The city has given the green light to Cayuga Capital to build 99 rental apartments, 20 of them below market-rate, in the shell of the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on Bushwick Ave. and Jefferson Street. Another church, also located on Bushwick Ave., is slated to be torn down and replaced with a seven story, 32-unit building.
Cayuga Capital is now starting construction on the church at 626 Bushwick Ave., which closed its doors in recent years because of a dwindling congregation, according to Rob Solano, Executive Director of Churches United for Fair Housing. The sale of the church will end over 100 years of worship at the site.
“The church was an icon in the community,” says Desmond Sukhdeo, a former pastor at St. Mark’s. “I wish it was still there.”
“It’s unfortunate the church had to close,” Solano says, referring to St. Mark’s. “But we’re happy that the building is being preserved and the apartments will contain affordable housing.”
CUFFH, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for affordable housing in Williamsburg and Bushwick, negotiated with the Lutheran Church and Cayuga Capital to preserve the church building and to enter into the 80/20 Housing Program, where developers receive tax breaks in return for making 20 per cent of the units affordable. Creating affordable housing and keeping the church standing were conditions of the sale.
“When we purchased the church, it had a capacity of 900 people but only nine were attending weekly services,” Jakob Sachs of Cayuga Capital, wrote in an email. “The empty building was not being used in any meaningful way, and now it will provide housing for hundreds of people.”
Cayuga Capital will add a floor to the school building next to the church, but otherwise the buildings will remain essentially the same.
Solano says more needs to be done to provide affordable housing in the neighborhood, but currently the 80/20 program is the best option.
“Of course we want more affordable housing, but there has to be responsibility from the city, state and federal government to create new programs for affordable housing,” Solano says. He added that he is hopeful that Mayor Bill de Blasio will create new programs and incentives for affordable housing.
The building at 626 Bushwick Ave. will contain a garage with Zip Cars, and a common roof deck, and will be completed in 2015, according to Cayuga Capital.
The church at 1255 Bushwick Ave. was also owned by the Lutheran church, and was sold to real-estate guru and author of The Real Estate Millionaire, Boaz Gilad, in 2013, according to real-estate documents. It is unclear if any of the units will be affordable. Gilad told the Wall Street Journal that Malcolm X Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where his company, Brookland Capital is located, would look like “5th Avenue in Park Slope in five years.”
Brookland Capital could not be reached for comment. The building at 1255 Bushwick Ave., which is still going through zoning approval, is slated to have 16 parking spots.