Ground broken in NYC

Updated: 2014-12-16 11:50

By Niu Yue in New York(China Daily USA)

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Ground broken in NYC

From left: Cheng Lei, deputy consul general of the Chinese Consulate General in New York; MaryAnne Gilmartin, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner; Bruce Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies; Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City; Zhang Yuliang, chairman of Greenland Group; and I-Fei Chang, CEO and president of Greenland USA, start work on an affordable housing project in Brooklyn between Chinese real estate developer Greenland USA and Forest City Ratner Companies. Lu Huiquan / For China Daily

Chinese developer starts work on affordable housing in Brooklyn

Chinese real estate developer Greenland USA and US partner Forest City Ratner Companies broke ground on Monday for a 298-unit affordable housing project in downtown Brooklyn.

The 18-story project for low, moderate- and middle-income households is expected to open in fall, 2016. Tenants will be selected through a city-administered lottery process.

"New York enjoys the reputation as the capital of the world, and its prosperity lightens the dreams of international investors, including Greenland Group," said Zhang Yuliang, chairman of the state-owned Greenland Group, parent company of Greenland USA.

Ground broken in NYC

At Monday's ceremony, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the project would provide "a huge number of affordable units that people from this community can live in and continue to be Brooklynites."

"There are very few phrases I like better than 100 percent affordable housing," he said.

"To the People's Republic of China, welcome to the People's Republic of Brooklyn!" Bertha Lewis, social activist and president of the Black Institute, said at the event.

With revenue of $41 billion last year, Greenland Group is one of China's largest conglomerates and focuses on energy, finance and real estate. The developer entered the US market in 2013 as the Chinese real estate market was cooling down. After investing $ 1 billion in the Los Angeles Metropolis project last July, it took a major stake in the Pacific Park project in downtown Brooklyn last October.

Developer Forest City Ratner began the $4.9 billion project to include the Barclays Center arena and 16 high-rise buildings. Called Atlantic Yards by Forest City Ratner, it was rebranded Pacific Park in 2014 after Greenland Group bought a 70 percent stake in 15 towers. New York State still calls it Atlantic Yards.

The affordable housing project to be built at 535 Carlton Avenue in downtown Brooklyn complies with New York City's Inclusionary Housing Program (IHP), which dates back to 1987. Under current IHP regulations, if new developments or enlargements of more than 50 percent of existing floor area in designated areas can allocate at least 20 percent of the residential floor area for affordable housing, developers can get various subsidies and a floor area bonus.

The affordable housing project is the second at Atlantic Yards. Atlantic Yards B2, which was developed solely by Forest City Ratner Companies and broke ground in 2012, has 50 percent of its units for affordable housing, and another project by Greenland Forest City Partners that will begin in 2015 is 100-percent affordable housing. Among the 6,430 units the joint venture is expected to deliver in the Atlantic yards project, more than one-third will be affordable housing.

Brooklyn is ranked as the least affordable market in the United States, even less affordable than Manhattan, by the Irvine, a California-based data company. The company says a resident has to spend 98 percent of median income to afford a median-priced home of $615,000.

When he became mayor this year, de Blasio vowed to build and preserve at least 200,000 affordable units over the next 10 years. "Our goal is to create the affordable housing to maintain all of our diversity as a city, which is our strength - including our economic diversity," he said on Monday.

The construction of Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards have driven home prices up in surrounding areas, which has led to discontent among some local residents.

"The skyscraper sort of thing destroys neighborhoods," said Patty Hagan, a 71-year-old protester outside the ceremony who has been living in the area for over three decades. She told China Daily that rising home prices are driving poorer residents outside.

Norman Oder, a blogger and activist who has been opposing the Atlantic Yards project is also skeptical. He said the so-called "affordable" housing, though cheaper than market prices, might still be unaffordable for ordinary people.

Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this story.