician that prevents the free trade of commodities like steel and concrete. By imposing protectionist tariffs and quotas, the federal govt is indirectly hurting the working poor by making housing less affordable, all the while costing more jobs than are protected. Second, we should loosen zoning restrictions on building height, since the more a developer can build vertically the less he needs to charge per unit. And finally, we could end or at least reduce political support for the biggest culprit for high costs: the unions. Break the union stranglehold on construction and you will likely see a lot more affordable housing sprout up.
  • Good points, someof which I agree...verical expansion I do not.
    Oh, as an aside, it would also be helpful to make every effort to lower construction costs, thereby allowing for profitable development of lower-priced housing. If you really care about this issue, therefore, vote against any politician that prevents the free trade of commodities like steel and concrete. By imposing protectionist tariffs and quotas, the federal govt is indirectly hurting the working poor by making housing less affordable, all the while costing more jobs than are protected. Second, we should loosen zoning restrictions on building height, since the more a developer can build vertically the less he needs to charge per unit. And finally, we could end or at least reduce political support for the biggest culprit for high costs: the unions. Break the union stranglehold on construction and you will likely see a lot more affordable housing sprout up.
    Only one issue: 99.9% of the jobs we might debate are NOT Union, and opens a whle other bag of worms...(see other posts)
This discussion has been closed.