East New York Trolley Tour

Take an historic trolley tour through East New York this Sunday.

The event is being held by ARTS East New York, which has sponsored public art installations throughout the neighborhood. The Explore East New York trolley will bring straphangers to several of the installations, as well as stopping at the African Burial Ground.


East New York Rezoning

Real Affordability for All — a low-income advocacy group and de Blasio ally — has released a new report critiquing the mayor’s rezoning and affordable housing plan (PDF) for East New York. The 13-page report asserts that de Blasio’s plan fails to address job inequality and will not assist East New York’s neediest residents, but will in fact lead to the “whitening” and further displacement of the neighborhood.

Made of a coalition of close to 50 tenant groups and community organizations, Real Affordability for All suggests that de Blasio’s rezoning plans incentivize developers to promote gentrification in East New York. Thus, the group believes, de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary zoning plans will “fail to address the affordability crisis,” doing more harm than good in neighborhoods like East New York.



Last year, Mayor de Blasio spoke in general terms of plans to change zoning rules to create more affordable housing in Brooklyn and beyond. Monday, the exact wording of these three proposals will be revealed, and Brooklynites will have the chance to comment on them.

At issue is the character of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods and the future of East New York — and, of course, the building of more affordable housing by private developers.

On Monday, City Planning will “certify” the proposals, which are complex and have many parts, kicking off the official and formal public review process known as ULURP, or Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

The mayor is asking for three zoning-related changes: (more…)


City Planning’s vision for a rezoned East New York

Whither East New York? As Brooklyn’s waves of gentrification lap at the neighborhood’s shores, it’s a question on a lot of people’s minds, including eager developers, city planners looking to site affordable housing there, and wary residents looking at what’s happened to nearby Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant.

It’s also the question at the center of a panel discussion at the Brooklyn Historical Society tomorrow night, called “A Biography of East New York.” The assertion behind the discussion is that the neighborhood “is where NYC’s future is going to happen,” but that it’s also a place that is “by geography, class and race a far distance from the city’s centers of power and influence.”


491 Shefield Avenue1

The lottery has just opened for hundreds of affordable units in a new housing development in East New York. The complex of buildings, known as Livonia Commons, will have studio apartments starting at $500 a month, one-bedrooms units starting at $538, two-bedrooms at $655 and up and three-bedrooms at starting at $749. The most expensive unit is a three-bedroom for $1,196.

The opening of the lottery was first reported by Brokelyn.

A few details on the income restrictions: The least expensive studio unit is available only to someone earning between $18,515 and $24,200 a year. The most expensive units could go to a family of six earning between $42,892 and $60,120 a year. A PDF of the table outlining the income requirements can be downloaded here.



The formal land-use review for the mayor’s proposed East New York rezoning could kick off soon. City Planning Commission expects to certify the rezoning application “this spring,” according to Capital New York, which technically begins March 20. During a City Hall budget meeting this week, City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod said, “I do anticipate we will be entering the formal [land use] process this spring.”

Once the ULURP process begins, it could take up to a year. The process starts with review at the community board level, then moves to the borough president, City Planning and the City Council. The mayor’s rezoning plan aims to bring 7,000 new apartments to the area by allowing housing and taller buildings along commercial and industrial corridors. Above, the 1935 Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church at the corner of Glenmore and Pennsylvania Avenue, in the proposed rezoning area.

Timing of City’s Rezonings Still up in the Air [Capital NY via TRD]
East New York Rezoning Coverage [Brownstoner]


Community Board 5 has cancelled all presentations by developers and city agencies and requested an emergency meeting with the mayor’s office and local pols as part of an effort to slow down the mayor’s plan to rezone East New York, we were intrigued to read in DNAinfo.

“We still have a lot of questions that have gone unanswered. That’s why the board reached this decision,” CB5 Chair Andre Mitchell said. The biggest mystery is the percentage of affordable units vs. market rate. About a year ago, the de Blasio administration said the ratio would be different for each neighborhood. City Planning has issued its environmental impact documents but did not specify the mix, a surprising omission so late in the process. The publication of those documents kicked off the official uniform land review process, or ULURP. The first stage is review at the community board level.

We know from our own sources that the board opposes any aspect of the rezoning that would increase rents in the area and displace current residents or businesses, but welcomes revitalization, and would like to see a balanced mix of income levels in any new housing that is built.

DNAinfo portrayed the slowdown as coming from longtime East New York City Councilman Charles Barron, whose wife Inez Barron now holds that office, because both the chair of CB5 and the head of the land use committee are longtime Barron associates.

It’s our understanding of the ULURP process that each agency gets a set time of about two months to review, and if they don’t, the process moves on without them. But can the community — or anyone — legitimately review the plan without knowing the mix of affordable vs. market units? What do you think?

