Good planning begins in communities – and with the people who know their neighborhood best.
That is why, as we move to build and invest in East New York, the City, elected officials and community advocates are working together to make the East New York Plan a reality, and one that meets the needs of East New York residents.
One year after the City Council adopted the plan, we are making good on the promise of a strong and sustainable neighborhood, one that serves seniors, families, and businesses of the community.
Building thriving, healthy neighborhoods takes a lot more than zoning. It requires the preservation of affordable housing, construction of new housing, local job creation, and safe streets and parks.
With Council Member Rafael Espinal, one of our most important partners, we launched the Homeowner Help Desk – and reached out to nearly 3,500 East New Yorkers to provide housing and legal advice on foreclosure prevention, home repairs, tax exemptions, weatherization loans, and information about avoiding scams.
East New Yorkers told us they need better economic opportunities and we opened a Small Business Services’ Workforce1 Center at 2619 Atlantic Ave. to connect local residents to good jobs. The City also awarded over $1.4M to strengthen local businesses and shopping districts.
A vibrant neighborhood needs places for people to play, learn and gather. East New York residents told us they need a new school. To serve the children of existing households and the growing population, the City is building a new school to open in 2020. Next door, on the same City-owned lot where the new school is being planned, HPD will develop 200 affordable homes, with retail and community facilities on the ground floor.
The Parks Department has answered the call for better open space, investing more than $25 million to improve Lower Highland Park Playground, City Line Park, and Callahan Kelly Playground.
A new community center, with programing that connects teens with neighborhood police officers, is under construction at 127 Pennsylvania Ave. This center will bring recreational activities back to this City-owned building – as the community has long envisioned.
Construction on the redesign of the Atlantic Avenue roadway begins this fall. The addition of a raised and planted median, curb extensions, new left-turn lanes, and other features, will make this central corridor safer for pedestrians and friendly for small businesses.
The cornerstone of the initiative is to bring affordable housing to East New York. By applying the city’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing zoning policy to the East New York Plan, we are requiring new developments to include permanently affordable housing—paid for by the developer.
Because it’s clear we need even more investment in affordable housing, particularly to protect lower income residents, HPD will finance only 100 percent affordable housing projects – and all of them for families with incomes of $51,000 or less.
Already, on Atlantic Avenue, the former Chloe Foods factory has been torn down, and more than 900 units of affordable housing will go up. Besides those new homes, HPD has already financed more than 1,000 new and preserved affordable homes in this Brooklyn community, with more coming.
Housing preservation is equally important for affordability in East New York. Last year, we reached out to nearly 300 existing multi-family affordable buildings, with more than 3,000 apartments, about loan programs and tax benefits owners can use, in exchange for guaranteeing future affordability, to upgrade their buildings and make needed repairs. Through the ‘Community Retrofit NYC’ program alone, we’ve engaged nearly 40 building owners with 225 units who are interested in making energy efficiency upgrades. With the non-profit housing organization Enterprise, HPD launched a Landlord Ambassadors Program to contract with local non-profit Mutual Housing Association of New York to help owners navigate resources to improve their properties and maintain affordability.
All this in one year.
While it will take several years for the new zoning to result in new housing, stores, and community services, we are laying the groundwork and we are making progress. The City is in it for the long haul, and working to ensure a thriving, vibrant, affordable East New York for current and future residents.
Marisa Lago is the chair of the City Planning Commission and Maria Torres-Springer is the commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
This article appeared in our latest ZoneIn print newsletter, which was distributed in East New York on Friday and is available here. Earlier newsletters covered Far Rockaway, the Lower East Side and East Harlem.