Archive for the tag 'housing'

Parking lot identified in BP Adams' affordable housing report.

Parking lot identified in BP Adams’ affordable housing report.

Several “underdeveloped areas” of Brooklyn can be used to build affordable housing – including municipal parking lots in Brighton Beach, Bensonhurst, and Midwood – according to a new report by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

The parking lots, like one facing the Riegelmann Boardwalk between Brighton 2nd Street and Brighton 4th Street, can be sold to create approximately 2,000 affordable housing units, with space leftover for shared public parking, states the report.

While praising Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-year plan to build 200,000 units of affordable housing citywide, Adams writes:

New York City, in general, and Brooklyn, in particular, can be models for government at its best: expanding opportunity and safeguarding community character, while being supportive, resilient and progressive. Brooklyn has the space to create entirely new neighborhoods by tapping underdeveloped land, exploring air rights and considering developing residential properties over existing rail yards and rail infrastructure. We have the capacity; all we need is tenacity!

Along with identifying sites to build the units, the report offers several ways to better connect New Yorkers with affordable housing, including partnering with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to create multiple tiers of income eligibility, so that a wider portion of the population can have access. Adams also proposes the HPD give preference to locals, so that residents are not forced from their neighborhoods.

The report is restating a conversation from eight years ago, and it still needs to evolve, a spokesperson for the borough president told us. When fully fleshed out, the plan will include components like doing construction in phases to ensure parking for merchants at all times, as well as building height and affordability considerations.

This is not the beep’s first bold affordable housing proposal. As we previously reported, one of the first things Adams did as borough president was explore the possibility of selling air rights in one part of the borough and using the money to to create land banks near Coney Island for affordable housing.

Read the full report here.

Weinstein

A new report co-authored by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and State Senator Jeff Klein indicates that nearly 30,000 homeowners in New York City are at risk of losing their properties to foreclosure, and the pair are now demanding their colleagues pick up the fight to extend a slew of homeowner protections slated to expire next year.

The homes suffering foreclosures – disproportionately located in minority communities, like those in the Flatlands section of Weinstein’s district – represent a continuing uptick in New York City’s foreclosure rates while the national rate continues its recovery from the 2007 housing crisis, according to the report.

The battles that ensue when homeowners fall behind on their mortgage payments, sometimes because of extenuating circumstances like loss of a job or unexpected medical bills, can see a resident’s assets ripped away by unmovable, monolithic banks.

But legislation first passed in 2009 gave some protection. The bill requires banks sit down with clients and try to hammer out a settlement before any foreclosure actions are taken. It also requires lenders provide notice of foreclosure, and other foreclosure mitigation efforts. The protections aren’t just a salve for that particular homeowner, but for entire communities that see property values plummet amid high foreclosure rates.

“For far too long homeowners have fallen victim to lenders who exploit loopholes and evade our state’s foreclosure filing laws, leaving homeowners stranded with fees and interest racking up and little hope of modifying their loans,” said Weinstein in a press release. “The mandatory settlement conference and 90-day notice provisions for all home loans along with the requirement for banks to negotiate in good faith are critical protections for borrowers at risk of losing their homes.”

That bill, though, is slated to expire in February 2015.

Weinstein is working with Klein, part of the Senate’s leadership coalition, to extend the protections. The bill must pass before the end of the legislative session this month. It passed the Assembly last week, and is now before the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

“Extending these expiring provisions is essential to allow homeowners regain their footing and to give them a fair chance at negotiating mortgage loan modifications so they may stay in their homes,” Weinstein said.

A home in Seagate after Sandy. (Photo by Erica Sherman)

The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency held its first hearing last Thursday in Coney Island and during the meeting New York City Housing Authority revealed that housing projects that were affected by Superstorm Sandy would be stuck with shoddily built boilers that often break until some time in 2016 – by which time they’ll have cost taxpayers at least $120 million.

Last week, Councilman Mark Treyger, who heads the committee, told us that he hoped to find a solution for these boilers since they were not made to be used below 40-degree weather. We wrote:

He believes the city is dragging its feet in figuring out a permanent plan, as FEMA is requesting critical infrastructure like boilers be placed above ground-level to avoid damage in future floods. But for those in the houses, a year is too long to wait, he said.

“It shouldn’t take us a year to figure that out. We’re having this meeting now because it’s still winter weather and I don’t want it to continue to be a lingering, ongoing problem. The money should be there, and that’s another part of this hearing and we need to track that money,” he said.

But instead of a solution, the committee was told by NYCHA’s Executive Vice President Raymond Ribeiro that the boilers wouldn’t be going anywhere until 2016, according to the Daily News.

Some of the boilers repeatedly broke down earlier this year during the coldest days of the season. The reason for breaking down, the Daily News reported, is because they were made in places like Texas and Tennessee and were never intended to withstand the cold of the north. But after Sandy left the normal heating system utterly destroyed, they couldn’t find anything better in time for the winter season and they now don’t have the funding to replace the boilers.

