Boro Park: Culver El Housing Project Clears Major Hurdle

(Wednesday, May 12th, 2010)

Brooklyn, NY – After years of bureaucratic snags, the first affordable housing project in Boro Park in over a decade could be ready for construction in six months.

The Culver Estates project, which would result in 68 affordable condominium units for moderate-income families along 37th Street between 12th and 14th Avenues, was certified by the City Planning Department this week Monday.

Because the land for the project is currently owned by the city, which is seeking to transfer it to a community non-profit for development, the plan now enters a six month public review process necessary for final city approval.

Concurrently, Agudath Israel’s affordable housing division, the Southern Brooklyn Community Organization (SBCO), will seek Department of Buildings approval for variances relating to matters such as height and back yard dimensions. SBCO doesn’t anticipate any objections from city agencies. The plan has been thoroughly reviewed and worked out with city officials and the local community board.

SBCO first proposed Culver Estates in 2004 to help alleviate a severe paucity of affordable housing in a neighborhood with little to no available housing stock. The proposal was received enthusiastically by the Administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but has since sputtered through the rezoning process, from industrial to residential status.

Chaim Israel, SBCO director of housing development, said 17 buildings, each containing four condos, could be completed within a year and a half after final approval, which requires ratification by the City Council. However, a potential need to finance half the project at a time may double the timeframe, with move-in slated for 2014, Mr. Israel said. The four- and five-bedroom units will eventually be sold by lottery to income-qualifying applicants. Prices haven’t been set.

The Culver El housing project cuts across the seam of the 38th and 39th City Council districts.

Former 44th district Councilman Simcha Felder initiated the project and is widely credited as its foremost proponent during his Council tenure, which ended in February when he left the Council for the position of city deputy comptroller. Former 39th district Councilman Bill DeBlasio, now city public advocate, supported the plan avidly. Their successors, who both stressed affordable housing in their campaigns and began their terms this year, have collaborated to strongly back the project.

“This project will bring desperately needed affordable homes to the Boro Park neighborhood. I am glad to have worked with SBCO and City Planning to get the process rolling at last, and look forward to working with them to make it a reality,” Councilman Brad Lander (39th) told Hamodia. “Building affordable housing in the community is one of my top priorities,” Councilman David Greenfield (44th) wrote to Hamodia. “I look forward to continuing my work with Councilman Brad Lander to expedite the process of rezoning the Culver El site. B’ezras Hashem, this should come to the New York City Council for a vote sometime this summer.”

The tract of land involved in the project is part of the former route of the elevated Culver train line that was demolished in the 1970s. Currently, defunct industrial buildings are there. For many, the Culver El project came to represent the affordable housing crunch in Boro Park. Though it has been the focus of intense anticipation in the community, it was officially in limbo for a long time, and will in fact deliver meager relief in relation to demand. Long ago, city officials had forecast that the certification that materialized yesterday would come by April 2009.

SBCO develops, manages and helps people obtain affordable housing in Boro Park. Its sister organization, the Ocean Parkway Community Development Corp., services the Kensington neighborhood. The two divisions currently manage 450 units of housing they developed. Many other units have been developed and sold or are managed by other entities. “Boro Park is a community whose population has grown by 15.6 percent between 1990 and 2000 while there has only been a 4.5 percent increase in housing stock,” according to a 2005 city press release on Culver El.

Affordable housing units were developed on one block of Culver El land about 12 years ago. SBCO sold 21 units in seven structures at subsidized prices. Those units are on 37th Street between 15th Avenue and Dahill Road. The land had been city-owned.

(Source: Hamodia Staff)


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