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Brownsville Will Get 900 Affordable Apartments as Part of $1 Billion Plan

July 26, 2018
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Brownsville housing developments to focus on health, culture and economics to revive poor area

Livonia 4. | Magnusson Architecture and Planning

By Katie Honan
Update July 26, 2018 7:48 p.m. ET

New York City has selected three developers to build nearly 900 apartments on three city-owned lots in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville as part of a $1 billion revitalization plan for area.

The proposals outlined in the Brownsville Plan’s one-year progress report, which was released Thursday, focus on affordable housing, job creation, new community facilities and public spaces.

Each complex—Brownsville Arts Center and Apartments, Livonia 4 and Glenmore Manor—will center on themes selected during community meetings including health, culture and economic development, according to the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation Development.

The buildings will be constructed on about 173,000 square feet of city-owned lots that have been vacant for decades, officials said. Each must go through a land-review process before moving on to financing. Construction should begin within the next three years, said HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer.

Livonia 4, the largest development, will have more than 420 apartments for residents with a range of incomes. Focused on healthy living, the complex will include a supermarket, cafe, rooftop greenhouse and social centers. Radson Development, Community Solutions and Catholic Charities are developing the complex.

Glenmore Manor, a 230-unit apartment building on Christopher and Glenmore avenues, has an economic development focus. The residence will have a credit union, a restaurant and a salon. It is being developed by African American Planning Commission Inc., Brisa Builders, and Lemle & Wolff.

African American Planning Commission’s Glenmore Manor Apartments. | Think! Architecture

At the Brownsville Arts Center and Apartments, the focus is culture. There will be 230 affordable housing apartments for extremely low-income and formerly homeless residents. The income requirements range from 30% of the area median income—about $28,000 for a family of three—to 60% of the area median income. Residents qualifying for that income range earn about $56,000 for a family of three.The building will house a dance and performing arts school, a music school, media lab and other cultural facilities.

The Brownsville Arts Center and Apartments. | Aufgang Architects

“The cornerstone is about building and preserving affordable housing,” Ms. Torres-Springer told The Wall Street Journal. “We know that we have to do more than that. We have to invest in the people and in the neighborhood.”

About 37% of residents in Brownsville live below the federal poverty line, which means individual people earn about $12,000 a year. It ranks it as the lowest-income neighborhood in Brooklyn, census data shows. The city’s plan aims to address the pressing health and economic challenges throughout the neighborhood, while celebrating its culture, Ms. Torres-Springer said.

Lakai Worrell and Kevin Joseph founded PurElements, a dance company, 12 years ago, and have lived around East New York and Brownsville their entire lives. They said they plan to move their business into the Brownsville Arts Center. “It’s been a long time in the making, and to finally see it coming into reality is just mind-blowing,” Mr. Joseph said.

While some residents fear the new development will usher in gentrification, he said the city’s outreach and workshops showed there is a commitment to the community. “I thought that was really helpful,” he said.

HPD worked with local arts organizations such as PurElements to find space and support programming in the community.

“The plan is intended to be a road map to how we honor the rich history of Brownsville and make the types of investments that make the community proud,” Ms. Torres-Springer said.

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