Feb. 2, 2018 By Tara Law
The Housing Development Corporation abruptly pulled $43.5 million in funding for an affordable housing building at Hallets Point, jeopardizing the massive multi-structure project by the Durst Organization on the peninsula.
The seven building, 2.4 million square foot development would bring 2,400 rental residences, including 483 affordable units, to Hallets Point. The 14-story building in question, known as Building 7, would be entirely affordable housing and offer 163 units.
One building, known as Hallets Building 1, is still slated for completion this summer, but construction of the other six buildings has been halted, said Durst spokesman Jordan Barowitz in an interview Thursday. The builders are currently sealing off the site.
The HDC’s decision, which the Durst Organization learned of on Nov. 17, was “inexplicable,” Barowitz said. He said the HDC had offered no real explanation.
“We can’t build the building without the bonds,” said Barowitz. “We can’t build the rest of the project because construction is dependent on the financing of Building 7.”
Funding for the rest of the project is contingent on the completion of the affordable housing buildings, said Barowitz. Without the affordable housing, the project will also lose a 421-a tax exemption worth $26 million.
“We’re not able to go forward with the rest of the project until the affordable units are occupied,” said Barowitz.
HDC spokesperson Libby Rohlfing said in a statement that the private activity bonds, which would have financed the project, are an “extremely scarce resource.”
The funds became unavailable around the same time that Republican lawmakers were considering cutting the bonds in the federal tax bill. Although the final bill ultimately retained the bonds, at the time state and local resources claimed they were under pressure to stretch their resources.
“The City is always looking to allocate its limited bond cap as efficiently and effectively as possible to achieve our affordable housing goals,” Rohlfing said.
The HDC’s decision to stop the funding coincided with a public feud between Douglas Durst, the head of the $4.4 billion real estate empire, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
In a September op-ed published on Medium, the mayor described turning down requests and ideas from major donors. Although the descriptions of the donors were largely generic, one of the mayor’s examples— of a leading developer who wanted a contract for the citywide ferry service— fit the Durst organization.
Durst, in an interview with Politico the following month, said: “I think he’s going to see lots of problems in his term,” referring to the mayor.
De Blasio was reportedly also miffed that Durst had interfered with billionaire Barry Diller’s $200 million Pier 55 park project on the Hudson River.
Barowitz declined to comment on the feud, but said that the Durst Organization is looking for another way to work the city and bring the project forward.
“If there’s some other way we’re all ears, but we need the cooperation of the City,” he said. “It’s a popular project with the community, and we think a very worthwhile project.”