Despite a previous developer’s promise, the massive mixed-use complex at the site of the former Rheingold Brewery in Bushwick will have fewer affordable apartments than community members had pushed for back when a development plan was initially announced.
DNAInfo reports that the Rheingold project will “get shafted” 88 affordable apartments—four percent fewer than the minimum initially promised—since the current developers on the project have reinterpreted the previous owner’s non-binding agreement with the city. (Such is the nature of non-binding agreements.)
Back in 2013, Read Property Group pledged to make 30 percent of Rheingold’s units affordable, after community advocates objected to their proposed 24 percent. (Under the standard inclusionary housing rules, the developer was required to make just 20 percent of the apartments affordable.) The 30 percent pledge, again, was non-binding, but, as DNAInfo reported at the time, advocates “felt confident” that Read would deliver on the promised units.
But then Read sold off chunks of the site to fellow developers Rabsky Group and All Year Management, and those companies—currently overseeing a combined 1,411 new apartments across the site—did not agree to Read’s 30 percent plan, or even Read’s previous, slightly-above-the-minimum 24 percent plan. And the city can’t make them.
“We had no legal right to require anything more than 20 percent affordable housing as stated by the zoning resolution,” Louise Carroll, the Associate Commissioner of Housing Incentives at the city's Department of Housing and Preservation, said at a meeting last week.
But while housing advocates are “outraged,” the developers say the notion that they’ve reneged on an agreement is “absolutely inaccurate,” a Rabsky spokesperson told DNAInfo. "At the Rheingold site, Rabsky made and is honoring the commitment of offering 20 percent of the units as affordable."
By DNAInfo’s current count, about 20 affordable units are missing from the Rabsky Group's site at 10 Montieth Street—which will have 100 subsidized and 400 market rate apartments—and 36 affordable units are absent from All Year Management’s site, which will house 183 subsidized units.
And since both developers have actually increased the number of apartments at the site, they’d have to add more affordable units, were they to keep the balance at 30 percent. That means they’d actually need another 32 affordable apartments spread between the sites to make Read’s 30 percent goal.
But while there’s no legal recourse this time, local City Councilman Antonio Reynoso says this can be a lesson for future projects—such as the 1,156-unit complex Rabsky is angling to build in Williamsburg.