We were alarmed to read the city plans to all but eliminate design and architecture review for affordable housing, and to allow affordable housing developers to self-certify, according to a story in Capital New York. Believe it or not, some of the most beautiful new buildings in Brooklyn are found in areas such as Bed Stuy, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and East New York, and it’s all affordable housing. We’ve long wondered why that is and now we think we know. We point to award-winning buildings such as the Saratoga Community Center at 940 Hancock Street and Camba Gardens in Flatbush, above, designed by Harden + Van Arnam Architects.
So expect affordable housing to start looking like the cheapest schlock imaginable — probably not even as good as the dreck that usually gets built in Williamsburg, probably more like cement-block Fedders buildings.
Also, we’ve seen a lot of abuses of the self-certification process for much smaller scale, private developments. If they are flagrant enough, they are eventually punished (architect Robert Scarano and the overbuilt monstrosity at 1882 East 12th Street in Homecrest by architect Shlomo Wygoda are two examples), but we suspect that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So we’re skeptical this is a good approach to take with affordable housing, where the pressure to cut costs is likely to be even greater and the beneficiaries less able to defend their interests.
We think it’s going to be a great loss for these neighborhoods, not to mention the residents. What do you think the mayor should do?
H.P.D. Plans Major Changes to Jump-Start Affordable Housing Development [Capital NY]
Rendering by Harden + Van Arnam Architects PLLC