Three huge lots equal in size to almost an entire block have been leveled to make way for a huge public housing project in Brownsville. (You can see the future plans for the site here and here.) The property was formerly the Prospect Plaza housing project, home to 1,200 people, which NYCHA emptied out in 2000, promising to rebuild. When we visited a year earlier, the empty, boarded-up apartment houses were still standing.

At 1776 Prospect Place, pictured above and after the jump, the demo work started in May and was signed off on in October. An application for a new six-story building with 101 apartments was disapproved this month. The building that previously stood there was 15 stories.

The area immediately around the public housing sites consists of empty lots or empty apartment buildings, adding up to about eight desolate lots on two and a half blocks between Saratoga and Howard avenues and Prospect and Sterling places, close to Eastern Parkway in Brownsville.

Click through to see more photos of the site and a rendering of one of the planned buildings.

City Finally Moves to Redevelop Vacant Housing Project in Brownsville [Brownstoner] GMAP
Rendering by Dattner Architects via NYY

The city is finally redeveloping the long-vacant Prospect Plaza housing project in Brownsville, a massive ghost town where it has been promising to tear down the existing buildings and build new ones for 14 years. In 2000, NYCHA relocated all 1,500 tenants from the 368-unit public housing development, which consisted of four buildings spread across a 4.53-acre complex. However, NYCHA filed new building applications last week for 1765 Prospect Place, detailing plans for a four-story, 32-unit residential building with 107,551 square feet of space. It also filed demolition applications in August for two of the Prospect Plaza high rises.

The housing agency had originally planned to renovate Prospect Plaza with $21,000,000 it received from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1999. But as delays piled up and years passed, the 40-year-old buildings have become too dilapidated and expensive to save. The new plan is to raze all four of the towers and build 360 units, including 80 public housing apartments and 280 affordable housing units, according to a presentation given to Community Board 16 in September.

The affordable housing units will target tenants with up to 60 percent of the city’s median income, which is still more than double what the average public housing tenant makes, as The New York Daily News points out. There will also be ground-floor retail that will likely become a supermarket and 10,000 square feet of community space. GMAP



The owner or this building at 60 Clarkson Avenue in Flatbush is doing his best to get rid of his paying tenants. No, the building is not going to be converted to condos or torn down for new development. However, this scheme may be just as lucrative–housing homeless families for the city. WNYC reported yesterday that the landlord is evicting paying tenants and leaving the building in a terrible state of neglect. According to the report, the building has 215 housing code violations. The majority of tenants have left the building. According to WNYC, inside the apartment of one of a dozen or so renters who has refused to leave, “The sticky traps in the kitchen…are covered in dead roaches. The insects even make their way into her freezer.  The whole building is dirty and in need of repair.  The elevators smell like urine, and the trash rooms in the hall overflow with garbage.” The tenant pays $700 a month. The city will pay about $3,000 a month (in SROs it will pay $3,000 per room) though a portion of that fee goes to cover the cost of counseling and security. The city is under a court order to provide housing to anyone seeking help and the number of those in the shelter system has grown dramatically since 2011 when the state and city ended funding for programs to help homeless people find permanent housing. The same skewed math is at the heart of the controversial effort to turn the ten-unit building at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens into a homeless shelter for 170 men. The city is now leasing 2,500 apartments from landlords at these rates, an increase of 66 percent since 2011.

To Create Housing for Homeless, Landlords Evict Paying Tenants [WNYC]

70-union-avenue-050813Two as-yet-unbuilt private apartment buildings in the contentious Broadway Triangle area are illegally discriminating against blacks and Hispanics, according to a group called Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, The New York Daily News reported. Hispanics and African Americans who inquired about apartments at 70 Union Avenue and 246 Lynch Street were told there were no applications and turned away, said the group, which sent the applicants. The buildings have already been filled with Hasidim, they said. The buildings are slated to rise in now-empty, privately owned lots in a 31-acre area called Broadway Triangle on the border of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bed Stuy. Previous plans to build public housing in the area were halted last year by a federal judge on the grounds that the plans “illegally favored Hasidim over blacks and Latinos.” The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition alleges a rezoning of the area in 2009 from industrial to residential use favored the Hasadim, according to the story. A City spokeswoman scoffed at that notion and said, “if private landlords are acting in a discriminatory manner, as is alleged, that is not to be tolerated, and concerned citizens should make a report to the authorities responsible for enforcing laws against discrimination.”
Critics: Two Apartment Buildings Unfairly Filled With Hasidic Families [NY Daily News]
Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

