Image credit: Perkins Eastman Architects
City Council approved the development of Ebenezer Plaza that will bring affordable housing, jobs, and a new church space to Brownsville, Brooklyn. On September 7, 2017, City Council passed two land use actions by a vote of 45-0 to allow for the development of a mixed-used plaza in Brownsville. The actions enact a zoning map amendment that allows mixed-use development, and a zoning text amendment that establishes a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area. The affected area is located north of Hegeman Avenue between Mother Gaston Boulevard and Powell Street. For CityLand’s prior coverage click here.
The project came to fruition when the Church of God of East Flatbush partnered with Brisa Builders Corporation, a family-owned and community-oriented developer, to create a mixed-use plaza on some property owned by the Church. Brisa Builders then partnered with Procida Companies to increase the project’s capacity. The new plaza is expected to contain 4 affordable residential buildings on 2 lots, retail space marketed to local community organizations, and new walking space between existing residences and the Brownsville Recreational Center.
This project will provide over 500 units of affordable housing. 20% of the units will be reserved for the homeless in the community. A (now formerly) homeless individual can get a studio apartment for $215 and a 3-bedroom apartment for $512. The remaining 80% of the units will be divided into 4 equal groups according to Average Median Income (“AMI”) as follows: 10-27% AMI, 27-37% AMI, 37-47% AMI, and 47-57% AMI. Thus, all units are available to those who earn 60% or less of the Average Median Income. This focus on affordability will protect community residents from displacement.
The July 27th public hearing raised concerns about decision-making and profit-sharing among the developers. All of these concerns have been addressed. At the September 7th City Council meeting, Council Member Inez Barron, the representative of District 42 where this project will occur, was pleased to announce that there will be equal profit-sharing among the developers, and that Ericka Keller Wala of Brisa Builders, who initiated this project, will be in charge of hiring.
Local hiring for both the project’s construction and for filling the retail space is a high priority. The project will partner with local non-profits for hiring connections, and has a target of 50% minority- and women-owned business participation for the commercial space. Council Member Barron hopes this project will set an example for the promotion of minority- and women-owned businesses. Of importance to Barron is not just the representation, but the significant involvement of minority- and women-owned businesses in the decision-making process.
Barron also expressed concerns about interference with the Green Valley Community Garden that she fought hard for as a Council Member. A shadow study revealed disruption from 12-3 PM in the winter months. As a result, the developer committed to funding grow lights for the garden.
The Church of God of East Flatbush will transfer their operations to new space within one of the residential buildings. The Church provides extensive benefits to the community—they run a non-profit, a GED program, an English Second Language (ESL) program, as well as a food pantry and food bank. With the development of new space for the Church, they will be able to expand these operations to reach more people.
Council Member Barron wants the public to know that this project is named after Ebenezer from the Bible, not A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer’s story marked the significance of being victorious in battle. With a sharp focus on affordable housing, local hiring, and community benefits, Ebenezer Plaza is a victory for the community.
CC: Ebenezer Plaza, Brooklyn (LU 0718-2017; LU 0719-2017) (Sept. 7, 2017).
By: Shelby Hoffman (Shelby is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)