The Daily News reports:

NYCHA says it can’t move forward until its insurers and the federal government commit to specific funding. Ribeiro added that NYCHA’s insurers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have told the Housing Authority that they’ll only pay for boiler repairs, not replacements.

On top of being unreliable, the boilers are also expensive. During our interview with Treyger he estimated that each boiler costs about $50,000 a month. There are 24 such boilers across the city being used by the Housing Authority, which comes out to $3 million a month. By 2016, the boilers will have been used for 40 months and come out to $120 million for rent and fuel, according to Daily News’ calculations.

To combat the breakdowns they saw at housing projects like O’Dwyer Gardens, a six-building NYCHA complex in Coney Island that’s home to more than 100,000 residents, NYCHA has used other forms of heating to keep the boiler’s pipes warm, including jerry-rigged kerosene heaters to warm the boilers’ pipes.

A home in Seagate after Sandy (Photo by Erica Sherman)

Fifteen months since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in Brooklyn’s coastal neighborhoods, the city’s response has been a far cry from awe-inspiring. Sure, the numbers are staggering: $60 billion in Congressional aid to the region; $5.2 billion distributed; dozens of agencies, and a stack of recovery-related legislation with a word count yet to be assessed.

There’s another jaw-dropping number: zero. That’s the amount of money that has reached property owners through New York City’s $644 million Build it Back program.

Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Gravesend, Coney Island, Bensonhurst and Sea Gate, is hoping to use the newly formed committee he chairs, the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, to reboot the process and get residents and business owners the help they need.

Near the top of his agenda is an effort to reopen the application process for Build it Back, and expedite payouts to encourage confidence in the program.

“It’s absolutely crucial that they reopen the process and do a better job at outreach,” Treyger told this publication. “The low number of applicants and the fact that zero people have been helped so far, that’s just unacceptable.”

Treyger said he sat down with Build it Back representatives last week for a status update on their work. They reported to him that the 11224 area code that covers Coney Island and Sea Gate only saw between 800 and 900 applicants – a far cry from what he said is thousands of homes impacted by the flooding.

The recently inaugurated councilman said he believes the city failed in its outreach efforts.

“I was amazed by that number because I know in that zip code there were thousands of people impacted by Superstorm Sandy. And that spoke volumes because it shows that the city did not do adequate outreach into diverse communities in our city. And that’s just one zip code,” he said.

The polyglot district he represents has high numbers of Russian, Chinese and Spanish speakers that the city didn’t do well in reaching, he claims.

“They must reopen but this time we really have to get this right. We have to partner with community organizations, local media, they have to reach out to different language media. We really need to do a much better job of reaching the diverse communities of our city,” he said.

Treyger is currently drafting a letter to the de Blasio administration officially requesting the process be reopened.

But the local pol also acknowledged that “recovery fatigue” among homeowners may cause them to be reluctant to apply, coupled with the latest headlines that money is not yet flowing.

“I think once money starts flowing and people see progress with their applications, that will instill confidence in applying. Some folks have no faith and were discouraged, and once they see progress I think that will motivate people to apply,” he said.

The administration is currently in the midst of the comment period for its fifth amendment to the proposed action plan for community development block grants for disaster recovery, the federal program funding Build it Back. While the plan includes an increase in funding for Build it Back, representatives present at a public hearing last night at Sheepshead Bay High School could not say if more would be needed to reopen the process as Treyger proposes. The mayor’s office has not yet returned a response to our inquiry.

Build it Back aside, Treyger is hoping to use his role as chair of the Council’s Recovery and Resiliency Committee to make Sandy recovery a top priority for the de Blasio administration.

The committee will hold its first-ever hearing in Coney Island on Thursday, February 27, at 10 a.m. at the Carey Gardens Community Center (2315 Surf Avenue). He said he hopes holding it in a Sandy-impacted zone will boost resident participation.

But the agenda at the first meeting is more pressing than reopening Build it Back. It will focus on a plan to replace temporary boilers at dozens of NYCHA buildings affected by the storm.

According to the councilman, NYCHA residents have been hooked up to temporary systems for 15 months, suffering from mechanical breakdowns that left them without heat on some of the most bitter cold days of 2014.

Treyger said he has been told the city pays in the ballpark of $50,000 per boiler per month, but they are faulty. Some of the boilers, he said, were not built to withstand low temperatures, causing the breakdowns they saw at housing projects like O’Dwyer Gardens, a six-building NYCHA complex in Coney Island that’s home to more than 100,000 residents.

To cope with the cold, some residents heated their homes with their home ovens, putting families at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

He believes the city is dragging its feet in figuring out a permanent plan, as FEMA is requesting critical infrastructure like boilers be placed above ground-level to avoid damage in future floods. But for those in the houses, a year is too long to wait, he said.

“It shouldn’t take us a year to figure that out. We’re having this meeting now because it’s still winter weather and I don’t want it to continue to be a lingering, ongoing problem. The money should be there, and that’s another part of this hearing and we need to track that money,” he said.

