In 2016, the de Blasio administration targeted 10 to 15 neighborhoods to rezone in NYCs greater metro area. Among them, East New York’s plan was the most prominent, with $267 million in planned capital investment for schools, parks and infrastructure. The goal of the East New York rezoning is to spur neighborhood development and revitalize underserved areas; focusing its redevelopment efforts towards the creation and preservation of affordable housing for its economically disadvantaged communities. The East New York rezoning was a much-needed opportunity for the neighborhood’s growth and prosperity.
The plan rezones 190 blocks along the Atlantic Ave/Broadway Junction corridor, in between Cypress Hills and East New York, imposing Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) designations with two different options (or income thresholds) for the percentage of units that developers can bring to the market. The MIH mechanism incentivizes developers to assign a share of new units to targeted income groups by implementing FAR bonuses and tax benefits. Issues surrounding the two different levels of affordability (Option 1 & 2) for housings that are available have deemed the plan inadequate by neighborhood activists. Among these “adverse” effects are rising rents along the L Train corridor and along the 2, 3, 4, and 5 subway lines – as well as minimal affordable housing development, predatory land grabs, and tenant harassment. The neighborhood rezoning plan has come under scrutiny by its residents, community boards, land use committees, and critics who are concerned that the heightened pace of development will have consequential effects on East New York’s affordability options for its dense population of low income and working-class residents. The main concern voiced by the public is whether the rezoning plan will deliver on its promises to preserve the affordable housing environment in East New York for its current residents. The major investments in the community and resulting neighborhood improvements will ultimately maximize East New York’s growth and development potential as a major Brooklyn neighborhood.
De Blasio’s rezoning plan comes with a laundry list of promises for the neighborhood, all of which were aimed to be completed over a 15-year span (by 2030), but recent events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, have set back the project’s timeline. In addition to the 503 affordable housing units that were built or financed since the plan’s approval, the city’s rezoning action could bring in an estimated total of 3,538 dwelling units under MIH. The housing plan seeks to use greater density as a tool to create more affordable units, but the pace of development has not been up to par with expectations. Aside from the affordable housing component, the zoning plan and subsequent promised capital investment also focus its efforts on economic development, enhancing the pedestrian experience and public spaces (transportation, local parks, community centers), as well as building a 1,000-seat school and a childcare center. Many of these initiatives are underway and will have long-lasting benefits for the neighborhood’s surrounding communities.
Job creation is another key component of the rezoning project and needs to be congruent with the plan’s production of affordable dwelling units to provide residences for new workers. The plan seeks to rehabilitate the neighborhood’s Industrial Business Zone by providing over $16 million in infrastructural improvements and making better use of underutilized properties. This economic development should attract over 250 new companies and 4,000 new jobs. Thus far, the Department of Small Business Services has connected 613 individuals to new employment since 2017.
Since the beginning of 2018, there have been 24 recorded redevelopment site transactions within the East New York rezoning area, totaling an estimated $65.6M and 204,000 sq. Ft. of land. The majority of development is occurring around Broadway Junction and along Atlantic Ave, Liberty Ave, and Fulton St where the residential zoning is relatively denser and promotes an array of commercial mixed-use opportunities - replacing the existing infrastructure of vacant 1-3 story buildings or undeveloped and underutilized land such as parking lots and garages. New developments coming to the area consist of four-to-nine story mixed-use residential apartment buildings with varying community facility and retail/ office components, providing additional space for new commercial and residential tenants.
The future of East New York’s economic and infrastructural development into a thriving Central Business District with diverse mixed-use commercial and residential opportunities remains very bright -- especially with the transit-oriented development happening at the Broadway Junction Hub. The station currently connects five subway lines and a regional rail system. With this level of transit connectivity and accessibility, East New York promotes significant real estate development opportunities more than anywhere else in NYC’s greater metro area. Redeveloping this major transit hub will simultaneously bring new retail, employment, and training opportunities in addition to the rezoning plan. The time for East New York is long over-due and is at a critical point to finally receive the economic empowerment and security it deserves.