Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A View From RIOC Management on Affordable Housing at Southtown - Are Roosevelt Island Bloggers Fanning the Flames of Controversy?

Image of Fanning the Flames is from Brian's Bonfire

Yesterday, RIOC President Steve Shane, blogger Roosevelt Island 360 and myself conducted an email dialogue concerning recent posts about the letter sent from Roosevelt Island elected officials urging RIOC Chair and DHCR Commissioner VanAmerongen to ensure that the Southtown buildings are in compliance with their 40% affordable housing commitment. Another subject was this blog's online affordable housing versus market rate housing poll located on the right column page. Below is that message thread.

Original message from RIOC President Shane to me and 360:
There is a 40% affordable requirement in the development agreement.
Staff housing for hospitals is and always has been in the affordable
housing category, financed under the tax exempt financing in the
Mitchell Lama program and subject to the regulatory schemes of DHCR or
the City under their respective programs. I refer you to Article II of
the Private Housing Finance Law.

The existing, executed Development Agreement for the Southtown
Developer, is applicable to Buildings 5-9. Going back to retrade that
Agreement would be painful, if doable at all. There is no funding for
affordable housing except as developed under subsidy programs which are
now all but extinct. High rise, reinforced concrete, fireproof
elevatored buildings are almost impossible to deliver under the
affordable housing banner in current times because of the costs of
construction and development. Any proposal would necessarily diminish
dramatically the availability of revenue to RIOC as the holder of the
masterlease, impacting all future budgets for both operations and
capital projects.

Where are you going with your editorializing? I suggest you come in and
talk about realities of real estate development in the subsidized
affordable housing business before fanning the flames of an unlikely
My Response: Steve,
As always, I am happy to talk to you about issues of concern to Roosevelt Island or anything else for that matter.
However, I fail to see how anything posted in the last two days concerning the letter written by Roosevelt Island elected officials expressing concern over the 40% affordable housing compliance at Southtown is "fanning the flames of an unlikely scenario". Also, There was no express or implied mention at all to "retrade the agreement" with Southtown developers.
I'm just trying to find out what the facts are. There is absolutely nothing you can point to indicate that these inquiries are nothing other than responsible requests for information. If you disagree please be specific and If I am wrong about a fact or irresponsible in any commentary I will correct immediately.
Shane's response:
Quoting the 360 blog on not sure how units for staff could be considered
affordable housing and then asking for a vote in the last paragraph
about the desires for more affordable housing. I too would like to see
more affordable housing, but, one has to deal with the present
Back to me:
The purpose of the poll is as follows.
There may be a divergence of opinion on the Island as to whether "affordable" or "market rate" housing is preferable given current conditions. Some people have expressed the opinion that additional amenities and retailers are more likely to come to Roosevelt Island if there was more "market rate" housing here and they prefer that. Others are concerned about being priced out of their homes and don't care much if the retail situation stays the way it has always been here. An online poll is certainly not scientific but I thought it would get a discussion going and give a flavor of opinion regarding issue.
Further, questioning whether Hospital staff units should constitute "affordable housing" is certainly not an unreasonable position and certainly does not constitute fanning the flame.
As to the realities of Affordable Housing Development, I am always interested in learning more.
Shane replies:
Whether there is a divergence of opinion on the Island or not is of
academic interest, perhaps, but the decisions as to the mix were made
long ago. "Preferable" is highly subjective and what are current
conditions? Are these loaded questions?
Roosevelt Island 360:

I just came to find this email discussion so I have not purposefully been keeping quiet. So far from what I read I believe I agree with Rick regarding the ability to ask the residents what they think. I don't see these comments as fanning the flames. We are only reacting to the letter sent to the Commissioner by our elected reps. If the 40% goal is partially met by the hospitals the drafter of the joint letter did not seem to be aware of that fact either.

To be truthful I was unaware of the document text that Steve quotes which treats staff housing as "affordable" housing. Even knowing that fact, and accepting it, I still feel that that inclusion in the formula is inequitable as I believe it limits the availability of those apartments to a defined group and not the public. But as it is part of the larger agreements these buildings are being developed under then it is part of the percentage they are working towards and they certainly would be compliance. I disagree but they are in compliance.

Heck on my own blog the comments on this topic I seem to be getting run along the lines of educating me re Manhattan Park history and the most recent comment called for market value saying that the time of affordable housing here should be seen as a part of the past.