Build it Back will be on the agenda for their March meeting, Treyger said. He also hopes to persuade the administration to appoint a “Sandy Czar” to coordinate between city, state and federal recovery initiatives, as well as to spur reform in the handling of New York City’s co-operative housing schemes for disaster recovery. Co-ops are viewed by the federal government as businesses, not primary residences of homeowners, and so were not eligible for FEMA funds in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Overall, the local pol is hoping that his committee will help reboot the process, and open the funding spigots for residents.

“This is an oversight committee. But oversight to me means we’re listening to people on the ground, listening to the residents living the day-to-day trauma resulting from Superstorm Sandy,” he said. “I will judge this recovery by those people, families, homeowners, business owners. We want to see progress. Quite frankly, I’m tired of seeing more Powerpoint presentations than progress on the ground.”

The following was sent to us from NYC Build it Back, which assists Superstorm Sandy-impacted homeowners, landlords and renters restore their homes and get their lives back to normal:

NYC Build it Back has selected a developer to help Brooklyn rebuild from Hurricane Sandy, stronger and safer — and we need your participation. If you register through NYC Build It Back and are deemed eligible for Rebuild, the cost of rebuilding your home may be covered through the program.

You are invited to a Rebuild Information Session where you will have the opportunity to meet the selected developer, understand the NYC Build it Back process, and learn about the forgivable loan funding. Here, you can have your questions answered about the Rebuild program and the overall NYC Build it Back process.

Sheepshead Bay High School
September 16, 2013
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
3000 Ave X
Brooklyn, NY 11235

There will be rolling presentations and opportunities for Q&A.

To learn more, visit www.nyc.gov/builditback.

coop-candidates1

Five candidates vying for seats in two different Southern Brooklyn City Council districts participated in a heated debate on Sunday, focusing on reforming co-op laws to benefit as many as one million New York City residents of co-ops.

All candidates expressed support for a shareholder’s bill of rights, which would grant new protections from potentially abusive and exploitative boards of cooperative housing units. Despite the support, the frustrated shareholders – all with horror stories of their own – expressed a lack of confidence in much-needed reform and ultimately turned on the candidates.

Find out where the candidates stand, and how the audience reacted.

The following was sent to us from Brooklyn Housing & Family Services, Coney Island Hospital and the Brooklyn Streetcar Artists Group:

The Sea Isle apartments at 3901 Nostrand Avenue, one of the buildings in our area that offers cooperative housing. Source: streeteasy.com

The Cooperative Community Organization, a group that says it fights for co-op shareholders’ rights in New York, will be holding a debate between New York City Council candidates for the 47th and 48th districts, this Sunday, August 11, 4:00 p.m. at 94 Dooley Street between East 22nd Street and East 23rd Street. The debate will cover issues dealing exclusively with cooperative housing.

The candidates who have confirmed their participation as of this writing are John Lisyanskiy of District 47 and Chaim Deutsch, Ari Kagan and Theresa Scavo of District 48. The group asks that you bring every shareholder you know and be prepared to ask the candidates all of your co-op questions.

To learn more, email info@coopabuse.com or go to www.coopabuse.com.

Recchia

The following is a press release sent yesterday from the offices of City Councilman Domenic Recchia:

The City Council passed legislation today renewing and improving upon the J-51 tax abatement and exemption program. Sponsored by Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., Chair of the City Council’s Finance Committee, the legislation builds upon the State Assembly’s property tax relief bill passed earlier this year, which extended the previously expired program, offering tax exemption and abatement for qualified homeowners who undertake renovation and development projects. Passed unanimously, the exemption will be retroactive from December 31, 2011 and will last until June 30, 2015.

“The J-51 program revitalizes our neighborhoods and communities by incentivizing apartment owners to rehabilitate and improve their buildings. It has been a great success in the past and I’m proud to sponsor its renewal and improvement now to ensure that we remain committed to the betterment and beautification of our City for the future,” said Council Member Recchia. “I’m grateful for Speaker Quinn’s leadership in moving this legislation forward.”

A 2012 report noted that over 580,000 New Yorkers have directly benefitted from J-51. With this extension, improvements will be made to the program, restricting eligibility to developers focused on creating or preserving affordable housing. These changes will allow the City will both cut costs and ensure that needed housing rehabilitation continues in the future.

BNA’s office inside the Chase Bank at 1002 Brighton Beach Avenue. Source: Google Maps

In an event that had to be rescheduled to a later date, the Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA) will be hosting a “Senior Benefits” workshop at 11:00 a.m., February 22 inside BNA’s Chase Office, 1002 Brighton Beach Avenue on the corner of Coney Island Avenue (inside Chase Bank’s Community Center — just come inside, turn left, walk past the tellers, and look for the red sign).

Representatives from the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) will be conducting the meeting and BNA staff will also be on hand to answer and help address any of your housing-related issues.

The meeting will be conducted in English, with Russian and Spanish translators on hand. Light refreshments will be served. Bring your friends and neighbors!

To learn more, call (718) 891-0800, go to www.brightonbeach.com and follow BNA on Facebook.

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