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One rotten apple - Critics jeer lack of affordable housing

The shovels are in the ground, but local elected officials are not happy over supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis’s decision to start building luxury housing on Myrtle Avenue.

The officials allege that Catsimatidis, the founder and CEO of the Red Apple Supermarket chain, has broken a promise to earmark half the project’s residential units as affordable housing.

The planned project will eventually include three low-rise buildings bounded by Ashland Place and Prince Street, and a high-rise tower between Prince Street and Flatbush Avenue.

This first phase of the project includes about 85,000 square feet of market-rate apartments and about 22,000 square feet retail space for a pharmacy and low-end supermarket.

Catsimatidis maintains that he wanted to build the housing portion of the project as a 50/30/20 -- 50 percent market rate, 30 percent middle income and 20 percent low income] -- but had to bail out of the plan after he learned that the city and state have no affordable housing bonds left.

“We were ready and set to go last year on a $500 million project, but the banks have no money to lend on affordable housing, and the city has no affordable housing bonds left,” said Catsimatidis.

Catsimatidis said that left two choices – to do nothing or build a little at a time starting with a small apartment project, including a supermarket and drug store. These are services the community wants, he said.

But Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries said Catsimatidis is reneging on a promise for the affordable housing.

“It is unacceptable for the developer to move forward with this project without keeping his commitment that 50 percent of the units built are affordable to the community,” said Jeffries.

“State and city officials are committed to making sure bond financing is available to the developer and we have communicated our willingness to help him build affordable housing in the strongest possible terms,” Jeffries added.

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