In Red Hook, where 75 percent of the residents live in public housing, can affordable housing be too affordable? Some community leaders in the waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood say, “Yes,” and last week asked the Fifth Avenue Committee, a Park Slope-based community development group, to revise a plan to create 37 low-income co-ops.
The original FAC proposal, presented to Community Board 6 for the first time on May 9, called for constructing new homes on long-vacant lots, half of them for ownership by local public housing residents, the rest for households with less than $45,000 in annual income. “For the people currently in public housing, there is no next step,” said Brad Lander, executive director of FAC. This project, his group’s first in Red Hook, “would give them an opportunity to own their own homes.” FAC has created over 600 units of affordable housing in Park Slope and South Brooklyn over the last 15 years.
Some Red Hook community leaders do not share that sentiment, however, and last week successfully pushed FAC to slate 25 percent of the units for sale at market rates. Lamenting the drop in the neighborhood’s working and middle class population over the last few decades, John McGettrick, co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association, the area’s largest established community group, asked that apartments for higher income brackets be added to the mix. “Teachers, firemen, and nurses should not be considered over-income,” he said.
Lander is downplaying the changes FAC is making in the plan, which has had the support of City Councilman Angel Rodriguez since April, and for now is focusing on securing funding for the project. “It is often publicly-subsidized affordable housing that leads the way in developing a good community,” he said. “But we want to do in Red Hook what people in Red Hook want. They want a more diverse community.”