As of last week, tenants in the Red Hook Houses vowed to do something about conditions after Hurricane Sandy and what they perceive as neglect and unfair treatment from NYCHA, The New York Times reported Friday. The article did not address whether anything had changed later in the week once hot water and heat were reportedly restored to all apartments. Apparently the answer is no. NYCHA residents are planning a city wide action against NYCHA at its headquarters tomorrow morning, Brownstoner has learned. They are calling for NYCHA to cancel rent for November and December, to replace the NYCHA board with one led by community members, to improve transparency and accountability to residents, and employ NYCHA residents to repair buildings, among other things. The protest is scheduled for Tuesday morning from 9 am to 11 am at 250 Broadway in Manhattan.
In Public Housing, a Rising Clamor for Compassion [NY Times]
Photo by NYCHA

Almost three weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit, NYCHA restored power, heat, hot water, and elevator service to all of the buildings hit by the hurricane. According to NYCHA, “There were 402 buildings without electricity and 386 buildings without heat and hot water affecting approximately 80,000 residents.” In Brooklyn, developments in Red Hook, Gowanus, and Coney Island were hit the worst. NYCHA crews will resume managing the buildings as normal today, after sending out third-party cleaning crews, contractors, utility companies and agencies from the city, and representatives from the state and federal government. Last week residents of the Red Hook Houses called for a rent strike and a lawsuit against NYCHA after no heat, hot water or electricity for more than a two week span. Since last Thursday morning, 20 of 32 Red Hook Houses buildings without heat and hot water regained both.
Red Hook Residents Organize Against NYCHA [Brownstoner]
NYCHA Buildings Still Don’t Have Heat and Electricity [Brownstoner]
NYCHA Chairman John Rhea at the Gravesend Houses after Sandy, via NYCHA

At a community meeting in Red Hook Wednesday night, residents of the Red Hook Houses called for demonstrations, a rent strike, and a lawsuit against their landlord, New York City Housing Authority, because they have had no heat, hot water or electricity for more than two weeks, DNAinfo reported. The meeting, which took place at P.S. 27, was attended by about 150 people, including artists, business owners, Occupy Sandy members, Community Board 6 members, and church leaders. As of yesterday morning, 20 of 32 Red Hook Houses buildings still did not have heat or hot water, according to NYCHA. The agency did not perform a door-to-door wellness check on the project until 15 days after the hurricane. Red Hook resident and Deputy Attorney-in-Charge for Legal Aid’s criminal practice Tina Luongo said Legal Aid is exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against NYCHA.
Red Hook Residents Call for Marches, Strikes, Lawsuits Against NYCHA [DNAinfo]
Photo by DNAinfo

Over the weekend, NYCHA worked to restore heat and electricity to public housing developments, and while progress was made there are still many buildings without those resources. As for the electricity status, NYCHA reports that “currently there are 33 buildings within six developments in Brooklyn (Coney Island, Gowanus and Red Hook) and Far Rockaway, Queens, housing approximately 6,847 people where electricity is still out.” In the Red Hook East development, ten out of 18 buildings housing 1,393 residents do not have electricity, and eight out of 18 buildings housing 809 residents do not have heat or hot water. In the Red Hook West development, seven out of 14 buildings housing 2,093 residents don’t have electricity, and seven out of 14 buildings housing 3,206 residents do not have heat or hot water. There are also eight buildings in Coney Island without heat, and one building in Coney without electricity. NYCHA has set up warming centers and plans to bring in temporary boilers to the developments needing them. The boilers are expected to come online over this week. The door-to-door operations servicing NYCHA residents affected by the storm are ongoing. Photo, above, shows damage from Hurricane Sandy in a Red Hook Houses West basement.
NYCHA Hurricane Sandy Update [NYCHA]
Photo by NYCHA

