I always enjoy going to the supermarket with my kids. It’s a great place to teach them about deceptive packaging. My latest example was a box of Honey Smacks Cereal.
When you look at the box, it tells you that it’s made with wheat and honey, that it’s a good source of vitamins, low fat, and only 100 calories per serving.
So the box says it’s a good choice for us to eat, right Dad? Well, guess what Kids? This same cereal has been named among the most unhealthy cereal sold today. It contains 55.6% sugar. Maybe that’s why Kellogg’s changed the name to Honey Smacks from its original name Sugar Smacks! You are essentially eating a “healthier” breakfast eating a pack of Twinkies. But Kellogg’s vice president of nutrition Linda Sutherland said that Honey Smacks, the cereal with the highest sugar content, isn’t marketed to children.
Any parent who has walked down the cereal aisle with a kid will tell you that Sutherland’s comment is ludicrous! Kids love the smiling frog which tells you to “DIG ‘EM” on the front of every Honey Smacks Box. And any health advocate who’s fighting for more regulation of food products marketed to children, will tell you that Sugar/Honey Smacks still contains an excessive amount of sugar. So my kids get Multi-Grain Cheerios, a better choice for them.
So by now you are probably asking, where are you going with this Phil? Well, the current plans presented for the Greenpoint waterfront and the Domino Sugar site, in Williamsburg, are very similar to that box of Honey Smacks. The developers’ respective sales pitches say it’s good for you, but if you look closely at the details, it’s really not.
First, let’s look at the Honey Smacks plan for 77 Commercial Street in Greenpoint: According to the offering, the box says you’re getting affordable housing. Well that’s good right? No it isn’t, if affordable means you have to make a salary of $85,900 a year to qualify.
77 Commercial Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS)
The EAS for 77 Commercial states that in the future, with the proposed actions (the “With-Action Scenario”), the development site would be developed with approximately 720 dwelling units (200 of which would be affordable to low-, moderate-and middle-income households.
Accordingly, the proposed breakdown of the 200 affordable housing units would be as follows: 72 low-income units (household income below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI)), 108 moderate-income units (household income below 125 percent of the AMI) and 20 middle-income units (household income below 175 percent of the AMI).
But the non-binding Points of Agreement from the 2005 rezoning of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront laid out a far different plan for this site. Let’s call this version Cheerios.
WG rezoning 2005 Points of Agreement
Commitment on Public and Partner Sites
The Administration commits to developing affordable housing using available public sites and to work with the existing owners to develop affordable housing on the partners sites listed below. The Administration anticipates that these sites will generate affordable units. These units will target the following income groups: 20% between 20-30% of AMI, 40% between 30-60% of AMI, 20% between 60-80% of AMI and 20% between 80-125% of AMI.
And for those who do not understand what AMI means here is an income level chart that shows how much you have to earn, to apply in a lottery for an affordable unit. It’s also important to remember that thousands of applications come in for every unit offered.
The maximum incomes (adjusted for family size) are as follows:
40% of AMI
$34,360- Family of four
$30,960- Family of three
$27,520- Family of two
50% of AMI
$42,950- Family of four
$38,700- Family of three
$34,400- Family of two
60% of AMI
$51,540- Family of four
$46,440- Family of three
$41,280- Family of two
100% of AMI
$85,900- Family of four
$77,400- Family of three
$68,800- Family of two
130% of AMI
$111,670- Family of four
$100,620- Family of three
$89,440- Family of two
175% of AMI
$150,325- Family of four
$135,450- Family of three
$120,400- Family of two
It’s also important to remember that the original plan called for only 400 units with 200 affordable. Now we are up to 720 units with the same 200 units of out of reach affordable housing at income levels that are much higher than the Bloomberg administration claimed. Just like that box of Honey Smacks!
Don’t forget, how Council Member Diana Reyna and former Council Member David Yassky hailed the 2005 rezoning as a way to preserve the community and create affordable housing. Now eight years later, we see that the rezoning did the exact opposite of its alleged intent. Again it was supposed to be Cheerios but turned out to be Honey Smacks!
Also the plan for the former Domino Sugar refinery was sold as a 30% affordable housing plan to pacify affordable housing advocates but when the plan was finalized in the City Council the 30% affordable housing went by the wayside in a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). At a community meeting in March, Jed Walentas told reporters: “The community certainly feels like that was promised (30% affordability). The reality, from any sort of legal or practical real financial plan put in place by government or the previous owner, that was not the case.” Walentas also told neighbors that don’t like his massive waterfront plan that he would go back to the site’s previous development blueprint.
He said if his proposal falls through, he will revive the city-approved plan by the past owner Community Preservation Corporation Resources (CPCR).
“We spent $185 million to purchase this site, and we’re going to get a return on our investment,” he said.
Neighbors, including many activists who battled the previous Domino development plan felt that they were being extorted with Walentas’ arrogant, “my way, or else” statement.
So now the community is being told to absorb a plan that would add over 2,200 units of housing with up to 4,000 office workers coming into the community. We don’t know how many affordable units will be built or the income levels required to afford the units, but we do know the developer wants much larger buildings than the previous owners said they needed in order to build the project. Now, the Williamsburg waterfront The Edge’s 347 affordable units received $25.690 million in taxable bonds issued by HDC which also provided $15.6 million in corporate reserves for permanent financing.
The New York City Housing Trust Fund provided a $12.145 million New Construction loan and the City gave a grant from the Waterfront Infrastructure Fund totaling $3.5 million.
In addition, the project received a 421a as-of-right tax abatement for 25 years. So remember these units are heavily subsidized with your tax dollars!
So residents of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, do you want Cheerios (real affordable housing at income levels that residents that are so desperate for a affordable home can afford) or Honey Smacks that the non-binding agreements by the Bloomberg administration and the City Council created. If you look at the tower plan from the 77 Commercial Street Environmental Assessment Statement, it lays out affordable housing which is out of reach to most residents and yet it’s heavily subsidized. The Domino parcel of land rezoning also creates an issue of allowing a very large out of scale building on the upland site that will open a Pandora’s box of luxury towers on the Southside of Williamsburg since there are no contextual protections like the inland parts of the Northside and Greenpoint that limit most building heights at 60ft. The Southside will become the new promise land for luxury towers and cause massive displacement of the remaining affordability of the Southside. In the end, 660 units of affordable housing will mean nothing if thousands of residents are displaced. Once all the proposed waterfront developments are built you are going to have at least 38,000 new neighbors in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
Rose Plaza — 800 units
Two Trees Domino — 2,284 units
New Tower at Northside Piers — 500 units
Additional future tower in front of the Edge — 500 units
Greenpoint Landing — 5,500 units
77 Commercial Street — 720 units
Other Greenpoint waterfront south of Greenpoint Landing — additional 5,000 units (estimate)
All told, there’s potential for over 15,000 units to be added on the waterfront if it is built out under the 2005 zoning and other proposed projects go forward.
These waterfront developments would add roughly 38,000 new residents, almost doubling the Census 2010 population of the “Condo Corridor.”
So, look beyond the developer hype which tells you something is good for you, when in reality it’s just another box of Honey Smacks!