For the record the staff housing comment by me was in the form of a comment I submitted on Rick's blog and not on my own.
Back to Shane:
The problem is that you have posed the question as if there were a choice currently available. There is no such option. If you want a philosophical discussion, discuss the socio economic consequences of different community parameters. At a minimum, you ought to pose the question in the subjunctive.
I think this is a very interesting, topical discussion and thank RIOC President Shane for presenting the RIOC management's view. I do not believe this would have been done under prior administrations.

Update 2/8 - RIOC President Shane advises of the following:
Btw, note specific reference to staff housing in the GDP as posted on your web site.
Link to General Development Plan is here as well as included in Roosevelt Island governing documents page element on right side column of page.


Anonymous said...

It really does not matter how RIOC management characterizes the discussion on affordable housing requirements for Southtown. What matters is how the Commissioner responds to the elected officials' letter on the subject. The Commissioner is responsible for both housing policy for the State of New York and directs all policy and compliance issues for RIOC. Also, the Development Agreement for Southtown Buildings 5-9 should be posted on this website for people to read. Leases for Buildings 1-4 should be made available as well. Also, a determination must be made as to the issue of workforce housing and how the incomes of those residents are condsidered. How does providing housing to doctors with incomes in excess of $250K fulfill the affordability requirements? Especially, if the unit is not even the doctor's primary residence? Workforce housing for highly compensated professionals is not the intent of subsidized affordable housing programs.

Anonymous said...

I think every new resident should pay taxes to support at least 2 homes for the privileged existing residents on the island.

Anonymous said...

Very few of the residents (if any at all) in the first Southtown Buildings earn in excess of $250k. You should really double check your facts.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter if some of these original islanders imagine that Southtown is just a "second residence" for doctors. The reality is that they think they should be treated like kings. After living off the back of New York taxpayers for 30 years, they are somehow "entitled" to make a huge profit in taking their public housing unit private. Bravo, everyone is equal but they are more equal than others.

Dan Chen said...

as far as I know, there are no "doctors earning $250,000" living in the hospital units in my building (455 Main). the hospital units in my building and in 465 and 475 are filled with postdoctoral students and residents and fellows, none of whom make a whole lot (maybe $35,000 or $50,000, if that, for 70-90 hours of work a week).

Anonymous said...

The DHCR commissioner should produce a spreadsheet showing the certified income for each unit is Southtown. It is not a difficult taks and it will reaveal the truth: the hospital related workforce housing incomes are much higher than the affordable income targets for Southtown. Bottomline: DHCR has a double standard on the Island. Northtown residents must live in 30+ year old buildings that were poorly constucted and have been neglected for decades and they have no opportunity of ownership due to a mandate for "affordable housing. The Southtown developers, however, can rich pretending that the hospitals' work force housing is in compliance with the affordable housing mandate. These residents live in fancy new buildings. Cute!

Anonymous said...

How about this idea: we send public safety, NYCHA, and NYPD to go apartment-by-apartment through the WIRE buildings and evict and arrest anyone who is guilty of fraudently taking Mitchell-Lama housing for illegal subletting or for ownership of multiple units. Regardless of what "incentives" were needed 30 years ago, that time has passed, and frankly some of the neighbors of these overprivileged first-arrivers are sick of seeing them mistreating others and claiming higher ground. How about that? Cute!

Commercial playgroundequipment said...

I think every new resident should pay taxes to support at least 2 homes
for the privileged existing residents on the island. 

CheshireKitty said...

What happened, Commercial?  Fell off your swing and now talking gibberish??  You should be pushing for more affordable housing in NYC - not less.  The majority rules and the majority wants lower housing costs - that's the simplified way of looking at the issue.  If you are not a developer yourself, then you would also stand to benefit from less expensive housing.  So stop talking gibberish and join the smart pro-affordable housing kitties! 

bakgwailo said...

Rarely does one see a necropost on a blog. Well played, good sir.

xob said...

matt katz is useless

RooseveltIslander said...

no personal attacks particularly when done anonymously

workforce housing said...

Some people have expressed the view that the additional services and retailers are more likely to get to Roosevelt Island, if there was more "market rate" housing here and prefer that. Others worry about being priced out of their homes and do not care much if the selling situation remains the way it has always been here.

CheshireKitty said...

If rent takes up most of your income, there is less disposable income to buy goods from any category of retailer.  High rents are only good for one person:  The landlord.  With moderate rents, there is still some money left after paying rent to buy goods from various businesses, thus helping the entire group of commercial enterprises.