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Mr Colvin Grannum’s defense of the Bradford (below) is expected given his organization’s connections to the projects and private developers discussed above, but he side-steps some very important points that I hope to highlight.
Mr Grannum implies that the 80 percent high-rent units in the Bradford are providing affordable housing to “moderate-income households such as postal workers, transit workers, and schoolteachers , [who] are shut out as few housing options are targeted to them despite their potential to make civic, social and economic contributions to the neighborhood”. In fact, I argue that it is exactly these households who are excluded from the Bradford. In debates about affordable housing we need to examine real numbers, not poorly defined concepts like “moderate income” or “middle income” which mask buildings that are priced out of reach to millions of NYC residents. If these high-rent affordable apartments were truly in demand and priced within reach of moderate-income households, then why were only 12 out of 83 apartments picked up through the initial lottery published here, and why did the Goldman/BRP petition almost a year after the initial housing lottery to weaken the regulatory agreement by increasing the required income limits up to $194,415 as evidenced by the remarketing of these remaining 71 units here.
In my almost seven years working in the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Planning, Preservation and New Construction Finance units, I never saw this problem arise for affordable housing targeted within reach of moderate-income households. It is also important to note that the Bradford does not contain a single permanently affordable unit, all but guaranteeing its future as a publicly subsidized island of wealth.
Grannum’s defense of trickle down community planning is not new – he was recently quoted in New York Magazine on his philosophy that for community development to flourish in Bedford Stuyvesant one must “attract affluence”. As anyone who walks down the neighborhood’s beautiful tree-lined streets can see, Bedford Stuyvesant has no problem attracting affluence. The neighborhood does, however, have a problem providing housing opportunities to the children of long-time residents who decide to become teachers, or work in the public sector, or at vital non-profits, and struggle to find an affordable place to live while lawyers and financiers argue over architectural details in their recently cleared out brownstones. The Bradford does not offer any solutions to these families.
As is clear in my reply to Deputy Commissioner Enderlin (available here), nobody is arguing against mixed-income housing. I argue that given the significant City, State and Federal subsidies in the Bradford, that Bedford Stuyvesant residents deserve more responsive housing opportunities from the City of New York. It is unsettling that when one advocates for affordable housing to be accessible to the majority of City residents (more than half of NYC’s two million + households do not earn enough to even apply for, much less afford, the Bradford’s high-rent affordable units) the charge is that one is advocating for the concentration of poverty. Mr Grannum implies there is no alternative to this type of development. Actually, a more equitable alternative path is possible, and it involves creating and mandating economically integrated affordable housing in all of the City’s diverse neighborhoods, accessible to a broad spectrum of New Yorkers. This is exactly the sort of “bold progressive change” that the public expects from the de Blasio administration.
A Worthwhile Investment
President, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp.
Mr. Odekon’s condemnation of this project for not maximizing the production of deeply affordable units wrongly dismisses several important benefits generated by the project. Breaking concentrations of poverty though the creation of mixed-income, mixed-use affordable housing is a worthwhile investment of City resources, and such projects should be mandated throughout the City.
The Bradford, and its companion project, the Garvey, are geographically linked to inject new vibrancy into a severely undeveloped and distressed portion of Fulton Street, Bedford Stuyvesant’s main commercial corridor, and create opportunities for employment and upward mobility for low-income residents. The project is intended to break long established housing development patterns that have resulted in increased concentrations of poverty, while creating a healthier, more sustainable community by attracting new, low- to moderate-income residents and new employers to Fulton Street.
As waves of high-income residents acquire brownstones, poverty is growing increasingly more concentrated on certain blocks and census tracts especially where large developments of low-income housing were constructed decades ago. As these trends continue, geographic income polarization is taking hold within Bedford Stuyvesant. Many low-income residents live in densely populated areas with limited access to fairly priced, high quality produce and merchandise. Affluent homeowners and renters live nearby in low-density, landmarked areas that are attracting trendy restaurants and shops. Moderate-income households such as postal workers, transit workers, and schoolteachers, are shut out as few housing options are targeted to them despite their potential to make civic, social and economic contributions to the neighborhood.
Residents living in areas of high poverty typically experience low rates of upward mobility, high rates of incarceration and low rates of educational attainment and employment. Concentration of poverty is, in part, a product of affordable housing transactions that inadequately account for the economic and social impacts of densely concentrating low-income housing in discrete geographic areas. The economic and social impacts have resulted in great stress on the residents and on public resources. Mixed-income projects like the Bradford help restore equilibrium to these dense clusters of poverty.
In 2004, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC) set in motion an effort to address the economic distress long plaguing this portion of Fulton Street and teamed up with BRP Companies, an MWBE development firm, to envision several medium density, mixed-use, mixed-income buildings to address the blighted conditions. The resulting project drew the support of elected officials and the local community board. Recognizing the significant impact that the proposed projects would create for local residents and businesses, Goldman Sachs UIG and the City (HPD and HDC) invested significant resources in structuring and financing the Bradford and Garvey. The Bradford adds income diversity that will generate multiple short- and long-term benefits for a community that currently has a high concentration of low-income housing. First and foremost, the projects create affordable housing for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, many of whom lived in Central Brooklyn before the projects were constructed. Second, it creates an opportunity for low-income residents to live side-by-side with moderate-income neighbors thereby opening opportunities for them to access the knowledge, relationships and the social capital of their higher income neighbors. Third, the projects have brought new businesses with new employment opportunities for young adults from the area. Lastly, the Bradford is spurring new economic activity as nearby property and business owners examine ways to upgrade their properties. Individually and collectively, these attributes create the potential for stronger economic outcomes for low-income residents who live along and in the vicinity of this long underinvested portion of Fulton Street.
Mixed-income projects have the potential to generate improved social and economic outcomes for low-income residents that the production of high volumes of low-income housing alone cannot achieve. An equitable housing development agenda would be greatly advanced by projects designed to house low and moderate income New Yorkers in higher income neighborhoods all across the City.
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