On the 20th anniversary of the chronically delayed Atlantic Yards project, developer defaults on its bonds

Advocates and Elected Officials Call for Accountability and Change in Oversight

BROOKLYN, NY: Advocates in the BrooklynSpeaks coalition held a press briefing to mark the 20th anniversary of the Atlantic Yards project and call for change in New York State’s oversight process, including increased accountability for unmet promises by developers and the State. The Atlantic Yards project was announced in 2003 with the stated goal of removing blight caused by the open rail yards. The controversial blight finding was critical to the project being approved under the State’s Urban Development Corporation Act, overriding New York City zoning, bypassing local review, and assembling land through eminent domain. Twenty years later, the rail yard has not been covered, and 877 affordable housing units, along with promised public open space, remain unbuilt.

“From agreeing to a no-bid contract at Atlantic Yards, to failing to confirm the economic feasibility of residential development over the rail yards, to allowing a developer to pledge those development rights to secure a loan without knowing their value, Empire State Development set the stage for the current plan’s failure,” said Gib Veconi, Chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “The State of New York took a massive gamble on Atlantic Yards, and Brooklyn lost.”

In addition to the now two decades of delays, the project hit a potentially fatal roadblock last  month when the current developer Greenland USA — a subsidiary of China’s Greenland Holdings — defaulted on EB-5 debt borrowed to finance the project. Greenland USA will likely lose control of six development sites over the MTA rail yards between Sixth Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn, which are going to be auctioned on January 11, 2024 as a result of the default.

Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon said, “Twenty years ago, the public was promised a ‘Garden of Eden’ above ‘blighted’ rail yards. ESD green-lit the risky project, took private property through eminent domain and now – during an historic housing crisis – the public is left without promised affordable housing and nothing above the rail yards. In the wake of the developer’s default, I have no confidence that damages owed for missed deadlines will ever be paid. By not holding developers accountable from the onset, ESD encouraged them to take large risks. This default is a direct result of ESD’s bungled stewardship.”

“Now that control of the site has been broken up in the wake of Greenland’s default, Atlantic Yards’ original plan no longer works,” said Assembly Member Robert Carroll. “We need a new plan with true accountability and transparency that provides the deeply affordable housing and open space so desperately needed.”