City to seek land transfer for 85 new below-market-rate rentals in Bedford-Stuyvesant

Dekalb commons
The city wants to erect two seven story buildings on publicly-owned land with 82 below-market-rate rental units on Dekalb Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Courtesy of Magnusson Architecture and Planning/Night Nurse

The city wants to transfer three vacant lots in Bedford-Stuyvesant to a pair of development firms to build 85-units worth of deeply affordable housing, which reps for the builders claim will benefit existing residents of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. 

“We all know the real big issue is that the market-rate housing that’s sort of exploded on us has brought a lot of folks in and we’ve seen a lot of Bed-Stuy residents depart,” Gordon Bell, an executive at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, told members of Community Board 3’s Land Use Committee. “So we’re going to make something that’s supposed to support the community’s interest — the current community’s interest.”

The city’s Housing Preservation and Development is seeking the approval of City Council to fork over properties collectively dubbed “Dekalb Commons,” which consist of two lots on Dekalb Avenue between Marcy and Nostrand avenues, and a smaller plot of vacant land on Fulton Street between Bedford Avenue and Spencer Place. The properties would be transferred to to Bell’s firm and a Williamsburg nonprofit developer, called St. Nicks Alliance.

One of the two seven-story structures will rise next to the Kosciuszko Pool on Dekalb Avenue, between Marcy and Nostrand avenues.Google Maps

The roughly $50 million development scheme includes two seven-story buildings, one adjacent to the public Kosciuszko Pool at 648-654 Dekalb Ave. housing 45 units, and the other across the street at 633-639 Dekalb Ave. with 37 units, ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments, along with a a 700-square-foot community room located on the ground floor. 

Both sites would have rear yards complete with a children’s play area and seating.

The third site would host a four-story building at 1187 Fulton St., and feature three two-bedrooms above 1,187 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

The plans also call for a four-story apartment building with ground-floor retail on Fulton Street.Courtesy of Magnusson Architecture and Planning

The two Dekalb Avenue sites will set rents based on the city’s federally-designated area median income, with rates ranging from $535 per month for a studio up to $2,143 for a three-bedroom, and will earmark 13 units for formerly-homeless residents at a discounted rate of between $375 for a studio and $672 for a three-bedroom.

On Fulton Street, the two-bedroom units will be priced around $1,862 per month, and the higher cost will help finance the cheaper units in the other two buildings, according to Bell.

But before the developers can break ground, the two firms and the city will have to get the proposal through the city’s lengthy land use review procedure, and they want to present the project to Community Board 3’s full board meeting in February. 

Officials anticipate Council approval pending a public-review process by the fall of this year, which would put the builders on track to finish construction by 2023. 

The development is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial 2014 scheme to add 300,000 of so-called “affordable housing” units by 2026. His administration has added 135,000 units as of July 2019, according to the city.

Critics of hizzoner’s plans have argued that area-median income — which is calculated on regional basis to include the entire city and parts of Westchester — doesn’t accurately reflect the salaries of families in certain parts of the city, where the average income is often far lower than AMI. For example, one recent public land transfer proposal targeting residents that earned as much as twice Bedford-Stuyvesant’s median household income.