Money, real estate, and housing. These have been three of the factors that founded this city, and have continued to build it, and drive it, ever since Europeans landed on these shores. The history of housing in this city is rather fascinating, but like housing almost everywhere since the dawn of civilization, it boils down to the rich living really well, the middle classes living decently, and the poor living in various degrees of squalor. Social reformers have long realized that having a decent roof over one’s head is not only necessary for life, but should be a given in a modern civilized society. By the Victorian era, this was an admirable goal, but here in New York City, it rarely came into being.

As more and more poor immigrants came to this country at the end of the 19th century, they joined the already large mass of poor people already here, people crowded into horrific living conditions we really can’t imagine today. Government standards for housing were rather lax, and tenements were usually human warehouses, with inadequate light, ventilation, sanitation or room. Landlords didn’t care as long as the rent was paid, and fortunes were made from this substandard housing. As horrible as conditions were, landlords knew people would still rent; they had to live somewhere. Here in Brooklyn, enlightened reformers and businessmen like Alfred Tredway White and Charles Pratt built model tenements and worker’s housing that was a world away from the norm, but their efforts were anomalies, and while lauded, were not generally repeated. (more…)

Yesterday NYCHA announced which buildings still do not have electricity, heat or hot water restored. So far NYCHA has assessed all of its properties in the city and while it found no significant structural damage anywhere, more than half of the buildings were flooded in the boiler or electrical meter rooms. Still without electricity are 36 buildings and 3,434 units in Brooklyn; 61 buildings and 5,564 units in the borough are still without heat. This includes buildings in Brighton Beach without electricity or power. NYCHA has restored heat and power at the Gowanus Houses. And many of the buildings in the Red Hook Houses still are without both heat and electricity. NYCHA has been acquiring back-up generators and temporary boilers but has not given a timeline when all the power and electricity will be back. “We are working to address these issues as quickly as possible,” the organization announced. Yesterday the New York Daily News reported specifically on the issues and frustrations at the Red Hook Houses, pictured above.
Photo by Ignatzybanjo

The water is down and residents are picking up the pieces in Red Hook, one of the neighborhoods worst hit by Hurricane Sandy. Curbed has a nice photo collection of work happening in the neighborhood, and reports that power was partially restored there yesterday afternoon. Lots of basement pumping along Van Brunt Street and sidewalk debris all over. (Racked surveyed the retail scene, and reports that Ikea is still closed.) Over at the Red Hook Houses, The Village Voice reports, residents have gone three days without any electricity or water. The basement must be pumped out before Con Ed can restore it. At a gathering yesterday afternoon, residents complained about the slow pace of repair work and the conditions in the buildings. According to The Voice, residents have received help from the nonprofit Red Hook Initiative, but have seen little action or help from the city.
A Waterlogged Red Hook Emerges From Sandy’s Floods [Curbed]
In Red Hook Houses, No Power, No Water, and Growing Frustration [Village Voice]
Photo via Curbed

This afternoon tenants and housing advocates from Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE) held a press conference calling out the NYC Public Housing Authority for delaying home repairs and leaving families with conditions that threaten their health and safety. Following the event, attorneys from South Brooklyn Legal Services filed a group lawsuit against NYCHA to force repairs for tenants of three Brooklyn NYCHA properties. Gathered at the Brooklyn Housing Court, FUREE expressed several demands: that NYCHA stop forcing residents to live in dangerous and unhealthy conditions; they stop misusing capital repair funds for other programs; that Section 3 funding is used to train and hire residents to make repairs; that the Centralized Calling Center is overhauled to prioritize back-logged tickets; and that NYCHA residents are treated with dignity and respect. NYCHA is currently back-logged with thousands of citywide repairs, and residents usually wait months or years to see repairs made. The photos are by Desiree Marshall, click through to see a few more. (more…)