Home News Nudge forward Atlantic Yards: Brooklyn housing plan must be completed

Nudge forward Atlantic Yards: Brooklyn housing plan must be completed

New York City desperately needs more housing to provide homes and to help lower the cost of living. The Atlantic Yards project, ideally situated near one of Brooklyn’s largest transit hubs, has delivered hundreds of apartments to Prospect Heights already — but nearly 900 affordable units initially promised for 2025 are nowhere in sight. After the third postponement of an auction intended to jumpstart that piece of the project, it’s clear Gov. Hochul needs to step in so that private developers can step up.

Atlantic Yards, sometimes now called Pacific Park, was highly contentious back when it was announced roughly two decades ago with the support of then-City Councilman and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. The idea behind the public-private partnership between developers and the state was to transform the eyesore of rail yards and the fallow surrounding area around Fourth Ave., Atlantic Ave. and Flatbush Ave. into housing, retail, open space and a new venue set to be home to the New Jersey-turned-Brooklyn Nets.

We strongly backed the complicated, 22-acre deal even as many critics said there wasn’t enough affordable housing, and then-Nets-owner Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Ratner was getting a sweetheart deal. We think we’ve overall been proven right by a walk around the neighborhood today.

Eight new apartment houses with more than 6,400 units, nearly 1,400 of which are earmarked for people at various income levels, have brought fresh life to surrounding restaurants, bars and stores. Three acres of open space have been developed. The arena not only hosts the Nets and Liberty (the Islanders departed a few years ago), but top-tier musical acts (Nicki Minaj headlined earlier this month, Billie Eilish last week and Ed Sheeran this week) and as well as lots of family and community events.

Add it all up, and it’s a huge improvement over what was.

But in at least one respect, the critics have been proven right: They said over and over that if the Barclays Center got frontloaded on the calendar, much of the affordable housing would probably never materialize. And for a long list of reasons — financing complications, financial downturns including the pandemic — that prediction has come true.

The biggest nail in the tire that’s preventing anyone from taking over the responsibility to build the remaining eight apartment buildings is that the current developer is having problems. A deadline that requires anyone constructing the remaining affordable units to finish by mid-2025 or get slapped with big fines.

The tight timetable presents a near-impossible deadline to meet no matter what — but it’s a total joke at this point given that completing the remaining buildings depends upon putting a platform across the LIRR tracks, an expensive and logistically difficult project. The engineers at Hudson Yards managed it and so can those working Atlantic Yards, but the schedule simply can’t be met.

Hochul has made expanded housing production a signature issue. If she’s serious about it, she’ll strike a deal that gets Atlantic Yards unstalled so that long-planned, long-promised housing can make Brooklyn a little more affordable for New Yorkers present and future. Atlantic Yards and Barclays have been a boon to the city, but they can and should be a bigger boost to more people. It’s up to a leader to lead.


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