The state’s plan to redevelop the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center site in East Flatbush is set to get underway early next year, but local residents are hoping their concerns will be heard before any ground is broken.
The redevelopment project aiming to “transform” 7.2 acres at the western end of the Kingsboro site at 681 Clarkson Ave. into a large mixed-use development will see the construction of 1,090 new units of affordable housing – including 337 units of senior housing and 326 units of supportive housing.
Two existing homeless shelters on the site – Kingsboro Star Men’s Shelter and the Salvation Army Men’s Shelter – will be rebuilt on a different patch of the site and, once open, residents will be moved to the new facilities and the old ones will be torn down.
Proposed amenities on the site include 2.16 acres of public green space and a 8,092-square foot grocery store. The full plan can be found here.
Amid rising concerns from local residents about current safety issues in the area, New York State Assembly Member Brian Cunningham told Brooklyn Paper the proposed redevelopment is a “really important project for the neighborhood” but one that needs continued input from residents to shape the final plans.
The project was first proposed as part of the state’s Vital Brooklyn initiative, under former NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and Cunningham’s predecessor Diana Richardson.
“I wouldn’t waste people’s time with formalities or posturing. This is a new governor, and I’m a new assembly member, said Cunningham. “We are both putting our fingerprints on this project and I think both of us have an opportunity to use a lot of the community input to build on what’s a fundamentally good idea of increasing housing stock and creating community support services here in the district.
‘Shape this in a proper way’
Residents recently had the opportunity to give feedback on the development during the public scoping period, and will again for a 60-day period once the draft environmental impact statement and general project plan are published later this summer.
During a virtual community meeting held on Jan. 19, local residents criticized the project for not being in touch with the needs of the community or considering the safety of residents.
“Our kids are being punched walking down that block, it’s that block, and it’s very clear where the issues are coming from,” local resident Zalman Abraham told developers from Empire State Development.
“We have people walking on our property wandering in, absent minded, it could be they’re coming from the psychiatric center, it could be they’re homeless, many of them are intermixed, but there is already a huge problem, something needs to be done about it before we can consider bringing in more such people.”
Another resident, Rozee Spiegel, echoed similar sentiments about issues already facing the area: “I’ve been living in the neighborhood for a number of years, I’ve watched the homeless shelter that’s in existence really close in the vicinity of the proposed plans. We’ve been the target of quite a few incidents resulting from residents at that facility.”
“My children have been exposed to public nudity. There are people who, in front of our home which is a few blocks away from that facility, quite a few blocks, five or so blocks away from the existing facility, people come there, pull down their pants and freely relieve themselves,” said Spiegel. “There are so many better uses for this land, it’s a good idea to take down these abandoned buildings. As a mom of a special needs child I can think of a number of ways it can benefit other families like myself. It doesn’t need to be yet another homeless shelter.”
Cunningham said that expectation that crime will exacerbate as a result of the site is one he understands people are going to have but “it’s also based in disingenuous fears”.
“We should deal with the issues that exist now while we know this project is coming online,” said Cunningham. “Let’s make sure that we have the supportive services to support new members who are coming into our community as well as the folks who are not in our community yet that will be coming to make sure that these issues don’t blow out of proportion”.
“I think in central Brooklyn, we can all acknowledge that the need for affordable housing is a dire need for our communities. And we wanted to make sure that this site was not going to be a medical facility so that we were able to increase the affordable housing stock.”
Cunningham added that headway is being made on the proposed plans but that there is still time for residents to “shape this in a proper way”.
“I think this project can be a gift to the community in so many ways if we get it right but I think like all projects, we need to make sure we just have more community voices involved from the beginning,” he said. “And I’m happy that we’re having this conversation as a community. Far too often what I noticed in our communities is that a project has been built and we have the conversations after about what could have happened.”