Apartments, low rent. Gym, not so much, & C.B. 2 objects

BY SAM SPOKONY  Community Board 2 isn’t sold on a developer’s scheme to include affordable housing in a planned residential building at 261 Hudson St., believing that low-rent tenants will be “rudely” priced out of being able to use the building’s gym and computer lounge.

After demolishing a one-story warehouse that sat on the Hudson St. lot, between Canal and Spring Sts., Related Companies filed plans for construction of the 12-story rental building last July. The city’s Department of Buildings approved those plans on April 15, according to online records.

In February, Related also submitted an application for 261 Hudson St. to enter the city’s inclusionary housing program, which provides a development bonus in exchange for making 20 percent of a building’s units permanently affordable.

The developer’s current plans call for 201 total units: 160 market rate and 41 affordable. The affordable units will be available to households making less than 60 percent of the area median income (A.M.I.) — or less than $51,540 for a family of four, less than $46,440 for a three-person family, less than $41,280 for two people and less than $36,120 for an individual.

Initial monthly rents in the affordable units will be $1,017 for a two-bedroom, $838 for a one-bedroom and $781 for a studio, according to Related’s April presentation to C.B. 2’s Land Use Committee. (One committee member, Doris Diether, later declined to support the committee’s resolution on the project because she believed those rent levels are not low enough to be considered affordable.)

If Related gains city approval for inclusionary housing, the developer would gain a floor-area bonus of about 30,000 square feet — equal to the total area of its 41 planned affordable units, or 23,772 square feet, multiplied by 1.25, according to the inclusionary program. However, since 261 Hudson St. is in a zoning district that does not allow for use of that inclusionary bonus, the developer would instead be able to transfer the additional square footage — or sell it — toward the creation of a potentially massive luxury building within the neighboring Hudson Square Special District, which does allow for use of the bonus under its recent rezoning.

In any case, those details were all kosher in the eyes of C.B. 2, which has vocally supported the use of the inclusionary housing program around Hudson Square as a prime way to bring affordable housing to the neighborhood.

The problem, according to the board, is that Related is at this point unwilling to provide low-rent tenants with affordable access to certain amenities planned for 261 Hudson St.

Although the building’s rooftop terrace and library will be available free of charge, other amenities — including a gym, locker room and computer lounge — will be available at the same price for all residents, rather than at a discounted rate for low-rent tenants, according to Related spokesperson Jessica Scaperotti. She added that the exact flat-fee rate hasn’t been decided yet.

The C.B. 2 Land Use Committee called on Related to commit to providing discounted rates for low-rent tenants.

Tobi Bergman, the committee’s chairperson, said that, during Related’s April presentation, company reps told him they believe the fee for the Hudson St. building’s priced amenities will be around $500 per person per year — a cost likely unaffordable for low-rent tenants.

“It creates an unpleasant feeling among neighbors if parts of the building are for market-rate tenants only, as these amenities effectively will be,” Bergman said. “Everyone living in affordable housing knows they are not money rich, and people can live with that happily and proudly. But excluding them from parts of their own building seems an unnecessary strike at something that runs deeper.

“Plus, it is rude,” he added.

Bergman’s committee passed a resolution — later approved by C.B. 2 at its April 24 full board meeting — calling on the city to deny Related’s application for inclusionary housing unless the developer changes course on the amenities pricing. The resolution states that the committee would “prefer” free access for affordable tenants, but would support prices of no more than a total of $40 per month for all occupants of a two-bedroom unit, and no more than $30 per month for all occupants of a one-bedroom or studio.

Councilmember Corey Johnson has also weighed in, saying he believes Related’s plan, if approved, would set a bad precedent for future inclusionary housing proposals in the area.

“Inclusionary housing should give equitable access to all tenants,” said Johnson, “and those who live there as a part of the 80/20 program [80 percent market-rate and 20 percent affordable housing] should not be required to pay the full cost for use of facilities which may be financially out of reach for them.”

However, asked whether the councilmember supports Related’s overall plan, Johnson’s office said he does in fact support it, since it would create new affordable housing.

Meanwhile, Related counters that the inclusionary program has no requirements regarding building amenities or their cost.

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development — which administers the inclusionary program — said the developer is indeed currently following all the program’s requirements. The spokesperson added that H.P.D. is aware of C.B. 2’s concerns, and is still reviewing Related’s application.

Related spokesperson Scaperotti also stressed that the developer is actually exceeding certain requirements of the inclusionary program, namely regarding apartment appliances. According to the developer’s current plans, low-rent tenants at 261 Hudson St. will get the same array of appliances as their market-rate counterparts, including individual washers and dryers.

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