By Dattner

Here’s the first big affordable housing complex slated for East New York

City Terrain Development
View from Chestnut Street. (Courtesy Dattner Architects)

Today the City Planning Commission (CPC) heard development updates from East New York, the first city neighborhood to be completely rezoned under comprehensive affordable housing rules passed in 2015.

To achieve the goals of the rezoning, the East New York Neighborhood Plan was approved in April 2016, and now, a year and a half later, there are 1,000 affordable units in the pipeline, plus an 1,000-seat school, and safety-in-mind streetscape improvements along major thoroughfares like Atlantic Avenue to link new developments together.

The rezoned area spans 190 square blocks and is the first to apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a suite of rules that require a certain percentage of housing be designated as permanently affordable.

In addition to building affordable housing, the East New York plan aims to preserve existing affordable units, while offering legal services to tenants, providing support to homeowners at risk of displacement, and transitioning families in the shelter system into local permanent housing. As far as new construction goes, the city estimates that 6,000 units of affordable housing will be built over the next 15 years. The latest—and largest—of these developments is Chestnut Commons, a 274-unit complex by Dattner Architects on a vacant city-owned site on Atlantic Avenue, near busy Conduit Boulevard.

(Courtesy Dattner Architects)

Diagram depicting Chestnut Commons’s sustainable features. (Courtesy Dattner Architects)

In the affordable housing world, Dattner is best known for Via Verde, an ecological housing complex in the South Bronx it completed with Grimshaw in 2012. Here, the New York City firm is kitting out a 300,000-square-foot complex, called Chestnut Commons, with solar panels, specially-glazed windows, natural lighting, and other design features from the passive house movement that improve building performance by minimizing solar heat gain and thermal bridging. In addition to shared roof terraces for tenants, amenities will include a black box theater operated by a local arts nonprofit, a kitchen incubator for jobs training, and a CUNY Kingsborough satellite campus. The ground floor of the 14-story building will sport retail spaces, and new streetscaping will connect the complex to a cleaned-up Atlantic Avenue corridor (map).

The apartments will be geared towards families, though there’s no word yet on the units’ sizes. At the CPC meeting today, though, a representative from the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) confirmed the development will be 100 percent affordable. Half of the units at Chestnut Commons will be available to households making 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $51,540 for a family of three. After that, 15 percent of the units will be open to families making 30 percent of the AMI, 20 percent of the units will go to households at 40 AMI, and 15 percent will be available to those at 50 AMI. HPD is working with MHANY Management, the Urban Builders Collaborative, and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC) to develop the project.

The levels of affordability were a major point of contention when the neighborhood plan was passed last year. According to a 2015 report from Comptroller Scott M. Stringer’s office, more than half of the affordable units to be developed under the neighborhood plan are too pricey for current residents. (The mayor’s office disputed the findings.) Last year, the city confirmed that any HPD-sponsored project in East New York will be 100 percent affordable to families earning between 30 and 90 percent of the AMI.

Aerial view (Courtesy Dattner Architects)

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