New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a sweeping plan to revitalize Central Brooklyn, the latest in a spate of ambitious, big-budget projects he has proposed for the state’s airports, trains, bridges—and election year 2020, possibly.
The $1.4 billion initiative positions itself as a “national paradigm” for addressing health, violence, and poverty in low-income communities. Called Vital Brooklyn, the proposal will target Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, communities where residents face persistent barriers to health, education, and employment equity as well as the rising threat of gentrification.
Targeting eight investment areas, Vital Brooklyn aims to augment the supply of affordable housing; build resilience infrastructure; invest in community-based violence prevention, job creation, and youth employment; tackle open space and healthy food availability; and improve healthcare access with an emphasis on preventative care.
“For too long investment in underserved communities has lacked the strategy necessary to end systemic social and economic disparity, but in Central Brooklyn those failed approaches stop today,” said Governor Cuomo, in a prepared statement. “We are going to employ a new holistic plan that will bring health and wellness to one of the most disadvantaged parts of the state. Every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe neighborhood with access to jobs, healthcare, affordable housing, green spaces, and healthy food but you can’t address one of these without addressing them all. Today, we begin to create a brighter future for Brooklyn, and make New York a model for development of high need communities across the country.”
The lion’s share of the plan—$700 million in capital investments—will go towards healthcare, followed by $563 million for affordable housing. The remaining money is split between Vital Brooklyn’s six other initiatives, with food access getting the smallest portion of the funding.
So far, Cuomo’s plan is heavy on ideas but short on specifics. The healthcare component calls for more community health care facilities to fulfill current demand and provide additional preventative and mental health care services. To achieve this, a 36-location ambulatory care network will partner with existing providers, and to complement the health focus, the state will spend $140 million to ensure that all residents live within a ten-minute walk of parks and athletic facilities, and revamp existing facilities through grants. Vital Brooklyn also calls for building five-plus acres of recreation space at state-funded housing developments.
Mindful that health outcomes and housing are linked, the governor confronts Brooklyn’s affordable housing shortage with plans to build, build, build. With more than half of Central Brooklyn residents spending more than half of their income on rent, Cuomo’s plan calls for the construction of more than 3,000 new multifamily units at six state-owned sites, with options for supportive housing, public green space, and a home-ownership plan.
On the resiliency front, the state’s projects aim to meet growing demand for electricity while shoring up the low-lying area’s resistance to extreme weather. Under the plan, there could be 62 multi-family and 87 single-family energy efficiency initiative, plus almost 400 solar other projects in the pipeline. The initiative also calls for equipping Kings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kingsboro Psychiatric Center with backup power through the Clarkson Avenue microgrid project.
Linked to the resiliency, Vital Brooklyn features a partnership between the Billion Oyster Project and the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Justice program to expose area youth to habitat restoration practices on Jamaica Bay by adding 30 environmental education sites to the area. Through these sites, the Billion Oyster Project aims to reach 9,500 students who will learn about the benefits of oysters through the bay and SCAPE’s Living Breakwaters Project on Staten Island.
Not everyone is bullish on the plan, though. New York City Mayor (and Cuomo rival) Bill de Blasio, for one, is skeptical about the governor’s follow-thorough. “Show us the money, show us the beef, whatever phrase you want,” de Blasio said on WNYC las week. “I don’t care what a politician does to get attention. What I care about is actual product.”
The state legislature has until April 1 to decide on the governor’s budget, and negotiations may change the plan’s final funding and form.