Charles Barron’s Associates Lead Push to Slow Down East New York Rezoning [DNA]
Map by City Planning


Longtime residents of East New York care about the historic bank building at 91 Pennsylvania Avenue and want to save it. A group of about eight stood in the bitter cold Tuesday to protest its planned demolition, the Village Voice reported. As it happens, the protest was sparked by our story, we were surprised to read. Residents had seen the scaffolding and netting shrouding the building but assumed it was being repaired, not demolished.

We spoke last night to one of the organizers of the protest, Chris Banks, who is the director of local community group East New York United Concerned Citizens and a member of Community Board 5. He said the owner of the building has been in touch and they plan to meet, as he also told the Voice. Banks has also reached out to local Council Member Rafael Espinal and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries for help.

We hope a new use for the building can be found that will benefit both the owner and the community. Click through to the Voice story to read what the protesters said about the building.

Residents Brave (Seriously) Bitter Cold to Fight to Preserve Historic Brooklyn Bank Building [Voice]
Historic East New York Bank Building Will Be Torn Down [Brownstoner]
Demo Has Started at Historic Bank Building in East New York [Brownstoner]


Local non-profit Arts East New York is hosting a panel on gentrification in East New York and negative portrayals of African Americans in mainstream media this Friday, as part of a celebration of Black History Month. Panelists will include Cyril Josh Barker, a staff writer for the New York Amsterdam News, and Shaun Neblett, a playwright and the youth theater coordinator for Changing Perceptions Theater.

“Culture x Conversion comes as a response to the growing influence from city agencies and media in the sudden changing of the East New York landscape. We are asking East New York residents to be informed and active in the planning of our community to prevent displacement,” said a press release.

Panelists will discuss how urban planning, eminent domain and development are affecting East New York, and how residents are responding. And kids from AENY’s Young Artist Institute, which helps train elementary and middle school students in music, dance and theater, will perform after the panel.

There will also be free refreshments. The free event will happen from 6 to 9 pm this Friday at George Gershwin Junior High School, at 800 Van Siclen Avenue.


Demo has started at 91 Pennsyvlania Avenue, the historic bank building in East New York we told you about last week. So far, only the interior has been demolished, and as far as we could see, the outside has not been touched. But it is probably only a matter of days before demo starts on the exterior.

Scaffolding has gone up on two sides that abut the sidewalk. The windows are out and the building appears to now be an empty shell. The building, designed by one of New York City’s most important architects, Richard Upjohn, Jr., has stood on a prominent corner in East New York since 1889. It is being torn down to make way for a seven-story medical office building.

The area is the focus of the Mayor’s affordable housing plan and will be rezoned for residential and taller buildings in the spring, which officially begins March 20, 31 days from now.

Historic East New York Bank Building Will Be Torn Down and Replaced by Medical Mid-Rise [Brownstoner] GMAP

91-Pennsylvania-Avenue east new york pshark

We’re sorry to report that the former East New York Savings Bank at 91 Pennsyvlania Avenue will be demolished to make way for a seven-story medical building. A demolition permit for the four-story Renaissance Revival building was issued in December.

One of New York City’s most important architects, Richard Upjohn, Jr., designed the bank, which was built in 1889 and occupies a full block on Atlantic between Pennsyvlania and New Jersey avenues, smack in the middle of the soon-to-be-rezoned East New York business district. The property was a Building of the Day last year.

An application for a new-building permit filed last week calls for a seven-story building with 121,000 square feet of space, as well as 153 parking spots. It will house “ambulatory diagnostic or treatment health care facilities,” according to schedule A filings. Udo Maron of Array Architects is the architect of record.

The 34,000-square-foot structure last changed hands for $5,500,000 in 2005, according to public records. Jonas Rudofsky of real estate firm Squarefeet.com appears to be the owner and developer, according to permits.

With so much empty and underutilized land available in East New York, we think it’s a shame the developer chose this particular location. This building looks ideal for adaptive reuse, such as a mixed-use condo development. We haven’t seen a rendering yet but we’re not hopeful it will be better than the building there now.

Building of the Day: 91 Pennsylvania Avenue [Brownstoner] GMAP
Photo by Kate Leonova for PropertyShark


The mayor’s pastel-colored vision to develop East New York, above, with thousands of new units of mixed-income housing could backfire, making the area and others like it less affordable, said neighborhood residents and housing advocates quoted in a New York Times story: “Around New York, people who have watched luxury buildings and wealthy newcomers remake their streets are balking at the growth Mr. de Blasio envisions, saying the influx of market-rate apartments called for in the city’s plans could gut neighborhoods, not preserve them.”

The mayor’s affordable housing plan was the centerpiece of his State of the City speech yesterday, but it was light on specifics.

The Wall Street Journal and the Post also ran stories critical of the mayor’s plan. Some key points: Rents are unlikely to be low enough for the truly poor, union labor will increase costs, and locals will resist tall towers, said the Journal. An opinion piece in the Post called the plan “far fetched” and impractical. Residents fear an influx of higher-income newcomers, but “stagnation, not gentrification, is the more likely result,” according to the Post, because returns in low-income areas won’t be enough to offset the cost of the subsidized units. (more…)