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Developer to Cut Affordable Units in UES Project Amid Proposed Rule Change

By Shaye Weaver | July 14, 2017 1:20pm | Updated on July 17, 2017 9:23am
 The empty lot at 505-511 E. 86th St.
The empty lot at 505-511 E. 86th St.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

YORKVILLE — The developer of a new 22-story apartment building near York Avenue that had 35 units of affordable housing planned for the project will reduce that number to eight or fewer due to an expected change to a city housing rule.

Carrera RS LLC. and Sky Management filed plans in April to construct the mixed-use building at 505-511 E. 86th St., featuring 139 apartments — 35 of which would be set aside for low-income inclusionary housing — as well as ground-level retail space, a gym, a kids playroom, a pool, a golf simulator and a roof deck.

The affordable units would have included 18 studios, nine one-bedrooms, seven two-bedrooms and one three-bedroom reserved for those earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). The 2017 AMI for a family of four is $85,400, according to the original plans.

► READ MORE: What is AMI?

Under current 421-a rules, the building was going to include a required 25 percent of its units set aside as affordable and use the air rights it earned by providing the apartments to build bigger at another site, according to attorney Alvin Schein, who represents the developer.

The 421-a rules were originally adopted in 2009 to encourage the addition of affordable units by giving tax break to developers. Amendments to the rules that took effect on April 10 made it so that developers could use these air rights at other sites, but a newly proposed change by the Department of Housing and Preservation would require developers to limit the air rights to those specific projects, rather than being able to transfer them to others sites.

► READ MORE: What You Need to Know About the New 421-A Tax Break for Developers

Now that HPD is considering the amendment, the developer of the East 86th Street building is changing its tune. 

"We were going to have 25 percent be affordable units, and we were willing to do that because we could sell [the bonus] off-site," Schein explained. "HPD doesn't want that to happen, so we have to cut back to about 6 percent. We're debating right now to even bother with 421-a. We may scrap it and go with 6 percent affordability because of the economics of it all."

During a Community Board 8 Housing Committee meeting on last week, locals said that even if 35 new affordable units were to be built, the neighborhood still lost a number of apartments in the townhouses torn down by the developer for the project. The committee agreed that once Carrera RS comes up with new plans, it would push for equality of services for lower-income residents.

The committee also decided to adopt a resolution approving the proposed change to 421-a, suggesting that HPD institute a mechanism to make sure occupants of the affordable units are income eligible for them in perpetuity.

HPD will vote on the new rule after a public hearing on Aug. 7, and Carrera RS will return with new plans after that, Schein said.