By Mark Fahey
Developers, community leaders and residents met just south of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Fort Greene this month to celebrate the completion of the first phase of a mixed-use housing block that supporters say will transform the neighborhood.
“This plot of land here is a remarkable one – it is immersed in the history of the city and of Brooklyn,” said Marc Jahr, president of the New York City Housing Development Corporation, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday. “The ground we stand on is steeped in bad karma”
The mixed-income, mixed-use Navy Green development, a collaboration between Dunn Development Corp., L+M Development Partners and the Pratt Area Community Council (PACC), occupies the site that once held the Navy Brig, and later an IRS detention facility and a City of New York prison. The city demolished the building in 2006 before issuing a request for proposals.
The Navy Green development will bring 458 new units of housing to the area, with the majority of those units set aside for supportive housing or affordable rentals. Three buildings and more than 300 units were completed in the first phase and a fourth building and two rows of townhouses will be added during the next two years.
“It has basically transformed a whole block of Wallabout,” said PACC Executive Director Deb Howard. “It expresses the needs and the vision of the community because it is a mix of low income and moderate income, of homebuyers and tenants.”
The Navy Green proposal, born out of a three-day community workshop in 2003, was selected for the site in April 2007. The block was rezoned from the surrounding manufacturing zoning to residential with a commercial overlay in 2009, according to city council records. Residents moved into the first three buildings last year.
“This project was in the pipeline for many years,” said Michelle Etwaroo, events and communication manager at PACC. “To actually see it come to fruition, to see people move in and see people who were formerly homeless now living at 40 Vanderbilt, it’s something every organization dreams of achieving.”
PACC’s 8-story supportive housing building at 40 Vanderbilt Avenue anchors the south-east corner of the development and includes 59 units reserved for people who have been chronically homeless and meet other criteria, which include mental illness and substance abuse.
Single adults with maximum incomes ranging from $23,000 to $36,120 are eligible for 38 fully-furnished apartments with monthly rents between $492 to $664, which are still being marketed.
The development also includes two multi-family buildings, a 12-story building at 7 Clermont Avenue with 112 units and an 8-story building at 45 Clermont Avenue with 101 units. Both buildings have affordable housing requirements, with maximum income ranges from $33,200 for a family of four in both buildings to $83,000 for a family of four at 7 Clermont and to $49,800 for a family of four at 45 Clermont, according to the New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). All of the buildings open onto a 32,000-square-foot landscaped common green.
“It’s just like a park right behind my house,” said Betty Frenelon, 78, who moved from Park Slope into 45 Clermont after construction was completed in December 2011. “When my son was growing up, I would have loved something like that – it’s my own little world.”
Another Navy Green resident, Betzaida Lopez, said she was lucky to get an apartment in the new 7 Clermont building in December 2012 for her and her disabled adult son.
“There are so many things that we have access to here that we usually take for granted,” Lopez said to the developers and other present at the ribbon-cutting. “You guys have really made a big difference and have been a big part of the changes in my life.”
The total cost of the completed Navy Green buildings was almost $85 million, secured through private and public sources, including financing through the New York City Housing Development Corporation and the New Housing Marketplace Plan, which has created or preserved more than 3,285 new affordable housing units in Community Board 2, according to a statement from HPD spokesperson Juliet Morris.
The second phase of development will included a 12-story building at 8 Vanderbilt Avenue with 74 affordable and 24 market-rate condominiums and 23 market-rate townhouses along Vanderbilt and Clermont avenues. The fourth building will add about 1,600 square feet of commercial space to the 5,500 square feet of commercial space already included in the base of 7 Clermont. Construction is scheduled to begin in December.
Council Member and Public Advocate-elect Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol spoke at Thursday’s event, praising the new development and the impact it would have on the local community.
James, who championed the development in City Council, said that the early planning process that led to the Navy Green plan relied heavily on input from local residents – a strategy she would push for wider use as Public Advocate.
“That’s really the model that should be for the entire city going forward,” said James before cutting the ribbon on the common green on Thursday. “It avoided conflicts, it avoided litigation, it avoided me at a rally … It brought us all together recognizing the needs of the community.”