Rainier Harris

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Bushwick, one of the city’s most quickly gentrifying neighborhoods, is plagued by an affordable housing crisis. The Bushwick Neighborhood Plan, however, promises to meet Bushwick’s urgent needs. 

Overview of the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan 

According to NYC City Planning website, The Bushwick Neighborhood Plan  is “a draft area-wide plan for the Bushwick community that aims to promote a thriving and inclusive neighborhood.” 

Through the maintenance and expansion of affordable housing and investments in job growth, infrastructure, and programming the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan is intended to revitalize the community.

Currently, the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan is entering its third phase, which is to be reviewed by the City Planning Commission. There was a scoping meeting held on June 27, 2019, about three months ago. The Neighborhood Plan must still go through a laborious process to be successfully implemented including Community Board Review, Borough President and Borough Board Review, and more. 

It involves work conducted by community stakeholders, councilmembers Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal, and Mirala Lago, who directs the New York City Department of City Planning, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and chairs of the City Planning Commission since March 2017.

The Bushwick Neighborhood Plan is an extension of the Bushwick Community Plan, spearheaded in 2014 by Brooklyn Community Board 4 and councilmembers Reynoso and Espinal, as concerns arose over gentrification. 

Conflicts between neighborhood and the City 

The most recent version of the Bushwick Community Plan on the community plan’s official website, claims while the work “prior to the Winter of 2018 was collaborative,” since then “City agencies have distanced themselves from the process.”

There is a “call  from community for no manufacturing to be turned residential, but the City is calling for the reverse,” said Councilmemeber Rafael L. Espinal to the Bushwick Daily in a phone interview. He continued, “if [the City does] not create a more sensitive plan, the Bushwick community believes no plan is better than a bad plan.” 

Espinal detailed how exactly the City is out of touch with the Bushwick community. “The City doesn’t recognize the need for infrastructure improvements, like open space, and investments in NYCHA [New York City Housing Authority], they are also calling for higher zoning in places like Broadway and Wycoff and the community is asking for modestly less.”

Brigette Blood, a member of Community Board 4 and of the Bushwick Community Plan Steering Committee expressed  negative sentiments towards the City for their treatment of Bushwick residents. “The pattern of negative rezoning impacts is clear. The disrespect and disregard [the New York City Department of City Planning] greet us with is deep and planned,” she emailed in a statement to the Bushwick Daily. 

The New York City Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago has not yet responded to a request for comment. 

The Affordable Housing Crisis

The Bushwick Neighborhood Plan is meant to address several problems facing the Bushwick community, mainly affordable housing. 

According to a Bushwick Neighborhood Plan Land Use Committee presentation from April 23, 2019, “rents rose almost twice as fast (60 percent) as the borough (38 percent) and the city (32 percent) from 2000 and 2016.” 

According to Bushwick Community Board 4’s Community profile, nearly half of Bushwick households spend 35 percent or more of their income on rent alone.

Affordable housing is listed as the top priority in CB4’s 2020 fiscal year district needs statement. 

In the statement, it says the “majority of the new housing created in the neighborhood is out of reach for longtime residents due to extraordinarily rents and/or units that don’t meet their household needs.” 

The statement also makes three separate requests on the New York City Department of Housing and Prevention to provide more affordable housing for low income households, special needs households, such as seniors and the homeless, and for expanding programs for housing inspections to correct code violations. 

How the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan addresses the crisis 

One of the main objectives of the plan is to facilitate the affordable housing application process and make it more equitable. In addition, the plan aims to promote Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) contracting in future affordable housing and preservation projects. 

Some principles of the plan include offering homeowners loans and tax incentives to keep homes affordable and preserve public housing through the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). Another pillar of the plan includes protecting the tenants themselves by offering free legal representation from harassment, educating tenants on their rights to avoid displacement, and establishing a Certification of No Harassment Pilot Program. 

In order to develop new affordable housing units, the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan wants to partner with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to implement 100 percent affordable housing and incentivize housing developments that exceed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing requirements.

The Bushwick Neighborhood Plan seeks to fundamentally reconstruct how affordable housing will be developed in the neighborhood. If the Bushwick Neighborhood Plan is successfully implemented, it may bring affordable housing solutions to Bushwick.

Cover photo courtesy of  Flickr user Zachvs.

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